The day that I thought about and dreaded for very a very long time finally arrived. The day I said my final goodbye to Emoji. Leading up to it, I couldn’t imagine my life without food covered walls, monthly vet visits, and endless cuddle time. When I thought about how my life would change without him, the feeling of guilt would immediately hit me.
“How could I even think that?” “How could you be so selfish?” “What is wrong with you?”
Those were just some of the questions that constantly popped into my head and my guilt would turn into grief.
Grief is a funny thing. It comes in many forms and hits you when you least expect it. It shows up as dread. It makes you cry on a crowded subway train. It makes you feel guilty for not crying when you think you should. It makes you fearful and constantly over-analyizing every thought, decision and move you make.
The Final Chapter
It was no secret that Emoji was sick, but he was a fighter. Cancer had nothing on him. He saw pneumonia as an opportunity to win over the team at Blue Pearl. His bout with gallbladder stones was a chance to demand meals around the clock from the Center for Veterinary Care team and to throw temper tantrums when the cat in the next kennel got to eat and he didn’t. But unfortunately, this took a toll on his body and he never fully recovered. As his body continued to break down and we struggled to find a solution, Emoji kept living his life to the fullest. He enjoyed his naps almost as much as he loved food.
The final two weeks of his life, my internal battle about what to do intensified. I struggled to come to terms with even thinking about end of life plans. This is what is best for Emoji? How will I know? How will I live with myself if I make the wrong decision? I thought about the conversation I had with my dad about knowing when it is time. He told me a story about their rescue pug, Mars, telling him it was time during their morning walk. I replayed the image of their walk and I couldn’t see how it would happen with Emoji. I felt alone and confused. How could I make this decision? I can’t do this alone. Then it happened. As I sat on the ground rocking Emoji, his eyes told me he was ready. I felt this wave of relief come over me as I repeatedly kissed him and told him “I know.”
It was Emoji that put the plan in motion. I found peace in the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. I found comfort in knowing that he would soon be free of pain.
What I learned
There two sayings that are hard to believe until they happen to you:
‘You don’t pick the dog, the dog picks you’ and ‘dogs will let you know when it is their time.’
Emoji made me a believer.
For those who a senior or special needs animal, there’s nothing I can say that will calm that internal battle that you will be faced with. The only advice I can give is to listen. They will let you know when they’re ready and it will happen in their own special way. Just listen and give them as much love as possible.
For those who want to add to their family, please adopt a senior. It is the most rewarding thing you will ever do. The 2.5 years with Emoji taught me to be a better person and helped me grow. I’m not going to lie, being a senior & special needs parent can seem like impossible and daunting, but in order to grow you have to step outside of your comfort zone and you may just surprise yourself in ways you least expect it.
For those who won’t adopt a senior or special needs because ‘they won’t live along, it’s not about the amount of time you have, it’s about the memories that stay with you forever. Time is relative and nothing is guaranteed. If you’re unsure, consider fostering! There are so many senior pets who are abandoned and need love–even if it’s only temporary.