Raksha (2007-2022)

Basil entered my life when I was 6, if memory serves.

He’d showed up at my great grandmother’s door in Texas on Christmas (or at least that’s what I remember being told), and made the journey north to my aunt in Maine, and then south again to my family in Medford, MA. We think he was a black lab/Australian cowdog mix. He was almost universally gentle. The exceptions were a man he thought threatened to me and my brother, and a man who was hitting on my grandmother after being told to piss off. He was the first dog who felt like a part of me, and was my closest friend throughout my childhood.

He was fine up until the night that he wasn’t.

Then, one night in my late teens, something broke in him. My best guess is that it was a stroke, but it’s hard to know for sure. Without going into detail, it was a scary night for all of us, but most of all for him. Had I had the option to spare him that night, I would have done so.

Raksha is 15. When she was 11, she suddenly got severe arthritis in her hips. She couldn’t make it up or down the stairs without help, and by the time we got to the vet, and got her medicated, she’d lost some muscle in her hind legs. She made a partial recovery, but never a full one. Some time after that, her panting turned hoarse, and we later discovered it was because her larynx had been partially paralyzed, leaving that bit to flap in the breeze, as it were. It convinced a child living nearby that she was always growling, but it was just what her panting sounded like. As the vet explained it, that increased the odds that the rest of it would follow at some point. The fact that we moved somewhere with cool summers probably lengthened her life, and helped avoid the death that would have come with her throat suddenly closing itself.

A few days ago, her hip gave out.

It was clear from her panting that she was in pain, but at the same time she seemed to be compulsively seeking food, more or less dragging her leg around the apartment with her. I gave her a treat and something for the pain. In the morning she was better, but not completely. Her leg kept turning like it was almost slipping out of joint, and she couldn’t hold a squat for the time needed. She’s also showing signs of a UTI – her second in as many months. She’s been close to blind for years, and completely blind in the dark for at least six months.

What’s my duty in this case? What’s my responsibility to her?

If I wait, because I can’t bear to let her go, how long until the choice of a peaceful death is taken from us? Summers aren’t hot here, but they’re hotter than winters, and more panting means more of a chance that one day her throat will close. More of a chance that her hip will dislocate and we can’t fix it, or that it will break.

Will her final hours be pain and fear?

Not if I can help it. The choice should be hers, but as smart as she is, she can’t make it.

It’s nice weather today. She’ll have sun, and grass, and meat cooked on a fire. We’ll all be there, including the cat, and at the close of her life, she’ll have sun on her fur, her family’s scent in her nose.

The biggest bright side is that she’ll never have to deal with my death. She was afraid I’d abandon her, once. It feels like I’m doing that now, but she’ll never experience the worse deaths that were waiting for her, and I’ll be there till the end.

The image shows a German shepard/Husky mix, with cream-colored fur on the inside of her ears, her paez, her cheeks, and the sides of her muzzle. The rest of her fur is black, with white under-fur showing in some places. There's a black stripe down the top of her snout, and across her eyes, but her eyebrows are cream-colored. Her nose is between her front paws.


There will be one more post about this, on Monday. After that, I’ll be back to my regular schedule and content.

Until then, if you have any pets, give them a little extra love.



    The first dog of your life is the hardest to let go. She will leave you a final gift, if you accept it, which is to mourn well. Other deaths will come your way with time, and the gift will serve you well. My heart is with you, and with the memory of putting down my first when her body gave out.

  2. Jazzlet says

    I am so sorrry, you have expressed how I have felt when mine have got to that point. I’m crying for you, and because I am remembering the three dogs for whom I had to make that decision. Rest in peace Raksha.

  3. Katydid says

    There’s a saying that dogs take a piece of your heart when they go, but in return they give you a piece of theirs. It’s obvious how much Raksha loved you, and how much you love her. Saving her from suffering is never wrong. Seeing her through to the end, and giving her the most gentle and loving end is the right thing to do.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    She looks like a Very Good Dog.
    Now I’m going to go hug mine.

  5. klatu says

    You have my condolences. I know what you had to decide in the end wasn’t pleasant.

  6. StevoR says

    I am so sorry to read this and my condolences. Pets are family and I’m sure Raksha knew that and knew how much she was loved. There’s no good way to lose a pet and I know you are doing the right thing and being kind to her. The last gift of ending suffering is the most painful and I know how much it hurts. Thinking of you both.

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