kinds of drugs and its side effects

Frankie’s Final Week

Frankie dining-001

Operation Spoil Frankie in operation

Trying to keep it together this week has not been easy.

I have been counting insulin needles to see if I have enough, but not too many. I need to reuse some, which is not unusual. I have always doubled up, using one for Frankie’s two shots each day, to save some money — so sue me — but in the last few weeks I have been throwing them away after only one shot, a luxury. But I realized I might be running out, and I don’t want to buy a new box.

I have been laying in supplies, treats for Operation Spoil Frankie (OSF), with the same attempt of proportion and control where there is none.

I have loved this little furry creature who is now lying peacefully asleep on my bed without proportion. Control? Living with a pet, being responsible for his life, and now his death, is the ultimate control. I would give anything to relinquish this last bit of responsibility.

***

It helped a bit to have several friends come over to see Frankie last week and confirm that he really doesn’t have much quality of life; even his treat taking is desultory. I reminded my friend John of the time, about a year and a half ago, when Frankie jumped up on the couch and lodged himself between us while we were making out. John in turn reminded me that Frankie not only leaped up on the couch, but jumped up and stood on John’s legs to stare at him, in hopes of scaring him away. That’s the Frankie I want to remember, not the little ghostly imposter who has taken over his body, who can barely figure out how to get up  on the mattress on the floor.

There are no pictures of the couch incident, but I have documentation of one relating to another guest, my friend Rebecca, Frankie’s rescuer. On my birthday, Rebecca noted that her Brussels griffon, Charles, was also celebrating his 15th. Frankie has not always been overly kind to Charles, who is now getting the last laugh, as it were. For a chuckle — I promise — check out Charles (Not) in Charge.

Frankie with Charles — who got the last laugh

***

By any measure, Frankie’s last weeks have been good ones, and not only due to the implementation of OSF. He has only had a couple of thirsty nights caused by high blood sugar, fewer than in some periods. He tends to have an iffy stomach but, with the exception of one small puking incident, he hasn’t been sick.

And of course he doesn’t have any sense of the future.

Frankie snoozing peacefully this morning. That ear never fails to bowl me over

Frankie snoozing peacefully this morning. That ear never fails to bowl me over

For me, life goes on as usual in some ways. Frankie sleeps much of the time and, not wanting to wake him or annoy him when he’s awake, I keep my stroking and weeping over him to a minimum. I have assignments to complete, and there is a compartment in my mind, the one that lets me do the work, that denies what I have committed to do. Aside from those weeping bouts and some flashes of sheer dread, I have been largely calm, or angry at things that have nothing to do with what I am really angry about: Having to say good-bye to Frankie.

I use the term “saying good-bye” and, of course, euthanasia, but the fact is I am taking my friend’s life, and a part of my heart along with him. How can anyone be expected to get her head around that?

***

I’m not sure that I will write any more this week, except perhaps for a few words on Friday to add to the post I have already planned. I will be going away with my friend Karyn directly after the doctor leaves, to a lovely place, Ramsey Canyon, hummingbird central for Southern Arizona; we will stay at a B&B that is known for its pies. The second night, we will bunk with another friend, Bonnie, who runs a wine tasting room outside Willcox; needless to say, wine will be involved. The week after, my friend Cynthia is hosting a wake.

Leaving my house, enjoying nature, surrounding myself with dog-loving friends, drinking heavily… In theory, this will all be soothing and cathartic. But I don’t anticipate it will begin to fill the gaping absence. Time, I know, time…

And a change of subject. Probably. That is, I doubt if I will continue this blog for a while — this time I know better than to say never — so I want to say now how much it has meant to have so many people respond to my words, to empathize and, some have said, take solace in what I have written. I will continue to read and cherish every comment — assuming no assholes turn up, which they usually don’t — even if I don’t respond to them.

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The Quality of Life Question: More Perspectives

zukes-skinny-bakes-peanut-butter-banana-12-oz-11Last week I found a large package on my doorstep: A box containing three bags of Zuke’s Skinny Bakes.

At first I was upset.

Frankie’s not going to be around to enjoy these, I thought. Don’t people read my blog before they send me stuff/ask to guest post about puppy care? (The answer, in most cases, is No.) If so, they would know what I’m going through.

Then I looked at it another way. Three bags of high-quality dog treats arrived just in time for Operation Spoil Frankie. How cool is that?

That shift in perspective has helped get me through these tough days.

Reading the Tea Leaves

In some ways, Operation Spoil Frankie has proved a bit unnerving. I believe I’ve seen certain signs of improvement. Frankie seems more focused — mostly on food, which had been far less delicious and far more restricted because of his diabetes. I also think that he finds his way in and out of the house — still supervised of course — more consistently.

Was the hospice vet wrong? I began wondering.

I started finding signs of disorientation and inappropriate elimination perversely encouraging. They were proof that I wasn’t making a terrible mistake. Input like the DM that I recently got from a well-intended social media friend only made things worse:

You might consider talking to this animal expert lady Kate. She helped me with my dog and was instrumental in getting him better. On a call tonight, she talked about a German Shepherd 15 years old who was skinny, losing weight, could not get up. His pet guardians were getting ready to put him down. Instead, they talked to Kate and they ended up spending a lot more quality time with him.

