When it came time to say goodbye to his first dog Gracie, Douglas Korn kept a promise he made to her. He had made that promise nine years earlier, after adopting her from the Humane Society.
Here is their story…
“I said goodbye to my dog today.
The time was too soon, the reason was not fair, but I would keep the promise I made to her long ago, that my voice would be the last thing she heard and my loving smile would be the last sight she saw. Just as it was when our journey began, only the two of us, so it ended in the same way.
Cancer sucks; more so when the one who has it can’t tell you where or how much it hurts. It literally appeared out of nowhere, a small bump at the bridge of her nose and it kept getting bigger; fast. There would be no chance for a miracle remission, no amount of surgery, radiation, medicine or prayer would make it go away. The decision to undergo surgery and remove it was not an attempt to cure her; merely to extend her life long enough to shower her with the affection and gratitude for all of the love she had shown my family over the years. It was the best $2000 I ever spent, and the gift of sharing a little more quality time with her was priceless in the end.
She had lived with my Mom for the last 4 years; the bond her dog and mine had formed was a beautiful one, and the decision to let them stay together was a quick and easy decision when I moved into my apartment, but I did, and always will, consider Gracie as my dog. My first dog.
Mom called to let me know Gracie wasn’t herself today. “I think it’s time” was all I remember from the conversation. The lump under her left eye was steadily growing; the tumor returned quickly and daily evaluation of her health was the prevailing topic of several calls each day. She said if I was busy with work that she would take her down to the vet, but that was not how I wanted things to end for us. Mom had spent the past 4 weeks spoiling her with toys and treats of every variety. Donato’s pizza, Olive Garden, Frosty’s from Wendy’s…definitely one of her favorites, and the endless bag of dog treats…all helping to add at least 10 pounds to her not-so-lady like frame anymore. The steroids she was on probably helped to add some thickness and the slightly puffy look she had, but she still looked like the same little dog I desperately sought out and adopted from the Humane Society 9 years ago.
I called ahead and let Mom know I would be there in 20 minutes, so that she could have some time alone to say goodbye however she needed to. I stopped by the clinic to take care of all the formalities before I brought her down. That is when the real emotion of what I had to do started to exude itself. I was putting my dog to sleep and the mechanism just turned on. Get through it somehow and keep your promise.
The interaction at Mom’s house was brief; I gave the dogs one last moment together, neither of them realizing it would be their last, and quickly led her to the passenger seat of the car. She just sat there and looked at me as I drove to the park. I think she knew; perhaps the gaze she had upon my face was her way of letting me know she was hurting and that she wanted it to end. She didn’t care to stick her head out the window and let the wind blow in her face, she wasn’t distracted by the other cars, people or even other dogs we passed on the street. She looked at me the entire time and then laid down in the seat for me to gently pet her head.
I wanted to walk with her one more time, the way we did several times a day when I lived in a small apartment and had no yard for her to roam. This was our daily ritual and I wanted to experience it with her one last time. Lay in the grass, throw a ball, walk on a leash, tell her peacefully and sincerely how much I loved her and how sorry I was that I had been so absent from her life in recent years. Something happy to hold onto, when the time to recall stories and memories of her arise. There was no interest in a ball. She let me lay in the grass and hold her without resistance. No wiggling to shake free and scamper away to play; the energy was gone and only acknowledgment of my being there remained. She sat still for a few last pictures; posing, as if she knew how important it was for me to capture the last moments we had together. She granted me one last walk around the park, knowing all too well by her labored breathing that she was doing it just for me; perhaps one last gift from her to help ease my pain in return. I cried as I walked her back to the car.
Watching someone say goodbye to a pet can’t be an easy thing for anyone to do, and I am grateful to have found a clinic and veterinarian who value the love of animals as much as me. They gave me some quiet time in a private room to say goodbye, but Gracie and I were already long past that now. I think she was ready to rest. There was no resisting, no barking or trying to get down from the table. She saw my face the entire time and her eyes never left mine. There was a look of peace; I could see it in her gaze and I believe she was grateful that I was there to see her off. I held her pretty little face in my hands and gently stroked both of her ears. She put a paw on my arm and licked my face one last time before being sedated. I watched the sleep descend upon her and closed her eyes after kissing her nose one last time. My hand rested upon her chest until I felt her last breath and I knew she was gone.
I wrapped her body in the patch quilt my Mom made for me when I was 5 years old. In our early years together, before I experienced any real success in my business, this same quilt kept me warm in bed when I could afford nothing more. She would sleep on it every night with me and it was as much hers as it was mine. It was only appropriate that her final rest be found there as well. I needed to take her back to my Mom’s house so that her dog knew she was gone. Shadow would sit by the door and cry whenever I took Grace away from the house, and I knew he would not be at peace if he didn’t know where she went. I brought her into the house and laid her on the couch and carefully unwrapped her from the blanket. Shadow had a very lost and disoriented demeanor to him as his friend lay lifeless before him. He licked her face, cleaning her as he always did, sniffed her entire body in the hope of some response in return, but none would come. He walked to his bed and lay down; crying ever so slightly, acknowledging what I wanted him to know. His heart will hurt for a long time too. I moved away from the couch to pet him so that Mom could say goodbye to our little girl; I could hear the camera on her phone click twice and she softly, lovingly petted her head amidst a steady flow of tears.
It was decided long ago that she was to be cremated; as is the tradition with all of our family pets. I took her back to the clinic and gently put her on the table, removed her collar and left one of her toys with the request that it be included in her remains. The squeaky kind, that I so often found annoying but so painfully wished to hear one last time. Her ashes will be sealed into a box with a picture attached for many memories to be later recalled. I kissed her face one last time, said thank you for the years of love she provided and hugged her face; feeling the wetness of her face from my own tears, and said one final goodbye.
I kept my promise. I continue to cry.”
~ Submitted by DogHeirs member Douglas Korn
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