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Grey Area
02-09-2012, 08:01 AM
Post: #1
Grey Area
Question: How do you determine when it's time to say goodbye to your furry friend? We have an almost 13 year-old Beagle who is at that point in his life where, in order to keep him healthy/comfortable, we'll have to start forking over money to the vet, giving him daily meds, etc., etc., and I'm not sure I'm willing to go to those lengths. He doesn't have anything terminal, necessarily, BUT, several times a day he has episodes where he does this awful "sucking air" thing, which goes on for several minutes. Supposedly he has a partially collapsed airway causing the valve to not open properly, but it sounds like he's just going to collapse and die on the spot, and it really scares the kids when he does it. The meds are for a minor heart enlargement, which may or may not be causing the airway constriction, but the meds may also cause liver failure, etc., etc. He also has a horrible cough, which may also be from the airway problem, but without a bunch of tests that cost big bucks, we won't know for sure. We tried putting him on steroids last year when the cough thing started, but it lowered his immunity and he got pneumonia and almost died from that!

The problem is that other than these episodes, he's pretty spry and still acts like a younger dog, when he's awake that is! Basically, he's either sleeping, begging for food, getting in the garbage, howling at the squirrles, deer & neighborhood cats, puking (he's always had a sensitive stomach), or having these breathing difficulties. Oh, and he does have some arthritis which makes him really gimpy, and the cold air triggers the breathing issues, so I can't really take him for walks much anymore.

The moral dilemma I'm having though, is that when he's awake, he's basically driving me crazy and I'm simply, honestly, just tired of cleaning up poop and puke and hair and mud and garbage, being woken up at night by the coughing, spending money on the kennel when we travel, etc., so how much are these things coloring my view of how sick he really is? My husband and I agreed when he was young that we wouldn't go to extreme measures to keep him alive when he got older, and it really does seem like his quality of life isn't that great with the issues he has, but it's not like he has cancer or is so crippled that he can't get up the stairs, etc.

My husband is much more attached than I am, but also realizes that I am the main person dealing with him all day, so the final decision is really up to me. He just said I need to really make sure I'll be able to live with myself if we pull the trigger and have him put down, so I obviously want to make sure I'm doing it for the right reasons. Then there's the issue of what to tell the kids: "Sorry guys, Mommy's just tired of dealing with Zack, so we had him put down..." Ug. We don't believe in lying to the kids (or anyone for that matter), so telling them he has cancer or something like that is not an option. We can certainly explain things at a level they will understand without going into great detail, but they are both very inquisitive and will ask the tough questions. One of our neighbors just had to put her dog down, so that gave us the opportunity to discuss the concept with them ahead of time, and they seemed to get-it that it's what's best for the dog so he/she doesn't have to suffer anymore.

Anyway, thanks for reading this and allowing me time on the couch...obviously no one can tell me what to do, but I'd love to hear from anyone else who has had to make this tough call.

"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food."
W. C. Fields
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02-09-2012, 11:47 AM (This post was last modified: 02-09-2012 11:48 AM by VincentUlyssis.)
Post: #2
RE: Grey Area
Hi Deb,

That's a tough decision that I hear about regularly from pet owner friends of mine. I have had pets in the past and fortunately never had to make such a decision (my childhood cat became the playtoy of a neighbor's German Shepherd).

It's very personal. Some families can afford large medical bills to keep the pet alive for six more months. I feel bad for those who can't afford it but do it out of guilt. Guilt is hardly ever a good reason to do anything. If the animal is suffering and will have to suffer through a recovery from a surgery with not much promise for many years of life, some might ask what the point is.

On the other hand some people feel like they are a member of the family and project human relationship qualities to the animal. I can certainly understand how they might feel.

It sounds like you have a very open and honest relationship with your family. How do the kids feel? Is the family witnessing the daily (and nightly) suffering of their beloved pet?

Can you hang on for six months to see how his health deteriorates (or not)?

My kids wanted a dog at one point and my wife and I resisted. We keep tropical fish now and when they die no one seems to care. Growing up my grandparents had a dog and a cat. It was traumatic for us to lose our furry friends.

I would think the vet's opinion should be a consideration as well. What does he/she say?
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02-09-2012, 11:56 AM
Post: #3
RE: Grey Area
Hi Deb:
I have read your post a few times and was wrestling with the notion of replying. As you can see, I have (although I'm not sure what I have to say is helpful or not). Monica and I have had 3 Beagles in our time together and have had to put down 2 in the process. It is the most heart breaking, gut wrenching ordeal that I have been through in my entire life. I would have to say that saying goodbye to those 2 Beagles and losing my younger brother in 2005 are the absolute worst things that I have experienced.

