Cynthia from You Signed Up for What?, Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, and Mar from Mar on the Run have 5 best race signs as this week’s Friday Five linkup. Except my short term memory isn’t quite what it ought to be and I usually don’t remember the signs, even if they do sometimes help during the race. Love to read what your favorites are, though, and hope it’s okay that this post has nothing to do with running.
And now we’re going to turn to the dark side. This post has nothing at all to do with running, and everything to do with what’s on my mind right now. It’s been playing in my mind almost constantly the last couple of weeks: how do you know when it’s time to let your beloved furkid go?
For those who don’t know, Chester, one of our dogs, is in heart failure. And he’s nearing the end. My husband was away this past week and we knew there was a fifty’fifty chance Chester wouldn’t be here when he got back. Thankfully he’s still here, and doing relatively well considering his condition, but it was a very long week and the outcome was uncertain.
It’s not the first time — or the last, I’m quite sure, considering I have another senior dog and a geriatric cat — that I’ve gone through this process. So I wanted to share my thoughts on how you make that decision. I often say it’s the hardest decision we have to make for them; and the most loving.
They’ll give you the “look”
People say this all the time. I have many dear friends who say this. Quite frankly, I’ve never gotten the “look”. Animals are such fighters. And they often rally right before the end, too. I remember a previous cat, who basically hadn’t eaten in a few days, coming home after we’d gone to the vet to insert a catheter (so she could be put to sleep peacefully at home) suddenly demanding food. It didn’t last long and we kept the appointment.
There are definitely times Chester looks at me and looks very tired. And then he’s running around, chasing birds and squirrels, wagging his tail, and begging for food.
They stop doing the things they love
Chester, for instance, is still barking at the UPS man. He still chases his squeaky toy. He still enjoys his walks, most days, although there have been a number of days when he has been too tired to walk or the trip to the park this week where I carried him for almost the entire walk. He still has a great appetite. He goes up and down the stairs on his own most days, although on a bad day I have carried him up and down those stairs. He’s still doing his business outside, except for just a very small number of accidents (two so far). He sleeps pressed against me at night, although no longer underneath the covers.
They stop eating
It seems like it should be such a clear signal, and for Chester, I’ve told my husband if he stops eating I’ll know it’s time. This dog will eat almost anything. He once ate rat poison and lived to tell the tale. Even on his sickest days, he has a great appetite and hangs around the dinner table hoping for scraps (despite the fact we don’t feed him from the table). So far.
They have more bad days than good days
Yes, Chester does have his bad days. Days when he’s too tired to go for a walk. Days when he can barely breathe. And for the first time this week, a day where he collapsed (although he went on his afternoon walk just find and chased a bird in the backyard that night).
So far, the good days are still outweighing the bad. But most likely for him, it will change very quickly. The cardiologist has said we’re about out of treatment options.
They’re in pain
Chester isn’t in pain. Which is not to say he always feels well — he moans and groans sometimes, and is clearly uncomfortable sometimes. Until you offer him some food and then he’s up and wagging his tail so quickly it’ll make your head spin — even on his worst days, so far, he’s always up for a snack.
This dog who was always glued to my lap no longer lays on me; he gets up and curls up with me on the couch occasionally, but rarely for more than a minute. Unless food is involved; then he’s your best buddy. Do you see a theme there?
I’m not sharing this to depress you or make you sad. I’m sharing this in the hopes that maybe somebody out there is struggling with this too, and this information might help ease their decision.
Have your animals given you the “look”?