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Monday, 15 June 2020

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When the time comes, you may want to check to see if there is a vet in your area who makes house-calls to euthanize animals, so the dog can pass away at home instead of in an unfamiliar place.

We've had cats - not because we don't love dogs (we do) but we just aren't home enough each day. Still, we've had to time that end-of-life decision. Hindsight always allows you to wonder about it, but if you're caring and conscientious, you do fine.
There's a non-profit in Watertown, CT called "Perfect Imperfections" whose mission is to save dogs that have medical issues that make them far too high maintenance for most people, including a couple that need to eat sitting up in a high chair and then stay there for an hour after in order to digest their food properly. They've sent a number of dogs out over the years only to take them back because they're too much work for the new owners. (Disclaimer: my wife has donated to the group, but otherwise, I have no ties to them whatsoever).

There is no perfect way to decide. Our way is if the doggy is eating and walking, then roll with it. We also had a dog with shoulder/leg issues, and our vet gave him "doggy advil" which actually helped quite a bit. Eventually, he lost interest in food, and we knew it was time, sad as it was, it felt right. Lulu is a really beauty, you've been a great dog dad.

On another more somber note. Talk to your vet about the process. There is a way they can give her sedative first, so you can spend a little time with her, before they give the final shot. Take care, the love we have for our dogs is deep and amazing, and vice versa.

Thanks for letting us know, Mike.
I was wondering about Lulu myself after seeing Butters in the last few posts. I was afraid I might have missed a post with the sad news, so I'm glad she's still there. Good to know she's well taken care of.

Best Regards,
Aashish Sharma

She looks like a beautiful full bull terrier to me, but I guess you suspect that as well. We rescued one from Atlanta. She was probably about 3 years old and a breeder who recently had pups and a bad case of heart worms. That's all we know about her except we recently had her x-rayed and found she had buck shot from head to toe. She's a loving dog and gets along with kids, cats, and other dogs. They get a bad rap. She has a nice life now. Good luck. I'm not looking forward to what you're facing.

"Nobody sleeps like an old dog."

So true.

I'm in the same boat, Mike. My Shetland Sheepdog is 15, and my vet has never seen one of the breed last past 16. She's been deaf for at least a year, and I've also seen her struggle to get her legs under her on bare floors. She sleeps at least 20 hours of the day, which is her roundabout way of preparing me for having no dog at all. I'd get another one now, but I imagine the energy of a young dog or puppy would pester her. More importantly, I wouldn't want a new dog to develop her expectations. besides dog treats and an always-full food bowl, for a year or two, I've given her the last bite of every meal I prepare. She loves it all, even the hot Mexican food. Something to live for, I guess. A chow hound through and through.

My previous dogs left more suddenly, after encountering fast-moving cancers and even faster cars. How will I know when it's time to put her down? When she no longer responds to food treats.

Then what? Where does one get a dog these days? Local animal shelters around here (Denver) are either picked clean, or packed with two breeds of no interest to me. There are plenty of Chihuauas, always popular with our Hispanic folks, but the top dog among shelter dogs is the pit bull, and its boxer cousins. Enough of them to make you think that they've driven all other breeds to extinction. That's not so, according to what I see on leashes in local parks, but to locate any of the more friendly, mellow breeds, I'll probably have to pay breeder prices and travel. I'm leaning towards an American Eskimo Spitz, and the closest breeder I've found is in St. Louis. Is it that way everywhere, or is this another artifact of the mucho-macho vibe here in "Menver?"

Ask your vet about Adequan. It’s an injectable medication that was originally brought out for horses with arthritis, but it worked so well for them that vets started using it for dogs and cats. Our cat, Pouncer, lived to be 21 which is quite old for a cat. I thought he was close to the end when he was around 18 because he could no longer jump up or down from our couch and seemed in pain walking around. Our vet suggested trying Adequan. It is easy to administer, you use an insulin syringe grab a bunch of skin from the back of the neck and inject. We gave it once a week. The cat didn’t seem to notice the shots, the needle is tiny. My memory was that at the dosage for a cat or dog (and not a horse) it wasn’t very expensive. Anyway, once Pouncer started getting it he was like Lazarus arising from the grave--a brand new cat. He resumed jumping up and down from the couch and no longer looked in pain. He lived another 2 years--truly bonus years given that he was the equivalent of a 100 year old human. My kids all said that I should try it on myself given my arthritis, but it is not approved for humans and I didn’t think I should experiment.

