So, two months ago Al and I lost our two oldest baby dogs in less than 2 weeks. I took photos of Max’s last few days – from the mess on his face from us trying to feed him, to the saline bag while we tried to hydrate him, to the last moments in the vet’s office.
Al was able to look at the images yesterday – and this is what he wrote about the ultimate gift of letting them go (you can see all of the images he picked here: Al, Max, and the Ultimate Gift) :
Today I looked.
It’s been exactly two months since I decided that Max could no longer live another day. Two months since I decided I was somehow powerful enough in this grand scheme of life to take away another being’s existence. I debated, but ultimately decided it was- in that overused and underwhelming phrase- “in his best interest.”
I’m a hunter. I’ve killed things before. I believe in the synergy of the earth and that at one point or another, we are all nothing but recycled worm food on a complicated journey right back to the soft soil. But I also believe in thanking animals for the life sustaining sustenance that they provide me. It is a rather emotional experience to take another being’s life. But hunting was nothing like this.
It’s been two months, but I’ve not thought about it much. Two months ago we had feet of snow on the ground and more coming down. Today, as I stare out of my upstairs window at two whitetails standing in the field, I see that it is over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In this area, that’s summer. Time has moved on.
But today I looked.
The few times I did think about it the past two months I have not been kind to myself. Who was I to take his life? What gave me that ultimate power? Believers might look to the heavens and know it came from above and find peace. I have no such luxury.
My lasting images are not of Max suffering, but of him still walking. Him running. Swimming. You know- all those things that healthy, crazy, insane, stubborn Siberian Huskies do. These thoughts are happy ones, but also make me question my ultimate decision. THE ultimate decision.
And then I looked.
And when I looked, I saw again what I had put out of my mind. I saw the happy, crazy, stubborn ass dog in pain. I saw the saline fluid we used to try to rehydrate him. I saw the stained fur around his lips from overflow of the syringe we used to force feed baby food- to just get something, anything into him. I saw me carrying him outside when he could no longer stand, the dog painfully aware of the situation. And I saw the pain. The pain- in my own eyes. The moment when I decided “the time” had come. And most painful of all, the last picture just a few moments before he left forever.
But I also saw his smile. His zest for life. And his incredible tolerance for me wanting to be close to him.
I saw all this only because I asked Hannah to begin documenting the day before. She’s done this kind of end-of-life session for others. But now it was us. Our babies. Not human babies- but our family none-the-less. And she just happens to be really darn good at it.
I knew the pictures existed, but I didn’t look till now because I wanted to remember the most intelligent dog I’ve ever known with only the happy memories. But today I looked, and I learned through my own eyes that it was time. My eyes in those pictures. I learned that what I had wasn’t a power that was granted to me to be wielded lightly. It was a duty that I accepted when I visited the kennel at the old Ondossagon school 15 years ago and that white, skinny, oversized-eared puppy jumped into my arms.
Some will tell me that it is time to move on. It is just a dog. I understand that, and I have. But the pictures also show me that the relationship was much more. More than even I had admitted- I loved that damn dog.
It was time and I’m glad I looked.
And I hope you accept me sharing these memories with you as documented by an amazing photographer.
This post may contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a portion of the purchase price. I appreciate you sharing these links - it keeps me in business!
Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts and our weekly newsletter.