I hope you had a warm, cozy, festive Thanksgiving with family and friends, or did something that made the holiday satisfying for you.
Woven in with the joy of family, we had a desperately hard very sad day, and event in our family. The little dog, a Chihuahua, that was the beloved companion of one of my daughters got cancer two years ago, and was cured after an intensive year long course of chemotherapy. She had a year of bouncy good health after that, and in September of this year, was diagnosed with cancer again, this time even more severely, and chemo was started again. This time, she got much sicker, and the chemo took an enormous toll, and after two months she was desperately sick, getting worse, lost a shocking amount of weight (and only started at 4 lbs.), and for the last two weeks could no longer eat. She was wasting away, and her vets advised my daughter that there was no hope of curing or saving her, and the most compassionate thing was to put her to sleep, particularly since she would no longer eat, and her organs were shutting down. It’s a decision we’ve never had to make in the family. We’ve been blessed and all our dogs have died of old age, peacefully, in their sleep. This time, with a dog who should have lived several years longer, and was so much loved by my daughter and all of us, a painful decision had to be made, to spare the dog further suffering.
My children love their dogs passionately, and I am always impressed by what loving, responsible, attentive dog owners they are. Their father loved dogs, as I do, and he insisted when they were very young that they learn to be responsible and care for their dogs. When they were growing up, each child had a dog, and he had two, and eventually I had one—-which meant that at one time, we had eleven dogs. But he taught them well, they are fantastic dog owners to this day, and we’re all dog lovers. My daughter was extraordinary with her sick dog, and took incredible care of her, came home from work several times a day when the dog was sick, sought all the medical help she could get, and was constantly attentive during the first year of chemo, and again in recent months. But sometimes it’s a fight you just can’t win.
I was in Paris when the vets gave my daughter the hardest advice of all, and I flew to New York to be with her. The decision was entirely hers, and such a hard decision. I couldn’t imagine facing that decision, and my heart ached for my daughter. I dropped everything, and ran to be with her. But there was no reprieve for the little dog, the situation was only going to get worse, and very quickly. And in the end, she chose the hardest decision for her, and the most compassionate one for the dog. Another one of my daughters went with her, as I did, and it was a heart wrenching experience, one of the saddest experiences I’ve had, and even harder for my daughter who loved her dog so much. Deciding to put her to sleep was further demonstration of my daughter’s willingness to sacrifice herself for the best solution for the dog. We all loved her dog, and the whole family was sad for both of them, and calling in on the morning we took her to the vet. The three of us (two of my daughters and I) stood and cried rivers, before, during and after the procedure. And for any of you who’ve been through it, you know how hard it is. It was one of the saddest days I’ve ever been through.
If I had one wish in this lifetime, it would be that my children never be sad or have to suffer, and to see my daughter’s suffering and her courage at such a hard time, and the sacrifice she made for the dog’s benefit, just ripped my heart out, and filled me with admiration for her.
Thinking about it afterwards, and sharing it with you, makes me realize too why people relate to my books. Because no matter who you are, or what you have, no matter how successful you are, or what car you drive, or what your job is, or even if you’re famous, in the end, we all care about the same things: our children and the things that affect them, the loss of someone we love, even if it’s a dog, the loss of a job we need, or the end of a relationship, a divorce, or a death, or putting a dog to sleep. In the end, we all care about and cry over the same things. There is no way to prevent these things from happening to us and those we love.
For many of us, our pets have a very special place in our hearts. We love them and cherish them, and they are such loving companions, and even if they live out their normal life span, it is much too short for those of us who love them. In Paris, there are two policemen who assist me at the airport, which in today’s risky times is a comfort. When I left Paris to be with my daughter, they commented on my leaving earlier than planned on short notice. I got the first flight out after she called me, and hadn’t planned to leave yet. I explained where I was going and why, and the biggest and burliest of the policemen, a big powerful man, began to cry as soon as I told him. He had recently had to put his own dog to sleep, and the other one had tears in his eyes when he said he had recently had to do the same with his cat, and said he cried over it for weeks. Big, strong men cry as much as women and children, when we lose our pets. It is a heartbreak like no other, and always comes too soon, like the death of any person we love.
I will long remember this experience and how sad it was. Yet there was a peace and a calm to it, and it was delicately handled by the vet, which was better than if we had had to face the same decision in the middle of the night in a crisis. As painful as it was for us to make the decision and be part of it, it was better than it might have been if the little dog had gotten even sicker. My daughter wanted to avoid that, and I think she was right. But what a terrible decision for her. I respect her enormously for how selflessly she handled it, concerned only with the best she could do for her dog in terrible circumstances.
I’m sure many of you have been down this road. It is a sad, extremely painful decision. My daughter was with her through it all, and her sister and I were with her.
To those of you who’ve been through it, I salute you for your courage, and am so sorry for the pets you lost. And our beloved pets’ lives are always too short. It was a terrible, incredibly hard sad day. And in the midst of fashions shows, or tales of what I do, social comments, or holiday good wishes, there is real life, which touches us all, and bonds us to each other, and takes precedence over everything else. This was a hard, hard slice of real life…..and I will always remember the sweet little face and sweet little dog who gave us so much joy for twelve years. I hope she is in a happy peaceful place now, she was so greatly loved in her lifetime.
with all my love, Danielle