Horribly Selfish

Posted | 7 comments

Horribly Selfish

“The dog is not a possession, a personal commodity to be used solely for our own amusement or ego gratification. Rather, (s)he is a living, autonomous yet highly social pack-oriented creature who has an amazing capacity for companionship and love. – The Monks of New Skete

In October of 2012, we had to let go of my sweet twelve-year-old German Shepherd, Toni. After two long days of not knowing what was wrong with her and two long days of trying to find a miracle cure and two long days of unbridled grief regarding the inevitable decision that had to be made and one long day of planning her release, I was a mess. Don’t get me wrong, I soldiered forward through the whole process, but I was soldiering forward with tears streaming.

Every time the kids and I loaded her up in the van for yet another ride or I rubbed her scruff or shoved my feet under her to warm them up, I ended up sobbing. Every time I remembered some funny thing she did or thought about some sweet thing she’d never do again, the tears would flow.

My son told me to cut it out. “Dogs pick up on how you feel.” he said. “You’re just making her upset, Mom.” But I didn’t care. Nope, I was grieving her loss even though she was still here. I told myself as her owner I had the right to feel her impending departure deeply. I allowed the tears to flow.

Even the bereft hit a tear limit (thank goodness), and I finally hit mine. I forced myself to step back and in a flash it hit me. All the tears and heartache related drama was nothing more than me being selfish. My ego didn’t like this insight one bit. It immediately began to defend it’s position. I mean, I had every right to be upset, right? My dog had an incurable disease. She was going to die. I should be crying my eyeballs out. By golly, I was going to do exactly what I wanted to do.

At this point, I realized that I was more worried about me, than her. What was I going to do when she was gone? How was I going to feel not having her around? How was I going to cope with her loss? As I asked my self these questions I had to admit that I was deeply, deeply afraid.

Fear based thinking is never a good thing. When we operate from a place of fear, we are desperately attempting to manipulate and control the situation to get the outcome we want. We put our desires, our expectations, and our wants before God’s grand plan for not only our lives but the lives of others as well.

Bottom line, I wanted that large, smelly, loud dog to live forever. I was willing to do whatever I had to do to save her life. I was scared beyond reason of what my life would be like without her.  I wasn’t thinking about her or her needs or how she felt or what she wanted. I wasn’t celebrating her beautiful life or the happy memories she’d given me. Instead, I was focused on me and the deep fear I felt and what I wanted in this situation. I was truly being horribly selfish.

I rolled up my sleeves and wrestled with my stinky ego until finally reason won out. I was suddenly hit with a wave of peacefulness. As easily as sand slipping through my fingers, the fear slipped out of my body and my heart was filled with peace and love. I was able to shift my sole focus to where it needed to be which was what was best for the dog I loved so much. I had done everything I could do for her. I let go of what I wanted. I accepted that this was beyond my control.

Toni gave us twelve years of unconditional love and devotion. The least I could do was spend her last days celebrating and honoring her instead of selfishly bemoaning that I wasn’t getting my way on this one.

So, I stopped the waterworks and made sure her last three days with our family were filled with love and laughter. We took turns sitting with her, petting her, and caring for her. We talked about all the funny things she’d done and remembered all the joy she had brought us. We loaded her up in the van every single time she’d drug us the garage door stubbornly insisting on another ride . We took turns curling up on the brown couch with her. We showered her with love and all the happiness we could muster.

Don’t get me wrong, I cried like a baby the day the vet came and gave her the injection that ended her suffering. Even months later, I find myself looking for her in her usual places and think about her often. If you ask me about her, I will be happy to share, but I might tear up a bit. She was an awesome of a dog. She was just that loved.

She loved me when I didn’t love myself. She brought me joy when my heart was heavy. And in her passing she reminded me that our time here is limited. The best thing I can do to honor her is to live like she did; all in, full throttle, out loud, and love-filled.


  1. Sweet tribute to the faithful Toni. We remember with fondness our “family” members who have passed on. Each has peppered our house with joy and anguish {the ever-present need to add “fragrance” to herself from a dead carcass, or the overly curious who gets shot at point-blank range by a skunk}. Animals bring life to a family, and I’m so thankful your kids {and you} have had that benefit. They make the best family memories!

  2. This one made me cry. Lucky, lucky dog to have your family love her so much.

    • I wrote it and edited and I was fine, but when I read it out load to Joe, we both lost it. We were the lucky ones. She was one of a kind.

  3. Denise, I love how you can eke out a “life lesson” and share it within an eloquent, emotional story. I’m sad for the loss of your dog, but glad for you. xo

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your loved one. I got to the third to the last paragraph and lost it. Beautifully written.

    • I wrote and edited this piece for days with out a tear, but when I read out loud the first time to Joe we both cried. Stupid dog. Love her so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *