how do you know when its time?

Phil and I are one of those couples that are, usually, sickeningly, in sync.

We like a lot of the same things, the same people irritate us, and we both try to convince the other that “shovelling is fun!” but neither of us actually believe it.

But lately we are at odds and we just cannot seem to agree on a looming decision.

When Maya was a puppy, we found out that she had severe hip dysplasia and that after a few years, she would probably be in so much pain that we would have to put her down.  It was a lot to take in as we looked at our 8 month old puppy, but we decided to make the most out of whatever time we would have with her.

We talked about a lot about it, if we could afford the hip replacement surgery (the answer is no), and how long we would let her live in pain.  We both agreed that we would make a decision that would be best for her – we didn’t want to force her to live in pain just because we couldn’t bear to say good-bye.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy to do, but figured we would just know when it was time.

Turns out we were wrong – we have no idea.

I think that we are past that stage now; that we have been at that stage for several months.  When I look at our dog, I see a sad, sore dog who doesn’t move much because it hurts too much to do so.  She lays on her bed all day, and only gets up to have a drink of water, go to the bathroom, or if there is any possibility of food falling on the ground.

I see a dog who, when she does get up and walk around, struggles to do so.  She has lost so much musculature in her hind quarters that she often doesn’t have the strength to keep her back legs under her.  She takes small steps and only lifts her back feet enough to barely clear the ground.  If she walks down the steps too quick, or takes a corner without enough care, her back legs just collapse under her.  We have laid carpet all over the floor because she can’t navigate the hard wood floors anymore without falling.

I see a dog who breathes like she has just run a mile, when she has done nothing more than roll over.

I see a dog who is old and sore and it makes me incredibly sad.

Phil, on the other hand, sees a dog who still gets excited when some food falls on the floor.  He sees a dog who is still up for going for a walk regardless of the effect it will have on her.  He sees a dog who is only 10 years old, and the thought of putting her down makes him very sad.

It’s not an easy thing to decide when you put your dog down.

We took her to the vet last month to try to get to the bottom of her – ahem – intestinal issues, and the doctor told us that her pooping is the least of our worries with the way that she is moving around.  During her exam, he noted that she has lost most of her muscle tone in her back half.  We grilled him about how to recognize when its time, and he told us to take emotion out of it – to mark on a calendar whether each day is a “good day” or a “bad day”.  When the bad days outweigh the good days, then you know its time to let her go.

When I asked him what a “bad day” looks like, and he said when she doesn’t have any interest in doing much or doesn’t want to play and just lays around all day, because she is too sore to do anything else.

Maya was at that point about 3 years ago.

I am ready, I will be heartbroken when we have to do it, but I know that her pain will be over.

Phil is not, and that’s not a decision I can force on him – so I try to show him, to make him aware of her pain – when she sits down, she stands up, when she walks up and down the 2 steps to go outside.  But this just upsets him, and he thinks I am trying to push this idea on him, and he gets mad at me.

I don’t know which is right.

How would you decide?

0 thoughts on “how do you know when its time?

  1. Oh, Robyn, I had to make the decision to put my cat down after 17 1/2 years of being blessed by her. It was the most responsible, heartbreaking, loving decision I’ve ever made in my whole life.

    I remember reading an article by a vet who made it clear that just because our beloved pets – our children with fur – purr or bark or smile at us because we are the center of our world doesn’t mean that they don’t feel the agony of pain. Knowing that my kitty was in pain, that she was confused with dementia, and that it was so hard for her to get warm made me realize that I was prolonging her life out of my selfish wanting to not imagine life without her fluffy tummy and her purring next to me watching TV.

    The decision wasn’t painful; the carrying out of the decision was. But I knew when it was all done that is was the best decision I made for that cat, who I still mourn 15 months later.

  2. It’s the worst possible decision to have to make. It’s impossible to take the emotion out of it. She’s your baby. How do you not get emotional about that.

    So let me say this…you are not the type of people who will put their dog down because she’s an inconvenience. Never once did you mention that as a reason. Your heart is in the right place and you are doing this for the right reasons.

    I understand where Phil is coming from and I know that he feels putting her down is a mean thing to do. But sometimes, putting a dog down is the most compassionate things. Yes, a little food makes her happy because she is a dog and she is ruled by the belly. And she’ll go for a walk…but probably because it makes Phil happy…not because it’s what she wants to do.

    Spending your life in pain and being miserable is no way to live. If the dog is suffering…and she probably is suffering…putting her down is an act of love.

    I’m so sorry that you are having to make this decision. My heart goes out to you both and to Maya.

  3. I am sorry you are at this point with Maya…I teared up reading this. Now that I am a pet owner, I just can’t even imagine having to make the decision. But I do know that I hate seeing animals in pain. It sounds like you are being sound and reasonable with what needs to be done. I hope Wilzie can get to that point with you–you will need each other for this. Maybe you should do the calendar idea but make Wilzie responsible for noting down whether it was a good day or not for Maya. It might help him face the facts–as hard as they are. Thinking of you all…~~Bliss

  4. This is so sad. But if Maya is in pain everyday and there is one thing that can be done to relieve her, I think it must be done. When you’re both ready. Phil can make her a special meal and you can say your goodbyes. What a terrible day it will be – but necessary. What quality of life does she have now??
    I got my dog fixed because I convinced myself that she probably had cramps when she was in heat and that broke my heart!

  5. I’m sorry you are going through this. My mom had to put down the family beagle yesterday so I know how hard it is. I think my mom and dad had argued about it for awhile but my Dad was finally really able to see how much pain she was in in the past few weeks and support my mom and the doctor’s advice. I think you are doing the best you can and Wilzie will see it too eventually.

  6. People let go of the ones they love in so many different ways. You are ready, Maya seems ready, but Phil is not. Maybe he can let her go without having to actually take her in to do the deed, if you feel that is something you can handle. I understand it’s the timing that is an issue and that she is suffering and you don’t want to prolong it but maybe Phil can tell you he doesn’t feel ready but give you persmission to go ahead with it? I did that with my parents (well I didn’t put my parents down, it was our cat) when I was 16 and our family cat of 18 years was nearly blind and peed on my bed every few minutes. I could see how she was suffering but my parents were not of the same mindset and didn’t believe it. I asked them if they would let me be the one to take her in even if they blamed me for it forever. They agreed and I brought her in when they were at work so that they didn’t have to see her being brought out of the house. It worked for us, they didn’t hate me and told me later it was because I took the lead that it made it so much easier for them to realize she couldn’t go on any longer. I feel for you both, it’s a difficult decision to have to make especially when you feel you are somewhat at odds.

  7. Oh boy this is a tough one because we are most likely going to have to go through this soon and it is going to break my heart. Dogs especially want to please their owner so despite being in pain, they will get up to go on that walk, will walk down the stairs to make sure they don’t have an accident outside, etc. I have no words of wisdom for you and I can only imagine how hard it is going to be. Good luck. :-(

  8. I think everyone has said all the right things.

    Having a dog is like having a child and watching them suffer is the worst case scenario, until you have to put them down. Then it feels like you’re ripping your own heart out. I don’t have any great advice. Just that Phil will get there and Maya will let him know when to let her go. Until then, just make life as comfortable as you can for her. :(

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *