A. & S. have had to make some very hard decisions in the past week. This is absolutely the hardest part of living with pets. We are responsible for them, for keeping them well and happy, and for knowing when that is no longer possible.
My sister sent me this last week, because she and I have been talking about Maddie the Wonder Dog. The writer does a nice job of reminding us that anthropomorphizing our dogs, while inevitable, can get in the way of making decisions appropriate to them.
I also met with our vet last Thursday, just for a quick checkup and to discuss planning for the end of Maddie's life. I actually feel better after meeting with the vet, because I'd been thinking that maybe I was overreacting to Maddie's recent health problems, resenting the difficulty of caring for her and the growing expense of her medications and food. And yeah, there's a little of that, but hearing the vet confirm that my suspicions about Maddie's health were accurate, well, that just made me feel a little less of a whining pet owner and more like a responsible caregiver.
Over the past year, Maddie's arthritis has become worse and the paralysis of her hindquarters set in. Now, in the past month, it's really accelerated, so that she needs help getting up stairs and is clearly in pain. So much so that she has even nipped at me when I've tried to help her get up. She's started losing her coat--not shedding, but actually losing her hair--as a result of her body not fully utilizing the nutritious food and supplements we're putting into it.
She still enjoys her walks and her treats. So long as she's on a level, non-slippery surface, she can move easily, even trot a bit. And while she has occasional digestive difficulties (who doesn't?), for the most part she has a good appetite.
My decision is that once Maddie is unable to get up off her bed on her own or becomes incontinent, it's time. In the meantime, she's been enjoying lying in front of the fire, particularly when there are folks in the living room to keep her company. She's on new pain medication to make things a bit easier, and I put heat on her hips once or twice a day. In return, I get to see that happy tail and goofy underbite a bit longer.