When to Say Goodbye
Some years ago, in the autumn, I received a call from a guy named Gordon, who had taken his thirteen year old dog, Carly, to the vet. The vet had suggested that Gordon consider putting Carly down to spare her the difficulty of another winter, due to her age and frailty. But, the vet had told Gordon, there’s a guy who claims to know what animals are thinking and feeling, and you might want to check with him before you make your decision.
So I went to visit Gordon and Carly, and it was immediately clear that Carly had no interest in leaving this earthly plane any time soon. She wasn’t worried about the cold. She’d spend more time by the wood stove. If it got really cold, an extra blanket would do the trick. She showed me a picture of her running outdoors in the coming spring.
Diligent as Gordon was, he wanted to know how he’d know when it was Carly’s time to go. “When I can’t use my back legs,” Carly told me. “Then I won’t be able to climb the ladder to the loft where I sleep at the foot of Gordon’s bed.”
With everyone satisfied, I went home. A couple of months later I got another call from Gordon. “Carly’s lost the use of her back legs. I’ve got her in the car and I’m on my way to the vet. I know what they’re going to do, and I was wondering if you could come and check with her, just to be sure.”
When I arrived I went straight to the back seat of Gordon’s car, crouched down and asked Carly what Gordon needed to know.
“No,” Carly said, clearly and emphatically. “Not yet. It’s not time.”
Gordon didn’t question Carly’s response, and I went home.
Shortly after, I got an email from Gordon telling me that although he had to carry Carly to the car that day, she walked back to the house on her own after I left. Carly indeed lived until that spring, and many months after.