Saying Goodbye to the Love of My Life

Roxie the dog at duskRoxie is coming to the end of her life. Our beautiful black shepherd girl is suffering from lymphoma and her condition is compounded by the fact that her hind end has failed her, as is the case with many purebred German shepherds when they are getting on in years and degenerative myelopathy sets in.

Shortly after Roxie arrived here in 1999, I wrote a story about her for Best Friends magazine, "The Secret Life of (Abandoned) Dogs." A confident matriarch who keeps a household of high-energy male dogs in line replaced the nervous young mother who was found by the side of the road long ago. She is as solid as a rock, even in decline.

I love Roxie and watching her fade is hard. I try to remember my own advice: It’s part of the pact we make with our animal friends. They give us their unconditional love and loyalty, and we protect them as best we can from the hardships of the world throughout their lives and see them out the back door of life as peacefully, painlessly and lovingly as possible.Roxie the dog is a regal beauty

I keep reminding myself that the opportunity to prevent her from suffering is a privilege, as painful as it might be. Or is it perhaps one of the liabilities of placing your heart in the care of a creature whose life you always knew would be much shorter than your own?

Whatever … it’s tough, and making the decision of when to say goodbye is harder still.

As one of the founders of Best Friends, where, for a time, our own quarters were extensions of the animal care facilities, I have had to see hundreds of friends over the Rainbow Bridge. It’s never easy and something that you never get used to, but in all these years, my only regrets were waiting too long to say goodbye ... waiting until their distress and anxiety overwhelmed their appreciation of being loved and protected.

I don’t want that to happen to Roxie but I don’t want to rush her out the door either, so I watch and I wait.

When the time comes, we will surround her with love and give her a bowl of her absolutely favorite food. Food is an important element of my departure ceremony so it’s important that Roxie will still have enough of an appetite to enjoy a rare treat. While she is eating, we will stroke her and whisper to her in loving voices that she will be delivered from cancer, myelopathy and old age. We will cry and Roxie will be free.

Editor’s note:  Francis and Silva said goodbye to Roxie over the holidays.

Francis Battista