As far as how much money does a person spend to keep Zack going, that has to be entirely up to you and your husband. I suppose the decision has to be based on what is best for everybody (including Zack). The realization that things will probably only be getting worse, not better is a tough one to accept also. Ol' Zack is almost 13 and I know that our first Beagle lived to 14, but our second one only made it to 12. I know, you want to have them last forever (gosh, I know we do), but in reality he is right in that category of maximum life expectancy for a Beagle (12 to 16 years, I think). I know I'm not being much help here, but please know that I have been through this and these things really tug at your heart strings.

We went through pretty much the same thing as you are going through right now a year ago with our male Beagle, Monty. He wasn't doing too well - the vet figured it was bladder stones, so Monty had an operation to get rid of those, but there was so much other stuff going on inside of him that we eventually had to put him down about 4 weeks after that operation. I still beat myself up over having to put him through that operation at that age, we really thought we were doing the right thing, based on our vet's diagnosis, but he suffered terribly after that operation.
In hindsight, we should have said put him down when he was having issues, but how do you know? I will never forget that fateful day, when we finally mad the decision to say goodbye. Feb. 6th 2011, Superbowl Sunday. We were going through a terrible snowstorm that day, and he just went out his doggy door to the uncovered portion of our deck and just lied down and let the snow come down on him. I brought him into the house a few times, but he just went right back out there. I knew that he was telling us that he had, had enough and just wanted to go. We were lucky enough to have our vet come in on a Sunday and put him down, but what a terrible day.

By the sounds of it, you are not taking this decision lightly. Whatever you decide, I am sure it will be the right one. Take care, will be thinking of you.

Here is a pic of our ol' Monty boy. This was taken the day before the fateful Sunday. He was such a good boy - We brought him up from his nice warm home in South Carolina to the great white north here in British Columbia. As you can see by his eye's, he had, had enough...


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02-09-2012, 02:01 PM
Post: #4
RE: Grey Area
(02-09-2012 11:56 AM)onebad70ss Wrote:  Hi Deb:
I have read your post a few times and was wrestling with the notion of replying. As you can see, I have (although I'm not sure what I have to say is helpful or not). Monica and I have had 3 Beagles in our time together and have had to put down 2 in the process. It is the most heart breaking, gut wrenching ordeal that I have been through in my entire life. I would have to say that saying goodbye to those 2 Beagles and losing my younger brother in 2005 are the absolute worst things that I have experienced.

As far as how much money does a person spend to keep Zack going, that has to be entirely up to you and your husband. I suppose the decision has to be based on what is best for everybody (including Zack). The realization that things will probably only be getting worse, not better is a tough one to accept also. Ol' Zack is almost 13 and I know that our first Beagle lived to 14, but our second one only made it to 12. I know, you want to have them last forever (gosh, I know we do), but in reality he is right in that category of maximum life expectancy for a Beagle (12 to 16 years, I think). I know I'm not being much help here, but please know that I have been through this and these things really tug at your heart strings.

We went through pretty much the same thing as you are going through right now a year ago with our male Beagle, Monty. He wasn't doing too well - the vet figured it was bladder stones, so Monty had an operation to get rid of those, but there was so much other stuff going on inside of him that we eventually had to put him down about 4 weeks after that operation. I still beat myself up over having to put him through that operation at that age, we really thought we were doing the right thing, based on our vet's diagnosis, but he suffered terribly after that operation.
In hindsight, we should have said put him down when he was having issues, but how do you know? I will never forget that fateful day, when we finally mad the decision to say goodbye. Feb. 6th 2011, Superbowl Sunday. We were going through a terrible snowstorm that day, and he just went out his doggy door to the uncovered portion of our deck and just lied down and let the snow come down on him. I brought him into the house a few times, but he just went right back out there. I knew that he was telling us that he had, had enough and just wanted to go. We were lucky enough to have our vet come in on a Sunday and put him down, but what a terrible day.

By the sounds of it, you are not taking this decision lightly. Whatever you decide, I am sure it will be the right one. Take care, will be thinking of you.

Here is a pic of our ol' Monty boy. This was taken the day before the fateful Sunday. He was such a good boy - We brought him up from his nice warm home in South Carolina to the great white north here in British Columbia. As you can see by his eye's, he had, had enough...


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That is so moving. Is going out in the snow like that instinctual?
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02-09-2012, 02:18 PM
Post: #5
RE: Grey Area
Thank you both so much for your thoughtful and heartfelt replies. I know I sound like I'm being very pragmatic about it, but the reality is that I too am pretty attached to the stinker. I get so frustrated with him (he's gotten even MORE stubborn with age!), and many times I think I could just take him at a moments' notice to have him put down without a second thought, but I know when the time comes I'll be a wreck and I will miss him dearly!

Stephen, that photo of sweet Monty just is so precious and sad...really brought me to tears. I can only imagine how hard it was for you both!!

The kids don't yet know that we are seriously thinking about having Zack put down. The Vet has been really understanding about our financial limits and willingness to go to extreme measures, but again, without serious money in diagnostic tests, he can't be sure what his actual prognosis is.

