If dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one. ~Andy Rooney

I always agreed with this statement until recently. See our black lab, was born the week we got married. In case you missed my Wedding post, that is this week, 14 years ago. This dog, he was our baby. Before we had babies. And with the birth of each child he has graciously accepted his inevitable change in station.
He has allowed children to sit on him, pull on his ears, dress him up, and make him do tricks for treats. He desperately tried to keep his dignity, but it's hard when a two year old is making you "preny" with mardi gras beads. This amazingly gentle and obedient animal has certainly seen better days. I keep looking it up, the numbers do not change, the average life span of a labrador retriever is 10 to 12 years. We have already gotten more time than most.

I worked for a veterinarian in high school. My parents are on dog #3 in my lifetime. I held the dog I grew up with as we put her to sleep before I left for college. We knew my dad couldn't do it, and it was well past time. I always said I would know and willingly let go. I always just thought it would be obvious that it was time to let go. And of course I hoped he would just painlessly go to sleep and not wake up. Never did I want to imagine that we would have questions as to when to do the right thing.

Two summers ago when I took him in for annual shots so he could be boarded while we took our annual beach vacation. The vet told me he had a bunch of grape sized tumors on his belly. And these were not like the fatty tumor on his side. They were probably cancer. The vet and I talked about what if any course of action we would take. We agreed at 12 years old that going under anesthesia to remove the tumors was dangerous, and of course there was no guarantee that surgery would get all the cancer either. He did not seem to be in pain, so it was decided to just let things run their course. The vet told me to talk to my kids about losing him, as she didn't think we had more than a year left. Did I mention that was 2 years ago? That old man is of hardy stock I tell ya.

A year ago when we left for our annual summer beach vacation we really thought that would be the last time we would have to ask our wonderful friends to dog sit for us. Boarding him, stresses him out in his old age, it is easier on him to let him stay home. Surely he wouldn't be around the next time we left on vacation. Yet there he was, tired, but still eating and going outside to do his business over Spring Break when we planned a 10 day trip to Texas. Once again our great friends stepped up, split the days in half and came over 3 times a day to let the old man out.

Now we are once again getting ready for our annual summer beach vacation and he's still with us.
But this year it's different. He is really showing his age. He has better days and bad days, but I'm just wondering if he's had enough? His quality of life is minimal, he really can't play because of his arthritis, so no one even tries anymore. Seeing as the last couple of baths have stressed him so much, we obviously don't bathe him often which means he's stinky. He asks to go outside, a lot, often just to turn around and bark to come back in. All of which are a nuisance, and he is the epitome of a good dog, trying to please at all times. I can see in his eyes that he is sad and it makes me sad.

For KBHR I know the worst is not being able to make it outside to do his business. And in the last month he's had a few accidents in the house. I could count on one hand how many times that dog has relieved himself inside, ever, in 14 years... until recently. Even when we brought him home as a 10 week old puppy an I tried to paper train him. The pup, he LAUGHED at me! The crazy lady wanted him to pee inside the house? The hell?! He stood at the door until I opened it, lifted his leg on the bush by the porch and proudly pranced back inside. That's my boy!

The truth of the matter? I feel guilty even thinking about it, much less discussing it with hubby. Has he just become a burden? After all he has loved us all unconditionally for 14 years. We should be able to put up with the inconvenience of his old age, right? I was of course googling info and found this which helps me a little.

"For the more general question of how to you tell when the time has come for
euthanasia, I think that most clients really reach a point where they
aren't questioning when the time will come or whether the time is right,
they just know that it is. Some clients (and me, unfortunately) reach this
decision only after their pet has shown clear signs of severe pain, total
inability to eat or other severe signs that are hard to miss. Other
clients reach this time when the pet becomes inconvenient to care for or
when pain and suffering are chronic but not severe. In the overall scheme
of things the difference in timing is usually so short that I think very
few people make really bad decisions. It is a time to trust your instincts.
You will probably know exactly when the time has come."
Right now he still has an appetite and sometimes I still see a small spark of our boy. Who knows, maybe we'll get another year? So Drama and Star, I know you are reading and you all know you'll be getting the email soon asking you to take care of the animals while we are gone. Right?

15 comments:

Just reading this made me tear up as we too have a dog that is aging and we are asking ourselves these same questions.

I think part of loving them involves knowing when to let go without guilt.

Best of luck.

