kinds of drugs and its side effects

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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38 Comments

  1. Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Truly?

    Gilly tried to get up one day, and she screamed. And at the end of that ordeal, she looked right at me. I knew.

    Socks? He began to withdraw. One day he touched me with his paw. I understood in that moment that I was not to interfere. When my spouse, Sock’s person, became despondent and wanted to euthanize Socks, I told him he could if he wanted, but I would have no part in it. Socks passed at home, after a night spent with his person, and waiting until we had left for the day.

    Kafka went her own way, and I did not interfere. She passed her breath out of her body after I went to teach my yoga class. Her passing was so peaceful.

    Long ago, Sara, our spaniel, had what would probably be called Cognitive Dysfunction. She’d already gone blind. Her health was deteriorating, her mind moreso. Her body could no longer stand up to any assaults. She was 14. There just was a day when it seemed it was the day.

    Dallas was happy-go-lucky and free and easy, and then one day all of her skin seemed to fold in on herself and she lay down and looked at us and that seemed to be the day. She was 15.

    It’s a paradox. You can’t know, but you do.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Truly.

      That was an honest question to which you gave an honest answer. I just wish you hadn’t added “truly.” It suggests that my question was stupid, which is not very kind.

      • Jenny
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Edie,

        I am sorry if my Truly came off snarky, which was not my intention. You ask a question that has no answer, and asked me to go deep into what is some of the most painful territory we have to travel. It is also territory I am traversing with a friend and her horse, who hasa neurological condition which is degenerative. To the outside eye he looks fine. Much judgement and second guessing abounds.

        I had only hoped to share some disparate experiences, true that.
        Be well,
        Jenny

        • Edie Jarolim
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Thanks for clarifying, Jenny. I admit I was surprised because you seem to be a kind, gentle person. It’s such tough territory we’re treading into — I won’t deny having more than a few exposed nerves. And thanks for sharing your experience. Peace.

  2. Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    We had 10 days between Cody’s diagnosis with terminal hemangiosarcoma and euthanasia. I thought it was time sooner than Tom did, but I also was the one home with him all day, watching him sleep, wondering if each breath would be his last. He was very weak and mostly stopped eating. It was very sad to see him so sick. When we loaded him into the car for the ride down to the hospital, he got very excited. It broke my heart. Even the veterinarian was like, “Are you sure? Look how happy he is.” He was 9.

    With Penelope, it was different. She had been suffering kidney disease for 3 1/2 years. It wasn’t bad until the last 6 months or so, when she work up early, sometimes couldn’t walk, became incontinent, etc. BUT, she was really happy and didn’t mind help going potty or being slid around the house on her bed (rather than walking). The final week got worse and worse, though, and we knew when she wouldn’t eat anything. This dog, who was the definition of piglet, would not eat. That’s the day we made the call. To amuse ourselves on the drive to the hospital, we asked her to send back the winning lotto numbers from the other side. No such luck, yet. She was 14 1/2.

    I’m not sure how things will go with Lilly — and now Ginko — having a terminal condition. Right now, we’re just taking it one day at a time. But, both are happy, eating, playing, etc.

  3. Jennifer
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    My main criteria is their eyes…if they look at you and the spark is gone…the will to live is gone…the excitement for life and being with you is gone. I also weigh – is my best friend scared or not feeling well or humiliated (due to #1 or #2 in the house that they NEVER would have done before) or god forbid, in any pain. If pain is involved, the decision is easier. How can you ask them to suffer for you when all they want to do is love you? They deserve to never have to suffer and we have to make that call. October is a melancholy month for me as I had to make the choice to put my first dog down. It’s so sad, but I would not have delayed it any further. He loved me with all his heart and I loved him too. Now he is loving me as my little puppy spirit. It’s so amazing how some little furkid, who never spoke, could leave such a hole and quiet emptiness. By February, I had a puppy to love. The first year of the puppy’s life was spent constantly comparing him to Louis, but I try not to do that as much now. Levi is definitely his own dog, but I think he was sent to me by Louis.

