Love, Loyalty, and Loss

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I never imagined that I would feel compelled to share deeply personal feelings on this blog and yet here I am doing just that.

I made the decision yesterday to have my dog, Baby, put to sleep. She was 16 years old. I have had her half of my life. This was not a decision I made lightly and yet I spent most of today second-guessing and regretting my choice.

Was she ready? Was she really in pain? Was it enough pain to “justify” making this decision?

Being a pet owner is ridiculously rewarding and yet exhausting throughout their life. (much too short life)

And at the end of their life to have to decide when “they’re ready” is the worst decision. I have waited for “the look” and I honestly don’t know if she ever truly gave me that or not. This poor dog was in renal failure years ago per her bloodwork. We used medicated food upon the recommendation of a trusted vet and years later when I took her in to have her teeth cleaned they required bloodwork due to her condition and her numbers were perfect! I truly believe that food along with chiropractic care got her back to her normal numbers. It was incredible. I joked that she refused to die and would go as far as to regenerate organ function to stay alive!

Recently she had begun to lose bowel/bladder function. I have always said that if this were to happen to an animal that I would know that it is a time to evaluate quality of life. She would look so ashamed with every accident she had and they became numerous in the last week of her life. I felt anger at the fact that she got into the trash and shortly after had intestinal issues. I blamed her decline of quality of life on this act alone. Did I truly believe this? Maybe. I honestly don’t know. I wanted a reason to be mad at someone else for me having to go through this. I understand that this is beyond selfish but I didn’t want to accept the reality that this was just a part of life. A very crappy part of life.

The worst part was that I was waiting for a sign to know that this was the right choice and I never got that. Ever. Did she seem miserable these last few days? Yes. Have you ever felt anything short of miserable when you had intestinal issues? Doubtful.

She had moments where she looked at me and had the same glimmer in her now glossy eyes due to cataracts. She hopped around on her unstable legs after recently throwing her back out for the second time around 6 weeks ago which coincidentally was on the one year anniversary of when she did this the first time. Last year I felt prepared to put her down when she injured herself for the first time. After taking her in to the vet to have x-rays taken to confirm the injury (2 blown discs) he jokingly said he knew a good chiropractor who worked on animals. This was literally the first time I had thought about adjusting her post injury. It’s crazy how you sometimes need others to say the most obvious things to you for you to even have those thoughts cross your mind. After chiropractic care and cold laser she was back to her normal self less than a week post injury!

This same result came from her second injury time period. We then made changes and put more rugs down etc. to prevent this from happening again.

We had taken our other dog, Rex, into the vet just days before this all started with Baby because he had gotten into something and I was afraid he may have a blockage due to his symptoms. After a trip to the vet and an x-ray they said he looked clear and gave us some medication due to his colitis he was experiencing from whatever he got into. (dogs are ridiculous sometimes)

Anyway, since I had the medication on hand I figured I would give Baby a dose to see if it cleared up her non-productive bowel straining since this is what Rex was experiencing as well. I went to give her a dose and she was uncooperative. I decided to check her gum color to see if it was still pink or if she had lost color. I was looking for a reason to give me permission to say she was dying. When I did this I found that her back tooth was severely infected to the point that it had a hole in it. This moment made me feel like the worst owner possible. How could I have let this go for a long enough time period to cause the damage like this? I honestly don’t know. Life is crazy over here. With a business and kids I’m overwhelmed. I shamefully pushed her to the back of the line and now here she is showing me the results of doing that. It was heartbreaking. Knowing the pain that she may be feeling from the tooth I decided to give her some pain medication we had left over from her back injury weeks ago.

This is when I knew that we would have to make the hardest decision in the near future. I decided to make the best of the weekend with her and gave her everything to eat that was not allowed prior to this point. She ate like a queen. Anything we had I made sure she had some of it as well. This aggravated her brother Rex to no end I’m sure as he didn’t understand the favoritism.

I called Monday to make the appointment hoping secretly that they were overbooked and couldn’t arrange it. That would be my sign that it wasn’t time. They said they would have to schedule me at a time and “work me in” when they could. I reluctantly agreed to this to only have them call me a short time later to let me know that they had a reserved appointment time for us.

It was official now. I went to work for a short time in the morning and had my husband take the kids to his parents so that we could go with her by ourselves.

Before we left I was looking for a reason to not go. I went to give her a treat and for the first time in her life she didn’t take the treat. She acted like she needed to use the restroom so I took her in the front yard and waited for her to go before we left. It looked like she had blood in her stool. I had prayed for God to show me some sort of sign that this was the right thing to do and I believe He gave me two.

The car ride there was devastating. I tried my best not to cry but it was impossible. She looked at me confused and I had nothing to say but just cry.

When we got there I thought I would be okay until we made it into a room but they were busy and there were a lot of people with their healthy dogs in the waiting area. I lost it and had to step outside. It was becoming all too real and I just couldn’t handle it.

I finally went back in and sat beside my husband who was holding her while they got a room ready for us.

They came to get us and took us back into a room. We brought her bed so she was comfortable and on her familiar bed to take her final rest.

Our vet came in and assumed that we knew how this would work. We didn’t. I’ve never had to make a decision like this for a dog before and it was terrible hearing him explain the possible things that may happen once the sedative was administered.

You know what though? It was beautiful. She was loved on by us until she peacefully went to sleep. She didn’t have any of the possible things happen. She gracefully crossed the rainbow bridge. It was the hardest thing I have had to do and I have regretted and questioned whether or not I should have made this choice.

I hear from others that eventually I will know that it is the right decision and I honestly can’t wait for that day because right now this really sucks.

I miss waking up and letting her out. I miss having her lay by us on her bed in the living room to just survey and watch over us and the kids. I miss having to tell the kids to be careful playing around her because she was known to nip at anything that startled her once she started losing her vision.

I just miss her.

Having kids has made this experience both so happy and so sad. My sweet oldest has said prayers for Baby many times. She has tried to comfort me when I cry. She has asked God to bring her back so I’m not sad. It’s incredibly sweet and sad at the same time.

I wanted to share this with you to let you know that if you’ve been waiting for “the right time” or “the look” that you may never get it. Our vet said only the lucky few get to wake up to find their senior dogs had died in their sleep. We weren’t one of the lucky ones. I prayed for this. I selfishly prayed to wake up and find her dead. It never happened.

Part of me knows deep down that this was actually a way to honor her but the other part feels selfish for having the power to make this type of decision.

I know this post is long and I’m sorry for those that read this in its entirety as this was a cathartic way for me to share my story and process through my grief.

For those of you who have had to make this decision know that my heart goes out to you. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do and I unfortunately know how you felt.

Blessings,

Dr. Emily

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