Sometimes, you get an opportunity to really be there for people. Sometimes, in the midst of a sad moment, you can provide comfort. Sometimes, I live for those moments. I’m a petsitter. I’m the one that steps in when the owners can not. That’s usually because they are going to go somewhere fun. But, sometimes, it’s not.
I have met a dog owner at a gas station to grab his dogs because his baby was sick and they had rushed him to the hospital. I have extended a stay for multiple weeks while an owner’s husband was in the hospital. I have watched a dog last minute when an owner’s mother died.
In these moments, I honestly see it as an honor to be able to help ease their mind in some way. It doesn’t hurt that I like dogs. 😁
But, this time will always stick out in my mind. This time, the thing that I always have feared happened. Someone else’s dog died under my care.
TYSON CAME TO VISIT
Tyson was a repeat visitor and I adored him. He loved to come and, per the owners, he would start getting excited when they came around the corner right before my house. They booked a visit so they could finally take a trip after their last trip was thwarted by the husband being admitted to the hospital.
When Tyson got out of the car, he still came over to see me but he was just a tad more subdued. She told me that he hadn’t really eaten his dinner and asked me to offer it again in a couple of hours. I didn’t think anything of it, particularly since he was an older dog. But in hindsight, it feels like a sign. He was with me for four nights and other than a slightly decreased level of spunk, he seemed fine. I made a mental note to mention it to the owner and that was that.
Tuesday night, when he came to bed with me, I had no idea that it would be the last time. He cuddled with me for a few minutes and then went to the foot of the bed. We went to sleep and in the morning, he was gone. Just gone.
A CALL YOU DON’T WANT TO MAKE
After debating how I should deliver the news and trying to compose myself. I texted and asked them to call me. When she did, I told her as gently as I could. It was awful.
I was unsure how far away they were so I said I could bury him, “preserve” him in my deep freezer until they could get to him, or whatever they wanted me to do. She said she would talk to her husband and after awhile, she texted back and asked if I buried him, where would I do it and could they come. I hadn’t expected that but I told them that I could bury him by my flower bed and that they were welcome to come.
Then I asked my son to dig a hole and I searched for something to wear that wasn’t pajama-like (since that has been my uniform for the last year).
A couple hours later, Tyson’s parents came. The husband and I fist bumped and commented on how this was a lousy way to finally meet. (She was the one who always dropped Tyson off.) I led them to the flower bed. I placed him in the hole, they added his favorite toy and the husband covered it with the dirt. Then we stood there for awhile and talked about what a sweet dog he was. We all took comfort in the fact that it was a peaceful passing. And she said she was glad that he was with someone who loved him. I really did. There were tears and sad smiles.
In the end, they thanked me and I told them that they were welcome to come visit him. I don’t know that they will. But, I’m glad I offered. I tried to refund their money but they refused. And before they left, the husband said, a little apologetically, “I need to give you a hug.” I broke my covid rule and let him. (We all had masks on, for the record.) And it was a great hug. It was a hug full of meaning. I needed that hug, too. Sometimes, you really do.
THEN THEY LEFT
And then, it was over. I sat on the steps for awhile; holding onto Tyson’s food dish and just thinking about him. She offered the dish to me because she figured I could use it for the other dogs. And I can definitely use it. But, really, I just love having it because it reminds me of him. No one else will be using the dish now. (I’m nothing if not sentimental!)
It feels good that I could make it a little easier for them by helping with the practical side of the loss. I hope that I gave them comfort in some small way.
You don’t go into petsitting with intentions to have a big impact. You go into it with the expectation that you will hang out with dogs and cats while their owners vacation to various places and you will make some money in the process. But, even so, I have ended up with the opportunity to help people and have an impact on their lives. That is a gift for me.