How My Dog’s Passing Taught Me the Real Meaning of Family


Late one afternoon, I waited in the veterinarian’s reception area for my ex-husband, my son, Kyle, and the 16-year-old dog, who had lived with our former family, to arrive. Less than 15 minutes later, Kyle parked in front of the clinic. He opened the back door, gingerly guided Farley onto the smooth sidewalk, and kept a loose grip on his red collar. Breathing heavily, the black and gray terrier mix took measured steps to the front door as my ex and his fiancé trailed behind. I wasn’t expecting her to be there.

My ex introduced me to his fiancé ten years ago. We rarely see each other—the last time was eight months before, at Kyle’s college graduation. But when we do, we’re always cordial. Still, considering the elderly dog was the final connection to our former family of four— my oldest was home with a temperature—I didn’t think she had a right to be present during Farley’s last moments.

Our dog was struggling

Once inside the tiled waiting room, Farley’s weak legs battled with the floor, slipping with each attempted step as if navigating an icy pond. After he reached the front desk, my son rewarded him with a handful of treats.

The assistant asked us to bring Farley back. “Come on, boy,” Kyle said, gently pulling his collar. Tentatively, he moved his left leg forward, began to slide, then stopped. With little effort, my ex picked up the 55-pound dog and carried him into an exam room where he gently laid exhausted Farley on a towel draped over a steel table and hugged him. Here are 10 signs that your “healthy” pet is showing dog illness symptoms.

The ideal co-worker

When my sons were in grade school, they, along with their dad, lobbied for a dog. Finally, I gave in and on a Saturday morning, the four of us piled into my SUV. Anyone who has ever brought children to an animal shelter knows that leaving empty-handed is as plausible as taking children to an ice cream store and leaving without a cone.

Farley was my canine co-worker for four years, napping next to my desk when he wasn’t responding to the taunting of squirrels and rabbits in the backyard. When he spied me slipping on my tennis shoes, he leaped from the floor as if the hardwoods had suddenly turned to hot coals. He raced from one room to the next, a furry bolt of lightning. My attempts to attach the leash to his collar burned almost as many calories as our walks.

Our bond was unbroken


50 Secrets Your Pet Won’t Tell You

LightField Studios/Shutterstock

20 Things Animal Shelters Need Right Now


How to Train a Puppy: First 8 Things to Do

search close