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Saying goodbye to a family friend

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Kissing the soft apricot fur as tears dropped onto Trixie, 14, while the vet’s needle put her to sleep, taking her out of her miserable lifestyle of congestive heart failure, loss of sight and deafness.

It’s been several days now, and nothing seems to bring us out of the unbearable sorrow of losing a pet we’ve had as long as we’ve been married.

Nothing but a tiny ball of orange fur when we first purchased her in Conway, SC, Trixie was named after the character on “The Honeymooners” for when she broke out of the pack of tiny creatures on the carpet, she trembled and showed us her first nasty trick. It was so funny.

Memories abound from walks around the block, sniffing other pooches and baptizing every hydrant to dozens, hundreds of terrifying jailbreaks. Whenever we wanted a good cuddling, she was there. More than occasionally she would lick us on the nose or foot, sometimes when we never noticed it, just a simple, gingerly administered display of affection after a long day at work.

In the evenings she would sit at the window like a hawk, waiting for my wife or me to return from work, and after that hovering was over she could relax, wiggling that tail as fast and hard as she could jiggle it, sitting on the couch and slipping off into a warm, calm slumber.

Our pet has brought us more love and affection than we could ever return or explain. When we would leave in the morning, she would always be at her perpetual outpost: the chair, in the window, looking out and sometimes doing what we called “the Wolf.” She would crow at the moon, chin raised upward, erupting with a wolf-like howl.

Those days are over now. There are a few definite no-no choices after your pet dies. If you are prone to substance abuse, do not turn to this. The pain will lessen after about a week to a humanly tolerable level. I was so embarrassed the vet and assistants saw me melt down into shock.

“No!” I shouted, crumbling as my wife held Trixie. My wife mentioned something about our pet’s trust being betrayed. No. No. No. We decided it was humane. She was not afraid when she died. She was in my wife’s arms, and I was kissing her at 100 mph.

We retreated to a grocery store parking lot, and there, for more than an hour, we cried our eyes out, our hearts gutted by the sharp, bitter stab of reality. Trixie was gone, and there was nothing on earth we could do to stop it.

There are firsts for everything after putting your pet to sleep — the first walk, the first night of rest, the torture of thinking your pet is around the corner, thinking you hear your pet, a jingle of a collar.

It’s all normal, and millions of people have experienced this pain before you, and it will continue until the end of time. One great idea is to depend on your religious faith to help you out. Pray about it.

We’re now looking at donating Trixie’s food and meds to a shelter. My wife immediately threw out all her toys. I’m a freelance writer, so I work from the home, so being around the house is kind of haunting. My wife comes home and has to face the agony we share, and seeing her sad kills me.

Nobody can tell me that animals are not happy or sad. When Trixie was happy, you could tell by her eyes and grin.

When she was sad, her eyes were droopy and wide, pulled back a little. When she seemed sad, that meant she was sick.

She memorized certain words, and her vocabulary was expansive. “Treat!” That caught her attention. “Let’s go for a walk!” would make her scratch at the door. “Get the leash!” About a year ago Trixie did not show as much get up and go as she had before. She had bad days, like us all, but there were more bad days. A good day seemed like any other. I’m sure arthritis was bad for her. Some days she would stay under the bed or couch all day long and not eat.

She had a lot of bouts of pancreatitis without eating, lying in the chair for days. Trixie would eat grass, throw up and then get better. We realized then that there would come the day when Trixie would not get any better.

We did not want Trixie to run off, with us not knowing how she died. We realized that as good pet owners, we needed to help our pet face death with dignity and without pain or suffering.

Having a pet is a great big investment, and in this economy, the last time she was hospitalized, we were asked if we wanted to put her down at the vet hospital. I said yes. My wife said, “I’m not ready to let her go.” How can one argue with that?

Trixie lived six more months on heart medicine and gave us a run for our money. If we had pumped more money into her, it would have broken our family apart financially.

As good pet owners, we realize now, although not on that day of doom, that the time had come. Letting your pet suffer just so you can rave on in your anthropomorphic haze is a harsh mistake. The night before, like so many that week, she coughed incessantly despite the $30 beef-flavored syrup, shot down her throat with a plastic syringe. This was no life to live.

We had come to the realization that there was nothing more that we could have done. There was nothing I could do about it. Death is as much a part of life as it is a part of the universe. If you have had a pet who died, you will understand this theory.

I had a pet beagle, “Hoover.” Hoover met his death on US 74 in Laurinburg, where he followed me, and I always felt responsible. I felt with Trixie I needed to pay extra attention to her later years.

I try to live my life as if I at least want to go to heaven, but I was afraid of Trixie dying and what it would do to me. I know which direction she is heading. She has been such a gift. In a way she reminds me of our wedding because we got her shortly after we got married on Sept. 30, 1995. What we’ve been through, she’s been through. She’s seen us at our worst and at our best. I’m pretty sure she has a spot in heaven because she has been an absolute angel on Earth.

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