Shirley Zindler
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A Sweet Good-bye

Just about every Monday morning finds me at the local off-leash dog beach with a group of dogs and a friend or two. It is such a welcome break from my demanding and stressful job as an animal control officer. The dogs I see at the beach are beautiful, happy and loved. Old and young, large and small, they are having a blast getting exercise, playtime and social interaction. It’s a delightful change from some of the heartbreak I see at work.

On a recent beach day I came across a scene which touched me deeply. A couple stood looking out at the ocean. Between them was a canvas stretcher with a handle that could be pulled across the sand. There was a thick dog bed on the stretcher and a very old dog lay flat on the bed. I paused for a moment, gazing at the gray muzzle and alert but cloudy eyes of the old dog. One of my dogs came up and before I could call her, the two dogs sniffed noses. The old dog was unable to even lift his head, but I could see that he was aware of what was happening around him and seemed to enjoy the interaction. I called my dog and apologized to the couple for the intrusion.

The dog and his people were calm and accepting and I continued on my way with a lump in my throat. I’m guessing that this was good-bye and that the people wanted the dog to have a last visit to a place he loved. To smell the salt air and feel the sweet ocean breeze.  It was so obvious that this dog was adored, cherished, beloved. I teared up at the thought of what was coming and yet, in my world, I found it to be a beautiful scene. I’ve seen the old dogs, abandoned and alone in the shelter. I’ve held those unwanted dogs and tenderly stroked their gray muzzles. I’ve told them they were loved and kissed them as they drew their last breath.

This is what every dog deserves, I thought, as I took a final backward glance at the little family. All three were gazing out to sea.

I would love to hear how readers have made good-bye special for an adored companion.


Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

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Submitted by Angela | August 14 2014 |

My mother died in September 1999, and our dog, who was extremely close to her became ill and died 6 months later. As Tiffany was dying, I held her and sang "You are my sunshine" and told her how she would see mom again and how much I loved her. 15 years later, I'm sitting here crying my eyes out thinking about it and how much I miss them both.

Submitted by Courtney Bosworth | August 16 2014 |

In 2004, I moved my mother up to Virginia to live near me. Soon after, I bought a little girl pug to keep her company. When I bought a house and moved into it with my mother and Josie the pug, we then got a little black pug named Willie. Those pugs were my mother's life. She would sit on the porch and they would be around her all day long. Josie, would never be out of mother's sight. When my mother moved to another room, Josie did too. The morning routine was I would lift Josie on my mother's bed so that Josie could snuggle down next to her until mom woke up and I got Josie down. In 2012, my mom passed away and Josie was hit hard. Every morning for a long time, Josie would go to my mom's room and wait at the door to go in. I started to leave the door open and would find Josie sleeping on the rug at the side of mom's bed. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful neighbor who would come over during the day to let my pugs out so they could be outside for a time while I was at work. My babies finally adjusted but I do get a reaction every now and then when I say my mom's name. I believe they remember.

Submitted by Deborah Charbonneau | August 14 2014 |

Wow, this was so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The last 4 dogs that crossed over the Rainbow Bridge were at home with their companions. I had soft music playing while the Vet was readying the injection. I stayed by their side stroking them and letting them know it was okay to let go and that we loved them. I would have loved to have done something like this couple did but unfortunately it wasn't possible. If more owners would take the time to stay with their beloved pets until the end it would be wonderful. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Submitted by Annie | August 14 2014 |
Submitted by Barb Cooper | August 14 2014 |

I lost my old dog Sydney back in 2008. I wrote about saying goodbye to her here: http://sothethingisblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/requiem-for-old-dog.html Still miss her. Such a good dog.

Submitted by join clark | August 14 2014 |

My last beloved pet that we had to say goodbye to was due to seizures. He was even on customized meds but just couldn't control his seizures. His last one left him unable to walk or stand to go potty. I always knew he would let me know when..and he looked at me and said I'm tired of this Mommy..it's time. We have a place in the country with more trees than any male dog could pee on and a pond to jump in and he loved that place. I took the day off..we drove there n to my surprise he walked to any close by tree and was happy!! After the day n when he couldnt walk again (a cheeseburger) it was time n I held on to his paw til he was gone. He's final spot is by one of those trees. I too wish all dogs are loved until the end. I found a senior dog in a shelter who looks similar to my boy..rescued him and he too loves the country spot. I will be there for him too.

