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Better a month too soon than a day too late...

2969 Views 25 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  ryanolivas
I've always agreed with that concept regarding euthanizing animals, but now that I'm faced with making a decision, I'm feeling very guilty about it.

Long story short, my 17 year old medium sized terrier mix, Queenie, has been having really ugly grand mal seizures since, I think, last February. The usual prescription meds had too many side effects, so we took her off those, but since I put her on CBD they've been less frequent and less severe - she went over a month without having one (that I know of) - but she's just had four bad seizures in three days. Bloodwork and physical exam was normal. Vet says the most likely explanation is a tumor affecting her CNS but didn't think it made sense to do imaging, given her age, since any care would be palliative no matter what we found out. When she has a seizure she voids her bowels and bladder and has painful-looking convulsions. It takes her days to get back to normal behavior after even one seizure. She's also developed some sundowning behaviors regardless of whether she's recently had a seizure.

But the thing is, she doesn't seem to be in pain ordinarily, other than some stiffness after a seizure. She still enjoys her food, is still playful. She doesn't even have noticeable arthritis.

On the other hand, the seizures are clearly frying her brain. She's never going to get better, only worse.

I'm thinking about making an appointment to put her to sleep soon. But I feel really guilty about it. I feel like I'm only doing it because I'm tired of my own missed sleep and extra stress. A while ago I had to drop her at the boarding kennel Friday night for a trip I was leaving on early Saturday morning, and it was...a vacation. I just don't know what to do. I wish my motivation were just about sparing her suffering, but part of it is just that I'm tired. But I can also just see the next seizure being the one that doesn't stop, or where something ruptures, or...I think it's justifiable, I just don't know if it's right.

I know it has to be my decision, but if you have any advice based on your own experiences, or just as someone who can see the situation more objectively, I'd really appreciate it.
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I hear you parus. Actually, here I am on the internet trying to take my mind off the reality, which is the euthanasia appointment I have scheduled for tomorrow. I bounce between clear headed and totally lost so I'm typing this in one of the better moments of this evening. My situation is similar to yours in that Soro is still happy, playful, hungry, great blood panel... I could post a video from TODAY of him doing complex (but low impact) tricks, eager to train, happily chewing on a bone in the yard... But he's been on palliative care for the last couple months and the maximum dosage of some serious meds, the cancer isn't going away, and he's not getting any younger to boot. The pain in his leg is there noticeable ways yet not significantly impacting his attitude. COULD he keep going and still enjoy the simple things for another week, and maybe another? I think so. Do I want to wait until he is truly suffering, not eating, and not able to be helped by medication? No. I feel so much sadness it is indescribable, but zero guilt. And my partner and I have been saying for the last month or so, any time now or in the last few weeks would not have been the 'wrong' time. Yet there is no one 'right' time either. It is hard to look at him and think that I am putting down a happy dog that still has more time left. The big thing for me is, I want to remember my dog for the goofy, affectionate, bright-eyed boy that he is. And I feel like I owe him a peaceful exit without suffering. And lastly, I tell myself that dogs don't know any better or worse, but they do not want to be in pain. Still, none of this is easy. None of it is supposed to be.

So I'm not telling you what to do. But I empathize with you being in between a hard situation and a hard decision. No matter what, I hope you at least find peace of mind. You shouldn't feel guilty when you have a 17(!!) year old dog who is, was, and will always be clearly loved. My best thoughts and sincerest sympathies to you and Queenie.
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1- Human quality of life matters. That's not bad, that's a very real factor.

2- If you find yourself sort of hoping she'd pass away in her sleep and be spared the inevitable decline, you having to watch that decline and make the decision? Probably it's time. That, more than anything, is my bench mark, now. Not 'things the dog enjoys' and does, or active pain, but when I stop enjoying time with my dog, because all that's left is anxiety and dread.

Also not telling you what to do, but. Let yourself off the hook on considering yourself. That doesn't make you a bad person. You're a person in a shitty situation and you deserve to be considered, too.

And. Just all the love to both of you. It's shitty and sucks.
letting go is making sure you leave no words unsaid. Letting go of my seniors was spending the time to hold them while I still could and say everything in the piece of my heart they will take with them that will always be missing without them in my physical presence. All the adventures you shared and the joy of being there together. Being grateful that you have the time to say good'bye. Many people don't have this time to say good bye they are just taken abruptly from them with so many words unspoken.

my thoughts are so with you...
"How lucky I am, to have known someone that was so hard to say goodbye to." ~ author unknown.

