Aimer was a furry golden retriever. His body was big and puffy with golden furs, like a pillow with no hard edges, carefully sewn with golden thread. He would shine every morning. Aimer was ten years old when he died.
We were in the doctor’s office when I finally accepted the fact that he will not be here for a long time. He just had leg surgery four months ago. Then, after that we noticed him having little nosebleeds.
He got his lung examined and an x-ray confirmed that his nose bleeding was because he had lung cancer. Aimer’s doctor told me that I should consider euthanasia. I wasn’t surprised at all as this was the standard procedure. Yet, I asked myself if this was the proper thing to do for Aimer.
We were there when he looked at me, his head turning while he comfortably laid on the floor. He stared at me with his full brown eyes. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you, and I knew you sensed it already, I felt him telling me.
Aimer, you were smarter than me.
Aimer and I waiting for his X-ray result.
Animals are not as scared of death as we are. We hear stories of cats going away from their owners, dying alone, and sparing their caretakers the pain and trauma they might feel. We hear events where most dogs would lie comfortably in their bed at night and the next day they are gone. I knew that Aimer didn’t fear death, and it was only I who was afraid.
He was brave enough to accept his goodbyes.
After the gloomy doctor’s appointment, I rushed Aimer to our homestead where I thought he would be happy to die. For me, the sacred transitioning should occur in a place where the dying felt love and safety. This was one reason why I felt more comfortable choosing natural death.
I wanted to yell to our driver to go faster whilst I held and petted Aimer in the back seat. He was calm, soft, and pure as he always was. He needs to go home. He needs to be beside the family he loves, I told myself while my body shook uncontrollably. I couldn’t understand why I was panicking.
Was it because I felt that Aimer could die at any moment? When we got to our home safely, he greeted my partner with all smiles and a demand to be petted more, as if nothing happened.
I almost cried right then and there; I was losing my dog every second.
Aimer and I, one month after we found out he had lung cancer.
Animals don’t think so cruelly of death as we do. While we try to hide death in our lives often saying, “don’t think about that”, dogs accept death as natural as breathing.
Death is a sacred thing. Animals do not wonder how they will die. I truly believe whether it is a sudden death or of natural causes, they let go more easily than we do. Why is it this way? Perhaps because they lived every day with love and laughter.
They are not like humans who forget what matters most: to live life to the fullest. So, when death comes they’ve been ready all this time.
Aimer running happily in the U.P. field. He was 4 years old.
Choosing the natural way wasn’t a quick decision. It took me months to consider and reconsider the options.
Aimer just had his leg amputated four months ago, and god knows he had a hard time recuperating… and now he was having a hard time breathing because of his lung cancer. The mass in his lungs was spreading, and I felt a stick stab in my heart every time I imagined how hard Aimer had to breathe.
How could I let my only dog, almost my son, suffer every day from labored breath? If I chose to end it with euthanasia then, it seems that his death will surely be peaceful. However, how can I look him in the eye, clueless as he is, on what I am about to do?
Aimer in his wheelchair, a week after his leg was removed.
At first, it felt as if the whole responsibility was up to me, but then I realized it wasn’t me who was dying. This was not my life and death; this was not my rebirth either. It was Aimer’s.
Instead of thinking about myself, I talked to Aimer for many days and I observed how he handled his amputated leg and his lung cancer. I tried to see what he saw and felt. As you can imagine, Aimer felt life in its simplest and purest form. It was this:
- In the morning he would sleep until he hears me calling him. Urgently, with tail wagging, he would try to come to me with three legs.
- When the sun rises, I would open the door and help him go to the vast green field we have. He would sit there forever, listening to the birds, looking at the trees and I sometimes see him look up in the sky.
Aimer enjoying the sun. Behind him is my husband, doing his usual work.
- At noon he will eat whatever he wanted, enjoying it as I petted him.
- In the afternoon, I would lay a mat in the grass and he would be with me, his nose twitching while he smelled every scent. He would place his paw on my leg and look at me patiently. A sign that he wanted more pat-pats.
Make no mistake, he struggled to walk and needed a few seconds to restore his breathing. Sometimes I carry his whole body with my own hands. At night he would cough, and I would be awake holding my tears, trying to rub his head.
“Aimer, if you want to go already, you can go. I will be okay, we will all be okay” I often tell him, almost urging him. However, He bore his pain and I knew why: He wanted to have his last strength with us.
It isn’t the time yet, I would feel him telling me every time I talk to him.
Aimer and I at his 10th birthday, December 9th. Behind him is the Chico tree we planted for him.
The tree is still growing now.
With his own pure love, he himself had decided what he wanted. This was not up to me, it was his body and his soul. If only I listened more intently sooner, I would have known. I almost laugh now at the simplest answer Aimer gave to me when I asked him what he wanted.
Isn’t it obvious? I want to be with you guys, that’s probably what he would say.
Indeed, he chose to be with us. The 9th of December came and we celebrated his 10th birthday. We grilled at night, under the moon and stars. He ate grilled beef and enjoyed cuddling with us on the mat. Christmas came, and he ate more delicious food and loved us even deeper.
Aimer, getting his toy for Christmas.
On 30th December 2019—before the new year and just 6 days after my birthday—he decided to go.
He lay under our bed, sleeping for a while. Before he died, he looked at me with his big brown eyes.
Aimer was the last word he heard and my voice was the last voice he listened to.
I am not sure if he suffered or not, but it does not matter. Dogs are brave and strong and pain is not something Aimer feared.
My husband once told me, “the pain you feel in your death will be transformed into good karma in your rebirth,” and “What is the last bits of pain we feel when we die? It is wisdom: as we lay struggling to breathe, we will learn our last lesson; the lesson that life is precious.”
With these mindful words, I want people to open their eyes. Do not be afraid for your dogs. They are stronger than you think they are. Let them decide when and how they want to go. We should not let fear take the best of our dog’s life and death.
I don’t know how to close this blog without crying tears of joy and sadness. Indeed, this was the hardest thing I wrote. So, I shall quote from the Mahamudra Instructions for The Time of Death:
“Happiness can’t be found,
through great effort and willpower,
but is already present,
in open relaxation and letting go.
Don’t strain yourself…
There is nothing to do or undo,
nothing to force,
nothing to want,
and nothing missing.
Everything happens by itself.”
~For Aimer, the bravest dog I have ever known