Roxy’s Final Journey

Longtime Westporter, RTM representative and animal lover Andrew Colabella writes:

We are born to die, but we’re living until then. The same goes for pets. I consider them like people. They have feelings, emotions, habits, schedules, wants and needs.

Many of us have had this discussion with ourselves or others: What do we do when we think the end is near?

As I searched for the answer as a human, I realized that we try to tie up loose ends every day, thinking about our families and loved ones to leave them with the least amount of issues, surprises and unanswered questions, along with something for them to remember us by, or even improve their quality of life.

The end is unknown. But for our pets, a service can help our beloved fur kids or fur siblings.

For 14 years, Roxy was part of Andrew Colabella’s family.

Final Journey is an in-home pet euthanasia service that brings comfort and peace to loving families during a challenging time. Based in Monroe, 4 expert veterinarians are a call away to come to your house. They help you decide if it’s the right time to pass.

A call was made in the morning. We were told they would be at our house at 12:15.

A veterinarian and assistant showed up then. They wore robes, scrubs, masks and gloves. Each carried a bag. One was filled with medical supplies; the other, blankets and a book.

They asked us where our dog Roxy wanted to be, and where we felt comfortable as a family to sit. We chose the fireplace, next to one of her 4 beds (we all spoil our dogs).

We described Roxy’s recent medical history, detailing her sleepless last couple of nights, restlessness, tripping, coughing and panting. We said she still had a great appetite, a schedule, and still wagged her tail.

We were torn.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Sarina Hinsley, spoke to us about lymphoma and its side affects, as well as palliative care for dogs. Chemotherapy would extend time by a little, but would not improve quality of life, habitual behavior or energy.

She took Roxy’s vitals, listened to her heartbeat and breaths, and checked her lymph nodes. Our dogs cannot speak like us, but they do show pain.

We knew. It would be selfish for us to keep her alive while she suffered, trying to keep up with what she’d done every day for the last 14 years.

At that moment, our questions were answered. The other bag opened. We were shown urns. They said she would be cremated, then returned to us with her name inscribed on the box and prints.

A piece of hair was trimmed. Roxy had her last snack (chicken): her motivation and favorite word.

The Colabella family, with Roxy.

The sedative made its way through her. She relaxed in my arms, becoming at ease and at peace.

Roxy was warm, and snuggled into my shoulder and elbow. Her breathing became slow; her noises — bear cub-like, just as when she was a puppy and healthy — pinged our ears.

Her heart, beating just like it was 14 years ago when we adopted her from Virginia, slowed down, and came to a rest. I held my hand there, hoping it would keep going another second. Just one more. Even a half.

Roxy was diagnosed last week. She passed today as we surrounded her with love, just like when she came into our world.

I carried her out in a blanket with dogs on it that said, “I love you.”

We did. We all did.

Andrew Colabella

She exited our home with love, into the caring arms of these people who love their dogs too. They are professionals who took their time with us. They talked us through the whole process, telling personal stories of how their own pets died at early or late age, due to cancer or illness.

I carried Roxy out of the house one last time, her black fur shining, her wet nose now cold and drying, her feet sticking out with dirt still on them, smelling of fresh bread, Fritos, and her home.

I put her in the lap of the assistant. I kissed Roxy goodbye, telling her I loved her and will always miss her as she goes for a ride.

It’s the first time in 14 years she’s not home under our roof. The hallways do not echo with her claws clicking the wood floors, or her loud, deep hibernating bear snore that could be mistaken for an earthquake.

Our society has become more compassionate about our animals over the last couple of decades. How we buy or rescue our pets is just as important as how they leave. While they are only here for a part of our lives, they stay with us for the rest of our lives — and we are their entire life.

My experience with Final Journey was more than I expected. Passing at home with us, where was all she knew, put her at ease. It made her comfortable on her own next journey.

24 responses to “Roxy’s Final Journey

  1. So many do not have your attitude toward animals, Andrew. Roxie and I thank you for your compassion and for sharing what every animal lover must face at some time or other. I so wish there were more folks like you.

  2. Andrew, this is so beautifully expressed and has me in tears this morning as I remember all of these same feelings. I said goodbye to my last pet seven years ago via an in-home vet service that also specialized in “gentle goodbyes.” Letting her go was heartbreaking but the home version was a far better and more comforting experience than the vet’s office. Know that there are lots of us out here identifying with you right now and sending you hugs.

  3. Sooo-z Mastropietro

    I’m crying right now. This is a beautifully written last chapter and an example of great compassion that I’m sure Roxie appreciated. I know the joy of having fur pals and the pain of losing them. Your story will help her memory live on as it touches so many others.

  4. Patricia McMahon

    Andrew ,
    What a glorious and heartfelt tribute to your beloved Roxy.
    It’s one of those gut wrenching experiences that one doesn’t quite understand until that moment and decision comes that you experience .
    We had another wonderful service with our late Boston Terrier Maceo’s transition. His final journey over the rainbow bridge was peaceful and serene.
    Thank you for sharing your final act of kindness, respect and love for Roxy with us all.
    Happy Holidays 🎄🐾✨

  5. Reading this has left a lump in my throat. I too, had to go through similar situations with my labs. It is never easy and they never really leave us. It has been a few years now with out my fur babies and still every now and then I glance over to her food bowl that isn’t there or the dog bed and multiple toys that were always underfoot and wish that just maybe she isn’t gone.

  6. We sadly did the very same for our sweet Bodie back in September after late-stage cancer diagnosis. Final Journey was exceptional in every way. Giving him the comfort and blessing to die in his favourite spot in our house with us snuggling him and telling him how much he meant to us helped us begin the healing process. His ashes are now buried under a new tree in our backyard that I visit every morning with my cup of tea.