We have been through it many times. It is never easy.
In fact, the last time we went through the process it was the most difficult I remember, because while we've loved all our dogs the last one was the most favorite dog we have ever had. He went with me everywhere.
When the time comes, as someone else has already said get a vet who comes to the house. I had the grave prepared on our property and made the last walk.
Remember, the good times and the wonderful home you provided.
You did a good thing.
I wrote about our experience here: https://mjperini.tumblr.com

If I may give you a small piece of advice: don't do as I did. That is waiting up to the last minute (literaly) before taking the final decision. I've regretted it ever since.

Nobody needs to tell me how tough a decision this is to make. Last Thursday I reluctantly had my Shih Tzu, Zoe, put to sleep, after agonizing over what to do. She was slipping into renal failure, and had a host of other age related issues going on as well. But that didn’t make it any easier. When the needle went in, my heart broke.

My wife and I have had several dogs and cats over the years and only one has died without assistance. The end of life process has been difficult each time, compounded when my children were living with us.

Several years ago I had a stroke and was doing in-patient rehab. My wife went home from visiting me one evening and found our 14 year Goldendoodle on the floor and unable to get up.

Turned out that he had a stroke (he and I - what are the odds?) and after specialized and frightfully expensive treatment, had to be put to sleep. He had been very healthy right up to the stroke.

We now have a 2+ year old Labradoodle that we got as a puppy. Great companion, but we still miss all the others. They are all unique and make their mark on you. The suggestion about finding a vet that will come to you at home is a good one. Much better that the last moments are in a place of security and happiness.

I second T Edwards for a home visit by the vet for EOL when the time comes. It will help butters understand that she has passed and will therefore he will not go around looking for her. I know several people who have done this with one than one dog in the family.

Its hard but you will know when its right. I've had to do this several times so I can understand the emotions involved.

When my last dog died 30 years ago I knew I couldn't go thru that pain again. I still miss her.
She was 14 and a half. The vet said she was one of the oldest pure-bred German Shepherds he had treated.
I cradled her in my arms during the final injection. Although I was crying, I kept talking to her as calmly as I could.
Even when she was 13 years old she was still chasing cats. Never caught one of course.
We were lucky that the only problem that needed fixing during her lifetime was having a lump removed when she was 'middle-aged'.
Other than that, it was just one visit per year to the vet.
Incidentally that vet was one of the nicest people I have ever met.
We have a dog now. She is a 'Cockapoo'. My daughter got it as a pup but it decided that apartment living was not as much fun as Grandma and Grandpa's big back yard. So she packed her toys and moved in with us.

Don't get obsessed about the end of life. From my experience she will tell you when it’s time. Also get the vet to come to the house as it’s easier for you and your dog being in familiar surroundings. Enjoy her and she will know what she means to her.

It makes me sad to think of your predicament, Mike, having gone through this three times myself. We knew it was time with our first two dogs. I had Babe from a pup, adopted her and brought her home with me from a stint living in Pakistan (she understood English and Urdu). She was devoted to me, then to my wife and me, and then to our daughters when they came. She was a mid to large size dog of unknown parentage, but when she was approaching 16, we knew it was time. She could not navigate the stairs, and despite being carried outside she was still incontinent. We knew the time had come when she was embarrassed at her lost dignity (yes, dogs can convey that). She hated going to the vet, but did not put up a fight this time. She had a sedative, sat with us, and died in my arms after the second injection. She was out of pain.

Rocky was a rescue from a local pound. He was about the same mid to large size as Babe, again of unknown provenance, but he was older, maybe five years old. He was happy to terrorize the local deer and chase them for blocks before coming home with a self-satisfied look on his face. Ditto for the local rabbits. After seven or eight years, he started to slow down, could barely bark at the rabbits on the lawn, let alone chase them, and was off his feed. The vet said that he had kidney failure and there was really nothing to do that would prolong his life with a quality of life. I waited for the rest of the family to come down to the vet's office to say goodbye. Rocky was ready to be let go and he died in my arms also.

Trudi was about a year old when we adopted her from a rescue organization. She had already had a litter of puppies and seemed to have been badly abused -- she was very timid with people and was frightened by any sudden moves. She adopted my younger daughter and became more social over the years. When my daughter went off to college, Trudi bonded more strongly with me and my wife. Trudi was about seven when she developed congestive heart failure. Her time outdoors was limited and she was on a combination of heart meds. She passed in the middle of the night at her favorite hangout place at the top of the stairs.

We now have Reo, also of indeterminate heritage, although we suspect some beagle and bulldog, and maybe some boxer. He turned 3 the other day and we had him from 8 weeks old. He is sleeping under my desk as I write this. Hopefully we will have a long road ahead with him.

The bottom line of this long rant is that Lulu will tell you when she is ready for you to let her go. When the pain becomes too much or the indignities of old age limit the quality of life, you will know.

