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“My life has been turned upside down… some may say it isn’t the same as losing a human family member, but you’re wrong. In my opinion, it is far worse. As a child grows, they become less dependent on you. A child can move on its own, begin to find food in the kitchen, dress themselves, communicate to acquire what they need. A dog creates a bond from the moment they walk into your life. They will always rely on you to feed them or use the ‘restroom’ as a child ages they make friends and rely on you far less for enrichment and entertainment.

The responsibility for Zelda’s enrichment and entertainment falls solely on me. I pick toys, treats, play time, social time. All me. Less than 2 weeks ago I took her to the vet, within a hour my world came crumbling down. ‘She has a tumor; she is too old and doesn’t have the muscle strength to make it through a surgery’ they gave me a bunch of pills to make her comfortable.

Courtesy Lee Thomas-Palmer

I drove home with a family member whose health I am responsible for and I failed her. She now had a death sentence which I was in control of. They said she probably put on a brave face for me to make me happy even though she hurt. I never would have known if it wasn’t for an X-ray. That doesn’t ease my mind because my best friend of the last 10 years has mere days left. She has been by my side for every breakup, new job, promotion, every major event, 9 moves, numerous vacations she was able to come along with. I could probably count the amount of times she has barked on one hand, never bit anyone, she was a lover. She was the perfect dog. Hands down.

The photos you see are from her last day. One last trip to feel the grass at the dog park, one last trip to the lake to feel the water splashing her legs and the sand between her toes. One last car ride with the windows down but she was too weak to sit up to put her head out the window. My life is different now.

Courtesy Lee Thomas-Palmer

I used to put my feet down from the couch and have to maneuver around her sleeping spot. I still angle my feet expecting her there. She isn’t. I’m no longer greeted by a jingling name tag and a big ball of fluff barreling towards me with a stuffed toy in her mouth. When I get ice for a drink, there is no longer a friend underfoot asking for her cube. I just moved into a new house, one where she didn’t have ‘her spot’ yet. She migrated all over. I felt terrible.

My goal since June 7th was to make her comfortable and I couldn’t. No pill, toy, or treat could make her life as she was used to. She didn’t understand why I cried for hours on end. Why I held her constantly. Why on June 14th I took an impression of her paw or cut a lock of hair. I took her for a final treat to Petco, one of the fancy ones. She couldn’t eat it. At least she got to sniff it. A lady behind me in line was excited to see her. After a few head pets the lady told her to ‘have a good day’ I almost lost it. I almost fell to the floor. The cashier went to hand me my receipt and I missed. The tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t grab a receipt. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t drive and needed to compose myself.

So, we sat on the curb for what seemed like forever. Our next stop? Her final stop? The vet. I sat in the parking lot and cried for 20 minutes. We walked into the office and the receptionist immediately ushered us into a room where I proceeded to cry nonstop. The vet explained the process. It didn’t make it easier.

For those that don’t know it is a series of shots. The first is a sedative. The second set stops the heart. They gave her the first shot and my mind still couldn’t comprehend what was actually happening. After the first shot the vet says it takes about 10 minutes. She left. That is when it hit me. All the memories, all the happy times, I had 10 minutes left TEN.

After a couple minutes she started to tire. My life was changing. I will never find another companion like her. I laid on the floor flat. Inches from her nose, eye contact the entire time. Suddenly her blinking stopped. No more happy memories would be made between Zelda and me. The vet came in and gave her the final shots. My dog was gone.

I couldn’t control myself. I was inconsolable. She laid there; I was waiting for her to get up but knowing she wouldn’t. I stroked her head, I closed her eyes, I kissed her snout an unknown amount of times. Before I stood up, I removed her collar, and told her one last time how much I loved her. I filled my pockets with tissues and walked out.

I sit here typing this dreading my phone to ring because I know it will soon, saying her ashes are ready to pick up. I needed to shop for groceries and run other errands that weekend, I had to plan my route to avoid driving by the vet. Knowing my dog was inside but I was helpless to retrieve her. It’s been almost a week. I’m not back to normal. Her bed is still in the corner just how she left it. A blue stuffed dog on top that she picked out after her last nail trim.

Hug your dog tonight, take them to the park, I know you’re tired, but you are their source of happiness. They rely on you. You have the chance to spend time with them. I don’t. I would give anything to have one day of her at 100% to let her love life. Don’t wait, because you never know.

I love you Zelda, you are and will forever be missed. You took a piece of my heart with you that will never be replaced. You are irreplaceable. Please don’t take time for granted. I went to the vet for a checkup. A week later she was gone.”

Courtesy Lee Thomas-Palmer,

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lee Thomas-Palmer, 35, of Washington. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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