Submitted by David Morgan | August 14 2014 |

Lovely story. I was lucky to have a beautiful Border Collie in my life for 16 years and when the end of days came I tried to send my beloved Molly the Collie off with as much love as she had shown me. We sat outside my vet's office on the grass{Dr.Lynn Fox}I had gone and gotten here a double scoop ice cream cone and we sat and Molly so enjoyed it. At one time or another everyone who worked at the vet office came out and had a visit with this very
special dog.After a couple of years I got the new dog a rescue Border Collie and at my first visit to the vet everyone came over to meet Trina and tell me how happy they were that there was a dog in my life.

Submitted by Jannette Matos | August 14 2014 |

Hi Shirley,
Thank you so much for the beautiful article! I can't wait to read your book. I have a lot to share with you but I guess the best way for you to find out about what we do, is by looking at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNSQX9aIJ1A and FB pictures: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.697232080361201.1073741841.473... I would love to hear from you.

Submitted by Shirley Zindler | August 15 2014 |

I checked out the links Jannette. What beautiful tributes. Thanks for what you do!

Submitted by Dawn Johnson | August 14 2014 |

My Beagle, Addy went to the Rainbow Bridge in 2012. She had been a special needs dog with many allergies since she was a puppy. She was just shy of her 15th birthday. She had congestive heart failure and I made the final decision to let her go. It was a beautiful Spring day. I took her for an hour-long drive to the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry in Virginia. We ferried over to Jamestown/Williamsburg and I got to talk to her and stroke her white face all the way. I found a vet in Williamsburg who would euthanize her in a chapel-type setting. It was a very calm room rather than a sterile examination room. They let me hold her in a blanket at they prepped her IV. They let me hold her and talk to her for as long as I wanted. When I was ready, they administered the drug. She simply went to sleep in my arms. Again, they allowed me however much time I wanted to spend with her afterwards. I will never forget their kindness. They arranged the cremation for me, and when I picked up the ashes, they had made a cement pawprint keepsake for me with her name on it. Godspeed Animal Care in Williamsburg, Virginia helped me make it through one of the toughest days of my life, and I am grateful.

Submitted by Vicki Adderholdt | August 14 2014 |

The picture of the dogs on the beach was beautiful. The story brought tears to my eyes. I admire what you do and know I could never do your job. Bless you for all you do!!

Submitted by Cate | August 14 2014 |

My beloved dog, a Golden/Lab mix named Shelby, who we called "Moo" lived to be 11yrs. old and died of kidney failure. We spent our last night together in a sleeping bag under the stars on a cool, Nebraska night. I cherish that last night I spent with her and will miss her forever.

Submitted by Gail Haapala | August 14 2014 |

We took Holly our English Springer Spaniel to Hunting Island state park in South Carolina on her last day. Holly was 14 years & a month old. Holly had lived a year with stage 4 lymphoma. Although Holly's liver & spleen were 2-3 times their normal size, fortunately, her's was not a painful cancer. Holly & I went to the beach on my one day a week off as often as we could. We progressed from walking miles to, on Holly's last day my husband carried her from the car to the beach. I went in the ocean waves with her. Holly had always loved the water & swimming. Holly had never liked going to the vet 's office & we were happy that she had only had to go once during her last year of life. We of course did not want for Holly to have to go to the vet's to be put down. Instead our sweet loving girl took her last breath while being held in our son's lap with my husband & me right beside them at home a short time after arriving home from the beach & ocean waves.

Submitted by Stephanie | August 14 2014 |

Our dog, Red, had a stroke the day before. We decided to make the call to the vet that day to make the appointment for the next day at 5 pm. Red dog was already skin and bones. The next day he woke up and snapped out of his fog, it was like he knew what we were going to do for him. We wanted his final day to be a happy one! So we went to the park and played..then on the way home we stopped at Burger King; Red ate a whopper and fries. Even though he was super skinny, he could put away a good meal. We then went home and enjoyed some quiet time together. On the way to the vet..we looked back at Red and he was just so happy. We thought we were making a mistake. But our dog was 15 years old and very arthritic in his hips..but you would have never known that day. We also didn't want him to die alone. Once we made it to the vet, he seemed at peace. The final gift was a donation to my vet's university in honor of Red.

