At the moment of parting with his first canine companion, Gracie, Douglas Korn honored a vow he made to her. Nine years prior, he had pledged to take care of her when he adopted her from the Humane Society.
Douglas recounted his experience to DogHeirs, and it profoundly moved us.
Below is their story.
Today, I had to bid farewell to my beloved dog. Although it was too early and the reason was unfair, I kept my promise that my voice and smile would be the last things she heard and saw. Our journey began with just the two of us, and it ended the same way.
Cancer is a terrible thing, especially when our furry friends cannot tell us how much it hurts. The tumor appeared unexpectedly as a small bump on her nose bridge and grew rapidly. There was no chance for a miracle recovery, no treatment that could make it go away.
I decided to undergo surgery to remove the tumor, not to cure her, but to have more time with her and to shower her with love and gratitude. It was the best decision I ever made, and I cherish every moment I spent with her.
For the last four years, my mom had taken care of her, and Gracie formed a beautiful bond with her dog. Even though I moved into my apartment, I always considered Gracie as my first dog.
When my mom called and said that Gracie wasn’t herself, I knew it was time. The tumor under her left eye was growing, and evaluating her health became the daily routine. I didn’t want to leave her fate in anyone else’s hands, so I decided to be with her in her final moments.
My mom had been spoiling her for the past few weeks, giving her toys, treats, and all the food she loved. The steroids made her puffy, but she was still the same sweet dog I adopted from the Humane Society nine years ago.
I called ahead to give my mom some time alone with her, and then I stopped by the clinic to take care of the necessary formalities. The reality of what I had to do hit me, but I knew I had to keep my promise to her.
The visit to Mom’s house was brief; I spent a little time with the dogs, not realizing it would be our last, before swiftly leading her to the passenger seat of the car. During the drive to the park, she simply gazed at me.
I believe she understood; maybe her stare was her way of indicating that she was in pain and that she wanted it to be over.
She didn’t seem interested in sticking her head out the window to feel the wind on her face, nor was she distracted by the other cars, people, or dogs we passed on the street. She stared at me the whole time and eventually laid down in the seat, allowing me to pet her head gently.
I longed to walk with her one more time, just as we used to do many times a day when I lived in a tiny apartment with no yard for her to play in. This was our daily routine, and I wanted to share it with her one last time. We could lie on the grass, toss a ball around, walk on a leash, and tell her calmly and sincerely how much I loved her and how sorry I was for being so absent from her life in recent years. This would be something happy to hold onto when the time comes to remember stories and memories of her.
The encounter at Mom’s house was brief; I gave the dogs one last moment together, neither of them realizing it would be their final interaction, and swiftly led her to the passenger seat of the car. She just sat there and looked at me as I drove to the park.
I think she knew; perhaps the gaze she had upon my face was her way of letting me know she was hurting and that she wanted it to end.
She didn’t care to stick her head out the window and let the wind blow in her face. She wasn’t distracted by the other cars, people, or even other dogs we passed on the street. She looked at me the entire time, and then laid down in the seat for me to gently pet her head.
I wanted to walk with her one more time, the way we did several times a day when I lived in a small apartment and had no yard for her to roam. This was our daily ritual, and I wanted to experience it with her one last time. Lay in the grass, throw a ball, walk on a leash, tell her peacefully and sincerely how much I loved her and how sorry I was that I had been so absent from her life in recent years. Something happy to hold onto, when the time to recall stories and memories of her arise.
I gently held her small face in my hands and caressed her ears. She placed a paw on my arm and gave me a final lick on my face before being sedated. I watched her succumb to sleep and closed her eyes after giving her nose one last kiss. My hand lay on her chest until I felt her last breath, and I knew she was gone.
I wrapped her body in the patchwork quilt that my mother made for me when I was five years old. In the early days of our companionship, before I achieved any real success in my business, this same quilt kept me warm at night when I could afford nothing else. She slept on it every night with me, and it was as much hers as it was mine. It was only fitting that her final rest be found there too.
I needed to take her back to my mother’s house so that her dog knew she was gone. Whenever I took Grace away from the house, Shadow would sit by the door and cry, and I knew he would not find peace unless he knew where she went. I brought her inside the house and placed her on the sofa, carefully unwrapping her from the blanket.
Shadow seemed lost and disoriented as his friend lay lifeless before him. He licked her face, cleaning her as he always did, sniffed her entire body in the hope of any response in return, but none came.
He walked over to his bed and lay down, shedding a few tears as he acknowledged what I wanted him to know. He would feel the pain for a long time too. I walked away from the sofa to pet him so that Mom could say her goodbyes to our beloved pup. I could hear the camera on her phone clicking twice, and she softly stroked our dog’s head amid tears that flowed freely.
We had already decided long ago that we would have her cremated, as is the custom with all our family pets. I brought her to the veterinary clinic and gently placed her on the table. I took off her collar and left one of her toys, the squeaky kind that I often found annoying but wished to hear one last time, with the request that it be included in her ashes.
The ashes of the beloved pet will be placed in a container with an attached photo, allowing for future reminiscences. I gave her one last kiss on the face, expressing gratitude for the many years of affection she provided, and embraced her while feeling her damp cheeks against my own tears. With a final farewell, I fulfilled my commitment and still grieve to this day.
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