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It is stated that approximately 60% of golden retrievers will die from cancer at ages 10 to 11.
“Do you want to keep them or let them go?”
That was one of the main heartbreaking statements I remember from that night, the fact the nurse actually had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to keep my dog’s ashes. At first I said yes, but then I thought about having one of my closest friends and family members with me but not alive; that thought was horrible. My dog was eleven years old and I had had her since I was two. Mattie was small for a golden retriever. She weighed about 45 pounds. She had big, brown, caring eyes and a tail that curled up unlike most goldens. She was medium gold but her face was white with age. At times I would think she didn’t like me because she was always sleeping in my brother’s room, and to be honest, sometimes I would say I didn’t like her much either. Now when I look back, she might have been one of my closest family members.
Whenever I was upset or mad at my parents, I would take Mattie for a walk. This gave me an excuse to get out of the house. Or when I was home alone, I would make sure she was with me, and if she wasn’t, she gave me a good excuse to forget the noises I heard and say it was her.
Over the summer my parents went out of town. After they left, she started acting weird. Mattie wouldn’t eat her food we would give her or even drink the water in her bowl. Even if we would try to feed her eggs (her favorite food) she would just turn away and wouldn’t even touch it. My brother and I thought maybe she was acting weird because they left or my mom suggested she was having a heat stroke. After about three days she was fine and healthy again. She was eating and acting better for about two weeks. After my brother left, for college, she started acting strange again. She didn’t eat, drink, go outside, or even barely move. When I looked at her, I saw a helpless animal like the kind of faces you see on the abused dog commercials. There was only one difference: my dog wasn’t abused and it wasn’t easy for us to know what was wrong with her. Sometimes she would move to the air conditioner, like she always did on the blistery hot days in the summer, but now that was a rarity.
One night before a field hockey game, my mom locked her in the laundry room so she wouldn’t have an accident in the house. When we got home she hadn’t moved; she was still standing in the painful looking way she was two hours earlier. My mom was crying when she called the vet and I remember everything going through my mind. We are actually going to have to put her down, was something I could not stop thinking. “I want to help her so bad, I just don’t know what I can do,” my mom said, tears running down her face.
My mom, dad and I all sat in our family room around Mattie impatiently calling different vets to see which ones were still open. My dad comforted my mom and I couldn’t help trying not to cry because seeing my mom crying made me want to. I knew we were going to have to let her go, but it just wasn’t right.
Once we got her to the E.R, all I knew was tonight was the night. My dad had to carry her because she couldn’t even walk now and as soon as the doctor saw her she said, “Oh my, she really doesn’t look good.”
I remember thinking, Well no duh, Sherlock. Obviously the doctor we took Mattie to see weeks before was wrong; he had told us Mattie was going to be alright but she was just having arthritis in her legs. What I wanted to know was how come he didn’t realize the lumps on her belly. All I wanted the doctor to tell us what was actually wrong with Mattie. She took Mattie back in the backroom and came out thirty long minutes later. [Mattie had been officially diagnosed with cancer.] She told us there were two options. She told us we could put her through chemo or “the..other..option..”
After she said that my dad and I broke down. He took me outside and we stood there crying looking into space. His arms were around me and he told me we would just be selfish if we didn’t do it. My mom walked out and told us the doctor said we could see Mattie before she put her to sleep.
We sat in the Comfort Room. When the doctor rolled Mattie in, she laid her on the floor and walked out. At first, none of us knew what to do or say as we sat there with our tear-filled eyes looking down at our miserable dog. She looked at me with dreary eyes as if she knew everything that was going on and she was saying goodbye. Her big brown eyes seemed to look as if she was crying with me. After five minutes of saying goodbye my mom told the nurse we were ready and she took Mattie back into the backroom. We left as soon as they took Mattie back. It was quiet from that point; we walked out of the hospital and none of us said a word to each other or even looked up at each other. The car ride home wasn’t talkative either; we all sat in silence and even when we got home no one said a word.
Losing Mattie was really hard, but it also taught me that we shouldn’t always do what’s pleasant for us. Instead, think about the person, or in this case dog, needing what’s better for her. It is stated that approximately 60% of golden retrievers will die from cancer at ages 10 to 11; unfortunately my dog was one of those dogs to make this statistic true.