Submitted by michael callery | August 14 2014 |

it happened fast. we were at the dog park and he was sneezing non stop. I immediately thought he must have inhaled a fox tail and went to the ER. they found nothing but gave him a sedative. the next morning we were at our regular vet. he kept him all morning and said no sneezing. but he wanted to do one more test. an hour later he calls and tells me he sneezed out a huge portion of his nostril. whatever was happening in his nose had been working quite a while. he said the only course of treatment was going to davis for radiation. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach with both feet. I told him radiation, ?? he wont be able to breathe or smell, or taste... my vet said. so you know what I am saying. everything went white... I could not breathe.... the vet was still talking.... I told him.... I cant understand or comprehend. let me call you back. he said.... just come over when you are ready. no one will touch him till you get here. I cried. I sucked it up. my boy.... I had had him since he was 5 weeks old. it had been just him and me. we had adventures, watched tv together... and he slept with his chin on ankle for 15 years. I drove over... parked... and walked up to the door.... as I reached for the handle.... my legs collapsed. the vet techs came outside to help me stand. they have a meadow.... surrounded by old growth trees.. they laid a blanket... and brought him to me..... they left us ... I think about an hour.... the vet came out to give him a sedative. he came back.... and as I held him in my arms....we released him. I remember the vet gripping my shoulder and saying... you are doing the right thing at the right time. we will leave you alone.... no one will touch him until you are ready and drive home. I never wanted to let go... as if by holding him....he would wake up... lick my face and jump up for an adventure.... but it was late. others were waiting on me.... to leave... I sucked it up again... and walked to my car. I could not give him a last walk... or a rassle.. or even a treat. and the hole in my heart will never be filled. my other two dogs were waiting at home.. and I had to tell them.

Submitted by Sharon Baker | August 15 2014 |

My beloved 14 year old dog died shortly after suffering a massive stroke. I held her in my arms until her last breath. I scattered her ashes around a large tree in the dog park she loved. She will forever be part of the park and the tree.

Submitted by Laura Lois | August 15 2014 |

Our standard poodle, Lily, was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007. She underwent chemotherapy, went into remission and led a good, active life until 2013. As her heart and strength began to fail, so did the quality of her life. When we and her vet determined it was time for her to join her older brother at Rainbow Bridge, we held a celebration of her life the day before. Her very best friends, canine and human, came to our home for appetizers, champagne, and the best doggy treats. Lily wore the feather boa she had worn to her chemo treatments and she loved seeing those she had missed the past month. The next day we took her to the vet along with Jackson, her standard poodle brother. She lay with her head in my lap and Jackson by her side as the injection was given. She was 14 and she died as she had lived--brave, strong and elegant. We miss her every day.

Submitted by diane head | August 15 2014 |

It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do....say goodbye to our beloved Lucy. She has been gone 10 days today. It happened so fast and it feels like I am a fish washed up on the shore, gasping for breath, struggling to move on. She was our Golden Girl so full of life and love. She was joy personified and our home feels like a tomb without her. I am not a young woman and there have been other losses but nothing like this. For eleven years we have been together each day and now I go on without her.....doesn't seem possible and yet I know that one day in the future I will move forward in gratitude for all the joy and fun we had together.....that day just hasn't come yet.....the pain is still to raw. What a difficult thing it is to love what death can touch.

Submitted by Carolyn | August 15 2014 |

So much love, so many beautiful stories. Maggie's congestive heart failure had gotten to the point that it was time to let her go. She lay in my lap after the injection in the vet's office. I chanted I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you ... until she took her last breath. Her ashes, collar and small wad of fur from her brush, complete with a stick-tight, are on my dresser. It's been 2 years, I have a wonderful new adopted dog, but I miss Maggie so very much.

