“Oh happy dagger, this is thy sheath, there rust, and let me die.”
That’s Juliet’s final line from “Romeo and Juliet” and it is quite appropriate as an opening to this story. You see, we said goodbye to our dog Juliet, today, and it really hurt. It hurt because we felt as if it was too soon.
In the past, making the decision to have a beloved pet put to sleep was easy. He or she was old and in pain; suffering. We felt we were doing the right thing by releasing them from their pain.
Juliet wasn’t old and infirm. She wasn’t sick with a tumor or some vile disease that was damaging her body. No, Juliet had what we called “Doggy Dementia.” Truly, she was bipolar. Juliet could be so sweet, so nice and so loving. She’d sit on the couch next to me, those big brown eyes of hers looking up with love and my heart melted. She’d climb into my wife’s lap and just snuggle with her, and be likewise loving.
Then we’d take her for a walk and she would go thermal! If someone came into view too quickly, she’d go after her or him. If someone walked around the corner of a building or got out of a car suddenly, she’d bark and lunge at them. On more than one occasion, she literally yanked my wife off her scooter! The last time, Juliet tried to attack a family of five, three of them small children. She also injured two dogs, the last one so severely he needed medical attention and we now face a substantial vet bill.
On our last visit with our vet, we asked about her, for lack of a better term, mood swings. He said that with some dogs, as they get older, they mentally regress. In the case of Juliet, who grew up on the streets as a stray, it meant she could become more aggressive; she might become too “fiery” for us to handle. If that day came, his recommendation was that we put her down.
My wife made all the arrangements. It was going to be at three o’clock, so I’d be at work. I offered to take off early to stand with her at Juliet’s side. She said no that she’d handle it.
The night before, I took Juliet on an especially long walk and let her sniff around as much as she wanted. In the morning, I did the same and said a fond farewell before leaving for work. I called my wife after lunch to check on her a last time, make sure she was still okay with taking Juliet on her own; she was.
My wife took Juliet to our little dog run, tossed a ball around, let her dig a hole, she always loved to dig, and then drove her to the vet’s office. She sat with Juliet in a small room.
The vet asked if she wanted to leave before the procedure. My wife said no. She didn’t want Juliet to get scared and be alone at the end.
Juliet started life alone. She deserved to have someone at her side. My wife patted and comforted her while the vet gave her the shot.
Juliet got drowsy, she lay down, her eyes closed and then she just slipped away. The vet stepped out so my wife could have a moment and then she left. As we now live in an apartment, we couldn’t bury her at our place. We arranged for a cremation of Juliet.
I sit here now, writing this story, thinking of the fact that I didn’t have to go out before settling down for the evening. Normally I would, as it was always my job to give Juliet her last walk of the day. I already miss it.
One thing that comforts us in our decision was what the vet told my wife. He reviewed Juliet’s file, read all the reports on her actions and agreed that she was losing control of her mental faculties. It was only a matter of time before she tried to bite someone, maybe a child.
That was not the last memory of Juliet we wanted. No, it was better to let her pass as strong and healthy as possible, with a clean record. Another Shakespeare quote is appropriate here and, ironically, it is one of Juliet’s: “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
Goodbye, my Juliet, until we reunit at some distant “morrow.”
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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