Jul 20 2015

Saying goodbye to Belle after 15 wonderful years

Saying goodbye to Belle after 15 wonderful years

Louis Panzer | Posted: Sunday, July 19, 2015 7:30 am; Greensboro News and Record

Last month my wife and I had to do something we had never wanted to even think about. We had to say goodbye to Belle, our dog of 15 years, and made the very difficult decision to ease her pain.

The difficulty wasn’t in the logic of letting her go. We could tell she was suffering. But as anyone who has had to deal with this knows, it is never easy. When is the right time? We didn’t want to think we were acting prematurely. Nor did we want to delay any longer if she was in severe pain and discomfort.

Belle arrived into our lives as a walk-up: abandoned, thirsty, flea-ridden. But once she became part of our family she turned out to be the sweetest, gentlest dog anyone could ever hope for. And now that she is physically gone, we need time before that kind of relationship can be established again.

It is hard to describe the emotions that accompany such a decision. We were very fortunate to have the Adams Farm Animal Hospital folks to help us navigate this difficult journey. The patience, caring and understanding that the staff delivered could not have been any more comforting.

For all of the time that Belle lived with us in Greensboro, Dr. Janet Raczkowski was always Belle’s caregiver. Her gentle manner and care never went unnoticed. She always made time for a thorough exam and to debrief with the humans. Dr. Suzanne Causey had the unfortunate duty to share with us Belle’s condition and to be there through her final moments. She and the staff that assisted helped us to prepare for the passing.

Carolina Veterinary Specialists was also involved as they performed an ultrasound to determine the extent of the cancer that ultimately called her home. When entering their location with Belle I couldn’t help but notice the long faces on the women manning the front counter. They looked sad, and it wasn’t just because we were already sinking into a depression knowing what was ultimately to come.

But I also noticed the graveyard behind the building. Given the job of dealing daily with furry family members brought in for devastating diagnoses or to be put to rest, I can’t imagine any way to put a happy face on. There is just such deep, indescribable pain.

And make no mistake, our pain was palpable. It is a grief that comes in waves from the initial heaving sobs to the random, memory-triggered tears that occur without warning. People who have been through this know exactly what I am describing.

We waited to tell our neighbors until they returned from vacation because we knew how much they loved Belle and that her passing would also bring back memories of their dog, which also had to be “helped across the rainbow bridge.”

In the June 28 News & Record, we spotted “Maple” above the fold in the Life section. This 2-year-old dog bore an uncanny resemblance to Belle: same color and style coat.

My wife began the conversation with me about whether this was a sign that we should go and bring Maple home. For me, this would be just a bit too soon.

But when the time comes there is one thing for certain: We will bring home a rescue dog. That’s because, in my experience animals recognize the love brought to them by the people who choose to take them into their lives. And that love is reciprocated one hundredfold.

I know that was true of Belle. We miss her terribly, and we pray for our own peace and peace to those whose job it is to help others deal with devastating loss on a regular basis.

Louis Panzer is executive director, North Carolina 811 Inc., and a News & Record Town Square community columnist.

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