Last Tuesday night, a dog in my care drowned in my swimming pool. The dog belonged to a friend who needed to be out of town for a couple days.
Unbeknownst to me, the dog had found his way to our doggie door. I was sitting in a lounge chair nearby, hoping to spot the dog if he ever found his way into the family room. The dog escaped my attention, went out the doggie door, made a left turn and, being almost totally blind, walked into the pool.
I went looking for the dog about 8 p.m. because it was time for me to take the dog outside. I made a whole house search (I had let the dog roam the house that night because I thought he needed freedom, rather than the structure of being confined to one room). When I didn’t find the dog, I went outside and saw a dark presence in the pool. I screamed, went closer and ultimately went in after the dog who was not breathing. All alone, this was one of the most terrible moments of my life.
I had to call the dog’s owner with the bad news. I was calm, but shaking. How do I tell a friend who has owned this dog for more than 17 of its almost 18 years that her dog had died. I had bad news and I gave it.
My friend noted that she had just told her husband she couldn’t wait to get back to Las Vegas and cuddle with her dog. She talked without shedding tears or sounding angry. Instead she also noted that her dog, whom she spoiled or, as she said, “overly loved”, could sometimes be very sneaky.
After both of us spent a short time absorbing the news, we discussed next steps. My friend said she wanted the dog cremated and I agreed to take the dog to the nearby emergency vet clinic. I called first and was told once I arrived at the clinic I should stay in the car and someone would come and ask what service I needed. The vet clinic said it could arrange for cremation.
I made a couple calls to my friend that night and each time, the response was steady and calm. She had notified her good friends what had happened, and one of them left me several messages to call, which I did. This friend was worried about me and how I felt. She is a dog owner and understood all the undercurrents.
Later, I called several friends, too. I wanted them to hear what happened from me. They were shocked and more or less told me they couldn’t think of anything worse than being in charge of someone’s beloved pet and having them die in your care. They were correct.
The next day, my friend returned home and had much to do in her own home, so it was two days later that she planned to come to my house to retrieve the dog items that she had left with me. Remembering her comment about cuddling with her dog, I offered to temporarily send one of my dogs, Piccolo, to her house because Piccolo is a snuggler. She had said no thank you to that offer, reminding me that her household also includes a cat, a potential un-friender, but at least another warm body to help with the hurt.
When my friend finally arrived at my house, I wanted to let her know which dog I had had in mind, if she ever decided she could use another companion to help pass the coronavirus shut-in time. I carefully brought my chihuahua Piccolo to the front door, not knowing what would happen.
I opened the door just as my friend was pulling up and opening her car door. As if on cue, Piccolo ran to her with tail wagging. She gave him a big hello, took the bag, then opened the back door of her car preparing to deposit the bag. Piccolo then almost jumped into the back seat. Instead my friend reached for Piccolo and held him carefully in her arms. She gave him several big hugs before returning him to me. Piccolo had done his job.
My friend put a lovely note in Facebook about being heartbroken, but noted her beloved dog had “Crossed the Rainbow Bridge”. Friends on Facebook offered their sympathy.
I would like to think that maybe the pool accident was actually a heavenly plan for my friend’s dog, but that’s just me, trying to believe something I can live with.
My friend wanted to be holding her dog when he died, and I and my doggie door took that opportunity from her.
Through it all, my friend has shared her feelings of grief with friends, and shed her tears in private, I’m sure. To me, the guilty party, she has been unfailingly kind. I will always be grateful to her for that.