Friday, February 25, 2005

The Waiting

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.


Pirate said...

Hi Karen. So very sorry to hear about Doogie. I know how awfully hard it is. I am crying as I type this. We had to put our female German Shepherd down last summer and I've had other dogs leave me prior to that, so I know how painful it always is. The only way to know for sure (when they haven't asked) if it's time is to measure when they are not living a good dog's life anymore. As the person who's loved him for so long, no one is in a better position to do that than you are. He has trusted you this long; he will place his trust in you for this ultimate decision you will make for him. Don't think of it as a betrayal. You have always and continue to do what's best for him. He will draw his last breath knowing that his fate was always safest in your hands.

Barbara said...

I'm so sorry. This is the toughest decision we make for our dear friends, and I'm always left with doubts. I have to believe there's a better life after this for our pets, where they run happy and free, young again and remembering us with love.

Blessings to you and Doogie. Thank you for touching my heart with your words.

writersblock said...

Unconditional love. That's what we get from these darn animals.

You made the right decision, as painful as it is. I waited far too long when I had to make the same decision and it didn't make it any easier for either of us.