Thursday, September 6, 2012
Sometimes It's Hard to Know When You'll Get to the Bridge to Cross It...
Lately, we've been struggling with whether or not we should put our older dog down.
He doesn't seem unhappy or in pain, but he can't walk. It's been a slow decline. Until about 3 or 4 weeks ago, he could walk, but needed help getting up. He's never been an active dog, so he doesn't miss frolicking or fetching toys. His favorite activities are eating and napping and these tasks remain wholly unaffected. He eats with gusto!!
3 years ago, he was diagnosed with liver failure and we thought we'd lose him within a year. Thousands of dollars in herbs later, he's still here and it appears that his body is failing in other ways, but not in any way that is catastrophic.
In the past, we've had animals that were clearly in distress and needed help crossing the rainbow bridge. There was no question on what needed to be done. However, Jimmy is sort of in this land of in between. If our younger dog couldn't walk, this would definitely be a big deal and would affect his quality of life since he is incredibly active.
Then again, it's getting to the point that we are having difficulty keeping up with Jimmy's incontinence issues when we're not home. Until recently, the poise pads were doing the trick, but Finn has decided they are a delicacy, so we've had to change strategies. Now, Jimmy lays on a fleece placed atop of an absorbent pad. We change him every 2 to 3 hours when we're home and are able to keep him dry, but during work hours it's difficult. So far, he doesn't have a rash.
This has been such a slow decline that it's just become our new normal, but he takes up HOURS of care each day. I'll continue to do it because it's not about me, but have I lost perspective on what is good for him? Twice now, we've been convinced it was time only to have him rally and bounce back.
I don't want him to suffer, but part of me wishes something would **happen** so it would be clear as to what he needed. Every night, I go to bed hoping when I wake up in the morning, I'll find that he's passed.
Our parents have asked when we're going to do it. The thought of scheduling that ahead of time, is a lot like putting myself on death row. I don't know how to deal with that.
There's a line from the Indigo Girls song "Oziline" where Amy sings, "I had to put the dog down, before I hit the road. Yeah, I watched that sweet ol' life, become a bag of bones" and that's kind of where he's at right now. He's been wasting for awhile now. He's just bones, no matter how much we feed him. On top of all of this, we're actually supposed to see the Indigo Girls perform with a symphony this month. It'll take us away from home for a couple of days. We have someone to watch Finn, but James is just too much to put on someone else. So, we may end up selling our tickets if we don't get up the gumption to do what probably should be done. H's parents have offered to go with us or to take him. I'm not sure how we'll hear Oziline in concert after that...
I think part of what his keeping us from doing it is that we've had a lot of loss in the last year. We had our dog Jack drop dead in front of us -- he had no diagnosed illness and had no decline in health. It was totally unexpected. He was running around excitedly and happy with a toy and literally fell over and died within 3 minutes.
After that, we had a cat with an intestinal tumor. We lost her on the night before Hurricane Irene last summer. She had diarrhea that could no longer be controlled with medication and began vomiting. It was clear she was very miserable at that point. It was a small blessing because we lost power for 6 days after Irene and I think we would have had to burn the house down. Her illness was messy at the end. She fought with H in the room, it's like she couldn't leave her person. H had to step out because it was really difficult. Once she did, Abby settled down and nestled into my arms and passed quietly. It's like she just couldn't do that with H there.
Then, over the winter, we had to put our cat Denny down. She started breathing funny and we took her to the vet and they thought that she likely had a tumor. For some reason, I can't remember the details, but within one week she began having an exceptional difficulty breathing. We had been counting her respirations and there was a swift decline. She was very alert though -- her mind was still sharp as ever, but her body wasn't keeping up. In order to make things a little easier, the vet gave her something to make her a little loopy to relax her. Something about the medication made her panic and she vomited and aspirated her vomit. She was choking! The vet rushed into the room, to hurry and administer the shot, but her blood pressure was so low, they couldn't find a vessel. When this happens, they need to inject it directly into their heart and this was also very difficult. It was horrific to watch, the vet was also a mess afterwards. She said she had NEVER seen this happen before and didn't really understand what happened.
James has always been a difficult patient. In fact, he would have to be poled with the rabid dog pole and even then you couldn't examine him. He had to be muzzled. We're terrified that they will insist he be muzzled because of his history. He's such a different dog now -- almost sweet even. He was never a cuddly or particularly nice dog. He liked us since we provided food for him. He would tolerate being petted a few times, but mostly he was a loner. He came to us from an abused home and it took a couple of years to really gain his trust. Now, he finally trusts us implicitly and almost seems to enjoy being loved on. Now we have to let him go? UGH. It sucks and I just don't know what to do. Part of me just wants to kiss him good bye and have H's parents bring him because I think in my heart I know it's the right thing. I just cannot bring myself to do this again so soon. I cannot see him be muzzled during his last moments.