What do you say to an old dog on the last full day of his life? How do you tell him that he has until tomorrow afternoon to do all the living he can do?
I've done it. Yesterday, I called Dr. Mike (the vet) and explained that poor old Doogie was too weak to get up on his own any more, and that he was unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes. He has been incontinent for some months now, and he rarely goes outside. He's not living a good dog's life any more.
Still, is this how you reward an old dog for giving you almost nine years of his life? (Doogie was 7 when he came to me, and he is almost 16 now.) I could call Dr. Mike back and reverse the decision, but how much longer would it be before I had to call again and remake that appointment?
The decision was obvious when it was Duncan's turn. Duncan's kidneys were failing, and even if he responded to short-term treatment, he faced nothing but a painful downhill slide as his body shut down. He would never be able to leave the hospital and come home. I had to decide to euthanize him in order to prevent him from suffering horribly. (It's true: dogs do ask to be released when they know it's time. Duncan came into the treatment room, put his muzzle into my hands, looked deeply into my eyes for a moment, and then lay down.)
It's not that obvious with Doogie. He's like a Mexican taxi that's been driven half a million miles: pieces keep failing, but the engine continues to chug on. His decline has been ever so gradual; he has faded little by little. He has not asked to go, and I feel I'm betraying him by making the decision for him, before he asks.
Dr. Mike agreed that there was only so much that could be done for him, and that it was probably time to help him on his way to Doggie Heaven. We'll bring him to the hospital tomorrow afternoon about 3, and he should be sharing bones and stories with Duncan, Merlin, Cadence, and Briscoe about ten minutes later.