Unlike most stories, the beginning chapters of Lady’s remain a mystery. She was picked up as a stray wandering the streets and brought to the Great Plains SPCA in Independence where she would be a long-term resident before joining my family in the Spring of 2017. That is where the final chapter of her tale begins…
Lady: The Final Chapter
It was Mother’s Day when Charlotte (my six year old daughter) and I took a trip to the local animal shelter. We had already discussed the possibility of adopting another dog when the ‘right one’ came along but weren’t in any rush to bring another creature into our pack. We’d been to a few other places and hadn’t quite found the right fit for our family- until that day.
Lady was coming in from a walk with one of the volunteers when we met her. As she hobbled along the path back up to her space, I knew she was special. There was a sweetness about her, a kindness in her eyes, that instantly drew us to her.
As an elderly dog, I wasn’t prepared to bring her into my home knowing that we may only have a couple of years together but the instant connection made all of the hesitation I had before hand go away. Lady deserved a home and we were going to be the ones to give it to her. After a few more visits and a meet-and-greet with Winnie, our 11-year old dog, we welcomed Lady into the family on May 17th, 2017.
Given Lady’s condition (she had trouble walking and we were told she had bad arthritis), we knew that the transition into a new household would take some time but hope is a seemingly magical thing that made Lady’s transition so much smoother than we could have ever anticipated.
The day we adopted Lady, her movement was limited and navigating stairs seemed like an impossible task. So I spent time each day carrying her up and down the stairs into our back yard so that she could relieve herself and enjoy time in the sun with Winnie. I had come to terms with the fact that Lady was going to need extra care – and was prepared to give it to her – but she surprised me.
Within just a couple of weeks, this dog that was barely able to walk when we first met her was running (literally – running) around the backyard and able to get up and down the stairs into the house on her own. I truly believe that Lady just needed the hope, love, and encouragement that only life with a family can bring a dog. Lady had found her forever home, we had found a piece of our lives that we didn’t even know was missing – and summertime was wonderful.
Summertime brought the freedom for my dogs to explore the outside and to relax together on the lawn. Together, they spent a few hours a day taking in the fresh air but it never failed that, when I opened the door and called them in, they would both come running as fast as they could to come see me. Lady hadn’t just become a member of our pack that we cared for, she had also become my friend.
I found myself looking forward to my favorite parts of the day, when I saw my dogs running up towards the house – something I never envisioned being possible when we’d first met. Little did the dogs know that I loved those moments just as much as they did – because they were full of joy.
Over the span of just a few months, Lady had become an important part of our pack. She was family, and she was loved. Fast forward to the night of October 21st, 2017. It started raining so I rushed to the backdoor to call the dogs in – expecting to see them both hop up and run in, excited to come inside. Except that didn’t happen.
Lady got up, like she usually did, and started to come towards me before collapsing on the lawn. I ran down the stairs to the yard and helped Lady get back to her feet. As we tried to get up the stairs, Lady collapsed again and that’s when it hit me – Lady was going to die.
I honestly can’t tell you how I knew but I could sense it and I knew what to do. My job was to make sure that this dog, my friend, was comfortable and loved in her final moments. The progression of Lady’s death happened so quickly there wasn’t time to think about much else than keeping her comfortable. By the time we got inside, her back legs had stopped working all together and her body was shutting down.
I brought her inside my bedroom and we said our goodbyes. As I petted her and talked to her about how wonderful she was, Lady kept trying to inch closer and closer to me – all she wanted was to be loved. I finally ended up moving her on top of me as I laid myself down on my back on the floor. Nothing prepares you for having a creature that you love die in your arms. It’s one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced but, at the same time, it’s exactly as it was supposed to be.
Lady passed away in the comfort of my arms, surrounded by the love that she had gotten to experience in her final months on Earth and I am grateful that we were able to be part of that journey for her, no matter how difficult it may have been to lose her.
I don’t know how her story started, or what adventures the early chapters brought but I know that her final chapter was beautiful and I’ll never forget her presence in our lives.
The aftermath of losing Lady was challenging because it’s something that I had never been through before, but the experience is something I want to make sure that I share with you in the event that you find yourself in a similar situation down the road.
What to do When Your Pet Dies Unexpectedly
After Lady passed away, I knew we needed to do something with her body and have a plan of action in place. Given the fact that it was late at night and on a weekend, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. When your pet dies unexpectedly, like ours did, here’s what you need to do:
-Wrap your pet up in a blanket, towel, or something similar
-If you have access to plastic to wrap around the bottom half of your pet, do it. They will sometimes release some of their bodily fluids after passing away.
-Place your pet in a box or container to transport them.
-Know your options. We utilized Pet Cremation Services, out of Martin City, and they were wonderful to work with. We called them on Sunday morning and brought Lady to their facility on Sunday afternoon.
Pet Cremation Services offers several options for families from group cremation, where they spread the ashes in their memorial garden, to options where you can keep your pet’s ashes after their gone. You can find details about all that they offer online here. They were amazing, gentle, and kind and I cannot even begin to tell you how comforting that was in the aftermath of Lady’s passing.
My biggest piece of advice is to understand WHAT to do if this ever happens to you. It’s hard enough losing a beloved pet unexpectedly and knowing what your next steps are will make it easier for you in the long run. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, and decide whether or not to welcome Lady into our family, would I?! Absolutely.
Lady’s presence in our lives wasn’t just a gift to her, it was a gift to my family as well. She was a gentle, sweet, kind soul that I am lucky to have known. Not only was she our family pet, but Lady was also our friend and we miss her every day. When you have the chance to love others, both people and pets, do it. You’ll never regret spreading kindness and love.
From my family to yours,