Submitted by rosa | August 15 2014 |

i have a a dog who has lymphoma,cancer, hes 10 years old and the vet said that he wasnt going to pass the month of june 2012, hes still here and i know that its going to happen soon, cause i see him getting sick, , and we go out every day he loves going for a bike ride and he loves to go for a swim in the river and try to catch ducks and fish, well my last day my plan is to take him there and give him what ever he wants like ice cream and steak and stuff , that he couldnt have , well he could have it, and take him there for his last swim and then take him to put him down and show him and tell him that he was loved wanted and needed, and that i loved him and that he gave me so much love, and thank him for everything he did for me.

Submitted by WENDY | August 15 2014 |

Bindi was our first rescue greyhound . At 8 1/2 years old she was diagnosed with cancer and after 4 months of abdominal taps we knew the time had come to let her go . We wanted to bury her in our backyard where she loved to explore and Run to her hearts content. My husband who is a carpenter made a beautiful pine box and we had a metal plaque put on the top of the box with her name engraved. Everyone in the family wrote their farewells to her with magic marker all over the box. After the vet left our house and she was peacefully asleep, our son and 2 friends dug a special place in the yard , put her inside her box with her favorite toys and carried her there .It was like a beautiful ceremony and I will never forget it …..
This was 3 years ago and the place where Bindi rests now is full of flowers every Spring and Summer.

Submitted by Susan Crosby | August 15 2014 |

Susan Crosby - Over the years I have been in the position of making a difficult decisions for my animals and they have made decisions for me. Several years ago we has a dog with cancer. The light was going out of his eyes but he was still eating. We bought him a double cheeseburger on his final journey.

Submitted by Jo | August 15 2014 |

Omg. What timing for a friend to post this on her fb page. Tonight I am spending my last night with my best friend for 13 years. He was found as a puppy at this school I was teaching at. I had recently lost my last dog of 15 years, and didn't want another one. I so happy and blessed to have him in my life. He has been the reason I have kept going at times. As I said, we are spending our regular quite night together. He is sleeping well for a change tonight. Tomorrow will will meet with my friends (and his) to be with him as he move over the rainbow.

Submitted by James Doorey | August 16 2014 |

Just a beautiful story, I hope and wish that I'm there for my little guy. I've had to say good bye to my last dog, I too cried a lot. But I adopted another wonderful soul. I strive to be the best companion that I can. After all it's not only how you say goodbye, but how you live. Thanks again for the share.

Submitted by Karen | August 16 2014 |

I wrote an obituary of sorts for my last rescue dog, Vanessa. It took me almost a year to get another dog and I went back to the same rescue. Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue... Here is a link to the blog post obituary for Vanessa: http://www.karen-wizardsworkshop.blogspot.com/2013_03_01_archive.html

Submitted by Ellie | August 16 2014 |

When I had to say goodbye to Kona in 2012, it was far too soon, he was just 5.5 years old. He had epilepsy and fought hard. One of his medications caused pancreatitis. He spent 7 days in the ICU. He rallied, but on day 7, it was clear he was out of fight. We spent time in the private room with the couch and pictures of flowers on the wall. Finally I called for the vet. He came in, set the medications on the table next to Kona. Kona looked at the vet, the medications, then turned and licked me on the nose and laid his head flown, almost saying " it's ok mom, I'm ready". I miss him every day, but I feel like he wanted me to know it would be ok.

Submitted by annette | August 17 2014 |

Houndog love to chase cats and sniff and he loved chicken gizzards. Then ight before the vets visit to our house-- we went out 'huntin' and the morning...we went out huntin some more, he found THREE dead varmints that morning (sniffer still worked fine!) Then we came home and he ate a big dish of chicken gizzards and hearts. Then he was tired and sacked out in his kennel...our vet came and went to his bedside and sedated him a bit more, then injected the blue stuff and out he went.

Submitted by Jacque | August 18 2014 |

When I have to 'plan' my fur kid's end, I always do 3 or 4 things they really love for that day - a trip to the lake, a steak dinner, a visit to favorite people or places, and lots of love. (I recently lost my 14-year-old lab and she was allergic to beef so the steak dinner was very special to her.) Then I buy them a special treat and take it with us to the vet. My wonderful vet comes to my car so the dog won't have the stress of 'going to the vet', and I feed the special treat to my dog and tell them how much I love them and what good a good dog they have been while he gives the injection. There is just something so sweet about them having ice cream on their chin as they breathe their last and slip away.