June 30, 2008 at 11:02 AM  

awww this made me tear up.
I had to put my cat to sleep about 9 years ago. he had liver disease and we let him go until he TOLD us he was done. It was so hard. I could not go with him to the vet, I had to send a friend. I am such a whimp.
I hope the old man hangs in there some more and then he will tell you with his eyes, you will see when he is done.

June 30, 2008 at 11:44 AM  

oh, Karen, I'm so sorry. It's so hard to have a member of your family decline so gradually ... especially this pet that you've loved for so long.

But if you are already questioning it, maybe that's the right answer ... you don't want him to be in pain anymore.

I'm thinking about you.

June 30, 2008 at 11:51 AM  

Oh geez... now I'm crying. That was so beautiful. And to top it off with the slideshow... you're killing me!

I don't know what is right as I've never had to make this decision. From your post it doesn't seem to be the right time just yet.

June 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM  

awe sweet sweet old doggie. I am available to take care of him. No problem. Those end of life decisions sure do suck......

Shadow definetely let me know. She just layed there and didn't make a peep. She was ready.

Spanky says HI

June 30, 2008 at 5:09 PM  

This is a very hard thing to face. It sounds like you will know what to do and when to do it.

June 30, 2008 at 5:14 PM  

The old man....I will be glad to help out...we will do our best to keep him happy for another week!

June 30, 2008 at 7:12 PM  

What a great post about your furry friend - as the fur-mom to four, I can understand and empathize. Watching pets grow older and more feeble is just simply heartbreaking. I've had to say good bye to several beloved furry ones before they had to be put to sleep, and it's never an easy decision. All I can say is that you'll know when the time has come that your pup has more suffering than comfort in his life.

Thanks for coming to visit me! I really like your blog!

June 30, 2008 at 8:51 PM  

Aww, bless you guys. Dogs really are so lovable in their ridiculously generous loyalty.

If we were not 3000 miles away, I'd take your KBHR (best name ever!) while you're gone. We've been petsitting a chocolate lab and she's a wiggly, droolly, sweet delight, much like your boy, I'm sure.

July 1, 2008 at 12:47 AM  

Ah, it is the same with my old black lab Jack--he will be 13 soon and he has been with us since his birth, is covered with tumors and isn't always sure if he is inside or out or what is going on and the vet said last Novemeber he didn't have much time....but he still wants to chase his ball and play and is as sweet as ever!

July 1, 2008 at 9:15 AM  

Here via Mrs. G's house party.

There is no perfect time to say good-bye to a beloved friend. As long as you're being thoughtful and present with the process, there's not much else you can do.

July 1, 2008 at 8:22 PM  

OH DEAR My lab is 9 and I am beginning to think about this. And I'm crying. Today, against my better judgment, I finally caved and bought Daughter her very own puppy - I am an "ijiot" but we have talked about it for a year (or more) and it's hers and what was one of her arguments? "When Chessie goes, Lorelai will make it less painful." Sheesh.

July 1, 2008 at 10:36 PM  

Part of loving the dog is knowing when to say goodbye. They can't tell you - puppy has trusted you for 14 years to make the right decisions for him. We had to put our 9 year old lab (still so young) down about a year ago. She had arthritis badly in her knees and elbows and then she tore her achilles tendon playing ball. Doc said they could fix it, but she couldn't run or play ball or go hiking anymore. This 9 year old dog LOVED nothing more than going hiking and playing ball and swimming, even if it meant terrible pain later.

We decided to put her down. Doc was "disappointed in us" . . . we explained that she wants to go with, but we can't take her, and the look of sadness on her face is unbearable. She is so sad sitting around all day, hurting. Her quality of life was awful. Doc then understood.

It sucked. It really sucked for the kids. But it was the right decision.

You'll do what's best for your pup . . . I'm thinking about you and the fam!

July 3, 2008 at 4:50 PM  

Oh. I'm so sorry you are having to go through this. You can take comfort in the fact that you gave him the best life any dog could ask for.

August 1, 2008 at 9:20 AM  

It's never easy to say good-bye to such loyal members of the family. What a sweet guy - I love the pics with the girls sitting on him. There is a book called "Up in Heaven" that you might find in the library (it is out of print) that is about an old dog dying on how she helps the young boy left behind cope with her death by sending him dreams. It might help...

Hugs to your family...

August 1, 2008 at 12:44 PM  

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