Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on March 8, 2011. Enjoy!
Annie had never known happiness. She had been beaten, neglected, and starved all of her life, and then she was dumped at a shelter to die. Annie waited on death row, terrified and lonely, crying every night for someone to help her. She was very ill, and the pound asked if I was willing to take her. Yep, I’m on my way.
I was asked to share the story about what I do for special case dogs on death row in shelters. I do realize that this might not be the most popular idea with all of you, but I’m hoping that maybe it will inspire someone to do the same. If you ever have the chance to do this, it will change your life. When there are terminally ill dogs on death row, I’ve made the decision to do something very special for them.
Because treating these dogs for their conditions would cause them immense suffering, I choose not to treat them. However, I also choose not to leave them in the shelter to be killed. In short, I bring them into my home for a few days. I adopt them into my heart. I love them with all that I have. And then I do what’s best for them… and let them go…
Before She Goes to Heaven – Annie Needs to Know Love
When I saw Annie, it was obvious that she was very sick. She was underweight, coughing, and having trouble breathing, in addition to skin and eye issues. The vet told me that Annie had advanced heartworm disease, congestive heart failure, and several other severe medical conditions. It was highly unlikely that she would pull through any of the treatments, and she would suffer tremendously throughout the process. The vet asked me if I wanted to go ahead with euthanasia. “No. I’ll bring her back next week. Before she goes to Heaven, she needs to know love.”
Annie Has the Best Week of Her Life
That day, I brought Annie home with me. I looked at her… so broken, so sickly, so unsure of whether she could trust… and I cried. I sobbed uncontrollably for Annie. Over the sad life she had led, the abuse she had endured, and now the life she would never have, thanks to the worthless people who never cared for her.
While I was bawling like a baby, Annie walked over and licked my tears, as if to say: “Don’t be sad. It’ll be okay.” This precious, wounded soul was comforting me. This girl, who had never known compassion in her life, was consoling me. And so, I got up, stopped my crying, and vowed to give her the best week of her entire life. No more crying. Not around Annie. She deserves to know only happiness now.
That week, Annie slept in the bed with me. She ate the best food. She played as much as her little heart could stand. She laid next to me on the couch for belly rubs. She laughed at funny movies with me. That week, Annie was special. That week, Annie was home, for the first time in her life.
Every day, Annie and I sat on my special bench by Rudy’s grave and talked to him. I told Rudy that he would have a new friend in Heaven soon, and asked him to take care of her. I told Rudy all about Annie, and Annie all about Rudy. Annie loved our talks with Rudy. She loved anything that involved love… she’d never had it before.
When Annie got so weak that it was painful for her to live, I took her to the vet to end her suffering. I stayed with her, comforted her… and Annie wasn’t afraid. She was happy, because I was there with her. Her mom was by her side… the only family she had ever known. The only person who had ever truly loved her. She was finally safe.
Annie knew it was time… it hurt too much to go on. And I was there to hold her, to love her, to say, “It’s okay. You can go now, baby girl.” And as they stuck her with the needle, I whispered into her ear:
Know That I Love You
“Know that I loved you. Know that you mattered. Know that you finally belonged to someone—you were everything to me. You will never really be gone, because you will live forever in my heart. Thank you for sharing your last days with me. It was truly an honor to love you.”
As the drugs entered Annie’s veins, she looked up at me one last time, and her eyes said, “Thank you for not letting me die there. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for showing me what life could be like… for giving me a family. I always wanted one. I love you.”
And before she closed her eyes forever, I said: “When you get to Heaven, ask for Rudy. Tell him I sent you.” And then… she was gone. I buried Annie in my backyard next to Rudy. She died on September 14, 2010. But the week before her death, she finally lived.
To read more about Ashley Owen Hill’s rescue work and to support her mission, please visit Lucky Dog Rescue Blog.
Photo by Ashley Owen Hill of Lucky Dog Rescue Blog
by Ashley Owen Hill