  4. Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    As you know, Painter was not doing well after his surgery. Maybe I could have been more patient with his recovery but it was difficult watching him suffer and I was not physically strong enough to lift him when he sat to poop and couldn’t get up. At 12 1/2 which is a near miracle for a greyhound I was ready to let him go. At that point I don’t know who was suffering more — me or him. When I made the decision it was freeing and after he passed I felt a lightness. (Different scenario then yours)

    With Lily she was losing her eyesight but she could hear better than me. When she couldn’t get up for the second time in 2 weeks and screamed out in pain, I knew the time was right. I wanted her to be euthanized in her home like Painter but I didn’t have that luxury as when she couldn’t get up, I could not lift her. I had the opportunity with someone here to lift here and put her in the car and off we went. She still died with dignity in the vet’s office with her and me laying on the dog bed cuddling. She ate cookies before the calming down shot. She was almost 13 years old and it was the right thing to do. (Different from your scenario)

    You have this gift of a month to pamper Frankie. A friend of a friend’s greyhound died last night. He had a seizure and then he died — no warning. No previous seizures.

    Even though my mother had a DNR, the doctor gave her a blood transfusion. I was furious. He said it was his job to save her and I said save her for what? She exists in a goddamn nursing home and falls out of bed every night. Are you saving her for that? Her life was never going to get better.

    You have this gift of time and support. The month is half over. No time may ever seem like the right time.

  5. De Cunningham (@skye
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    When my 16 1/2 year old golden could not get up to greet me I knew. He looked at me with such confusion and lack of understanding. He told me .

  6. Vlad & Barkly's Dee
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    For six weeks around Christmas of 2011, Dannyboy got slower, and sometimes he just wouldn’t want to get up to go outside with his puppy Barkly. He wasn’t eating well–even when I fed him nothing but raw beef.

    The night of January 23, he groaned, went down on me outside, and I almost never got him back in by myself (hubs had been called in to work earlier & not in office at phone). I laid on the cold, hard floor with Dannyboy all night. When hubs got in, I told him it was time. He was in pain for some reason that I didn’t understand this time, and he’d had enough. He’d had removal of tumors the year before, and I knew I was just buying myself time with him to say, “Goodbye.”

    The vet told us that obviously new tumors were now bleeding in his abdominal cavity because he was distended but still soft, and his gums were almost white. I refused to put him through another surgery to try to find tumors and remove them. Told them I refused to put him through so much more pain (IF he lived through it as the vet said.) just for me, and that’s what it would be–just for me.

    I’ve often regretted those last 12 hours of Dannyboy being in so much pain (Though I gave him human painkillers, since it couldn’t do long-term damage to him any longer.), waiting for the vet’s office to open. I’d known that things were getting a lot worse for 6 weeks and didn’t have the guts to do what needed to be done like you’re going for Frankie. When that time comes again, I’ll listen to my head and not my heart–the way you’re doing.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but Dannyboy had good days during those six weeks too. There might have been 12 awful hours, but there were many good times during the earlier days — and ultimately you did let him go rather than subjecting him to another surgery. I think we will always have regrets when we are forced to make decisions like this. I can’t tell you how many times I think I might be letting Frankie go too early, and how much I want him to stay. I do know, however, that I can’t go through this again.

      • Vlad & Barkly's Dee
        Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        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.

        • Edie Jarolim
          Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          Thank you so much for saying that; I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. That would be terrifying for him and I would feel awful.

  7. Debbie Gibson
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I am going through the same heartwrenching situation. My old boy Dukie, 17 and a half…he has survived Cancer , Heart problems and as he has reached old age, blindness, deafness and now dementia…I know in my head I have to say Goodbye soon but my heart breaks and I put it off each day giving myself markers, IF he cannot get up on his now weak legs, IF he stops eating, IF he cries with pain…none of which right now he is doing, he still eats but because of dementia he obsesses with food, looking for more…he still walks and moves but with slowness, he does not cry …after 17 and a quarter years being together…it is the worst time for me…

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I’m so sorry, Debbie. Yes, the downside of spoiling Frankie in these last few weeks is that he’s become rather obsessed with food. For most of his life with me, he couldn’t get much between meals because of his diabetes. Now he roams the house looking for more. Today I put some in his bed, hoping he would find it and fall asleep!

      I hope you find a moment that feels right for you. It is so, so difficult. My heart is with you.

