We said our final goodbyes, gave our last hugs, and helped our old dog Mia cross the rainbow bridge a little over a week ago. I know the rainbow bridge may sound corny to some, but I really love the image of this bridge that pets cross, and when they reach the other side all sorts of awesomeness awaits, and there’s no pain and no sadness, just boundless wonder. I like to think our friend Bev, who passed last August, was waiting for her on the other side and the very first thing they did was to go for a long, long trail run.
She was 16 years old, and it was time. The last year has been difficult, with her spine deteriorating and pain becoming a hard to battle problem. There was more than once where we wondered if keeping her going was the right thing, but then she’d rally and you’d see that spark in her eyes and we’d think “a few more weeks.” We started getting her regular steroid shots but the time frame between shots kept getting shorter and shorter and the effect less and less. First it was once every two months, then once a month, then they just didn’t work anymore. Her tail stopped wagging and dropped between her legs and her eyes got duller. The medication we gave her turned her into a bit of a zombie. So we finally faced up to the fact that we were making her stay for us, not for her.
Mia was a very independent dog, not a cuddler; she preferred to handle things on her own. So watching her world become so reduced broke our hearts. At the end she fought just to get to the end of the driveway. She fell a lot, always struggling back to her feet, however unsteadily. Her spine became so twisted she looked like she was going in circles all the time. We saw this but we just couldn’t quite say goodbye. She was ready for the next adventure, and you could see it in her eyes – we just had to work up the courage to do the right thing. It was the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make.
She spent her last day with her good buddy Rico, who came to stay. They played (well he played and she fell down a few times but got back up). For dinner she got some smoked salmon and bleu cheese burger, then we shed some tears, and she made her last trip upstairs, struggling but she made it on her own. In the morning she got a few more treats and we went on a long car ride, one of her favorite things. She got to look out the windows one last time at the world going by. it was a good morning. The vet was wonderful, and the end was as peaceful as it could be. She got some kitty treats while we waited, then they gave her a sedative to calm her down. We held her, even the vet held her (God bless you, Dr. Ridgeway!), as she passed. She was surrounded, enveloped, in love. At the end her tail, which had been between her legs for so long shot out and curled a bit, just like in the old days.
Now we can remember Mia in her prime, a crazy fast dog with a perpetual smiley face who could run 20 miles at a time at a faster pace than either Chuck or I could ever run. She lived life large: she had enough energy for four dogs and never gained a pound of extra weight in her entire life. She loved Greenies, doggie treats of all kinds, chasing cats, and snotty tissues. She also loved to go for car rides, but most of all she loved to go running with us. One of the saddest days was a few years ago when she couldn’t go running anymore. The look on her face when we went out the door without her – well, it was just hard. Chuck got her when she was a puppy small enough to fit in one hand, and she was by his side for the next 16 years. That’s a long lifetime of love and devotion.
Mia, we loved you and we are going to miss you forever. You were a great dog and an even better friend. You were always there throughout injury and illness, keeping an eye on us, making sure we were okay. Thanks for that. In the end we were able to give you the same gift.
Little Miss Mia, shake out those bum back legs and uncurl that hunched spine. Have a good stretch and some yummy treats and say hello for us to all of our furry friends on the other side. Then go run as far as you want for as long as you want.
Nobody can ever stop you or slow you down now.