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This is nowhere near to everything that's in my head at the moment

Posted Dec 23 2008 2:05pm
... but it's a start.

My dog died. More precisely, we had him euthanised. You may remember a post I wrote right after he had surgery about how much better he was feeling. Well, he was. And then he was worse. And better. And worse. And better. You get the point.

In the end, it had been three months and he had not gained a single pound back towards his normal weight. Not that being deathly skinny is a problem in and of itself. But it becomes a problem if it starts snowing and freezing and you're an outdoors kind of dog that gets seriously depressed when forced to live inside. I use the word "depressed" with all the responsibility of someone who has seen true depression and is supposedly required to recognise it in a 7 minute appointment about a completely unrelated problem. Yes, he was depressed when he had to be inside for 10 days until the stiches healed. Moving inside again was not an option. But surprisingly enough, he seemed to take the cold perfectly fine, even when he was short of at least a third of his weight.

He was also still throwing up. Not every day, but often enough for me to crawl into his house at least three times a day to make sure it was clean.

And most of all... he was not eating. He had his good days, when he ate normally and started acting like a compeltely healthy dog even after a single decent meal. He had his bad days when he barely ate anything on his own and had to be hand-fed to get at least some stuff inside him. All in all, he averaged out on enough food to keep his body weight stable. Stable at an absurdly low number for a St. Bernard.

And then he stopped eating completely, not even from hand anymore, and then developed diarrhea. And then he had to go.

I miss him like crazy and, like my father, I was actually sorry after we did it and regreted it, but still... I did everything I could and then some, including giving up some non-urgent medical intervention for myself to be able to afford the vet, and I was quite willing to go on - as long as he was trying. As long as he was trying to eat even if it made him sick. As long as he had a few bites, threw up, and came back to clear up the bowl because he needed the food more than he was feeling sick. As long as I had hope that he would, eventually, stop throwing up completely and be able to eat again.

When he gave up, we gave up. He was still cheerful and all, and ran to the car like he was expecting a trip when we were taking him to the vet, and had a good sniff in the snow around the vet's house and explored the vet's office enthusiastically right before he was put down. If it wasn't for the rather impressive chart he had accumulated and the painfully obvious loss of weight, I don't think the vet would have done it, because he really didn't look like a suffering animal that needed to be relieved of its pain.

But he would have been, eventually. In spite of all his excitement about the "trip", he couldn't jump into the trunk without my help. In spite of all his liveliness, he had lost a lot of his muscle mass and couldn't even jump a height that was exceedingly low for a dog of his size. If we had waited a bit longer, I think he wouldn't even be able to run to the car. All he would have gained would be a bit more time in the rain which he has hated with a passion since he was little. A bit more time in the mud, when he wouldn't even walk properly, because he didn't like getting his feet muddy. A bit more time in the holiday season which scared the living daylights out of him becuse he was afraid of firecrackers.

I read a lot of stories of people who carried around their dogs who could no longer walk, who put diapers on them when they were incontinent of urine and feces, who fed them via NG tubes when they refused to eat. Apparently, many people believe that an animal is truly suffering only when it is in active organ failure and can't survive without constant support. I think my dog was an active animal who liked fooling around with me and driving in a car and going for trips and rolling around in snow. He was also an animal who didn't like being inside because it prevented him from seeing the world around. Who didn't like rain because it meant he couldn't lie outside. Who wasn't too keen on the summer because the heat made him lie still. And he did not like being sick and he would not have liked it, if he lost any more of his independence. Hand-feeding is a form of cuddling. Being carried around because of weakness is not life.

As it was, he got to live all of his active life, but was gone before he was weak enough to experience the misery. He got to see, roll in, eat and generally enjoy this year's first snow. It started melting fast on the day we were going to take him to the vet. It was completely gone from our backyard when we came home short of a family member.
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