For what it's worth, it was worth all the while

Carmelita 2002 - 2014. She was the goodest.

I just looked back in the archives to see how much I told you about Carmi when we got her. Surprisingly little. Actually, not that surprising, because that post is four days before my first date with Clay. I didn't have much time for blogging, what with all late night phone talking going on. How sly am I, with my "I'm in love" declaration? Heh.

Well, the background on Carmi is that my mom found her online. She was at a shelter across town, and we'd been searching for the right dog for awhile, so we headed over to see her. It was nearly closing time when we got there, but when the staff heard we wanted to see Carmelita, they hustled us off to meet her. It seems she'd been listed as a pit bull cross, and so she'd lingered there for nine months, and her time was almost up. They were really hoping she would find a home in time. A patient shelter, but not a no-kill shelter, you see.

Having been locked up so long, Carmi was a little stunned. We took her out to an open space to try to get a sense of her. She stood and stared at us, not seeming to understand what we wanted. I had to take Raphael in for a trip to the bathroom, leaving the other boys and my mom outside with Carmi. When I came back, Max had managed to make contact with her, and he was throwing a ball for her to fetch. 

We took her home (obviously), and she loved us completely and irrevocably. At first, she was awfully nervous whenever we left the house. She would sneak into the van in the chaos as I was loading the boys in. More than once I glanced in the rear view mirror, preparing to back out of the garage, to see her sitting there, trying hard to look like one of the kids. And looking guilty. She always looked sorry.

I'd haul her out of the car and into the house and she'd leap up into the front window and watch us drive away, quivering with anxiety. And looking sorry. For a few weeks, I was worried that she'd never really know that she was finally safe.

It took a long time for her to believe that she was home for good. She fell into the midst of the boys like she was created for them. Whenever they barrelled through the house, racing from point A to point B, she would leap to her feet and run after them. And even though she was clearly a herding dog, and tending to her pack of boys, she never nipped at them, but tapped them gently on the sides of their legs with her nose. 

She was love. Pure love, in a cloud of dog hair. 

But of course "safe" isn't a permanent condition, and love doesn't stop the years from stealing what they will. Carmi got more and more stiff with arthritis, and her wonky liver meant the vet couldn't prescribe her the good drugs for the pain. She became more and more confused, wandering aimlessly through the same rooms for hours, in and out the door, looking lost. Lost and sorry. She ate less and less, and her bones pressed at her skin. Sometimes she just fell down, and sometimes she couldn't get back up without help. She pooped in the house every day, and didn't even know she was doing it.

How do you decide to let a good dog go? I agonized, sought advice, and cried for days. My sister-in-law suggested we ask ourselves if Carmi could still do her five best things ever, and if she would recover and be able to again. And obviously, no. She couldn't go on walks, or fetch balls, or chase squirrels. She couldn't even sit comfortably enough to rest her chin on a friendly knee. Clay pointed out that she didn't even wag her tail anymore, so fragile was her balance. 

She was so tired.


I will never, ever again underestimate how difficult a decision it is to put your animal to sleep. I am not exaggerating when I say that I cried for days. But on Monday Carmi's vet came to the house. Raphael waited upstairs, not ready to see something so hard. Sophia went to the park with Amma. And Clay, Tre, Max, and I huddled around Carmi and said goodbye. It was a transcendentally sad moment. 

I don't question if it was the right choice, I just wish we didn't have to make it. I wish I could hear her shake her head and jangle her collar again. I miss her every day. Every dog picture I see on Facebook makes me cry.

But I think about her there, surrounded by her people. Each of us had a hand on her, and she gazed up at us, grinning (don't even try to tell me dogs don't smile, just don't). She trusted us, completely, and we did our solid best to live up to that trust. We loved her. 

And she didn't look sorry.



I am so sorry for your loss. She was a good, good dog.


What a good dog. I'm so sorry.

We had a good cat we had to make The Decision for, and I remember wishing more than anything else that he would just die gently and naturally in his sleep and we wouldn't have to make such a terrible and significant choice for him. But he didn't, and we did, so we did. I had to keep doing that mental loop over and over and over: that the choice being so horrible didn't mean it was the wrong choice, just that of course it was horrible. And that letting him die naturally would have been even more horrible for him.

The vet helped a little too: she said, "Isn't this how we'd all want to go? Surrounded by loved ones, peaceful and comfortable."


Oh, I love Swistle's vet.

Carmi really was the goodest. And you gave her 10 wonderful years she almost didn't get to have. It was enough for her. The only problem is that it's not enough for the rest of us, y'know?



I love how you can put words to the things I never can. Having recently made the same decision with Brodie, I just cried my eyes out. Again. Thank you for your amazing gift with words, and for continuing to share your gift with the world. Hugs.


Now I'm crying too. So so sorry Kira. Ouch.


I'm sorry you've had to say goodbye, but I'm so happy that she had a wonderful life with you.

Peggy Fry

You saved her. You loved her. You were with her at her end, helping her to go. She gave you her everything, and you gave her yours. A life well lived. So hard to let go of those furry beings. So sad to hear it was her time to go. I am sorry. Ive done it too, and it still hurts, years later. But they'll all be there, waiting joyfully for us when we cross the Rainbow Bridge ourselves. If they weren't, it wouldn't be paradise.


I now remember why I only check your blog after the kids have gone to bed. They all want to know why on earth I am crying. We don't even have a dog. Or a pet. I had to put my cat of 20 years to sleep a few years ago and it was just SO HARD. Such great comments before mine and as always, amazing words from you...

I wish you had a gopro for your brain, it could record your thoughts and upload them to your blog for us to read because I know it takes up a lot more of your time than you have to write here every day, but I check every day hoping to find a gem from you!
Enjoy your weekend as best you can after your sad loss :(


rest in peace, little buddy. semper fi.

karin carter

It is hard. It's an awful, horrible, momentous decision to make, too much weight and too much power. We've had to make it, too.

The only consolation is what others have said: Carmi had a good life with you. What more could a dog ask?

And of course dogs smile and look sorry and get worried, and they love their people beyond anything.

I can see and feel this even though I'm a cat person! (If you love your cat right, they are not aloof and they can become very dog-like.)

So sorry, Kira!

Angela Giles Klocke

And the love stays. You made me relive our experience from a few years ago...and one we think we may be coming up on again...but with a smile for the good times. I cry with you. This is hard.


So very sorry for your loss. She had the best possible life and home with you.

ccr in MA

I'm so sorry for your loss. It's such a hard decision to make, but you do what you have to, and miss them hard for a long time. (Like, forever; but eventually it doesn't hurt quite so much.)


I'm so sorry. But what a beautiful tribute you've written for a wonderful friend. Our old lady dog, Luna, died peacefully on her own in February, the very day I was set to take her to the vet for the End. It was hard; still is.

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