Last week, we said goodbye to our faithful ol’ girl named Molly. At first, she was my sister’s dog and she had asked Mama to keep her ‘for a while’.
Mama kept Molly for the next nine years.
Molly was a Golden mix and she stayed outside in Mama’s back yard. Everyone in the family loved Molly and, when we all would come to visit Mama, we always had to visit with Molly for a while too. Molly was a good-tempered ol’ girl. She loved company. She had a lot of energy and loved to play for many years.
When I first moved back in with Mama in 09, Molly was still pretty lively even though she was 11 years old. I could get her to run with me in the back yard and we would have a stand-off to see who tuckered out first. I would hope that she would and I think she had hoped that I would!
I would run one way and she would chase me, then I would run the other way and she would chase me. When I turned yet again to run some more, she gave me a look as if to say, “Wait a minute, I don’t get it… we keep going to the same places…”
Molly was smart and sometimes a little cocky. In our chase games, she would play follow-the-leader for a few laps, but then she would want to be the leader and she would run off so fast - just to show off. She knew I would not follow her because she would run at the top of the hill in the back yard where she always poo’d.
Mama and Papa had had their years of chasing her as well when she would get out of the fenced-in back yard. She always found a hole or dug her way out. Molly eventually got too old to WANT out. After a tree had fallen on Mama’s fence and bent it up a bit, there was a gaping hole at the bottom, but Molly was already content to stay put by this time.
Molly was a digger all her life and always had dirt on her nose. She had a few pink spots on her black nose and I wonder if it was once all black before she started all her digging adventures years ago.
When Papa died, Molly knew something was wrong. She never tried to come in the house unless she was scared of a thunderstorm, but when Papa had passed away, Molly squeezed passed Mama and traipsed through the house searching for him. I think dogs can sense certain things and Molly knew Papa was gone.
There would be many times when Mama and I would sit out back under the canopy swing and give Molly treats. Mama would play a game with her and Molly had to guess which hand it was in. Digger Molly had a good smeller on her and she always guessed, but seemed happy to play the game each time. Mama was nice about it – if Molly guessed it, she would get the treat. When I played the game, I was a little trickier with her.
I knew she had a good smeller, so I would have both my hands smelling like the treat and, when she would nuzzle one of my hands, I would show her that it was empty. Then she nuzzled the next hand and it was empty too. She then nuzzled my hip against the swing knowing I hid it there. Couldn’t fool her long. Mama would yell at me, “Jenny! Give her that treat!”
When I played ball with her, my favorite thing to do was pretend to throw the ball and she would take off chasing the air and then turn around looking at me as if to say, “I just did that to make you happy, I know you didn’t really throw the ball.”
It was only a couple of years ago when Molly started losing interest in playing and chasing altogether. I could tell she had passed middle-age and was slower than me now. She looked like she had arthritis in her hips and joints and didn’t put a lot of effort into moving except for food or to be petted. When I moved back in with Mama last year, I noticed Molly had a lot of saggy skin under her neck.
She still had that sparkle of youth in her eye though. When Mama went out to sit with her and give her treats each day, she talked with Molly as if she were her child and understood what Mama was saying. I used to tease Mama for asking Molly if she wanted ‘her boney’ which was a bone shaped-treat. Mama would say, “Well that’s what SHE calls it!” Mama knew whatever Molly would ‘say’. She also knew that Molly preferred ice water instead of tepid water and she liked her food heated just a little.
If Mama could have afforded it, I am sure she would have known that Molly would like an air conditioner in her house, too. Mama likes to spoil people and Molly was people. For many years, I watched Mama switch out fresh bedding in Molly’s house keeping it nice and clean, just the way Molly liked it. She brushed Molly’s thick coat which always shed all over the porch and on our clothes as we petted her.
Mama used to get upset with me because of how close I let Molly nuzzle me. I may be somewhat of a germaphobe when it comes to public doorknobs during flu season, but when it comes down to horses and dogs – that is just clean dirt to me! I let Molly nuzzle me right in the face with her wet nose that sometimes had dirt on it. I must say, her nose was the most youthful thing about her, with all the daily mud-packs.
