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Ellie’s last flight, by Mindy Meiering

It was a frigid January morning and we were all packed up, ready to leave Colorado and fly to the Big Island of Hawaii where we’d be living and working the next six months. Our sweet senior pup, 15 year-old Ellie, had been declining but we were hopeful she might perk up a bit in the warm, tropical climate.

Something seemed off with Ellie that morning, though. She’d been up pacing a lot the night before and was much more subdued than usual – not the perky little traveler who had joyfully flown with me many times in the past.

Our first flight, from Durango to Denver, felt like the longest 45 minutes of my life. Ellie was anxious and distressed and couldn’t sit still or stop yelping.

Once we made it to Denver, we found the quietest corner we could. When I tuned into my girl, her eyes said it all: “Mom, this isn’t just a bad day I’m having. This is the end of the road for me.”

I looked at my husband and said, “Babe, there’s no way we can put her on a six-hour flight to Kona. She can’t do it.”

I’ve heard that your pet will let you know when it’s time, and it felt very true in that moment. Tears filled my eyes and a heavy weight descended on my chest. I felt heartbroken.

Thankfully, we were surrounded by so much grace that day. Patrick had to fly on to meet our other dog in Kona, and a good friend of ours in Denver came to pick Ellie and me up and took us back to her house. I made some calls from the airport while we waited for our friend and arranged for a hospice veterinarian to come out later that evening.

I spent the afternoon laying with my sweet girl, petting and comforting her, telling her what a joy it had been to share a wonderful 15 years together.

Ellie was my first dog and I’d never known a smarter (or more mischievous!) little pup. Even though she’d mellowed with age, she still had a spunkiness that was hard not to love. She quickly found her way right into your heart.

Dr. Kim arrived shortly after 5 pm and I’m positive she was an angel disguised as a pet hospice veterinarian. Her compassionate, loving care was a priceless gift. After the injections from Dr. Kim, Ellie passed away just a short bit later. There were tears, and more tears, but I also felt relief in knowing that she was no longer suffering.

That night Ellie came to me in my dreams. She was running in a big green, grassy field and had a grin on her face. She said, “I’m free now. I’m free. And I’m happy. You don’t need to worry about me. I’m good, Mom.”

I still miss my Ellie Girl but her lively, spunky spirit and the amazing 15-year journey we shared will always live on in my heart.

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