    • Rebecca Boren
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      My Alexander was almost 18 back when an old dog was 10. We had been together since he was a fluffy white 10 week old puppy, and I could not imagine life without him sleeping at the foot of my bed. He was blind and deaf, but navigated just fine by smell and familiar paths inside out. But then came the evening I looked up to see him staggering in a confused circle in dining room. He was clearly lost and frightened. I took him into my arms, held and petted him until he was calm and relaxed, then asked if he was ready to go. We went to the vet’s the next morning. I suppose he could have lasted longer, but it would have been for me, not him. I never wanted my baby to be scared.

  8. Boo
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Ellie was my 16 year old JRT mix. She had Canine Cognitive Dysfunction at the end of her life.
    I knew it was time when she started to have mild seizures. She seemed lost and confused. She always sat with me and she stopped doing that. She started to stare at me or stand beside me shaking. It looked as if she was saying… Help me.

    I prayed, debated and cried over what to do. My vet told me, she thought it was time but to think about it before I made any decisions. I woke up one morning that week with Ellie curled up next to me. She had not done that for some time. I felt like she had snuggled up to say goodbye.

    I loved her very much and did not want her to be frightened so that morning I knew that it was time.

  9. Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    It was different for each of the last three. Murphy had cancer in her muzzle and on her last day, after dinner she began bleeding heavily from her nose…we raced to our vet and he told me it was time. With Cecil my GSD it was horrible…staying at a friend’s cabin in the deep woods of Northern Wisconsin she developed bloat…middle of nowhere, no vets anywhere (I tried to find one) and a 10 hour drive home…she passed that night. Bruno my Flat Coat had had a few mini-strokes and on “that” early Sunday morning while we were out in his potty place he had another one…He went down to the ground and couldn’t stand up…A neighbor ran and called a vet who lived nearby and the vet came, examined Bru and told me it would be for the best as he wasn’t going to recover from this one. I haven’t had a situation where the decision was mine so I’m not sure how I would handle it.

  10. Judi Wiegle RVT
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I have the privilege (and the pain) of being on the other side of the injection. After waiting what I consider to be too long with my childhood dog (she was 14…I was 24) and spending years in the veterinary profession, when my HEART dog, a champion agility dog, had renal failure, I decided when I had the diagnosis, I would rather do a day too soon than a day too late.

    I had the access to services others may not have. I called my vet (my boss) at noon on a Sunday, and we had the euth done at 1. I ALREADY had sedation with me. I gave her the injection in the car and cradled her in my arms on the way to our clinic while she peacefully lost consciousness. I had as much time as I needed to say good bye.

    We DO THIS, for our clients. We give them the time they need. We discuss as sensitively and quietly as possible what needs to happy and their options following the euthansia.
    Is it easy? Not for anyone. But I believe that it is a service that MUST be done RIGHT.

    No one should question anothers decision on timing. It is personal. The last personal dog we had to euthanize belonged to my 20 year old son. It was the rescue dog that he bonded with when the dog’s foster mom came to visit us. He never remembered a time with out Buddy. We did it in the front yard, on a blanket, and Ethan had the chance to be with his Buddy for as long as he needed.

    We do housecalls for our families. So we can handle life and death in a way that is as comforting as possible for our patients and clients.

    I am grateful for a hospice and comfort minded practice owner.

    Judi RVT, Iowa

  11. MichelleE
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Iam struggling to find a answer to the “when” question with my 16 and a half year old bichon. He has CDS, is deaf and has digestive problems. He also suffers seizures occasionally. I fear there is no magic moment for me and Bart in terms of how will I know when it’s time. We’re taking one day at a time. I love him..he’s my heart dog..as corny as that may sound. If I thought for a moment he was in constant pain, or that his survival depended on extra ordinary veterinary intervention (he hates being fussed over or any changes to his routine) we would say good bye.

  12. Jennifer
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    You have my sympathy….My vet also came to my house. It cost more, but was well worth it in my opinion. His family was with him (and me) and everything was done the best way it could possibly be done. There is no easy way, but I felt this was the easiest on Louis. He’d had diabetes as well. I had 4 days to prepare for euthanasia. He’d developed a cateract that basically exploded. It caused him a great deal of pain. He was only 8. The vet said he would need to have his eye removed and chances were high that it would happen to the other eye and due to diabetes, healing would be rough. He’d just gone to the groomer and we’d been walking the neighborhood and now I had to come to terms with losing him. It was almost impossible to believe.

