A few weeks ago our beloved beagle Darwin tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). It seemed that he just went lame in his right hind leg. We did some research and a former PAWS board member colleague, who is also veterinarian, even diagnosed the problem from my Facebook post about it. Our veterinarian confirmed it when we saw her. In the week between his accident and when we saw the vet, Darwin was on aspirin and we started him on some chondroitin glucosamine. When we saw the doctor, we were told to take him off the aspirin for a few days before starting him on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. It was during this period that I had my moment of clarity.
Simply put, Darwin was miserable; he would barely move and didn’t want to eat his food. We were very concerned because the meds he would eventually need to take had to be taken with food (we found that he would scarf down boiled chicken but turned away from his regular food).
He would look at me with misery in his eyes and it broke my heart. But something unexpected happened too. Darwin is nearly 12 years old so I know he has only a few years left to be with us. This is a fact that I rarely think about it because it has been incomprehensible to think of life without him. Yes he is a dog and a pet, but he has captured my soul in a way that is impossible to explain. When I looked at him during those few days when he was in pain I had an epiphany of sorts. I thought about the real possibility that sometime in the next few years, we may have to make the decision to let Darwin go. For the first time I didn’t experience that dread and that knot I have had in my stomach when I’ve thought about this in the past.
Seeing my little guy in pain somehow gave me the understanding that when it is time for him to go, I’ll know it and letting him go will be an act of love that is, the ultimate act of love. When it is his time, letting him go will be my act of unconditional love. He has provided me with that sort of love for over a decade. He is the joy of my life.
I was surprised by this feeling inside of me. It felt peaceful and it made me realize just how much I love Darwin.
He is doing much better now. Because of his age, surgery was not an ordeal we want to put him through, so he’ll limp a bit, he can’t jump and run like he did (he tries- but we stop him). But he is back to his old self – being led into mischief by that amazing nose of his and cuddling with either me or Lee at every possible opportunity.
When it his time, I will grieve and I will have a hole in my heart, but I now realize that I’ll also have peace; peace from knowing that I give him the same gift he gives me- unconditional love. I didn’t know that I was capable of such selflessness. That too is another gift from Darwin.