My last word here is that we have had all our dogs cremated and have their remains. I believe that each dog's spirit remains at home long enough to teach the new dog how to get along with these strange looking and smelling alpha dogs. At least around here, each of the new dogs over the years has picked up at least some of the habits of a predecessor.

The hardest part of living with a dog is having to let him go.

They are wonderful companions.
You are her caring friend, and though it is never easy, you will instinctively know when it's time to say goodbye.

Sad to hear. I'd echo the advice to find a vet to do home euthanasia. It's a wonderful way to do the most difficult of things. I still tear up thinking about our "girls," two black lab mix sisters my daughter adopted. She had them for a few years then fell in love and moved to New Zealand. We took them and they were the best dogs I've ever known. When they passed, it was among my saddest days.

It's a hard decision and one we've had to make a few times. The last dog we had to have put down was a Westie--amazing little guy. Our vet gave us some options for his remains. We selected having him cremated with other dogs and their ashes scattered in the Monzano Mountains. The picture of him sniffing all those trees and marking his territory with all those other doggie spirits was too cool to pass up.

Give Lulu a pat on the head for me.

Kirk Tuck just went through this with Studio Dog. It was painful for Kirk, Belinda and "the boy". Also many of his readers who had come to love her through Kirk's blog. I was fortunate to get to meet Studio Dog just before she departed to doggie heaven. She was so sweet and gentle. My wife and I both shed a tear when we got the msg that Studio Dog was gone. AND SHE WASN'T EVEN OUR DOG! I can sympathize with what is coming for you. Our pets give everything they have to us.

I hope this helps: https://melnewton.com/2019/the-good-death/

Thanks for sharing about the latest on Lulu. Dogs are Man's best friends. They are so loyal and have heard that they will continue to give love even when they are not fed and die of starvation.

The story of Hachiko is an amazing one:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

It's never an easy decision. You have to make it based on what you think is best for them, not to make you feel better. Make sure you are there when it happens, rub her tummy, let her know she is loved. The earlier suggestions of a sedative and to have the vet come to your house are good ones.

My daughter acquired some psych class lab rats in college because she couldn't stand what usually happens to such disposable critters. At the end of the semester they ended up at our house because of roommate's "allergies." After a few years, the poor things were loaded with big tumors. It took a long time to find a vet who would even do the job. They were totally flummoxed when they had to take the am daminals in the back about four times for increasing doses of drugs before they finally succumbed. A very difficult afternoon for all, especially the rats!

A tough subject, Mike. We had to put down our old rescue a year and a half ago. She was unable to go for any walk, and we could not solve her medical problems. Josie was my wife's first dog, and it was a treat to watch her connect with a non-human being, even one who was clearly traumatized before we got her. After waiting a year and checking out a few rescue dogs (yes, some places do let you do that) we chose a Chihuahua/miniature pinscher, who is totally loving and willing to negotiate about behavior. Stanley is, however, not as "manly" a dog as I had hoped-9.4# and very friendly. And he came with $1500 of dental work needed. Our guess is that he had a very loving but financially
insecure person or family who couldn't handle that cost. I'm glad we got Stanley when we did, because all the local rescue groups ran out of dogs in the first week of the Bay Area lockdown.

Always a tough decision. We've tended to wait as long as possible, assuming that, like us, dogs want to stay alive as long as they can. So the last three went like this: Sam when he not only collapsed, but could't get up. Bumble when he was apologetic about coughing up blood and was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. Daisy when cancer got into her brain and was pronounced inoperable. I think (and hope) they all found at least some some enjoyment on their last day alive, but that didn't make it any easier to give the word. We have two shelter dogs now (Hal and Jenny) and I know it'll be just as hard the next time.

Looks like you're already crossing off the checklist in proper fashion- make this summer the best you can for her. Won't BS ya- it ain't gonna be fun... lucky ya got 'a spare,' and the time and spread to get another if and when the mood strikes.

If it's any comfort, the truth about timing is that whatever decision you make will feel wrong. That doesn't matter. From what you've written, you're paying close and loving attention, which is really all that counts.

We had an elderly cat, Prudence, who had been an excellent mouser until profound deafness and severe arthritis extinguished that pastime, and most others, for good. At that point -- she was 17 -- she spent all her time dozing on an ottoman next to the wood stove, and I was feeling guilty every day for prolonging. One morning I found an injured mouse in a trap I'd set in a kitchen drawer. I grabbed Pru, who complained at being picked up from the ottoman, set her on the kitchen floor and released the crippled mouse in front of her. She sat up, meowed loudly and happily, grabbed the mouse, and took a proud victory lap around the kitchen before lying down to kill and eat it.

The next morning when I got up, I found her sitting expectantly next to that kitchen drawer, hoping for a rerun. I decided that day she could go out on a high note.