  13. Borealis
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how to feel about the way Briar died. He was my parents’ dog, the last one who was part of our life as a family living together before I went to college. I was there, dog sitting when I found the first bloody traces of what would turn out to be lung cancer, then staying on after to be with him. It only took him a couple of weeks to die. He had seemed so healthy before that, not quite ten years old, still loving long “walks” that were mostly trotting with a bit of bounding thrown in for good measure.

    My Mom and I were able to be home all day with him those weeks and give him whatever he seemed to want. We kept watching, waiting for a time, going back and forth, but he just kept being there, being him, and he wanted so much to be with us. The night before he died, he woke my mother up in the middle of the night just to play. He was very weak by then, working so hard to breath. We sat with him that day on the couch, knowing it would be soon, talking it over, now, tomorrow, a few hours? He had to hold his head up to breath. It was time. I don’t remember exactly when in the sequence we called my father and sister to come home and take him to the vet with us. What I do remember is that he got up and went to the door. I went out with him, and he stood on a snow bank for the moment, alert, nose in the breeze, looking so much himself still, still taking pleasure in the wind and the world. He was so beautiful.

    And then the young dog got out of the house and knocked him down and for a moment it was so terrible because I wanted so much to get him back up, to check on him, to help him, but all I could do was grab Lyssa and get her inside and away. Finally I was able to get back to him and eventually to get him up. I wanted to take him back inside where it was warm, but he turned away from me and went under the porch. My father and sister weren’t back yet and it didn’t seem like he was going to make it to the vet’s so I let him be, just stayed outside and shoveled snow and looked in on him from time to time, and in a very few minutes he was dead.

    In a way it was obviously too late. I know he suffered. I know he must have been suffering even before that last day. I hate that that happened for him, that we let it. But at the same time, I don’t know that I would do it differently. He seemed to know what he was doing. He seemed to have things left to do up until the end. He seemed to be going through a process of saying goodbye. He seemed so strong. He seemed to want to be with us not out of neediness but out of love. He did not ask to go. He did not seem scared. We kept expecting there to be a time when he was ready to go–we have euthanized other dogs and we didn’t think we were waiting for him to die on his own–but when that time came when he seemed ready, his body was ready too, and he died.

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense or if it’s mostly rationalization. I do know that I was proud of him. Death seemed like a thing he was doing actively, and I still don’t know if we should have let him, but I know he did it well.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much for your moving story. It sounds like Briar wanted to do things his way and you let him. That can’t be a bad thing, even if bad things and sad things happened along the way. I suspect it was more painful for you than it was for him, because he still wanted to play his last night.

      • Borealis
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. I do think he wanted to do things himself, but I’m not entirely sure of my own perception. I second guess it, but I don’t beat myself up about it; these things always come down to perception. I know it was painful for him, but I’m not sure how much or for how long. I hope it was mostly at the very end. Had we had the drugs, we would have used them when he went under the porch. If he could have used them himself, I think he might have then. That will always be a big part of how I decide; what I think they would want if they could choose. It can’t be the only factor–after all, it’s based on imagining them with capacities they don’t have–but I can’t discount it either. The bit that haunts me sometimes is the memory of his body, I won’t describe it, but there were things about it afterwards (not evidence of emotion, physical things) that I think…well, I hate that he had to be awake for that and experience the death of his body.

        I don’t know if the playing was because he felt playful or if it was mostly a particular kind of connection he wanted to feel and express. Either way, I feel like we saw a strength in our sweet, tender, needy boy that we never would have known was there if we hadn’t waited. He told us something about himself those last few days that has become an important part of how I think of him now. So I second guess his dying time, but I also treasure it.

  14. Posted October 17, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    With Jasmine it was quite obvious she was suffering. The odds of her getting back the life she loved were very low, in fact, I could get the vet to say a number at all. And we did “cheat” a bit and talked to an animal communicator.

  15. Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    I honestly shouldn’t give anybody advice on that. My judgment has always been clouded in this and I seem to ignore the signs. I can only thank having had good vets so far that hinted me it might be time to let go, and opened my eyes for the signs that were obviously there, but I ignored to acknowledge. My biggest mistake, I think, is to blindly focus on what still is good.

