With the spirit of a puppy trapped in her aging body, Reilly was a dog unlike any other. She had a special way of putting a contagious smile on the faces of neighbors, friends, relatives, and even made fast friends with the other neighborhood dogs. Between eating two bags of Hershey kisses (with the foil), remnants of a turkey carcass, a box of Clif Bars, packs of gum, and even cinnamon-scented Christmas ornaments, her stomach of steel could handle just about anything. The only thing stronger than her digestive system was her tail– it wagged nonstop, up until today when she slipped into an eternal, peaceful sleep.
Reilly’s health had been going downhill for quite a while; she endured cancer, two torn ACLs, tumors/cysts growing underneath her skin, allergies and a narrowing trachea. The past few days, she couldn’t catch her breath and could barely stand for longer than about 15 seconds. As heart-wrenching as it was to admit, putting Reilly to sleep was the only right way to put an end to her suffering.
After leaving the Cleveland Magazine office in tears, I met up with Mom, Dad and Hayley at the animal clinic this morning. In the parking lot, Reilly looked up at me, tail wagging, and sweet, brown eyes shining. My heart instantly shattered into a million pieces. It felt as if tiny shards of glass were desperately trying to pierce into the reality of what was about to follow.
The vet technician guided the four of us into a tiny exam room with a soft floral blanket on the floor. Poor Reilly was too worked up to settle down, yet she looked happy as a clam. That’s what made it so difficult.
Once the vet explained that this was the best option and we decided to go through with it, everything happened so fast. Mom, Dad, Hayley and I held down Reilly and fed her treats as the vet slipped the needle into her back left leg.
In one blurred moment, Reilly went from quickly gobbling up treats, to drifting in slow-mo to the floor. After about 10 seconds, reality struck.
“Yeah, she’s gone,” the vet murmured.
I didn’t hold back a single tear. The sobs came harder as I rested my head on Reilly’s motionless body. I hugged her with more love in my heart than I ever had before. In a
shaky voice, I whispered in her soft, golden ear. I stroked her silky fur, just taking in all of her beauty, reminiscing on the good times we shared. While it was sad beyond words to experience that today, I’m grateful that I was able to say goodbye before heading back to college, grateful that she passed in the most peaceful way possible, and grateful for her unforgettable and unconditional love she gave to us for nearly 13 years.
No one else could ever replace the permanent pawprint that Reilly has left on my heart.
Rest in peace, old girl. I miss you already.