I won’t spend time detailing the arduous path of “hoping for the best” or “crossing your fingers”. This post will start right at the point where I heard the dreaded “Your dog has a brain tumor and there’s nothing we can do about it”.
That’s the moment where my heart dropped from its logical physical place in my chest to the metaphorical pit of my stomach. For people that have pets in their lives that fulfill the need for a being to nurture, you will understand just how difficult this process has been. For others, just think of your favorite ______________ (fill in blank) no longer being there. Or worst really, your favorite ____________ going away and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I don’t like comparing pets to kids because most parents really get offended by this, as they should because I have no idea what it means to be a parent… but my dog is ultimately my best friend. She’s been there through thick and thin. She’s ultimately the longest relationship I’ve had in my adult life. And to me, that means something. Actually, it means everything. It means when she gets sick, I care for her. I have an innate sense of responsibility when it comes to her. I made a commitment to her when I adopted her from a less than ideal past. I also made an investment when I spent hours, days, months working at adapting her to our lifestyle. She ultimately means more than words can describe. And I don’t think that’s a “parent-child” type relationship. I think it’s a very unique “pet-caretaker” relationship.
When thinking about the fact that my best fur-friend will eventually not be here with me, tons of emotions rush into my mind, but ultimately, I find myself wanting to reminisce on the many lessons she has thought me. So this is what this post will focus on.
Lesson 1: Appreciate the small things in life
To watch her hear the words “do you want to go outside?” and inevitably get beyond excited… and I mean BEYOND excited…. Every. Single. Time. I can’t help but find myself thinking that she’s on to something. Happiness is a product of our minds. It’s a state of being. You can choose to find joy in little things that mean something to you and make those small things mean the world to you.
Lesson 2: Loyalty is the most valuable element of friendship
For most loyalty is actually the trait of a dog, but if you really stop and think about it, friendship is really about who stands by your side when things get rough. It’s about who you know you can call when you get stuck in a ditch (aside from CAA) regardless of how much of it is your fault. This is the trait that makes you a good friend, day in day out.
Lesson 3: All good things come to those who wait
As Kahlua got sick, I started watching her during the day on a camera we had set up at home. Watching her patiently waiting simply blew my mind. There is no way I could’ve waited like her for anything. Her whole day was spent simply waiting. Completely relaxed, just waiting. But every day, regardless of how long and boring the wait, what she waited for came… me.
Lesson 4: Live day by day
We don’t know what tomorrow holds. I can keep running tests on her to try to pin point the month in which she will likely pass away, but that’s just too hard on her. So I chose to forgo these things and let life be life and prepare for death to be death. I have to make sure she doesn’t suffer (a decision people mostly never have do make in their life, but that we, pet owners are often faced with), but ultimately, the best thing to do is to focus on today. Today she is having a great day and Today she can play and run around. Today she is not suffering and Today she will enjoy her food, the snuggles and the pettings.
This post could go on forever but these 4 lessons are among the most important she has taught me and even to this day, through her illness, she is still finding her way to teach me more.
Kahlua, thank you for all you have taught me about commitment, true friendship and love.
As your dog gets older a whole new set of problems starts flustering your life. I don’t like calling it “problems” considering it’s all to be expected and really the natural course of life. It’s like saying that an aging family member is causing “problems”. But let’s just say that the worries that accompany the new way of life makes them feel like problems.
Hence the work of adapting begins:
More frequent vet visits
Because you are often unsure about all the new things you are observing in your dog (Is it normal that she walks so much slower? Are all his digestive issues normal? Is she getting lazier or is it old age? Should he still be able to jump on the couch? When should she be put on Senior dog food? Is it normal she no longer can catch treats in the air?) you might find yourself spending a small fortune on random vet visits.
The reality is that with old age more vet interventions may actually be required. If you’ve had a good vet that you learned to trust through the life of your pet, you’re in luck! All you have to do is book visits as frequent as you feel are needed and follow his/her advice.
