In my 42 years, I have experienced loss – the loss of grandparents, 2 uncles and a really good friend but none has filled me with more grief than when I lost my best friend and pet, Freddy.
Jason, my partner and I became proud parents of Freddy on November 21, 2000. It was wonderful when our neighbor knocked on our door to present us with our new family member. The first few weeks proved to be tough and we had to make some adjustments to our schedules to ensure Freddy’s comfort. Jason would come home for lunch just so that Freddy’s transition to his new home would not be too frightening. During this quick lunch hour, Freddy would simply curl up on Jason’s chest and soaked up all the love and warmth that Jason gave. I would take alternate shifts at work so that one of us would always be home with him. Vacations revolved around Freddy – we always decided where we would go and stay based on where we thought Freddy would feel most comfortable and safe. Jason and I were more than happy to make these lifestyle adjustments in order to provide Freddy with the best life possible.
Freddy allowed me to become more conscientious of our non-human friends and really became a deciding factor on my becoming a vegetarian. He was my pet but he was able to learn, to love and to feel. Why did it take me this long to understand that pigs, cows, fish and all other animals could do the same? Because of Freddy, I became more aware of what I ate, where I shopped, which companies conducted animal testing etc. I believe caring for Freddy sparked my conscious awareness and my spiritual journey.
Freddy was generally a happy dog – once you got to know him. He was very protective of Jason and I and would sometimes challenge our friends if they entered our personal space. Freddy would also warn Jason or myself if we got to close to each other. There were times when Freddy would intentionally sit in-between Jason and I to ensure we did not get too close. We called him ‘The Warden’, it was a nickname that made us laugh every time we used it.
We did endure some scary moments such as; Freddy going on a solo, unsupervised walk at a campground we belonged to, running into an elevator with his leash still attached – I was on the outside of the elevator and Freddy on the inside (Freddy and I both had to seek post-traumatic counseling after that incident) and running after me as I drove away to work one winter morning in my car. Jason decided to go to Mexico for a week with friends – that entire week Freddy stood vigilant facing the apartment door waiting for his return. I created a temporary bedroom in the living room to keep Freddy company and to ensure he ate his food during this week. No matter what happened, Freddy always came through.
Early in November of 2010, Freddy began experiencing severe coughing fits that became more frequent as the days passed. We brought him to our veterinarian and were told that Freddy had an enlarged heart and that he would not be with us for much longer. The veterinarian also indicated that he needed to start medication to help clear his lungs of fluid. This helped briefly but the attacks continued and we brought him in again. We saw another one of the veterinarians in the office and she indicated that he was far worse than the first diagnosis and that we had to talk about euthanizing him – we were shocked and asked if the diagnosis caused him any pain. She said yes. Jason and I decided we would not let Freddy endure any further pain and would let him go the following weekend. We also decided to have the veterinarian do the procedure in our home to ensure Freddy’s comfort – those were our plans, Freddy’s plans were different.
On the night of Wednesday November 19th, 2010 – Freddy seemed to be having continuous coughing attacks with little breaks in-between them. Every time he looked up at us, his beautiful brown eyes seemed to be pleading to us for help. It was heart-breaking. I hardly slept that night due to the anxiety I felt surrounding Freddy’s illness and it was reflected in my dreams. That night I dreamed I was visiting family – the surroundings were familiar and friendly until one of my sisters started yelling “something happened to Freddy”. She brought him over to me and laid him on a table. When I picked him up his body deflated and he lifted his head and looked at me with those big brown pleading eyes that suggested it was time for him to go home. I woke up with tears streaming down my face and leaned over and woke Jason up. I told him about my dream and explained that I believed that this was Freddy’s way of communicating his wishes to me.
The following day was to be Freddy’s day. He would have his favorite food (pizza) and we invited his favorite ‘uncle’ over to say goodbye. It was our final night with our wonderful precious dog.
Saturday November 21, 2010 was the roughest day of my life and Jason’s. We took Freddy for a long walk on the beach and gave him a hamburger to eat. We communicated words of love and that we would all be together again someday but most importantly, we ensured Freddy that he would not be uncomfortable anymore. You can not prepare yourself for a moment like this, you know it is going to happen, you know it will hurt but you just don’t know how much it will hurt. We said goodbye to Freddy exactly 10 years from his birth. The irony of Freddy’s passing was that Jason and I always knew that Freddy had a big heart, we just did not know that it would lead to his death.
Freddy’s legacy lives on in his son Bradley who just celebrated his 6th birthday. All of the lessons that Freddy taught me – lessons of patience, love, overcoming grief and respecting all living creatures are lessons I will carry with me until it is time for me to go home.