There’s a song in the musical Children of Eden called “The Hardest Part of Love”, where God talks about the hardest part of love being letting go .. of his children, of his control, of everything that happens once free will wanders into the equation.
On Sunday, Belle was clearly not well. She was lethargic and unmoving, which is odd for a 4 year old chocolate lab, and we wondered if she had eaten something that disagreed with her. (Which is not odd for a 4 year old chocolate lab.)
By Sunday night, it was obvious that the not-wellness was worsening. We looked at our meager checking account and thought, “Okay, we’ll take her in to the vet tomorrow.”
I’m not going to lie. When money comes in to the equation of life and death, it is the worst feeling in the world. The fact that we debated how much we could spend on her health made us feel incredibly low. Angry at circumstance (that we arguably have put ourselves in) and low. Helpless, at the least.
The vet suggested we xray her and found some foreign matter in her stomach. They said we could opt for surgery – a monetary commitment we couldn’t wrangle – or just let it pass naturally. We opted for the latter.
Yesterday, I came home at lunch on a hunch and found her in the backyard. It was raining, and she was laying on the furthest point of our property. She growled when I approached her. I’ve had enough dogs in my lifetime to know what was up. I told Bryan it was time to make some decisions.
He took her back to the vet and we figured out financially how to take care of the surgery. The vet seemed optimistic and we jumped on that optimism and ran.
They called two hours later. Once they got in, they realized it was far, far worse than an xray would ever show.
Bryan handed me the phone; it was my call. I listened to the vet explain – with amazing professionalism and compassion – what we faced. Belle’s intestines had twisted on itself, and cut off blood supply to most of her small intestines. On top of that, it had grown around several lesions. Not enough of her intestines were viable. She said Belle had a 20% chance of survival if we continued.. and probably not even that high a chance.
“I can’t have her suffer,” I choked out. “Please don’t let her feel any more pain.”
“I’m so glad you said that,” said the vet, choking up. “I can’t ever recommend that we let an animal go, but if this was my dog, I would recommend the same thing.”
We adopted Belle when she was 6 months old. She had been adopted and returned to the Decatur Animal Hospital, so she was actually available at a reduced rate. She was our Sale Puppy.
She was every bit of why I wanted a lab in our house. She was amazing with the kids, teaching them (always with a soft mouth) when they’d gone too far in playing with her, but always always ALWAYS by their sides. When looking through my pictures of her last night, every single picture of her had a boy on her. She was what I needed when we lost Mabel three years ago: a dog to raise my boys with compassion and empathy.
I write this, obviously, to memorialize this amazing animal but also to implore those of you reading to PLEASE adopt from shelters and rescues. Belle was actually a purebred, but we got her for $25. A lot of animals in the shelters are close to purebred. All of the animals in the shelters deserve a chance. Don’t buy into breeders. Watch the shelters and rescues if you have a breed in mind; jump when you see one available. Rescue a dog.
Let them rescue you.
To my Belle Pepper, who was such a happy nuisance. My sale puppy, whom we would’ve spent a fortune to save, who was taken too soon. To the dog who played Robin to Tony’s Batman and who cuddled with Vinnie whenever he was still. We were so lucky to be your people, Belle. Thank you for .. all of it. Thank you for you.