My story so far goes a bit like this: I had noticed that my now considered Senior dog (9 year old Shep/Rottie mix) was simply acting a bit “off”. There was nothing to prompt me to take her to the vet, but I could just tell something wasn’t right. She was also moving along much slower. Then one day we noticed her head having a weird involuntary shake. We thought… well, she might just be getting older because she otherwise looks completely healthy. After a few more instances and vet visits, bloodwork, etc . we are still not sure what is causing her different behavior. We continue to investigate while trusting the vet, but essentially there is an overall difference from when she was younger… We can’t instantly say that there’s something wrong. We are now at the point where the more plausible scenario is that she is just getting older.
Essentially, as your dog ages, you have to be prepared that during that transition, you may go more frequently to the vet as you learn what changes are normal in terms of aging and which ones require an intervention.
Understanding their new limits
You use to take your dog 5 times a week for a walk? She might not want to do that anymore.
After a run at the park with other dogs he comes home and is still up for tons of playing time with you? He might now need a nap before being ready to go again.
Essentially if your dog use to climb steep hills with you or stay up and party while you had friends at your house until 4am this might simply not be the case anymore and you have to adjust to that new lifestyle. The changes in some Senior dogs will be slow and barely noticeable while in others the transition occurs more drastically. You have to be prepared that at one point, if your dog use to go on hiking trips with you, they may need to start staying back with a sitter. And if they use to be able to run 15km with you, they may now only be able to run 5km.
The hard part? This represents, in some cases, a pretty drastic lifestyle change. Some of the things you enjoy today you might enjoy simply because you do them with your dog. Removing the dog from that activity may make you loose interest in it altogether. And worst? The dog WANTS to go with you but simply can’t handle those things anymore if hips are bothering him or their energy level has simply changed.
Preparing the house
When you built or bought your house, you probably didn’t think “How many stairs will the dog have to climb when she gets older?” But the reality is, the same as us, climbing stairs, seeing in darker rooms, jumping on couches or beds or navigating slippery floors can all eventually become a problem. You can easily prepare for everything and anything if you plan ahead. The hard part is to try to adapt your house when something bad has already happened. For example, consider what you will do about hardwood floors BEFORE the dog gets injured after a nasty slip and fall. Some choose to cover the areas where the dog mostly “travels” with runners, some will add an area rugs to which the dog will naturally detour if they are having a hard time on the floors. Essentially start thinking about how your dog will get around when nimbleness is no longer the first word that comes to mind when describing your pooch.
You might have noticed but the key words in all of this are BE PREPARED. I wasn’t and frankly the effects were mostly psychological. I had a very hard time coming to grip with the fact that my dog was even considered a Senior dog and that she actually couldn’t come hiking with me anymore if the ground was too rough. Luckily, I have a vet that I trust fully with her care and he’s also fantastic at giving me the reality checks I need.
My dog has been my best friend for 7 fantastic years after I adopted her when she was about 2 years old. Turning 9 years old she needs me a bit more or simply a bit differently. She needs me to understand her pace as she ages faster than I do. I owe it to her to keep her life as great as she’s made mine.
Tears roll down my cheek. I’m now crying uncontrollably as I look outside. Seeing the snow melting, the leaves turning green and the thought that, again, this summer, Kahlua won’t be able to follow us in our adventures.
By my side every step of the way, her torn ligament in March 2010 made her have stay home a lot more than what I had hoped for my furry best friend.
It wasn’t until December 2010 that we opted for surgery. By then, we had behavior issues on our hands because she was actually afraid of going outside. We had waited too long.
The recovery was a long road, especially since she didn’t want to go outside…. By December 2011 we had a new dog! She was doing so well! By March 2012 she was ready to go! Running and playing like she had always been. Then, one evening while playing it happened. She took a wrong turn and I heard the dreaded yelp. She painfully hoped back in the house.
It wasn’t the same leg. Then, I knew.
The long road was ahead of us once more.
