Tag Archives: when it’s time to put a pet down

A Matter of Life and Death

Email to a friend:

Hi Susan,

Are you in Colorado?  Happy New Year.  Hope the snow is fresh and the crowds are reasonable.   Just wanted to update you on my whacky life.  So last Friday (a week ago), Maizie had a seizure, which I wrote you about. Then the second one the following day which was 12/24, again complete with eye-rolling, collapsing, peeing, and getting up a couple of minutes later and looking around like, “Huh? What? Where’d this puddle come from and why is my backside wet?  Shit. I hope Mommy doesn’t yell at me for this.”

Craig was ready to put her down that day, and if Dr. Dan (the new vet that my nephew works for) had been in, we would have.  But he wasn’t, and we made the appointment for Thursday, as that was the first early morning one we could get, and Craig wanted to go to work afterwards (and not go home and brood).  But Sunday morning, when he took her out, she was all “jaunty” and continuing to want to kill her frenemies, and to want affection, and to get all excited around meal time, and signal to go out to troll, etc.  By Monday, Craig was having doubts.

I just couldn’t take it.  At that point, I still wanted to kill my dog.  I was thinking of my Dad, after his cancer returned and he kept talking about how he just wished a piano would fall on his head.  I was thinking about Craig’s cat, Big Red, and how he waited too long, didn’t even notice how much weight he was losing because he saw him everyday, and finally Craig was supposed to travel for work and I was going to take care of Big Red, but when I went over a few days before Craig left,  I realized he was dying and  we had to put him down sooner.   I was thinking about Maizie’s inevitable decline, and the stoicism of dogs, and how we should just get off this emotional roller coaster, and how it would be me, working from home, more likely to see the next seizure, more likely to be the one taking her in when she finally couldn’t get back up on her hind legs, carrying her to the car.

Craig thought it was my being obsessive, and it was Italy, our planned anniversary trip, coming up in two weeks — the first time we’d be in Europe together, and to a country neither of us had visited.    Maybe something to that, because we both agreed that if we didn’t put her down, leaving her in a kennel for 10 days, even a nice one, was probably not a good idea.

On Tuesday, we went out to dinner with the cousins.  They aren’t fans of the Maize, having a bad impression based on an unfortunate dinner incident.  But Daniel (the smartest man in any room) brought up the seizure thing. Did Craig really want to wait for the third seizure?  The answer was no, but….

The next day, Craig  checked with the airline.  No refund, of course, but $200 to change the dates.  My sister happened to call and I updated her.  I reminded her of my father’s piano line.  She didn’t think it was that simple.  She pointed out how much he’d held on at the end.

“Nobody wants to die,” she said.

She reminded me that even my mother, who was unconscious those last few days, seemed on some level, not willing to let go, although she had said earlier, after her stroke but before she faded away when the subject of a feeding tube was broached, “If I can’t eat ice-cream, what’s the point?”

But Maizie, based on what I was telling her, hadn’t reached that point yet.  And I realized she was right.

Craig cancelled the appointment.  We were still figuring out Italy. We rationalized that before the seizures we’d been planned to board her, and what had really changed?  Yes, she might take a turn while we were away, and we’d feel terrible, but more likely it would be a slow decline, another seizure maybe, maybe two, but not a crisis.

We wouldn’t leave her at the place we usually left her.  They’d screwed up last time, not monitoring her closely or contacting us when she seemed to be reacting badly to the meds she was then on for her Cushing’s.  There was another place we’d taken her a couple of times, swankier, more expensive, less convenient to get to.  We thought we’d try there, but also see if my nephew would consider dog sitting.  He couldn’t.  His workshifts are too long and she’d be alone too much.  My sister had mentioned a son of a friend’s, a musician in need of a day job, raised in an animal loving household as a possibility, but Craig thought given Maizie’s special “behavioral” issues, a stranger who wasn’t a professional might not be a good idea. We called the swanky place.  Before I’d had a chance to explain much, they reacted to the words, “Geriatric” and “frail” and told me straight out that a dog in that condition should never be boarded.

That hit us like a gut-punch.  Not only were we terrible human beings for considering killing our dog, we were terrible human beings for wanting to go away.

We wondered what would happen if there were an emergency and we’d both have to travel.  Or what if Craig got one of those good business gigs to Africa and I could join him after?  The answer to the first case, was we’d leave her at the vets, for as short  a time as possible.  In the second case, I’d stay home

Today, Craig reported Maizie seemed a little out of it on their walk.  She’s sleeping now.  She sleeps mostly.  Italy is probably off the table for a while, unless she takes a turn for the worst in the next few days.  We might ask the musician if he’s interested in the gig, not for Italy, but generally, if she lives a while, and come spring we want to use those tickets.

This is it.  There aren’t a lot of choices.  Putting down an animal is never easy.  But it probably helps if it’s already too late, if their suffering is obvious. In some dispassionate way, I don’t think it would be a big deal to deprive her of continuing a journey that is almost at its end, and may involve a steep uphill slog.  That’s in the abstract.  In reality, I couldn’t see getting her into the car, which often signals trouble but sometimes signals fun, driving her to Dr. Dan’s, where she’ll greet my nephew like a friend and then look at it me like I’ve betrayed her when she remembers it’s a doctor’s office. I couldn’t imagine my husband, lifting a now shaking dog onto the table as Dr. Dan gets the needle ready, and feeling for the rest of our lives that we deprived her of something, even though I’m not exactly sure what.

UPDATE:  1/12/12: We canceled Italy. The good news is I may go to see a show on Saturday, have tickets to see Al Green, Lin-Manual Miranda and POTUS at the Apollo on 1/19, and the better half and I will be taking some time off to celebrate doing New Yorky things.  Maizie seems to be doing better.  We went to the vet just to check in and because she was licking herself a lot.  He said it was a probably just an irritation from lying all day on a hard spot.  He said she looked great for a dog her age, even for one who doesn’t have cushings.  No seizures since the ones that almost caused her executions. We decided not to put our lives on hold and called up a bunch of kennels.  We found that some wanted to put her in a “special care” doggy nursing home where she would be tended to way more than she would ever want.   We now have two potential reasonably priced places that we think will work and will check both of them out.  Maizie will definitely do a test run of two days to make sure she can tolerate the boarding.