Submitted by Tara Bohner | August 20 2014 |

When I came home from a 3 day business trip and my girl didn't get up to see me, couldn't even wag her tail, I knew it was time. I had promised her long ago that would never let her suffer. It was time to keep my promise.
I kissed her nose looked in her eyes and said "Ok, we go tomorrow." Then I went up to my bed and cried myself to sleep. When I woke a few hours later, she was like a changed animal. The dog who had been refusing to eat ate a whole piece of angel food cake, happily and begged for more of mine. She was the tail wagging happy girl of her youth again wanting to cuddle and even wanting me to help her get into my bed, something she hadn't done in quite some time.
She was so changed the next morning, when I took her to the vet that the vet even asked "Are you sure?" And I told her yes, that Rainy had let me know. We went into a room and I sat with her on the floor with her head in my lap and Beth Neilsen Chapman's beautiful song "Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye" playing while I sang to her and stroked her head lovingly. The vet gave her the first shot and she began to get sleepy but when the song stopped, she nosed my hand on the far side near my iPhone. I laughed and said "Ok, I'll play it again." So I did singing and crying while my baby drifted off to sleep for the last time.
My parents had offered to go with me, but I told them no, this was between me and her, so my father was at home digging her a grave under a beautiful tree in their yard. My vet and her techs were so wonderful. When she had finally passed I made sure her eyes were closed and slipped her tongue gently back into her mouth and closed it. The one tech was crying so hard I had to give her a tissue. It was sweet how they mourned with me. I said I wanted to take her with me, which surprised them at first, but they found a perfect sized box, lined it in plastic and then put one of the old sheets I'd brought with me in there. They laid her in the box, all round as if she were sleeping, I said my last goodbye and the other vet tech carried her to the car for me. I took her home to her tree where she lies buried today, now with a heart shaped stone that says her name and dates, and "Here lies a beloved pet and with her a little piece of my heart."

Submitted by Jackie | September 6 2014 |

I was 40 weeks pregnant, due any second (this past June) when we had to put my family dog to sleep. My biggest fear was him dying when I was in the hospital giving birth and me not getting to say goodbye. Unfortunately (yet fortunate for me that it happened faster than expected, I was able to say my goodbyes). The morning when he took his turn for the worst, my mom called me and told me to leave work. I spent the whole morning laying with him on the floor, feeding him treats, petting him, and telling him how much I loved him. When the time came to bring him to the vet, my whole family went. We surrounded him, showing him so much love, as we comforted him and each other. I always feared the moment he would leave us but it was actually more peaceful than I imagined. I'm just glad I was able to be there with him at that moment in time. He was 12 years old, sick his whole life with a muscle deteriorating disease (that a daily dose of steroids was able to keep him going for so long and live a happy, healthy, comfortable life) but wound up dying from cancer. He was my absolute best friend. I always joke saying I was his favorite and if he could talk he would confirm it. I miss my Cody boy ever single day. Even though I moved out of my parents years ago to a home of my own, and have my own dogs now... No one will ever compare or replace him. The bond we had was indescribable. I miss him terribly but happy he knew how loved he was right up until his last breath!

Submitted by Jenny B | September 6 2014 |

I have been adopting senior dogs from the shelter and rescue groups for several years. Unfortunately many of them come with health issues , so we've got our vet on speed dial, and barely a month goes by that at least one of them isn't paying them a visit. Right now I have 4 dogs, all rescues, all over 11 years old, all with assorted health problems.
In the past 10 years, we have had to put down 9 dogs. Some of them were only with us a few months, some for two or three years. It is always heartbreaking to say goodbye to them, but my sense of loss is nothing compared to seeing an animal in pain, unable to eat, walk without falling, or in seizures that can no longer be controlled. However, returning home after the final goodbye, I play a particular piece of music, generally with tears falling, that lets me imagine them whole and healthy, in that magic place over the Rainbow Bridge. Listen, and tell me if you can see your beloved pet running on the beach with other dogs, healed and happy.

Submitted by shirley zindler | September 10 2014 |

There is a special place in heaven for people who adopt old dogs. Thank you <3

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