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The Hardest Mom Job Ever: Putting the Family Dog to Sleep

The Hardest Mom Job Ever: Putting the Family Dog to Sleep

She bounded into our lives shortly after the tornado of divorce ripped through our house, wiping out family life as we knew it. I wanted so much to erase the hurt for my three children in a desperate way. And so one day I stopped after work at a pet store, and bundled up the caramel-colored little ball of fur the store owners said was "the runt," and remaining Golden Retriever in the pack and ferried her home to meet her new fan club.

Becky pulled up in our driveway to the rush of three kids, who from the get-go wrapped her with their love. We hugged her, held her and smothered her with a fierceness bred from trying to make pain go away, and the desire to love someone, a puppy, to make it all stop hurting.

And she repaid us ten-fold, becoming the energy core of our family, wagging her tail, licking our faces and barking in delight every time one of us walked through the front door. She was gentle, and spontaneously rewarded us with the immeasurable power of unconditional love – and one less shoe in every pair I owned. On the weekends, when the kids had "visitation" at their father's, and I was suddenly left home alone in what felt like a morgue of silence (without my mom purpose and mission for the first time in many years), she was my roommate.


Fierce storms and thunder made Becky shake and hide in terror. So we hugged her closer. I knew exactly how she felt. Being alone was equally as frightening for me.  She got through them and so did I.

Becky loved "The Forest" and taught me how to run on our "walks" there. She loved to beg shamelessly at the table and if handouts weren't forthcoming, a swatch of fabric off the couch or chair would do just fine. Most importantly, Becky was a playmate and constant companion for 12 years for my children, Caitlin, Thomas and Emily.


Recently she had a small skin thing removed from her back, and while at the vet's they suggested a full-blood workup, mostly because she had always been so healthy and now she was ancient in Golden Retriever years. That was a month ago. She came back with a full bill of health. We cheered. 

But last week I returned from work and she was weak to the point she could not stand. She did not seem to be less happy, but that was not Becky to not budge when we come and go.

Fast-forward to about 10 p.m. that night at the emergency vet and the words "cancer" and "put to sleep" slapped me in the face. What? Having to walk into a room where your children are waiting and become the Angel of Death delivering the news qualifies as perhaps the most extra extra awful parent job ever.

Tumors that burst inside her body may have determined that Becky was "ready to go," but we weren't ready. The vet advised I do it that night. I decided to bring Becky home to say goodbye.

This – saying goodbye when death is imminent – is the kind of thing I have learned is very important. Just the year before, I stood at my father's side, holding his hand as he spent his last days at home in hospice, saying goodbye.

The thing is, with dogs, as I explained to my kids, you love them so much and they love you so much, but their lives are so much shorter than ours, so the time comes when that love causes so much pain.


My kids cried, they hugged her, and I slept downstairs next to Becky so she would not be alone. My kids said goodbye, and I told them I would bring her to the vet alone. I didn't want to lay the trip's sorrow on them.

Somehow, I managed to carry an 80 lb. limp Becky into the back of my Jeep. At the vet's they put her onto a cart, wheeled her in, and I cradled her in my arms as we said goodbye.

I held Becky, thanked her for loving my kids and suggested that she and my dad, Pa, will meet again and have a great walk in the Forest of Heaven.  And then I cried, harder than I can ever remember, as she fell asleep in my arms.

It's what moms do. We shield our children from the pain. We hold our kids' hurt. And we cry our own hearts out.

How did you help your kids deal with the death of a family pet?

Image Source: Mary Beth Sammons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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