  16. Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    How funny that this should be one of your posts. I wrote a similar one because I felt like I had never had one of my dogs tell me when it was time to let go. Never. Of course, I also know that I have a hard time letting go, so I don’t always see the signs in the same way.

    I don’t have an answer for you, but I will tell you that this post alone will likely resonate with people and continue to help them long after Frankie is gone. I wrote my post over two years ago and people continue to post their fears and worry and sadness and ask for others to weigh in, and they do. It’s turned into a type of support group. Maybe as others share their stories and help you, they will help others too.

  17. Gemma
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I knew it was time when my Onyx collapsed in the driveway & couldn’t get up without help. She had been increasingly shaky & had lost control of her bladder. I had had her since she was 6 weeks old, & had been in denial up to that point. It was a sad day that my husband & I had been dreading.

  18. Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I wish you peace and comfort in your decision.
    Brooks maybe never would have let us know how much pain he was in. We had to pick up on subtle things. He started standing and would sort of zone out, standing. I thought maybe his hips hurt. The vet found he was filled with cancer and gave him 3 to 8 weeks. The very next day he started having horrible seizures that wouldn’t stop. We took him to the emergency vet and they gave me no hope they could do anything. Still, I stood there by his side for another hour or more as he went through more seizures, unable to let him go. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I don’t suppose it’s ever easy.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Oh, Peggy, I’m so sorry. That sounds heartbreaking, especially because it was so shocking.

  19. Debarella
    Posted October 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Brandy was my mom’s dog, adopted from the shelter I was working at at the time. She was a feisty, happy-go-lucky dog and was my mom’s constant companion for 6 years until my mom passed away. One of my most comforting memories of that time was Brandy lying with my mom on her hospital bed, always keeping her company. When my mom died, Brandy came to live with my family for several years.

    I don’t remember exactly when we figured out that she also had CCD. She was at least 15 years old with some physical problems, but nothing that really slowed her down. But she was wandering a lot, getting “stuck” in corners and was pooping at random in the house (which wasn’t the biggest issue as far as I was concerned.) Her hearing and eyesight were going downhill as well. (We did try medication for her, but I don’t remember if it helped or not or for how long this went on.)

    It was when I realized that she was afraid all of the time that I was finally able to let her go. She had always been a cuddly dog, but she became jumpy and startled whenever she was touched and didn’t seem to find any comfort in being held and petted. (My grandmother was in a nursing home at the time and it reminded me quite a bit of one woman there who was also very afraid and would cry and yell for help frequently.)

    I am very grateful to my vet at the time who was willing to come to my house to help Brandy pass peacefully. I do wish more vets would make this available to their clients.

    It was difficult to come to this decision for a dog that was physically still doing great, but seeing her in fear most of the time and realizing that she was not going to get better made me know we were doing the right thing for her.

    I hope this helps you in some small way, Edie. IMHO dealing with CCD does add a different dimension to the problem of “knowing when.” In our case, it felt more clear-cut and definitely the right thing to do.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      Thank you for telling your story, Debarella. It does help to know that others have gone through similar doubts and have come through the other side feeling that they did the right thing.

  20. Lynn Levit
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I have had 2 Akitas who ended their long lives (13 yrs. old) with cancers. They were not in obvious pain,but I know dogs are stoic….
    I fluctuated so in making the decision…wanting to hold on to them just a bit longer.
    Then, a vet.tech at my Vet.Clinic told me this: When a dog has 3 joys in life,it is still worth living. When a dog has 2 joys in life,start thinking about “the end”. When a dog has 1 joy in life,it is time.
    My dogs were retreating into there own world. No longer WITH me very much. Their 1 joy was food…..as hard as it was for me to let go, it was time.
    The words from the vet. tech. helped me SO MUCH in making the decision.
    I did have their regular vet. (and tech.) come to the house. It was very comforting to sit around and reminisce while the first tranquilizing shot took effect. We lavished her with love, and she went peacefully, in familiar surroundings,with people who cared.

  21. Posted November 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Where do I start? My beloved Henry is still alive but I feel as if I am losing him every day.