I wanted to keep Molly young as long as I could – and I do the same thing for Mama. I encourage Mama to ‘keep moving’ so she doesn’t lose her agility and I had encouraged Molly too. When I brought a treat out for Molly, I would do two things with her. For the first treat I commanded her “Sit!” Her little bones were so tired that once she got up she didn’t want to sit back down again until she was ready. But when I kept insisting, she would finally sit. The next thing I commanded her to do was “Up!” and I held the treat up high for her to give a slight jump. At first she attempted it and I could see the gleam in her eye wanting to please me but also to challenge herself.
I knew she didn’t have much in her anymore. I watched her go down-hill quickly these last few weeks. Her skin sagged more and I thought she would soon die of old age. But then Molly developed a very swollen stomach and lumps in her throat. I knew she was sick. If she was younger, we would have taken her to the vet to prolong her life all we could, but Molly was 14 years old and I believe that is 91 for humans – a pretty good life.
When she stopped greeting me, I knew she was in pain. It was all she could do to climb the porch stairs at all. Arthritic and old but now with the swelling in her abdomen and the lumps in her throat, I felt she was suffering needlessly. She also had a cough and could barely breathe. When I Googled her symptoms, I came up with heartworm disease or cancer. Either way, at the ripe old age of 91, I knew it was time to say goodbye to Molly.
She was Mama’s dog though and I couldn’t make that decision. When I told Mama of my concern and talked of taking her to be put to sleep, she didn’t want to talk about it much hoping that it would just go away. She would say tearfully, “I would have to ask your sister first, since it was her dog first.” I knew that was Mama’s way of putting the responsibility of playing Dr. Kevorkian onto someone else.
When it looked like Molly was really suffering, I begged Mama to let her go. She called my sister who is just as much an old softy as Mama. She didn’t want to talk about it either, but told Mama to do whatever she needed to do, but suggested to give her three more weeks. My sister had not seen Molly up close lately. She didn’t see her swollen stomach or her throat. She didn’t know how hard it was for her to get around. It broke my heart to see it.
It hurt anyway knowing it was time for us to say goodbye, but to watch her suffer hurt me more. I tried to explain this to Mama – but how is that ever easy? A couple of days later, I felt Molly’s throat and it was hardened and more swollen. I told Mama we must do the humane thing and have her put to sleep. Brian said that he would help us take her.
Mama and Jill didn’t like it but knew it was best. Even though I was trying to be the strong one and do what was right over my emotional attachment, I still could not go with Brian and see her put to sleep. Some owners are right there – each person is different. I wanted my last memory to be of Molly looking at me with love …not lifeless. Brian came over to get Molly and Mama and I watched her leave. I really think she was ready and was grateful.
Brian stayed with her until she was asleep and her breathing calmly ceased. I am so thankful that she is no longer in pain and that she could go to sleep so peacefully. When Brian came back over, we talked about death and dogs. Brian has a masters of divinity and has his own philosophy about animals and heaven as most ministers do. I have my belief too as far as heaven goes, but I know there are horses in heaven because it says the Lord comes back on one! So I choose to believe dogs are there, too.
It is said that animals don’t have ‘a soul’, but I have to argue with that. Maybe they don’t have the knowledge of salvation, but animals don’t sin (even when they tear stuff up – it’s their nature). There isn’t a need of salvation for them – they were created for a whole other purpose and I think God has their heart. Dogs have a soul. In my opinion, a soul is our heart, our will and where our faith comes from. I don’t know of any dog who is not loving, does not have a strong will and who is not faithful.
Horses, dogs and chocolate are things I am certain will be in Heaven – no matter what anyone else says.
Brian almost got philosophical during this conversation, but he let it go. As he held me in his arms and I asked for details of how Molly was when she went to the vet and how it went – which was all good, I had a few tears and Brian said, “She went peacefully…” he paused and then he made my heart glad by adding, “and …she is in Heaven.”
We love you Molly! We will see you again ol’ girl.
Molly in better health, last year. R.I.P. Molly!
- Photo2 by Jen Jeffrey