I’d been preparing myself for my dog’s death for a year.

There was no way to prepare for it.

Aquinnah was 14, which is old for any dog, especially Labrador retrievers, even more so for chocolate labs.

He developed laryngeal paralysis in 2017. At first, this only affected his barking. He couldn’t anymore, which was a shame because he had been a magnificent barker, especially when he caught sight of the mail carrier.

But in the past year, the condition also affected his hind legs. Quinn, as we called him, had more trouble walking and climbing stairs. His larynx also started acting up if he got excited or tried to bark. He went into scary, deep coughing fits. My husband, Paul, had to take him to the emergency veterinary clinic in Lewiston twice when this happened at night.

In October, he had an incident of some kind and became disoriented and dazed, with rapid and shallow breathing. I thought we were going to lose him that day. Paul brought him to our regular veterinary practice, and the doctor miraculously brought him out of his state.

I also thought he was leaving us a couple of weeks ago. He fell on the ice and could barely stand. His hind legs crossed. I had him lie on his dog bed. I sang to him and told him how wonderful he was. As I did every day, I told him he was my beautiful boy. He slept so deeply, I thought he would never wake up.

But he did. Once again, he rebounded.

Last week, however, after a night of coughing fits, Quinn was weak, and for the first time, had little appetite. Our vet said to bring him right in.

He had been a trouper. He had fluid in his abdomen and the muscles in his back had deteriorated. Yet he had eaten voraciously every day, gone on walks with Paul, and played “school” with me and Martha, his “sister” dog, every evening. Quinn had climbed the long flight of stairs to the bedroom every night.

His quality of life had been good the day before this last episode. Now it was gone. The vet said, “I don’t think I can bring your Quinnie back to you.”

I knew that. It is a blessing to be able to let your dog go gently. It is a blessing to not have to second-guess yourself. It is a blessing to know that the time is nigh and that delaying the inevitable would only serve you, and not your beloved companion.

And so Quinn went, with his people holding him. As he received the sedative, he sighed. I knew then how much discomfort he had suffered, and hidden.

Martha is a different dog. When she is unwell, the world knows it. She was waiting in the car for us that day, and we returned alone, with Quinn’s harness, leash and collar. By evening Martha had developed a urinary tract infection and was in full panic attack mode. Down to Lewiston we went.

She is on antibiotics now and we have meds to help her with her anxiety if needed. Martha loved Quinn. He was three years older than her and 50 pounds heavier. She liked to lie on top of him. Martha has never been an only dog.

Quinn was always there in her life. We had lost a dog, Jack, in February 2007. It was sudden and unexplained, and a horrible experience. The house was painfully empty. I knew I needed another dog, but I couldn’t bear to go to the shelter to look.

Then we had the chance to adopt Quinn. His original family was having financial difficulties, and he ended up with Paul’s brother’s family. In May 2007, he came to us.

Quinn was a handsome dog. We didn’t just hear that from random strangers, but people who knew labs. He was an exceptional example of the breed.

He didn’t like cuddling. Quinn was an aloof alpha dog. Our coon cat, Teddy, adored him, and would wind himself around Quinn’s legs, looking up at him with his big green eyes. Quinn ignored him.

But he would come to us to be stroked and to slather our faces with kisses. Then he’d go off to his dog bed again.

He loved to swim. I was looking at pictures of the two of us on summer vacation that first year, in Penobscot Bay. I was so happy to be swimming with my dog. So happy to have a dog again.

Quinn was my seventh dog. It wasn’t easy to lose any of them; two of the deaths were brutal. I know the pain I am feeling right now will dim to a dull roar. I tell myself: It was a blessing to have spent nearly 13 years with my beautiful boy.

It is a blessing to have Martha, though I hate to see her have to go through her own grieving process.

I count my blessings. What else can I do?

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected].


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