Saying goodbye to your pet – in loving memory of Bella

I have never had a pet so it is difficult for me to fully understand the sadness one feels when the pet dies.  When you have a pet for 10 years, I suppose it becomes part of the family and you do miss it when it dies, although I can’t imagine an animal being a family member.  I know pet-lovers do.

Last week, my sister in the US had to euthanize her 10-year old dog because her legs were swollen, she wasn’t eating and she was shitting without knowing it was happening.  I think the tumor was causing havoc.  All very sad, so the decision to euthanize.  It was actually my niece’s dog whom my sister had been taking care of the last 4 years she was away in college.  Bella was an Italian Mastiff, a huge dog.  I wouldn’t say I was fond of her but I played with her whenever I visit.  We went on walks together and I watched as my sister/niece picked up her shit — not something I would do.  She was quite protective of us, guarding us whenever strangers or other dogs/cats approach.  She sometimes smelled really bad but my sister would never wash her, leaving the task to my niece or her father.

My sister was devastated when Bella died, sobbing and lamenting that she was all alone now.  She still has a cat Blackie who has been with the family forever — 15 years at least.  It really puzzled me because in the first place, she never wanted the dog but went along with it because the children wanted it.  Bella kept her company when the kids all moved out but I also remember the times she had complained about having to rush home to feed and walk Bella, especially during the cold and wet winters, or worrying about Bella being alone at home all day when she was at work or visiting us in Singapore.  Because Bella was such a big dog, they couldn’t leave her with any of her friends when they were traveling.  I suppose Bella grew on her and she never really quite know how much she loved the dog until she was gone.

During one of our walks by the lake in 2015

Her favorite spot in the kitchen

My niece text me to tell me how sad she was and how worried she was about her mom.  Seemed like they were both crying through the weekend in their respective homes.  She had planned to fly home for 3 days to comfort her grieving parents.  My sister said she was planning to spend all her days in the office so that she wouldn’t need to go back to an empty house and miss Bella so much.  I did feel sad for a couple of days, remembering those short moments I had spent with Bella.  It got me thinking about my own mortality and those around me.  If a pet can bring so much sadness, what about the loss of a human being?

My mom is getting old and I worry when her time is up.  It would be even more devastating to us losing her, especially since she has been both mom and dad for the past 40 years.  Are her affairs in order?  Do we know what to do when the time comes?  We sisters never talked about it because it is an uncomfortable topic but I suppose we need to one day soon.  I should also start thinking about my own arrangements for when my time is up.

Some friends had suggested in the past that I keep a pet since I live alone.  Really, no thanks.  I don’t think I want to be taking care of an animal and having to worry about it’s health, food and living condition.  More importantly, I don’t want to have to say goodbye one day.  I know we all have to go one day and we will have to say goodbye to family and friends.  For them, we didn’t have a choice — we were born into this world, this family, and we made friends along the way.  But regarding a pet, I have a choice.  And I choose not to experience this kind of pain.

Bella, I hope you are in a better place now, where there are lots of space for you to run and other dogs for you to play with, and healthy as can be with lots of treats (and you don’t even have to do tricks to earn those treats!).  Thank you for being part of my sister’s family and for bringing them so much happiness and laughter.  Your memory will stay with us forever.

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