One of the most difficult things we face is losing a beloved pet. They are so precious to us and have given their entire lives to us. Yet, the day comes that we have to say goodbye. I am enclosing a memoir I have written about saying goodbye to my dog Lady. I have had many animals throughout my life, but her struggle with cancer affected me profoundly. I think of her daily, even after all these years and remember all the wonderful times we had together.
Lady’s Goodbye by Cherokee Billie
As I pulled my 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass into the back parking lot of Haydel and Haydel Chiropractic my terrier/poodle Lady jumped up on to the center arm rest in great excitement with her tail wagging. She had always loved going to see Dr. Kerry Haydel. It was the Tuesday afternoon before Christmas 1986. I felt absolutely no joy or happiness in my heart that afternoon. I felt like I was dying emotionally. Lady had been pronounced terminal with cancer in September. Her cancer was inoperable and she had been receiving chemotherapy since her diagnosis.
After parking the car I put on her harness and leash to walk her into the building. In the back seat was a soft-sided dog carrier that contained my new puppy Shih Tzu, Julia. As I opened the car door Lady bounded out pulling on the leash to get inside the office. I reached into the back to retrieve the carrier with Julia. Lady could care less about this new puppy, as far as she was concerned it was an annoyance she didn’t need. I had just gotten Julia the day before so that I would have companionship when Lady was gone. The first thing Lady did when I brought Julia home was to bite her. She wanted Julia to know she was still the boss of the house.
I was taking Lady for a last visit to Dr. Haydel’s office, as I had made the decision to stop the chemotherapy the past week. I knew that she did not have but a few days left to life, and I wanted to give her as much enjoyment as possible. This was the off hours for his office so I knew there would be no patients that would be shocked to see two dogs in a doctor’s office.
As usual the back door was unlocked and once I opened it I let go of the leash so Lady could run into the office and find Dr. Haydel. Little Julia was whining inside the carrier wanting to get out. This was her first visit to Dr. Haydel’s office. I walked down the hallway to see where Lady had gone and found her sitting on the lap of Dr. Haydel in his office. “I see she found you.” I commented.
“My big girl sure did find me. Look how pretty you look today. “He was talking to her like she was a little human being. You could just see the joy on her face as he talked to her. His identical twin brother Terry was also in the office as well as his secretary Arlene. Terry and Kerry both took turns holding Lady and talking to her.
“She just doesn’t look sick.” Terry said surprisingly.
Terry and Kerry had not seen my new puppy and I wanted Julia to get accustomed to socializing with people. I had brought my camera, which I hadn’t used in over a year to take photographs. I wanted to capture this moment forever.
When I took Julia out of the carrier Arlene was thrilled at such a cute little puppy. “Oh, can I hold her?” she asked.
“Yes please, this will give Lady full attention from Kerry and Terry.”
We moved into the reception area so that I could take pictures of the “boys” (my nickname for Kerry and Terry) and Lady. The sun coming in from the West penetrated the entire reception area lighting it up like it was summer. Lady just wouldn’t leave Kerry and he seemed to want to hold on to her as well. I started snapping pictures and Lady posed like a professional model as usual. She loved having her picture taken. I took pictures of Lady sitting with Terry and Kerry on the sofa. I snapped her on the floor with Kerry sitting next to her and talking.
Arlene brought Julia into the reception area. She let her play on the floor. Julia wanted to know what all the commotion was about. She seemed to sense there was something interesting going on.
Lady was enjoying every minute of the attention. To see her frolicking in the office one would never suspect that she lay on the wooden bench at the end of my bed all day and night at home, because it was cool to her chemotherapy-heated body. It was apparent that Lady knew this was her last visit in the office and she wanted to pretend that her misery was an illusion.
The “boys” had me laughing with their antics. They were rolling on the floor and pretending to be dogs just to amuse Lady. It was delightful to be in their presence. It was giving me the emotional vacation I needed; I was able to put aside my misery and grief during the time we were in their office. This is what I had always liked about them, their ability to make others laugh.
We stayed for over an hour, during which time Julia peed and pottied on the light blue carpet to my horror. Kerry said, “Don’t worry about it, its no big thing.” I cleaned up the mess.
I asked Kerry “When the time comes will you take Lady to the doctors’ office for the final injection?”
He did not hesitate with his answer “Of course I will – don’t worry about it.”
We had to leave before rush hour traffic hit, as it would be a nightmare getting back to my mobile home. My emotions were so over the edge I didn’t need the added burden of rush hour traffic in Los Angeles.
I put Julia back into the carrier and she started whining once more. Lady was getting very fatigued although she didn’t want to stop getting the love and attention from the “boys.” Terry kissed and hugged Lady goodbye stating, “It’s going to be OK, I will always think of you.”
Kerry told her “I will see you again in a few days.” Arlene didn’t know what to say it was beyond her.
I attached the leash back to Lady’s harness. As we went down the hallway Lady moved like a great burden had been lifted from her. I opened the car door and she jumped into her seat next to me. She stood up on the armrest in the middle of the two seats looking at the door of the office, as though she was saying goodbye to the office. I said to her “OK Little Sunny Sunshine let’s go.”
As I pulled the car out of the parking lot I knew I had lifted her spirits that day. I started to sing to her “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix, she always loved when I sang that song to her. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone you have been so close to and loved so much. I just knew I had made my little dog Lady happy for a change. After so many months of suffering she deserved to feel happy.
Lady Passed on January 01, 1987.