The first time we saw Jesse, he was wearing an orange bandana and smelled like spray-on musk from Bath & Body Works. His owner desperately wanted us to adopt the 1-and-a-half-year-old Beagle. Jesse was so adorable in his orange scarf, and he smelled so good that we took him home immediately. The former owner neglected to tell us one thing: Jesse had epilepsy. He began to have seizures about a month after coming home with us.
In the end, this didn’t matter. Jesse was our first child. Before we adopted our human son, Tommy, he was all we had. Jesse loved to patrol the perimeter of our fenced-in backyard, sniffing each blade of grass with his powerful nose. He was the quintessential Beagle.
Jesse was an excellent watchdog, maybe a little too excellent. He bit three people — the house appraiser, the heating/air conditioning technician, and my best friend, Jan. The bites weren’t really bites; they were more like nicks. We had to be careful when strangers came to our house. If Jesse was introduced to people slowly by letting him smell them, he was fine. If not, he reacted in quite a negative way.
We loved Jesse despite his issues for 14 years. (It’s a good thing we never got sued.) But one day, Jesse couldn’t go up and down our stairs. He stopped eating and drinking. And he stopped barking. Jesse was not Jesse anymore. We took him to the vet, needing advice about what to do. There, at Stow Kent Animal Hospital in Ohio, Dr. Alyssa Auer, a vet who had seen our dog once before, said it might be time to let Jesse go.
What a sad moment that was. Jesse could barely walk. He was sitting dejectedly on the cold examination table. His life had come to this.
Putting your dog to sleep is an excruciating experience. You’re saying goodbye to a family member. You know that you will miss hearing him snore in the middle of the night. And whom will you take for a walk? Who will protect you from the mail lady?
Dr. Auer did several caring things before Jesse actually passed that made an awful situation a little easier. Her behavior exemplified the gold standard of veterinary treatment with this difficult procedure.
Dr. Auer empathized with us. She treated us like family, telling us her greatest fear. This candid talk made us feel like her loved ones, not virtual strangers. We were instantly calmed. We were in good company.
At this point, I was crying uncontrollably. Dr. Auer was watching Jesse’s body language. He was looking longingly at me. She’d read our dog’s behavior, practicing dog psychology. She could tell that Jesse was still connected to us, but couldn’t do anything to help us. He was just too weak. Knowing that she could tell he loved us helped us tremendously.
The cold examination table was slippery. Jesse’s paws splayed out so that he was in an awkward, uncomfortable position. By putting a warm blanket under Jesse, Dr. Auer gave him dignity by making it possible for him to sit upright. She also comforted Jesse with the warmth of the blanket.
Neither my husband nor I wanted to watch the death of our beloved dog. We were so glad that we were “dismissed” and that she would do the hard work. We left silently, but not before saying goodbye to Jesse. Dr. Auer thoughtfully left the room so that we could have a personal, quiet moment with him.
One of the greatest fears of those putting their beloved pet to sleep is that the animal will die alone. Dr. Auer wanted us to know that someone would be there “to hold the dog’s paw” while he passed — a God-send in this difficult time.
He would grow sleepy and become unconscious. Then, when the blood stopped pumping throughout his body, the rest of his organs would shut down, and he would pass away peacefully. This reassured us that Jesse would not suffer anymore.
At one point, Dr. Auer’s eyes teared up. The fact that she put many dogs to sleep each month didn’t matter. She still had the compassion to recognize the uniqueness of our dog and how much he mattered to us.
It’s now been three months since we put Jesse down. We miss him, but we’ve gotten a new dog. He’s also a Beagle. His name is George, and he and Jesse are very different dogs. We know that we can never replace Jesse. His presence marked an era in our lives: our young, married life and the adoption of our son. We’ll always have fond memories of him.
If you have to put your dog to sleep, don’t do it unless you have a rapport with the attending doctor. She should impress you with her tenderness and care. I hope you’re as lucky as we were in finding just the right vet to perform this sad procedure.
We miss you, Jesse. Love you always. And thank you for everything, Dr. Auer.
Have your ever had to put a dog to sleep? Tell us your experiences in the comments.
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About the author: Laura Yeager is a freelance fiction and nonfiction writer who lives in Stow, Ohio. She misses dear Jesse terribly, but she and her husband have adopted George, another Beagle, who is also a sweetheart. Laura has been writing professionally for over 30 years.