But this time I know not to wait. I know we have to go ahead and book her surgery. Waiting only delays the inevitable. It increases the chances of complications by having a damaged meniscus and cartilage and will lead to a much more painful situation.
We did it once, we can do it again. She’s a tough dog. She’s a good girl.
She is worth every minute, every tear and every cent. She wouldn’t give up on me and walk away if I was injured. I won’t do it to her.
The only thing I wish…. That people wouldn’t tell me “Maybe you should have her put to sleep. Maybe it will just keep happening.”
Maybe. That’s true. That’s a fact. But I didn’t get a dog to bail on my commitment when it got hard. I got a dog to have a lifelong best friend. A torn ACL is not the end of her life.
I’m going to re-read my blog posts about Torn ACLs and I’ll get through it.
Dear animal lover readers,
It’s been a while since I’ve written a post! Life has taken quite a turn and kept me busy!
As a quick update on Kahlua who had a knee surgery as a result of a torn ligament, she is doing well! Now running and playing at the dog park with the best of them! Going through surgery was hard, the recovery was even harder, but the reward is fantastic!
With Christmas around the corner, as a family that only has children on 4 paws, we don’t have to think too much about gifts. But the question came up this week where my boyfriend and I wondered if we should buy our furry babies Christmas gifts. We usually do and they are a huge part of our life. But we came to the conclusion that they have everything they need or even could want. A basket full of toys, treats in abundance, food, comfy beds and even clothing!
This year, if you are faced with the same thing, don’t forget your local shelters! Prepare a gift for another dog in need in the name of your own! If they could speak, that’s what they would want!
Many shelters offer several ways to donate in the name (or to the memory) of your pet (sponsor a kennel, monthly giving, etc.) and would be more than happy to review those options with you.
Visit www.frederictonspca.ca to find out more or go to http://www.spca-nb.ca/ to find your local New Brunswick shelter.
This Christmas, give a gift to a furry friend in need!
The more actively I volunteer for the SPCA, the more I feel like we are fighting an uphill battle. The reality is, every victory is currently considered the adoption of a pet. But, the more I think about it, this “victory” is really the result of the greater bigger issue. It seems as though we are actively fixing the issue, which consumes the greatest part of our budget and our efforts, but we don’t have time to fix the root cause.
In no way shape or form do I want to minizme the tremoundous effort of all shelters and humane orgainzations. The reality is, their dream is nothing short of wanting to have no reason to be.
The solution resides in education. Currently there are more unwanted dogs in proportion then there are appropriate available homes. Dogs need to be spayed and neutered to eradicate the issue. This cycle needs to be interruped at the source.
With this in mind, I wanted to dedicted this post to the advantages of spaying and neutring your dogs.
If I’m talking about human babies in my title, the world would be outraged, but when I explain that I’m talking about a human baby (New Baby) and a furry baby (Old Baby) people seem to let out a sigh of relief.
Strangely I have a problem with it just the same.
I am as outraged as I could be to think that parents to a newborn can choose to let go of their best friend, the one that loved them unconditionally for several years, just because the became “inconvenient”.
Man’s best friend doesn’t even give you up when you die! Most of you must have read the article about the dog in Brazil that stayed by their owner’s grave several days after the burial (the doggie is now adopted by a new loving owner, but that gives a new meaning to “never leave a man behind”). In my mind, this display of loyalety should make any owner ASHAMED of even thinking about giving up on their friend because training them to be around the new baby is “too hard”.
Please, new parents, don’t give up on your “Old Baby”. If you give them to another home, you will force them to re-adapt to a new pack. They will be confused. They will be lost. As much as you try to make sure they go a good home, you can never guarantee they will not be abused or unloved. It happens to often… unnecessarily.
In order to help you and any otherwise helpless new parents, I’ve gathered information from various sources that allow you to train your old AND your new baby. To ensure the entire family can stay together.
FOR CATS (My blog is about dogs… but it happens too often to cats as well):
I hope this information helps you will keep your ENTIRE family together, and happy!
