Last week, on my birthday, I shared my unexpected decision to hold off on getting a new puppy. I thought I was ready but realized I wasn’t. Ever since, I’ve had whimsical thoughts of those endearing fluffy sheltie puppies but my thoughts always turn back to one particular sheltie – Maverick.
Overall, grief has been an unexpected roller coaster. Some days are not so bad, other days it hits me like a freight train. Sometimes it’s just moments brought on from seeing his picture or noticing the quiet void of him not being around. Grief truly can be gut wrenching and soul shifting.
As I was cleaning out my fridge the other day, I realized it’s time to make a confession. You’ll understand the refrigerator connection in just a moment.
The day Maverick’s home based euthanasia was performed, I contemplated cloning him. Seriously.
I honestly don’t even recall how the idea got planted in my mind. All I recall is being unable to picture my life without him. Yet the irony was that he was suffering so much that all I wanted to do was put an end to his distress, knowing full well what this meant. I actually had to move his euthanasia up a day because I knew going on even one more day would only be for my benefit, not his. Unfortunately, having him rest in my lap while petting him on his final day, was not in the cards for us. By the last few days, he could hardly walk and would squeal in protest when held. Maybe had I been able to accept letting him go sooner, a final lap day could have been the case, but admittedly denial over losing my first dog, my Heart Dog, led to actions and decisions that in retrospect were futile.
This is how the cloning conundrum began. During his final afternoon, I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t take him somewhere he loved for final moments of togetherness. There really wasn’t much I could do – he was either zonked out on pain meds or up and pacing frantically as I or a trusted friend followed him to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. Instead of directing my grief towards acceptance, I began to conjure up a way to one day have him with me again in a literal way – by cloning him.
Once the idea sparked in my head it grew like a wild fire. I starting looking up places that “clone dogs”. One thing led to another, and I found a company that claims with certain DNA samples, they could clone Maverick. For the price tag of tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, with the proper DNA samples and sizeable bank account, it can be done right now and I found documented cases online where this has already been done. For those without the current financial ability, DNA samples can be collected and stored in a cryogenic lab in hopes that one day it will be more affordable.
In my grief-stricken, heart-broken state of mind, this idea sounded like the next best thing to a genie in a bottle offering to snap his fingers and cure Maverick’s brain tumor and let him live forever.
The problem, however, was how little time we had left. Collecting the samples was no simple task. This led to multiple phone calls to my family vet asking a million questions about the procedure to collect the samples along with calls to the cryogenic lab asking about shipping procedures. All this happened while Maverick was sleeping and we were waiting for the vet to come for his euthanasia procedure.
I learned soon enough that collecting the full spectrum of DNA samples is not exactly a “painless” procedure. To collect a tissue sample requires essentially what was explained to me as taking a hole-puncher to the skin. Um yeah, no. The idea was immediately off the table. I would not cause my Heart Dog any more pain or discomfort for a far-fetched impulsive idea.
However, I also learned that a simple blood and hair sample alone could one day be enough to complete the cloning procedure once technology has caught up. In my mind, that seemed reasonable so long as the blood sample could be taken and not cause Maverick any discomfort.
If you are not familiar with the euthanasia procedure, it’s a two-step process. The vet first gives an injection that essentially puts them into a super relaxed state of sleep (I understand it to be similar to what the dentist gives you if they are pulling a tooth out and you float off into la-la land) and the second step is the injection that stops the heart. After the first step, I asked the vet to take a blood sample.
Looking back, it felt awkward and callous to be taking his blood, during his final moment of life. But it was my flicker of hope that “maybe” I could have him with me again that propelled the decision forward and prevented me from saying “stop!” Would I do it again? No, I wouldn’t. My only hope is that Maverick really didn’t notice and if he did have any sense of what was going on, that he would forgive my vain attempt. Similar to my new puppy delusion, there is no way to replace your Heart Dog. That is why they are your Heart Dog.
To loop this back to my refrigerator revelation, I had to store Maverick’s blood sample in a cold place while contemplating if I would ship it to the cryogenic storage unit. I came to my senses not long after and decided against sending it, but I am yet to dispose of the blood samples. They are still sitting in a cup in the back of my fridge. It must sound nuts that I can’t let them go but I think it’s because I first need to share my confession and give myself a bit more time to accept he is gone and there is nothing that can ever change that.
I’ve always heard that grief affects everyone in different ways and now I truly understand what that means. No matter how someone responds to the loss of their Heart Dog – whether it be with a crazy cloning idea like I had or other behavior that is out of character – let them be. Offer support and empathy and let them draw their own conclusions over what is the best course of action. I’m lucky that my friends and loved ones were supportive of my canine cloning idea because if they hadn’t been, then no doubt, I would have felt even worse. At the time, the cloning idea helped me distract my grief so it served a purpose although I wish I had the fortitude to spend Maverick’s last hours simply sitting beside him as he slept soaking in everything about him.
This all being said, I pose no judgement on the families that have decided canine cloning is the right decision for them. I am just thankful I was able to come to the right conclusion, for me.
Have you ever considered canine cloning or would you? Or did you cope with your grief in a way that was unusual and perhaps not understood by others?
How can this blog help you?
This website and blog originated from the experience of learning to let go of my beloved Heart Dog, Maverick. By sharing my story and offering the opportunity for you to share yours, I hope we can all truly celebrate their lives. pay tribute, and heal from the loss of our one true canine companion. I hope this website will also raise awareness of the meaning of a Heart Dog because it is a concept that is not largely understood.