It's old. And perhaps a bit corney and cliche. But still, totally worth reflecting upon.
Canyx, I'm so sorry that you're having to say goodbye to Soro today. I hope you find comfort in knowing you've done right by him. Obviously I've never met him, but I feel like I know him from your posts here, and it's obvious how much you've made one another's lives richer. Thank you for your kind words, and I wish you both so much peace.

If you find yourself sort of hoping she'd pass away in her sleep and be spared the inevitable decline, you having to watch that decline and make the decision? Probably it's time.
This, this is exactly it. I used to think it'd be a nightmare to wake up and find she'd passed away, but now it'd be sad, yes, but it'd also be...cathartic, I guess? Thank you for all of your post, but this perspective in particular.

Being grateful that you have the time to say good'bye. Many people don't have this time to say good bye they are just taken abruptly from them with so many words unspoken.

my thoughts are so with you...
Thank you, and you're right. And I'm grateful to have had so long with her. Very few dog owners get that.

"How lucky I am, to have known someone that was so hard to say goodbye to." ~ author unknown.

It's old. And perhaps a bit corney and cliche. But still, totally worth reflecting upon.
Yes. Queenie been by my side my entire adult life - I got talked into fostering her right after I graduated, and somehow she just never went away. It's funny, because even though she's not the dog I would have picked out for myself in almost any respect, she ended up just fitting in with every stage of my life since then. She makes me laugh every day, even now, with her dopey, gung-ho enthusiasm. She's always been such an easy dog to live with...I think I've taken her presence for granted over the years sometimes. Maybe she was meant to teach me that lesson, not to take anyone or anything for granted.

Here she is earlier today: (She claimed my foot - I had to wait for her to sleep to reclaim it.)
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I'm so sorry you are going through this. Seventeen years is a long life and she has had so many good times I'm sure. You have to do what's right for both of you and I'm sure you'll make the right decision.

Canyx - I'm so sorry for your loss. Soro really seemed like a great dog and most importantly - he was loved :)
I am sorry to hear this. When Shep was 16yo, he appeared to have nerve degeneration as well as some arthritis. He may not have been suffering, but he was losing mobility, although he liked going on his daily 45 min. hobbling walks in the neighborhood. HIs back legs would give out, and he'd wait patiently for me to pick him back up. One day he fell twice - no pain, not a big deal, but it was the red flag that made me realize that one day soon, he might wake up, unable to get up, with a need for emergency treatment. At that point, I made the appointment for the Ruth. When I took him into the Vet, she was very compassionate. I felt guilty that his mind was still sharp, that he enjoyed the attention, and that he was still learning to the best of his physical abilities... and I was about to end it. As the Vet put it, better to do it now while his life is good, rather than potentially prolonging his life until an emergency euthanasia is required to end his eventual suffering.

I've gone through this many times. Although it doesn't get easier, the pain is not as sharp and doesn't last as long. Since we only have one dog at a time, my philosophy has been to get another dog as soon as practical to help compress the grieving process.
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Susie, my Bernese cross, was only ten but she started really having trouble getting up and down. She was still eating fine but would just get up to go lie down again. One day she was trying to get up onto her bed that was on the kitchen floor. She tried and tried and finally just lay there with her head on the bed and looked at me so sadly. She had always been really active and I know was not enjoying life any more. My sister came down with her Van and we loaded her up and drove to the Vet. We did not have to take her into the hospital, the Vet came out, gave her a tranquilizer, then came back and gave her the final shot. We buried her at my niece's place. Will always miss her.

Right now I have two older Shih Tzu x Maltese, one is 11 years, the other 14 but so far they are both doing fine, still active and happy with life.
Thank you for your stories and support.

She's only had one seizure since that series of them, but her balance is shot and she seems perpetually disoriented. I made her final appointment for this coming Thursday. She's still lively and playful so I feel okay giving myself a little time to say goodbye here. She loves riding in the car and going to the vet so at least that won't be upsetting for her. I hate this so much.
Her appointment is for this Friday, actually - I got the date wrong. Day after Thanksgiving. The last few days she's been in such high spirits, it makes me feel like I should cancel...I have to keep reminding myself and reminding myself that the whole point is to let her go out on a high note, and to be grateful that we can enjoy our last few days together. She's just so obliviously cheerful, while I have to know that in few days she'll be gone. I've been doing my best not to act sad around her...luckily, while she has many wonderful qualities, high empathy isn't one of them, so she seems unaware. I've been trying to give her extra treats and attention without disrupting her routine too much, because low stress seems to help keep the seizures at bay. I keep thinking, maybe I should push it back another week or two...but no. Another week or two wouldn't be enough for me, but it might be too much for her.

