It was 14 years ago when I first met Serra. I was wandering down the long corridor of an animal shelter looking for a dog to adopt when suddenly I found myself in the middle of a “jailhouse riot” when all of the dogs in the cages began barking and jumping and bouncing off of their cage doors. I decided to leave for a while until things settled down before coming back to look for my new “best friend”.
As I was making my way towards the exit, I caught an image out of the corner of my eye of a little girl sitting alone in the middle of her cage staring right at me. She was completely still and she was the only dog that wasn’t barking and participating in the “riot” that was going on all around us. She looked scared and sad, staring at me with her big eyes while she trembled as she sat there. That’s when I knew that she was the dog for me, and I had to get her out of that place that she feared so much.
Serra was a Boxer/Old English Bulldog mix, she had the larger body of a Boxer but with smaller Bulldog sized legs, yet she could run like the wind. My home at the time didn’t have much of a yard so I took her for a run every day, sun or rain, even during snowstorms. She loved our daily runs at the park and she could always outrun me. We would start off with a sprint until she slowed down enough for me to catch up and then we’d jog the rest of the way.
As Serra got older, her sprints didn’t last as long, and she had begun to slow down. Over the years our daily runs had turned into walks. I began taking her to parks with rivers and streams that she would jump into and play like she was a young pup again. Being in the water helped to soothe her old joints and the buoyancy of being in the water made it so that she could jump and swim around with ease.
We eventually moved into a new house with a much larger yard that was fenced off and I installed a doggy door and made a ramp for Serra to have more freedom of mobility. She loved her new yard and she would often go outside to lay in the grass and nap in the sunshine. Serra wasn’t able to go on very long walks anymore, but she had a big yard to walk around and explore so she was happy. During wintertime I used my walk-behind snow-blower to make a maze of trails throughout the deep snow in the backyard so that she could still get around with those little legs of hers.
Then came her newly adopted “brother” Diego, an 18 month old boxer. Serra and Diego soon became best friends and Serra was renewed with a more youthful spirit, it was as though she had lost 2 years of her age. She could no longer run like she used to, but she would sit still while Diego did all of the running, making laps past her as fast as he could to see if she could tag him. They had great fun together and Serra was spending more time outdoors getting exercise. We had to stop making our daily trips to the park, but Serra had her new play pal that kept her active.
After another year, Serra began having difficulty with the steps on the front porch. Her joints had lost some of their mobility and she needed an easier way to get up and down without worry of falling down the cement steps so I built her a new ramp for the front porch. Age was making things difficult for her, but I was doing all that I could to make her life as comfortable as I could.
Serra turned 15 years old on January 10th this year and sadly, as time progressed, her situation had become worse. After realizing that my wish for her to pass naturally in her sleep while at home wasn’t going to become a reality, I had come to the conclusion that it was time to schedule her final visit to the vet. Since she only had one week left here, I decided to give her one last week of indulgences and let her eat all of the things that she wanted, in addition to her special diet that she was already on. Serra very much enjoyed eating from our plates and having all of the special treats, although it was done in secret so that Diego wouldn’t feel like he was missing out (Diego is on a restrictive diet due to several food allergies so he couldn’t share the same treats).
I said goodbye to Serra on February 19, 2013. Her loud snores and pig-like grunts that filled my home with her brutish Bulldog charm will be missed. This is not intended to be a sad post, but one which can hopefully help others to know when to make the dreaded, yet humane decision to let go of an ailing pet. If you are having difficulty trying to decide if it is time to say goodbye to your pet, I found this “Quality of Life Checklist” to be very helpful.
For children who are grieving over the loss of a pet, and for the “kid” in all of us who miss our furry friends, I also recommend a book that was written by my sister Mary who passed away 5 years ago. Mary was a veterinarian and she wrote the book Zoe’s Good-Bye to help those who are struggling with the difficult decisions that we must one day face when it’s time to say goodbye to our beloved pets.
Rest in peace Serra “Bug”, you will be missed.