No one wants to think that they are to blame for an instance where they loose someone they love. But in my heart of hearts I know it was my fault that Dakota’s life was cut short. After breaking my back I was unable to walk with her and do the things with her I once did. She sat next to me, loyally, and I never encouraged her to leave my side.
The last year it seemed her ability to walk had gotten worse, perhaps the injury to her ACL when she was young had gotten worse due to lack of exercise. But there is no excuse. I kept giving her treats and marrow bones and she loved them.
At one point I realized she had put on lots of weight, but was unable to walk her too help her get it off. Even if I cut down on her food, my sweet husband would wind up giving her treats. He was just too exhausted to walk her. So there she sat.
She was happy to be near us. That’s the thing about a dog….they are so loyal and their love is so unconditional. I knew she was gaining weight. I could see it as she meandered to the back yard to take care of her business, and to sniff for cats.
One day she walked only to the edge of the yard and just watched me. She did this for a while. I couldn’t coax her to walk further.
That week my husband and I loaded the dogs into the forerunner and took a ride to the woods. She loved going in the car with the windows partly down. She couldn’t jump down as her hind side was weaker, probably from the weight. But she walked in the woods and went to the water and stepped in as if she had been doing it everyday. She loved water too.
By the time we got to the truck we were all tuckered and both dogs were a little less excited, and more whipped!
She was a big girl. No doubt about it. Her barrel chest was very predominant and though the weight was on, she still looked beefy and beautiful.
A couple of weeks later it snowed. She gingerly stepped out in the yard with the pup, now almost two. They shoveled the snow with their noses and were fascinated by the accumulation on the ground. The cool felt good to her and she was like a young girl dog, but one who found it difficult to run because of the extra pounds. They stayed out and played for a while and then she settled in next to me, covered with a blanket to keep her warm.
When I mentioned I was worried about the weight my husband said it was okay, she could “go happy and have what she wanted.” I didn’t want her to “go”, and I knew I needed to do something. I knew it would eventually hurt her, but I did nothing. I didn’t know what to do. I should have made a plan to help her.
She was still beautiful the day she died in my arms, from what we think was a heart attack. She was only seven. I cried for 10 days and 10 nights, and I will cry for her till my days end. It wasn’t her fault. She was only seven.
I know I am human and we all make mistakes, but this was a mortal one that took my faithful friend away forever. I was the one who knew she was too heavy, and I was the one who did nothing to change it! God knows I didn’t mean to let her die too young. I know I didn’t mean to….and I know I will NEVER let an animal get too much weight on in my lifetime. When you hear “Don’t let your dog get overweight” – listen! It can kill them. I am not just sitting here letting my life be ruined, but this is a lesson I do not want anyone else to experience.
I will honor her life by never letting it happen again. The price you pay is just too high. I see her trusting eyes looking into mine, and I pray she knows I never meant to hurt her. I pray God knows.
If you love your animals, if you love your children, if you love yourself – be careful not to overload with useless food “just to eat”. It’s not worth the death of someone you love, and it can happen.
It happened to me.
Dakota – 6 weeks
Dakota – almost 7 – my best friend