by Jim Young, HPCCR volunteer
Titus, the beloved family dog
Over this past weekend our family had to make a difficult and hard decision. We had to put our dog down. Even though Titus was only an animal to some, he was our friend, our companion, and a great protector to all who knew him.
Titus had the best disposition of any dog I have ever encountered. He was unselfish, kind, and he never growled or snapped at guests in our home. He was always glad to see you, and he had an uncanny knack for making you feel better when your day seemed to be going south. Even though he was a gentle giant, Titus was a pup at heart, and he showed his zest for life until his last few months. Then he just had no more zest to give.
His illness was an almost immediate change. The whole family knew there was something wrong with him, but because we loved him, and because it was Thanksgiving (and the beginning of the holidays), we asked Titus to hold on a little longer.
It made me think: how many families have asked their loved one to hold on a little longer? How many times has the love been too great to let go? Hope is a wonderful thing to hold on to, but when it comes to suffering and death, where does hope end, and reality set in? I think if we all searched our feelings, we’d find that there is no right answer to that question. Because the burden of death is different with everyone, and I too (at points during my life) have held on to hope that inevitably wasn’t there. Love can blind us; our own personal greed makes us hold on to someone we truly love even while they are slipping through our grasp.
I guess that’s how we looked at our beloved dog. We overlooked his pain and suffering to hold on to him a little longer. We ignored the hurt he was carrying inside. But his prognosis continued to dwindle to a point where our selfishness could no longer justify delaying what needed to be done.
I stayed with him through the whole process. I slowly watched him find peace and slip away into death — something so many families have done with a loved one under hospice care. The moment when death takes hope away has to be one of the hardest moments we have to accept in life. As I sat there on the floor with my lifeless friend, I not only cried for the loss of his life, but I also cried for the loss in mine. Death has a tendency to take part of us with it; it creates a hole inside us that had been filled by someone we loved. It’s a space that sometimes only time can heal.
Time is one thing that can never be taken for granted. It has a way of making us all wiser, even our youth. This is what my 23-year old son wrote shortly after Titus’s death:
“Part of living a full and meaningful life means making decisions that are often emotionally difficult. Today we lost Titus, our beloved german shepherd of the past 11 years, to this harsh reality. While I mourn his loss, I find peace knowing he no longer has to suffer with an illness that had taken over every aspect of his life. I cherish the fond memories I had with him and find even the pain of loss to be a comfort in itself; it is through grief that we truly realize the impact a lost one has had on us throughout our lives, and Titus has certainly left his mark on our family. Rest easy old pup. We love you.”
Titus loved the snow, and on the evening following his death, it snowed three inches. Was it just coincidental, or was it God’s way of sharing our loss, reminding us that love never truly fades away? Each of us has a memory of a loved one who has gone on before us. It might be the scent of rain in the air, or the feel of a gentle summer breeze on our face. It could be a certain song that plays on the radio, or just the tranquility of a silent moment that brings a memory of someone who once graced our lives and can never be replaced.
I promise you, Titus my friend, it will be the snow that will always remind me of you. As my son said, “Rest easy old pup. We love you.”