  7. Richard Bortolot

    Beautiful . . . thank you.

  8. Thank you for writing this Andrew as we recently as us pet lovers can relate to the experience. Reading this really hit home with me as we put our dog to sleep on December 3rd. We had no children, so our pets become our children. It was a hard decision to make, but our dog like yours was going through pain. I sometimes wonder was there anything we could do for her as she seemed so healthy during the day, but then would struggle at night. I guess we have to know that we put them to sleep because we love them so much and do not want them in pain. I had mixed feelings about doing so, as our second dog was the first one where we had to put a dog to sleep. The experience was horrendous. The sedative did not make Beau relaxed, instead it was as though he was seeing things that were not good, and when he went to sleep, he convulsed. On this third dog Cricket, she relaxed, put her head on my leg, and when she went, she went so peacefully. I was expecting the same thing to happen as what happened with Beau, so I now know that what Beau went through was not normal. We have had three dogs leave us, one naturally and the other two we had to put to sleep. After this third one, I have promised myself that all my future dogs will have pet insurance to take the financial portion out of the equation. We have always done whatever is needed for our dogs but taking finances out of our decisions might make us feel more relaxed as we spent many thousands of dollars to only have a little extra time.

  9. Andrew, I am crying as I read your story. We had to put our cat, Tallulah, to sleep four years ago, at the age of 18. I didn’t know about Final Journey, so it was done at our vet’s. I held her in my arms as we drove there, telling her how much I loved her, and I think she understood. She died in my arms. Her ashes are buried in my garden, under a heart-shaped stone.

  10. You had me in tears – what a beautiful heartfelt story. I too think every day about our Bella and how much love she gave us. Animals are a blessing

  11. Thank you Andrew with tears! Hugs to your mom, dad and sister! Roxy, you did your job well and loved your family with all your heart!

  12. Thank you for the heartfelt reflection. We also had the assistance of Final Journey for the passing of our 17 year old Teeka and i also made that final walk with her in my arms after the procedure. They were very caring and compassionate and we were grateful for their ability to keep this difficult family event at home.

  13. Roseann Spengler

    This story reminds me of my own sadness at having to put down a beloved pet. My Rottweiler was the sweetest and most gentle of dogs. When she developed kidney failure at age 10, my vet said she no longer had much quality of life.You can feed her carbs, he said, no protein. For the next couple of months, I made her pancakes every morning and took her with me to my Greenwich office where she slept quietly behind my desk. When she could no longer, eat, drink or walk, I made arrangements for at-home euthanasia. My daughter came home from college and our dog died in our arms. Eventually, I took her ashes to be scattered in the waters surrounding the Massachusetts’ island home that she loved.

  14. Terrie Harper Langer

    Thank you for this beautiful story in honor of sweet Roxy. I have done this before and will do it again and will certainly use Final Journey. Always in your heart. XO

  15. I’M CRYING TOO REMEMBERING ONLY TOO WELL THE DAY IN 2002 THAT JOAN POSTER CAME TO MY HOME TO END MY BEAUTIFUL BORDER COLLIE
    RACHEL’S PAIN .
    JOAN IS SECOND TO NONE. I HOPE SHE IS STILL RENDERING HER AWSOME SERVICES TO OTHER PET OWNERS THANK YOU AGAIN JOAN FOR BEING YOU. CARYL

  16. Kathy Mastronardi

    All these beautiful but heart-breaking stories are making me cry for my Zena. It was basically the same way for Zena that Jann wrote about with Roxy, only I said good-bye to her in a room and just couldn’t be present for her last day on earth. I told her how much I loved her and that her sister, Zoe would never be the same without her, nor would we. It’s no different than losing a human we love. Dogs are just like humans. We have her ashes and a piece of her hair. We have a plaque on her box of remains that have her name, date of birth and date of death. She’s with her buddies above, I need to believe that and she’s happy and content. It’s one of the worst times for anyone who loves their fur babies. Much love and peace to all who have had to go through this.

  17. Wendy Goldwyn Batteau

    Tears streaming down my face, Andrew. Remembering experiences with my own dogs and cats, living your experience through your words. Wishing you and your family peace. To quote a friend – we are family. All of us, all the time.

  18. Kathleen McGrath Boggs

    What a loving tribute. Tears are flowing as it’s a walk down memory lane for many of us. The love we feel for our fur family is deep and the pain is real when the leave us. I’m sure Roxy has already been greeted by a fabulous new pack on the other side of the rainbow bridge.

  19. Beautiful Andy. We love you. Hugs to all the family

  20. So beautiful and thank you for sharing. I am crying. We have the choice regarding when to let our pets go and not being selfish for our own needs in prolonging their lives when they are suffering. That is the final statement of love for our animals. I wish we could do this with humans.

  21. Heartbreaking…it’s not always possible of course, but in the many dogs we’ve loved over the years, it’s always my first choice, if possible, to have them at home…

  22. So sorry Andy.. I lost my 17 year old Dora in April. I still think she is going to greet me every time I walk in my door. Hang in there..

  23. Dear Andrew,
    WOW, thank you for sharing as this hits home in so many ways. Hoping you and your family are well. I can’t imagine having to go to through this, but how wonderful this can be done in the comfort of ones home. Roxy was a lucky dog.

    Deborah

  24. An avalanche of love and support from so many for sharing your experience Roxy will live in spirit and has touched the lives of so many who will reach out to caring people as you have when that time arrives
    Thank you for sharing your story to set an example for others to follow. Blessings to you and your family. Love is immortal
    Roxy was fortunate to be deeply loved. Nothing compares to the love given and received by our fur babies.
    Mille Grazie

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