We knew the time had come, yet it was still hard to make the decision to let her go. Ending the life of anything goes against the grain — death is final. That’s it. The end. No going back. So we kept putting it off, until we couldn’t avoid the inevitable. Our dog was telling us that she’d had enough — she was ready to go; her life was no longer worth it.
Mollie had come into our lives nearly sixteen years earlier, when we adopted her from the pound in Hobart. She was ten-months-old at the time, a russet-coloured terrier cross, frightened and trembling. She was scared of us and cars. A few treats cured her fear of us, but the car fear was a bit harder to treat. Paws down, she refused to move. I gave up in the end, and on busy streets I put her in the pram with our daughter and pushed the two of them along. Sometimes, our daughter climbed out, so I’d hold her hand and we’d push Mollie in the pram. A passer-by once commented, ‘Shouldn’t it be the other way around? The baby in the pram and the dog walking?’
Mollie was the perfect dog for our growing family. She let the kids do what they liked with her — pull her ears, walk her like a wheelbarrow, sit her in the doll’s stroller. She barked and leapt when excited, but was small enough that she didn’t knock them over. She did have a slight barking problem, which, on occasion, caused us to lose favour with our neighbours …
She seemed to forever be a pup, then suddenly, she aged. She became deaf, so we had to stand square in front of her before she noticed us. She had accidents on the doormat because she wasn’t quick enough to get outside. She did laps of the house, and we’d hear her nails clipping the floorboards as she walked, around and around, all day and all night. She began to look old – her eyes drooped, and her back legs sank lower and lower to the ground. She lost weight, stopped barking and became quiet.
Yet, every night when she saw me in the kitchen, over she came. She knew it was dinnertime. She even looked more sprightly. As long as she wants to eat, I thought, she wants to live.
We had chatted with our kids about Mollie growing old and sick and how, one day, the time would come when her life would be too miserable.
‘But we’ve always had Mollie,’ our youngest son said.
Of course: she’d been around for his entire life. None of our kids knew life without Mollie — she’d always been a part of our family. A few years ago, our youngest had asked me, ‘Mummy, did Mollie come out of your tummy, too?’ and didn’t understand why I laughed.
So we decided to get another dog and at least our family would not be dog-less when Mollie’s time came. Gretel the Golden Retriever joined us. Mollie was too old to care — Gretel even seemed to breathe some life into her for a while, until she started chewing her ears, literally …
By July, Mollie could barely stand, let alone walk. And when she did manage to haul herself up, she had to lean against the wall for support. She’d fall and, unable to move, she’d start crying. She was especially distressed of a night, when there was no one to hold her.
Then, she lost interest in her food. I set her by her bowl, but she couldn’t be bothered lowering her head. She just let herself fall backwards, then, because she couldn’t get back up, she cried.
I thought that she was telling us it was time.
I sat with the kids the next morning.
‘Mollie’s really old and sick,’ I said. ‘She’s miserable and crying, and I think if she could talk, she’d be saying, “I’ve had enough.”’
They nodded, through tears, but they still nodded. No one said, ‘No, don’t do it.’ They could see for themselves how weak and distressed she was, and, as upset as they were, they knew it was the fairest thing for Mollie.
We spent the day with her. She sat on our laps, skinny and limp. We took turns holding her, cuddling her, and taking photos.
Then we took her to the vet. They led us straight through, and the vet came in. She reassured us that we were making the right decision, and explained the procedure and that it would be painless and peaceful for Mollie. She left us alone with her, then, to say our final goodbyes. When she returned, she wrapped Mollie in a towel and bundled her in her arms. We kissed Mollie goodbye and they slipped out the door.
Mollie was gone.
I’ve never seen our kids so upset, all four of them. We stayed in the room, and I stretched my arms around them while they cried. I was so proud of them, I told them, for loving an animal so much.
‘But she’s not an animal,’ said the youngest. ‘She’s Mollie.’
We had Mollie cremated. When her ashes came back, we buried her in our garden, by the bird bath, and planted a rose-bush over her. We set the children’s garden seat nearby and called it ‘Mollie’s Corner’.
This post is in memory of MOLLIE
1.12.1996 – 15.7.2013
With our family from the beginning. Our little pound dog, who helped our children learn about loving and trusting, about jumping and playing, then about ageing and caring, and, finally, about dying and death.