It's just hard to imagine home without her. Sorry, I'm rambling.
I am so, so very sorry for the loss that you're facing later this week. Please - enjoy this high note & don't second guess your decision. Letting them go out while still doing 'good', that's the way to do it. If I might share my recent loss story...

Charlie (age: going on 13) Always (in the decade since we adopted him) had a 'quirky' tummy, which included early morning 'bile pukes' if dinner was too long before breakfast, although we had things very well under control for several years.

In late May his early morning nausea took a turn for the worse. Every day was a crap shoot - sometimes OK, sometimes not so much. But during the day he was happy, active, bouncing/barking, going on hikes & generally seeming to enjoy life as he knew it.

During bouts which were more intense than others (including those days he turned his nose up at dinner) we re-ran his full blood work, did an abdominal untrasound, and finally, after one day that he presented as being 'in generalized pain' put him on Predisone.

The next 3 weeks after that were wonderful. Then he had a seizure (probably his 2nd, as his recent 'pain' episode was most likely seizure-related) Three days later we had a consult with a 2nd opinion vet (who was to be discussing with a neurologist the best course of action) Three days later, we were out for a walk & he went down in the road with a seizure. I got him transported home, he seemed to be generally recovering, and... he went down again. This time there was no coming out of it. He passed away in the car on the way to the emergency vet.

I guess what I'm trying to say is - you really, really, really don't want to let it get to that point. In my/Charlie's case - we had no clue how sick he was. But... if there was any way I could go back & erase those final four hours of his life, when he was simply suffering & dying, I would. If I could have let him leave us while on a high note, I would have. I didn't have that option - he went down too quickly.

Again, I am very sorry for your impending loss. There are no words to ease the pain, but please know that there are others that can understand what you're going through right now. It's not easy - Never is - Never will be. But, it does get better & less painful as time goes on. Eventually the memories bring sweet, wistful joy, rather than heartbreak & tears. (((hugs)))
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I'm very sorry to hear that you are going through what every dog owner dreads.

Several years ago we had a family dog who had cancer. My parents tend to wait too long to make euth. appointments, something we differ on. I remember how angry I was (with them) when the dog passed away overnight. Was it maybe a peaceful, went to sleep and never woke up kind of deal? I like to think and hope that. But in the back of my mind I wonder if she was in pain, if something had ruptured, etc, and I'm sad that she was alone in her final moments, a dog who loved her people more than anything. They were upset too, and now defer to me with those kind of decisions.

Doing this for her doesn't make you a bad dog owner - it makes you a good one. An incredibly strong, incredibly good dog owner. I believe that once she is gone, despite the void that will be there and the inevitable sadness, a part of you will feel relieved that she is no longer suffering, and that small part will be your reassurance that you made the right choice.
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I'm very sorry to hear this, parus. It is hard to let go when dogs don't know any better and are still in great spirits. Our foresight is a blessing and a curse. But it is a privilege to save the dogs we love from suffering, though it does not make things any easier. I hope you and Queenie have a wonderful Thanksgiving nonetheless.
I don't know if it helps or hurts to hear others' perspectives. But here's mine. One week ago on Sor's last day, he was playing tug, eating a ton of special treats, lying in the sun, and even greeted his executioner with glee. A lot about that day broke my heart and it felt (still sometimes feels) like I betrayed him and sent him to his death. It was so quick. One moment he was licking the vets' hands and the next he was gone. The next day he was a wooden box of ashes on our shelf. I still wonder if the last thing he felt was comfort or actually fear. Honestly, it sucks to even write this. But I still don't regret the decision and I have to remember that it only feels like it could have been better because I don't have a memory of him suffering - I didn't let it get to that point. It doesn't make it any less of the worst day ever. But... no regrets.
Thank you so much. Your advice and experiences really are a comfort. Can't really write more now lest I start on a crying jag.
Just leaving love and letting you know I'm thinking about you.
She's at rest now. I stayed with her until the end. She fell asleep cradled in my arms, hearing what a good girl she was. She went so quickly and so peacefully that I can't help but tell myself she was ready. She had one last romp in the snow before she went into the vet's office, even though she had four seizures last night. She was such a tough, funny dog, right to the end.

I knew this would hurt, but I didn't know how much. I love her so much and she's gone. I feel like there's a hole in my chest.
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