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Everything I Learned About Letting Go, I Learned From My Dog

by Öykü EFENDİ

My dog had been dying for the past year. It is a fact now. It is just what it is. His last months had a certain rhythm. Two times a day to his vet; painkillers in the morning, cortisone in the evening. We have always hoped that the treatment would work and he would be cured. He did get better at one point. If you are not familiar with the death process, that point is your call. This is the last time he reaches for help and the last gasp for air. You know, deep down, you are heading towards the end. Moreover, you are the only one who could make this decision. But how do you abandon a pet who has already been abandoned once and still loved you? 


It seems like the most common feeling that haunts people with dying pets besides failure is guilt. Guilt that they could not catch whatever it was sooner or in the end that they waited too long. “Everything that could have been done is done” is not a valid answer now, not an acceptable answer to anguish. This peculiar feeling swirled with selfishness masks itself under the term “love.” What they really want is more time, not a miracle cure but an absolution. 


The last time I saw him, he was tired, eyes huge and, in a sense, full of betrayal. I went back home with an empty carrier, a collar somehow that is smaller and dirtier now, yet still, I did not feel any guilt. The feeling I was experiencing was failure, an emotion that I was not aware of before. His body was weak and failing him, and I was also failing him. I knew he did not get the aggressive treatment I put him through, all the pain and the sleepless nights.


I was a stranger to the concept of death and the art of letting go. I was not prepared to deal with the logistics surrounding his death. Though I knew what to expect, I was always in denial and grieving the inevitable. I gradually became aware that he was in great pain out of my selfishness. His legs were weak, he was suffering, and somehow, he was begging me to let him go. I thought to myself that he would do the same for me. It is difficult to admit to yourself that letting go of someone you love profoundly is a devotion, and sometimes, this is the only way of showing your endearment. However, now I understand, looking back, the term “love.” It is about selflessness, and everything I learned about letting go, I learned from my dog.

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