    Thirteen years ago I was called to help evaluate a Cairn Terrier in trouble. His family had sent this 11 month old puppy to his Vets in order to euthanize him. They had tried training and worked with a behaviorist but they finally concluded that he was dangerous and untreatable. The Vet had called me as a last resort. He knew I had just lost my lovable Sammy and Henry didn’t have another alternative. It was love at first sight and I was determined to change his fate.

    Henry is a big, beautiful blond Cairn who was bred and born in a puppy mill. His original owners were not mistaken that he was a dangerous dog for their family (including their young children) to keep. He and I were just lucky to find each other. Henry needed help and I was looking for a challenge. His early years were spent in evaluating his behavior with the help of experts from AMC and the University of Pennsylvania, training classes, fun socialization, agility classes and busy days accompanying me while I worked with dogs. He and I built a wonderful friendship, a home and a business together. With the help of some very kind and smart people and medication, Henry overcame his terror of noises and his fear and territorial aggression. He became my helper with shy dogs, a lover of people who adores children and the best friend I have ever had.
    Henry has always been as healthy as a horse. Soon he will be fourteen but his hearing and eyesight are perfect, his senior bloods indicate perfect health, his appetite for his breakfast and treats is as hearty as ever and this morning he was out running the yard with his dog buddies. Everything was perfect until slowly and gradually my Henry started to show signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. At first he just seemed to be less enthusiastic about going out to play. I thought his hearing was the problem when I called for the dogs to go out and he just stayed in bed. Then, about six months ago, his buddy Toby died and Henry’s problems seemed to accelerate. He began to stand and stare as if in a trance or get lost in his own yard. Stairs now have gates and rugs have been replaced with washable whelping pads. I am happy to make any adjustment to make things easier and safer for him.

    What is truly heartbreaking for me is to see his tail tucked between his legs all of the time. He may raise it up at half mast and swish it a bit for a cookie or a lot of clapping and praise but it soon sinks down tight underneath him. He has never lowered his proud little carrot shaped, Cairn tail in his life except during a thunder storm…ever. Is he so frightened? I don’t know if it’s fear or something else. I am worried that I am being selfish hoping that it is something else. If only I could be sure. We worked so hard to give him a happy fear free life it would be so sad to have him end his life that way.

    My Vet and I have discussed Anipryl but I would have to take Henry off the medications that he has been taking for years. He would have to be off them for months then given the Anipryl. If it didn’t work he could go back on his meds. The last time Henry had to be taken off his meds he had a terrible time stopping and starting them back up again. My Vet suggested I try a supplement called Senilife first and see if it helps. I know that waiting is risking letting him get worse but I just can’t figure out what will help or hurt him more.

    I am still, somehow, hoping that Henry has more happy time left with me but I am starting to understand that this will be reason I will lose him. My relationship with Henry has been the best, closest and deepest I have ever had with another living creature.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted November 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Oh Beth, I am so sorry for what you’re going through. I don’t know how much of my blog you read but CDS (which I call CCD) is the reason I finally decided to let Frankie go. So I know exactly how you’re feeling.

      I would suggest you start him on Senilife — it can’t hurt because it’s an antioxidant and can only help. A veterinary expert that I interviewed said as many — if not more — dogs are helped by supplements such as Senilife as are helped by Anipryl. So you’re not losing time. You’re trying a treatment that works on many.

      I hope it helps but no matter what please don’t feel bad about this. You gave Henry a wonderful life (as I gave Frankie) and always did your best. That’s all that we can ask of ourselves — and that’s a lot.

      Best of luck to you and Henry.

      Virtual hugs,
      Edie

      • Posted November 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        Hi Edie,
        I first found your blog the other day while I was wandering around the web looking for a miracle for Henry. It meant so much to read someone putting into words the fear this disease causes and why you would not want to put your dog through it.
        I have had many beloved dogs who I have treated through diabetes, heart disease, cushings and more but I have never loved a dog of my own with CCD.

        I just hope I am brave enough to forget about my own sadness and go forward with Henry’s needs in mind.

        Thanks for the encouragement regarding the Senilife. I am giving it the two months that my Vet recommended and now I feel better about it. If you know of a blog that I can go to for support in that process I would appreciate your letting me know. I am going to take your very good advise and seek a Hospice Vet to help me make this decision.