Great article Mike. At 54, the sum of my learned life wisdom can be expressed in six words - life is better with a dog :-)

Somber words, but well said Mike. Sounds like you’ll be ready when the time comes. From personal experience, I also recommend having a vet come to the house. Best for everyone by a long shot.

Try some metacam from your vet. I've had several friends and relatives thank me for the suggestion. It can take off 2-3 years on an old dog's joints.

I feel for you a Mike - we’ve just (on June 2nd) had to make that sad decision for our Mollie. She was a Border Collie, who we adopted in 2006, when she was 5. We’ve seen the grey fur in her face increase (but her smile was always there), her eyes grow cloudy (but she could still see a ball to chase it), her hearing diminish (but she was always selective at hearing anyway), but this year, her arthritis has got much worse, and the medication the vet prescribed for her (gabapentin and amantidine) did more harm then good, so was discontinued. And then her stomach started to give her problems... She was telling us she needed help, and we chose the only option there was left. Due to COVID, we couldn’t be with her in the vets that final time... She walked off with the vet, maintaining her dignity to the end... We miss her so much, but I think (and hope) that we did the right thing at the right time.

It is the hardest thing you have to do as a dog’s carer, because you don’t want to lose them - they’ve been a part of your life for so long, but because of what they’ve given you, they deserve the consideration that you can give them. Because you’re right, they will battle through pain in order to do what they think will make you happy. I know our Moll did, I’m sure Lulu does. You’ll make the right decision, Mike, I’m sure...

A lot of good suggestions and stories here. I started writing a giant description of my dogs and end-of-life experiences with them, but it's enough to say that, for me, they were the best dogs and I miss them. I would offer three suggestions.

1) If you're not doing it, please involve your son in the process or at least keep him informed.

2) Your vet can be a useful resource and sounding board. My last dog got sick very suddenly just after his fourth birthday. Over 2-3 days he went from 35 lbs of dynamite to barely able to walk. Over the next week he was diagnosed with cancer throughout his body and then came down with rapid-onset canine IMHA. Both problems had poor outcomes. Our regular vet and the emergency vet each sat down with us and said that if he were their dog they would let him go. That didn't make the decision easier at the time but it does help in retrospect.

3) Please (everyone) thank your vet for all that they do for you and your pet(s). It's not an easy job. The hours suck, the pay often sucks, most have major student debt, and much of their time is spent interacting with pets and owners at their saddest/worst moments. If you don't know, vets and vet techs have frighteningly high suicide rates. I don't have the strength to do that work, so I take every chance I can to thank them for doing it. Please do the same.

Two thoughts, neither are cheerful. I share these because you've indicated this is your first time coming to this crossroads.

1) As others have advised, a "home visit" is far less traumatic for the animal (and possibly you, too) then hauling them off to whatever vet is open when the end of the road arrives. Research that now. Costs vary widely. Decide in advance what their final outcome is (cremations, burial, whatever) because there is, like with humans, an element in the industry that seeks to maximize its income on your grief and emotions.

2) Unfortunately, end of life decisions for pets fall into a class of problems a co-worker called a "catching the bus" problem. It is bad to be late (miss the bus) because then the animal has a lot of needless and pointless suffering.

It is bad to be early because then you are putting down an animal that still has some quality of life remaining. But since it is usually impossible to be exactly on time, you are often forced to be "early". If you choose "late" with a pet, you are likely to remember it (painfully) the rest of your life - I know my wife does.

Everybody's definition of early/late will differ - make sure you've thought about what yours is.

Sorry, there's no way to make this easy.

Hi Mike, I hope it’s OK to post this link.
A musician - Gotye - wrote a song after his friends had to made an end of life decision about their pet too. Gets me a little choked up when I listen to it, but I still enjoy listening to it occasionally.
Cheers
https://www.songfacts.com/facts/gotye/bronte

Elliott Erwitt on dogs ...

"The good thing about dogs is that they're everywhere; they're usually sympathetic; they don't complain; and they don't ask for prints."

https://loeildelaphotographie.com/en/at-home-with-elliott-erwitt-pp/

We lost two in the lsat two years (and two before these to). Old Jack, a Smithfield cross was a great friend from a pup and Pepper, a lovely Ridgeback cross we adaopted at three. One's loss was drawn out and difficult (Jack) with a slow decline over months, the other was diagnosed with bone cancer and gone within a month, from seemingly good health. I cannot say which was easier to take, but we knew when both had had enough. No eating, no normal response and no light in the eyes. That didi it for us. Two years later and Lucy (Loopy to her friends), a rescued German Wirehaired/Shorthaired Pointer cross and Daisy, another Smithfield Border Collie cross are now 18 and 12 months old respectively and have really helped us move on. Lucky them and lucky us as the bond with dogs should be.

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