Spay/Neuter your pets!
Thank you so much to all my readers who took the time to reply to my last post.
Shannon from DunRoamin (friend them on Facebook!!) shared great insight. She sees it first hand and definitely would have lots to share in terms of knowledge. Take a second to read her comment before I continue on with the post:
“The fact of the matter is that there is an endless supply of dogs. Asking where they came from makes no difference. People abuse purebreds as readily as they do mutts.
Yes, spaying and neutering will help control the pet population. If all pets HAD to be spayed and neutered then people wouldn’t sit in the parking lot of stores with boxes of puppies to give away.
And as for laws, there are laws. But laws are no good unless they are enforced. People need to stand up for our voiceless friends. They need to tell their families, their friends, and their neighbors that abuse will not be tolerated. People need to REPORT abuse, not sit around and complain about it. And people need to be ready to leave their names with the RCMP or SPCA when they report the abuse, otherwise the law can’t do their jobs.
So please, continue to write blogs, post notices on facebook, support your local SPCA. Post flyers in neighborhoods that advocate unchaining dogs. Every person who you rub off on will be 1 more person who treats animals with compassion and respect.”
I’m still, at this point, wondering what I can do as one individual.
Most of my friends and family have adopted pets. I’ve made sure they are all spayed and neutered. I’m at my max capacity for furry family members and my own pets are spayed.
If I saw abuse, I would surely report it. Even if it was my own family… and my family knows that. I would leave my name with the authorities in a heart beat!
I volunteer at the SPCAs. I donate and re-facebook their messages when they have special events.
That leaves me with the fact that I still want to do more.
The key, as per my fantastic followers, seems to be to ensure pets are spayed and neutered. I will commit to contacting my local SPCA and see if there is a way we can help in that regard. That would reduce the volume of dogs needing homes and abandonned. Maybe we can work together to put an infrastructre in place that supports spaying and nutering pets that aren’t homeless to avoid some of the issue from happening.
As for puppy mills, lots is being done on that front and I urge all of you to keep avoiding supporting them! DON’T shop at pet stores that sell dogs and only get your pets from rescue groups.
Thanks for reading! I will let you know what comes out of my meeting with the SPCA regarding a spaying and neutering program for non-abandoned dogs.
“My name is Duke and I’m abused.”
“My name is Lilly, well my owners mostly call me Damn Dog, and I don’t see many people from the dog house outside.”
“My name is … dog.. I think.. no one talks to me… It’s cold tonight… and my chain is really short… and tight.”
Those are made up stories, but they are so real… My question is WHY? I solve problems for a living as a process improvement project manager, but this issue doesn’t seem to have an answer.
I have been reading rescue stories on the DunRoamin Stray-Rescue page on Facebook and I had to close it down. It is beyond my understand that people are capable of such cruetly to animals.
Dogs used to be free, like wolves, and live in packs. Then humans came along, “domesticated” them, asked them to live in their world. To beat them? to abuse them? to mistreat them? They are taking a pack animal, an animal destined to NEVER be alone, and leaving them outside, chained up. WHY?
As I was thinking about this issue I thought to myself that we surely needed to resolve the problem by continuing to take dogs out of bad homes. But then it dawned on me; that wouldn’t solve the problem. Those bad owners (a.k.a morons) will just get another dog and repeat the cycle. The real solution lies in PREVENTING them from getting a dog in the first place.
This led to this thought: Where are they getting those dogs?
Not from the SPCAs since SPCAs run background checks in most cases
Not from Pet Stores since those dogs are usually “pure bred” puppy mill dogs and cost a lot of money
I would LOVE to get comments from all my readers as to where they think those moron owners are getting dogs. If I could gather all the places where they are able to get those dogs, maybe a solution could be put together to eliminate that possibility for those idiots. Savings dogs by not allowing bad owners to get them in the first place. To me, that’s the key! PLEASE comment on this post to help me try to start finding a solution.