        I am so sorry about Frankie but he was a lucky little boy to have someone who cared more about him than she did herself.

        • Edie Jarolim
          Posted November 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

          Ah, thanks for explaining. I’m glad I could provide some comfort. Yeah, CCD is particularly cruel because dogs can be quite healthy, making a decision doubly tough.

          I’m afraid I don’t know of any blogs that discuss this; that’s one of the reasons I decided to go back to dog blogging. I think it’s difficult to write about because it’s very confusing and painful.

          Yes, two months on Senilife is the amount of time I heard was optimal to give it to work too.

          As for the final decision, it really helped to have an outside opinion, but it sounds like you want to do the right thing for Henry, as painful as it might be. Certainly exhausting all reasonable medical options first is a route that will give you comfort.
          Again, all the best of luck.

  22. Martie
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Although it has been over a year since this blog was posted I have just now come upon it and would like to share my most recent experience. Actually share isn’t the best word, it feels more like unburdening. It has been 3 1/2 years since I said goodbye to Britney.

    Britney was my 14 year old husky mix with a very typical husky personality. High energy, hyper, fun, funny, intelligent, full of life. She was always pretty healthy except for a seizure disorder that had thankfully been under control for years, so no real worries there. I think she knew the medication was helping her because she took it willingly, almost eagerly. I once offered her one of my pills by mistake and she spit it back twice before I realized it was the wrong pill. Her last couple of years became quite ordinary for an older dog, or maybe just more noticeable because she was such an active dog. Her back legs, or hips, began to fail her slightly. It got to the point where I had to help her get in the car because she lacked the strength in her legs to propel herself up. She never seemed to be bothered physically though, she was still very lively and happy.

    A year or so before her final day I had noticed a little spot of blood here or there and determined it was coming from her mouth. The vet found a small tumor on her gum. No treatment was advised, it was just a wait and see approach. As time went on there were occasional instances of blood appearing but nothing substantial until one day when the bleeding was more constant and getting on everything she touched. Still, this did not bother her, just me. She behaved normally in every way, never seemed in pain. This is where the guilt comes in.

    I’m getting pretty old too. I couldn’t see myself spending countless hours trying to stay on top of the blood clean-up task that was now part of my daily life. And I definitely didn’t want to feel any resentment towards her for putting me in this position. It was certainly not her fault. The vet said as the tumor got larger it interfered with eating which was logical, and most likely was why it was now bleeding more. And her weight had slowly been decreasing in the last couple of years. There was really no way to stop the tumor from bleeding short of having it removed but I could not justify putting a 14-year old dog through a costly surgery which may or may not improve and/or extend her life. So I made the decision to let her go at that time, for my sake as much as for hers. Like I said, I didn’t want my memories of my happy girl to include any resentment of my part. Only happy memories of the time we shared. Another part of the guilt is that she was still a vibrant, happy dog who didn’t seem ready to go at all.

    The final part of the guilt was the way in which I said goodbye, and it left me traumatized. I am a shy reserved person, an introvert per se. I don’t show my emotions externally…usually. Especially with people I am not close to. So I sat in the chair while the vet gave her the shot to calm her. Only she didn’t calm. She was fighting the drug. A second dose was given and within a few more minutes it hit her, but not in a peaceful way. She flung herself backwards and fell to the floor in a spastic seizure-like position. And then she drifted off. The vet then administered the fatal drug and she was gone. Oh how I wished I had sat on the floor with her, petting her, comforting her, and maybe I would have if the vet had invited me, but maybe not. I felt like a very cold person. I knew I wasn’t, but I felt like…well, I just wish I had been comfortable with reacting on the outside to how I was feeling on the inside. This will be the lesson I will take from this experience. Maybe it will help others too.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted January 3, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for this story. 14 years is a long life for a large dog like a husky mix and you clearly gave her a very good life, caring for her through her seizures, taking her to the vet for all her ailments. But of course there must be a part of you that knows that. I don’t know why, but we fixate on the negative, the few moments in a life otherwise filled with love and careful tending that weren’t perfect. I remember a flinch my dog, Frankie, made at the end when he was getting the shot, and to this day wonder whether I let him go because of convenience when his mind was failing (though his body wasn’t, really). All this to say, you’re in good company. I hope your unburdening helped.

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