Then I looked at it another way — also spurred by someone I know only through social media. Vlad & Barkly’s Dee wrote in a comment:

I don’t think that you are letting go too early for Frankie’s sake. What happens if you wait, and Frankie can no longer remember you? Can you imagine how scary that would be for him? That happens to Alzheimer’s patients sometimes. They become afraid of everyone around them because they can’t recognize anyone a lot of the time. I think it’s smart of you to let Frankie go before his whole life becomes one of living in a haunted house of terror.

Now that is a helpful perspective. I want to keep Frankie forever but not like he is now. While I see some signs that he is doing okay, his life is not going to turn around. Why not celebrate these happy moments in has last days and be glad that he is quitting while he is ahead, as they say?

Getting A Former Life Back

Perhaps a bigger issue is the guilt I feel over the sense of relief that I am getting my life back.  I used to be a travel writer. Frankie never liked travel and he is not a social dog; boarding him was not an option. For the first four years after I adopted him, I didn’t have problems finding people to stay with Frankie, though I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him for longer than a week. Once he developed diabetes, however, it was far more difficult to find care, especially from someone who was not prohibitively expensive. I occasionally took him with me on short trips but it was stressful for us both. I went away for a few days at a time, but going to places like Australia or Easter Island — which I used to do on the dime of various magazines — was no longer an option.

I created a different life and, as I wrote the other day, I have not a single regret. But a year and a half ago, when I started researching my family history — see Freud’s Butcher — I found myself frustrated at not being able to do the things I wanted and needed to do, especially spending a good period of time doing research in Vienna. After Frankie was diagnosed with CCD, there was no question of working out a way to take him with me, as I would have done with a healthier dog.

I looked into other possibilities. I have a large house with an extra bedroom. I tried to find a live-in who was studying to be a veterinary technician, someone who Frankie could get used to and who could take care of him while I was away. The trade-off was that the person would stay here for little or no rent.

There were no takers.

You get a pet, you have a responsibility to take care of it. And when you love your pet as much as I love Frankie you don’t think twice.

But that doesn’t mean you’re always going to feel happy about it, especially when there’s a question of your pet’s quality of life. I wrote a post for National Suicide Prevention Week about the stress of being a caretaker: The Burden of Being Irreplaceable (Yes, Even to Your Pet).

I figured Frankie could hang on for quite a long time with CCD. Physically, he’s not doing badly. That’s one of the reasons, I realize now, that I returned to dog blogging. If I couldn’t do my other project right, why not devote myself to the topic that was most on my mind: Taking care of a senior pet.

I didn’t anticipate — at least not consciously — that circumstances would change so rapidly. My decision to seek out a hospice care veterinarian was organic, though focusing on Frankie’s circumstances in a public forum might have helped me to think about it as an option.

Getting a definitive opinion about Frankie’s poor quality of life made me feel terrible — but also lifted a weight from my chest.

Back to Frankie

I am living in a strange, dissociated state right now. I am thinking about the future with some hope, for the first time in ages, but I am also not allowing myself to feel, on some gut level, what a future without Frankie will be like.

Yes, Operation Spoil Frankie is a success, but I could not indefinitely feed him liverwurst and cheap cat food (though I have to tell you it seems to agree with him;  he has not thrown up or had a soft stool in this entire time — which is atypical). By the way, Frankie LOVES the Zuke’s Peanut Butter and Banana Skinny Bakes, though he’s not especially keen on the Pumpkin and Sweet Potato or Mixed Berry varieties.

But I digress.

With all my awareness of the ultimate rightness of my decision for me as well as for Frankie, I still agonize.  I find myself wondering if Frankie will forgive me. What if he still wants to live? But I know, with every rational bone in my body, that there is nothing to forgive.  I’m going to give him some ice cream and then he’s going to go to sleep, never to be fearful or confused again. I’m the only one who will be in pain.

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Your Turn: How Did You Know When “It Was Time”?

Sorry I closed the door

Sorry I closed the door to discussion

I know people who are always saying things like “this is a great movie” or “this is a great book” about movies or books that I don’t especially think are great. I find this immensely irritating. If you tell me you liked something a lot and give me the reasons, I can answer that I didn’t like it nearly as much and give you the reasons. That’s called a discussion. The other is called holding forth.

But yesterday, in Grief — & Relief: Consulting a Hospice Vet, I wrote the equivalent of  a “this is a great movie” post. Yes, I gave you the reasons that I thought consulting a hospice vet was right for me — but I also suggested that no one ever knows when it’s time to let their pet go.  I regret that. I like to think that I’m a bit more open minded. I said I’m evangelical about spreading the word of a service that I found immensely helpful. But the problem with being evangelical is that you try to convert people without listening because you think you know the Only Truth. That’s not a good approach for someone who claims not to be religious.

The quality of life of dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is particularly difficult to assess because many are old but reasonably healthy, as is the case with Frankie. I am still so agonized about my decision that I need to cling to the professional diagnosis with every ounce of strength so I won’t change my mind and do the wrong thing for Frankie. At the same time, I realize that  people who know their pets intimately can often make that assessment better than any outsider.

So I’d honestly like to know: How did your pet let you know that he or she was ready?

I’m listening.

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