Saying Goodbye to Hershey
“The Lord is my shepherd…”1
Her name was Hershey. She was eleven years old.
The dreadful morning had arrived…the morning to put our beloved Rottweiler down; the morning to let her go; the morning to free her of all her suffering and pain; the morning to start with her on her journey from here to eternity. Yes, I know, I can see your grim smile: “Wishful thinking, Leila.”
She was about a year and a half old when she bacame a part of our family. She was very loving and wanted to please us. She thought she was a lap dog. Sometimes, we let her think she was fooling us and let her get on our lap. She would growl when you petted her and rubbed her tummy. The first time she did that, it scared me. I thought she wanted me to leave her alone. But, as time passed I realized that was her way of saying, “Ahhh…that feels good.” If I quit, she would take her nose and lift my hand, or she would wave her paw in the air seeming to say, “More, more.”
She grew to love us, and we grew to love her even more. She loved to play catch and return. She had her favorite beds around the house and looked forward to her nighttime treat: carrots. To her, they were like bones, only better for her. She was crazy about my husband. When he ratled the car keys, she would be at his side in a flash. When she got into occasional trouble, she could always count on him to defent her. I was definitely out numbered!
About two years before she died, I noticed an unhealthy change in her coat and her ability to walk normally. With each passing month, her condition worsened. Her normal leap and run turned to a slow trot. She no longer climbed upstairs to be with my husband in his office. She no longer jumped up on her favorite outdoor bench to survey passer-by’s. However, she still wanted her carrots and tummy rubs.
Her last days were so painful to watch. She could hardly hold up her hindquarters. The vet said she could have bone cancer. She would lie all day on her bed and either sleep or stare into space, sometimes panting hard: pain. I told my husband it was time to let her go. Keeping her alive was only for us, not for her. For one week, he refused to make that dreadful decision. The night before she died, I vowed not to nag him any further, but rather trust God to motivate him to do the right thing. The next day, after much agonizing, he made arrangements for our veterinarian to come to our home at 11:30 a.m. the following morning. She would be euphonized.
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”2
The next morning I sat by Hershey’s side and spoke words of love and affirmation. She never took her big, beautiful eyes off me. I prayed she didn’t detect my sorrow; she probably did. I knew we had made the right decision to let her to, and yet, I felt I was the one sentencing her to death instead of her disease.
The vet and his assistant arrived, and what should have taken place (euphonized) in a few minutes, took almost an hour. He couldn’t find a vein. We (the vet, his assistant and I) laid hands on her. I asked God to stop her heart and take her out of her misery. He didn’t.
The vet injected some of the serum into her tummy, and then waited until she started to relax. When straightening her leg to insert the needle into her vein, she howled horribly, like she was being run over by a car in slow motion. It broke my heart. He finally found a vein, and then shortly said, “She’s gone.” The words hit me like a hammer. “She’s gone…She’s gone…She’s gone.” Hersheeeeey!
“For thou art with me…”3
I was surprised to find myself angry with God. Why didn’t He answer my prayer? I Pleaded with Him to take her. Why didn’t He stop her heart? He could have. After all, He created her. My prayer was answered, but not the way I expected. I don’t know why. I’ll have to work through this like I have had to work through a thousand other “whys?”
This death scene rang familiar: losing my horses and other favorite dogs…alone. My husband was absent that morning when Hershey died. I still have a Silky: Rosie. She is not the most loving dog; she behaves more like a cat: independent and a little aloof. I doubt I’ll grieve for her when she dies the way I have for Hershey. That’s good.
“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”4
It’s been a week since losing Hershey. The house is strangely quiet. I pass the empty spaces where her beds once were. “She’s gone.”
Sometimes I look up from the breakfast table and stare at the glass door to the backyard, expecting her waiting to be let in. “She’s gone.”
Sometimes, I think I hear the tinkling of her dog tags. I glance over my shoulder looking for her presence. “She’s gone.”
“He restoreth my soul…”5
I’ve decided I’ll never own another dog after Rosie dies. It’s too painful letting them go. However, I know ‘never’ may not be ‘forever.’ Women are known for changing their minds. Am I to adhere to the old saying, “Better to love and lose than never love at all?”
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit…”6
Hershey? If there are animals in heaven, I know she’ll be there waiting for me. To my knowledge, the Bible soesn’t say anything about animals not being there. We do know that Jesus and His host of angels are returning on white horses.
“I saw the heaven open, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and
“And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords;…”8
“And the armies that which were in heaven followed him upon white horses…”9
God is sovereign and He’s in control. I know along with the joy we receive from the beautiful creatures He has given us comes the pain and sorrow of losing them. I have learned, in time, sorrow diminishes and peace takes its place. God never allows us to carry any more than we can carry, and someday there will be no more death, sorrow or pain; maybe for animals too.
“The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them. They shall be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. God shall wipe all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, neither sorrow or crying or pain, for the former things are passed away…”10
“He leadeth me beside the still waters…”11
Behold, the heaven opened and I saw….
Note: Our little Rosie died a few months after Hershey’s death. I was totally amazed to find myself grieving for her and missing her presence; I still do. I realized she meant more to me that I ever dreamed.
1: Psalms 23:1; 2: Psalms 23:4; 3: Psalms 23:3; 4: Psalms 23:4; 5: Psalms 23:2; 6: Psalms 34:18; 7-8-9 Revelation 19:11-14; 10: Revelation 21:2-3; 11: Psalms 23:2 (All King James except Ps 34:18 NIV)