How can one possibly deal with such a terrible thing?
It’s not possible for me to yet describe the pain that must follow the loss of man’s best friend. At this point, although both of my lovely babies have had tough times with surgery, hip dislocation, etc. they are otherwise very healthy.
Today I read a post were a lady had to put her best friend to sleep because of a medical error by the vet. Those things happen to humans and can surely also happen to pets. The difference is that regardless of the quality of life a human would be left with after the medical error, the horrible decision of defining their destiny does not rely on our shoulders. With our pets, we have to define when pain is too great and it is a heavy burden to bear.
Once she had made the decision that her beloved best friend would not have any quality of life, she had to come to the conclusion that it was time to part ways. Her only consolation rested in the fact that she would tell the world what had happened so that her dog’s death would not be in vain. She would give tips on how to prevent this from happening to others.
This brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that, amongst the many difficult decisions we have to make in our lives, having the life of another living creature in our hands is probably the greatest. This is part of the commitment we make to our furry friend. Knowing that not many dogs have the chance of just crossing to the other side during their sleep, peacefully, I wanted to think of ways to prepare myself for this tough decision.
As a result, I make the commitment, to myself and to my dogs, that their passing will satisfy one thing. I believe that if they could write a will, if they could give away anything that they owned, they would want me to give their bed to another… they would want me to give their food dishes to another… they would want me to give their walks to another… they would want me to give my love to another…
The great life we all have together is not something all dogs are granted with. And if my dogs could speak, I believe they would ask me to give their legacy to another. I therefore decided that my only consolation in their leaving this world can be found in the fact that it will allow me to save another abused, unloved and abandoned animal from the concrete walls of a shelter. It will allow me to give all the love they’ve had to another.
This is the only thing they could put in their will if they could talk and write.
This promise is dedicated to my furry daughters, Kahlua and Lady.
As per my last post, my Shep. Mix had surgery for a torn crutiate ligament.
This post will simply serve as a follow-up (23 days post surgery).
First, she is getting great results from her vet follow-ups! She has lost a lot of muscle mass, but seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of recovery!
We have her (FINALLY!) on a semi normal “going out” schedule and she started her 5 mins walks 2x a day only 20 days after surgery!
Here are a few things I recommend in order to prepare for surgery:
Ensure you have something thick and comfy for the furry baby. When they come home, they will spend a lot of time laying down and the cold floors (particularly in winter) because the cold will contribute to joint stiffness.
Use a crate or a pen to ensure the dog doesn’t have to much area to walk around. At the begining, only potty breaks will be allowed
Ensure you have TONS of toys such as Busy Buddy or Kong to keep your dog entertained. Some dogs get so bored to be sleeping all day that they get depressed. You want to ensure you are prepared to at least keep their brain stimulated when their bodies can’t be.
You can also teach your dogs tricks or games that can be done while they lay down. For exemple, if your dog knows how to give the paw, it is not a stretch to teach them “Which Hand” (simply have a treat on one of your hands without them seeing. Put both hands in front of them closed and don’t open the hand until they put their paw on it. It usually doesn’t take long for a dog to catch on if they know how to give the paw) and that can entertain them (and you!) for hours.
**One word of caution here. If you are still feeding your dog full portions, be aware of the amount of treats you give because them gaining weight, if they have knee issues, is NOT an option!** You can use their own dog food for the games or to stuff in toys. If they won’t go for that, you could reduce the food intake and give some treats. Make sure to check with your vet.
At first my dog didn’t want to go outside at all… So I had to find a way to let her do her business inside. I bought puppy training pads and we figured it out from there. There is a lot of groups and information out there if you are having any type of issue like this.
Essentially be prepared to possibly have to get some “random” things you would not normally need for your doggie.
My recommendation is to find a good vet.. Someone that will go through all the pros and cons with you and make you reach a decision at your own pace that you feel comfortable with.
If you are not comfortable with the solution suggested, get a second opinion.