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7 September 2006
In our 40 years of pet ownership, we have had to put a fair number of pets to sleep and it's never easy, but it's generally easy to know when the time has come.
The first pet I had to have put to sleep was a long haired black cat named Magnifi-cat, who was--magnificent. She had been a stray I took in before Walt and I were married and she hadn't been around long enough to bond with me and on this particular day had escaped. I looked and looked for her, but couldn't find her. And then I found her, lying under a car. Apparently she had been hit by a car and her spine was broken. We rushed her to the vet, but there was no hope and I had her put to sleep.
Mutt was with us for a very long time. Though he and I never had a real bond, he was still "family" and over the years we had paid a good amount for repair to his aging, disingetrating spine. But on the day we had him put down, I found him out in the back yard, unable to get up. We had been through this before and it had happened again. The vets were not encouraging and so, we said goodbye to Mutt.
I honestly don't remember when/how we made the decision to put Jeff down. Jeff had survived a "walkabout" for a week that nearly killed him but he lived a full life following that. It's odd that I have no memory of his death because he was really the first dog who was "my" dog, as he bonded with me as a puppy. I have a vague memory that Walt took on the job of taking him for his last ride to the vet, but I really don't remember.
Seymour had liver cancer. She was the kids' dog, and in her later years, she spent most of her time with Paul, since the others had all moved away. As she got sicker and sicker, I told Paul that the decision of "when" would be his. There was no question about the day. She was sitting by a chair, her head resting on the seat, not moving, just staring off into space. This was a dog whose life was balls. She would have made a great shortstop. She could catch any ball, thrown at any speed in any direction. But she had lost interest in chasing balls, or in anything else. Paul wanted to take her to the vet alone, and did. It was a very painful time for all of us. Afterwards Paul drew a picture of her that captured her essence so beautifully.
Toby just got old. And arthritic. He got to where he could barely move and we decided that his quality of life had diminished to such a degree that it was cruel to keep him alive. Paul and I took him to the vet together and we both held him while the vet gave the final injection. Walt wanted to be with us, but didn't see our car (I can't remember what car we came in) and so didn't realize we were inside. Paul and I cried together, telling Toby what a wonderful dog he had been. I still cry when I think of that painful moment.
We had to put two more dogs to sleep that same year, both had been with us for a short period of time and both had cancer. Benjy died within 6 months of Paul. He had been given to us by a friend, who convinced me this was the perfect dog for me. He was, but we had him less than a year before he died. I missed his nightly leaps into my lap, but we hadn't been together long enough for this to be a real wrenching separation. Then Paul's widow brought us Buddy, a stray who had been adopted by one of her veterinary technicians (Audra is a vet) and who, unbenownst to anybody, had bone cancer, which was discovered just a couple of months after he moved in with us. Buddy was put to sleep before we had a chance to bond with him much at all (Peggy went with me to have that dog put to sleep).
1999 was a bad year we lost a son and three dogs. We were beginning to feel there was a black cloud over our house!
Now we are facing another time when we are starting to wonder when it's time to pull the plug on Kimba (who is 16+). I often think of Kimba as having become an autistic dog. She lives in her own world and doesn't really interact much with anybody, other than to growl at puppies and bark at Sheila (which she hasn't done in months). She is my shadow, following me everywhere, but she is deaf, so she doesn't respond to calls. If it's suppertime, she won't come if I call, but will respond if I show her her food dish.
She always meets us at the door and tries to get outside, which Walt blocks and I keep pointing out is silly because she moves so slowly, we can easily catch her before she could get very far...but she never goes very far--barely makes it to the grass before turning around and coming back inside.
She has a couple of main problems, one of which is probably more our problem than hers, that is that she either can't or won't go outside to eliminate most of the time. I think that some of the time this is because she forgets, some of the time because she hurts too much to go out the dog door, some of the time becasue she isn't aware of what is going on. But I no longer walk barefoot around the house because I don't like suddenly stepping in either a wet spot on a rug or a puddle on the floor, especially in the middle of the night.
I frequently wake up to such a collection of little "tootsie rolls" (as Walt aptly describes them), sometimes lining the hallway as if she had left a trail behind her so she could find her way back to the living room again, or hidden away like little brown Easter eggs, under the kitchen table, or in the kitchen itself, or where you don't expect them and step in them.
I've watched her walk across the floor, poop falling out behind her, Kimba seemingly unaware that anything is happening.
Other times, she struggles to her feet, staggers toward the dog door and then squats to pee right in front of it. I am assuming this is because she hurts too much to actually go out the door and I have considerately provided a "peeing rug" there for her.
Other times, she makes it to the dog door, and struggles to get out, her back legs dragging behind her. Then she hobbles as far as she can, sometimes only a step or two...sometimes all the way out to the dirt...to pee.
But that kind of goes along with having an old dog around the house. You don't put a dog to sleep after 16 years just because s/he can't make it outside to pee. (Though you would like to!)
The thing that makes me wonder about when it's "time" is watching her move. Her spindly legs barely hold her body (though she has slimmed down a lot and the doctor says her weight is fine) and she struggles and struggles both to get to her feet and then to get back down to a sitting position again. Once in a "down" position, you'd think she'd stay there, but if I move, she moves. If I go to the kitchen, she goes to the kitchen. If I go to the bathroom, I find her lying next to the door when I try to come out and I have to push her out of the way with the door.
And then she paces. I read somewhere that dogs don't always whimper when they are in pain, and that frequently they pace. There are nights when I'm watching TV and Kimba is just very restless. She walks to my office, then to the kitchen, then down the hall, then back to struggle to get to a lying down position again, then she gets up and paces again.
There is a part of me that thinks it's really time to let her go, but then I look at the big grin on her face and the wagging tail when it's mealtime (the only time she really interacts with us) and I wonder if she thinks that her quality of life has diminished to a point where it's time to call an end to it. Making the decision for this dog is the most difficult yet.
This just in, thanks to Katherine. What was it that the man in the White House said about "zero tolerance" for countries that harbor terrorists? Read the article and watch the news excerpt from ABC news. Boggles the mind.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
In her "cave" under my desk