My thought right now is that we probably aren't ready to move on it quite yet. I think, and maybe I'm wrong, that it will sort of be like deciding who to marry - when you know, you know - and we just don't KNOW that it's time with absolute certainty, so maybe we should wait a little longer. I just need to separate my emotion and frustration with him from the equation, and really look at what is best for the old guy.

Thanks again...so glad to have ya'll to bounce this stuff around with!

"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food."
W. C. Fields
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02-09-2012, 02:43 PM (This post was last modified: 02-09-2012 02:46 PM by Onebad70ss.)
Post: #6
RE: Grey Area
Great News Deb:
It sounds like you have a really good vet who understands your situation and is willing to work with you on this. Give old Zack a big hug and some scritchies from Monica, myself & Ritzie (who still misses her Monty). This is not a decision to be taken lightly and like you say, when the time does come, you will know without a doubt. As you can see by my posted picture of Monty, all you have to do is look at that sad face and you can tell that all the life had been taken out of him. Cherish every moment with Zack (they give so much more than they take).

And Vincent - Welcome Back...
We knew we had to put him down when he was doing the snow thing. He didn't mind being outside, but his thing was chilling on the couch. I swear some days, the only way you could get him off of it was to light it on fire. So when he didn't want to be inside anymore, we knew something was up.
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02-09-2012, 06:26 PM
Post: #7
RE: Grey Area
Aww, Deb.....(sigh).

The hardest thing about owning a pet is at this point.
How much more do you wait, how much money do you spend, is your pet in pain?
I sit here with the tears rising to my eyes, thinking about the last time we had to make that choice.
All I can say is what One Bad all ready did: You see it in their eyes. They just "aren't there" anymore, its just a poor, tired body going through the motions.
Its the most loving thing you can do for them at that point.
It sounds to me that Zack still gets joy out of life, as annoying as those bits of joy are, so its probably going to come down to a watch and wait.
Keep us posted on which way you go, k'?

And Vincent, One Bad's Monty's behavior was instinctual. If he had been in the wild he would have wandered away from his pack, found a quiet spot, and laid down.....

"Life ain't like books.
Books got somebody writin' 'em and tryin' to entertain ya.
Life is more like a set of Legos.
Unless you take care of 'em, you lose a few pieces and you end up steppin' on 'em with bare feet.
You gotta take care of your life."
~Laura Moncur
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02-09-2012, 06:59 PM
Post: #8
RE: Grey Area
Sigh.... (as tears well up in my eyes) Debskis, Onebad and HWDGrl have said quite a bit.
It is true it is one of the hardest things to do. The summer of 2000 we had to make that choice for our Sophie. She was a Gordon Setter/Golden Retriever mix. She was our first Fuzzy Child, the very first pet for our Girls and was loved unconditionally by all of us.

We got her in the spring of 1986 as a 6 week old puppy and was ment to keep me company while Mr.2Beers was working for Uncle Sam and traveling the globe.

So many memories... It was cancer that she had and when we realized that her quality of life wasn't what it used to be and keeping her alive was more of a comfort for us than her, it's then that we made the choice.

We told the Girls the truth and when the day came the Vet's office was outstanding in helping us. They gave us all the time we needed to say our Good-Byes and allowed us to hold her as they administered the shot, and then be with her until we were ready to let her finally go(I still cry even though it has been almost 12 years).

Just know when you decided what to do, we are here for you.

"... always throw spilt salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck, and fall in love whenever you can..." Practical Magic
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02-09-2012, 07:31 PM (This post was last modified: 02-09-2012 07:34 PM by VincentUlyssis.)
Post: #9
RE: Grey Area
(02-09-2012 02:43 PM)onebad70ss Wrote:  Great News Deb:
It sounds like you have a really good vet who understands your situation and is willing to work with you on this. Give old Zack a big hug and some scritchies from Monica, myself & Ritzie (who still misses her Monty). This is not a decision to be taken lightly and like you say, when the time does come, you will know without a doubt. As you can see by my posted picture of Monty, all you have to do is look at that sad face and you can tell that all the life had been taken out of him. Cherish every moment with Zack (they give so much more than they take).

And Vincent - Welcome Back...
We knew we had to put him down when he was doing the snow thing. He didn't mind being outside, but his thing was chilling on the couch. I swear some days, the only way you could get him off of it was to light it on fire. So when he didn't want to be inside anymore, we knew something was up.
Thanks Bad 70 SS!
My cousins had a Beagle when we were growing up. They're great dogs with kids.
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02-09-2012, 10:44 PM (This post was last modified: 02-09-2012 10:45 PM by Scythe Matters.)
Post: #10
RE: Grey Area
Can't say much more than to echo what the others have said. Your vet seems to understand the situation and that's great, it's so good to have him working with you.

I don't know how old your kids are, but if they're old enough you should ease them into the dilemma you are facing. This is something they should be involved with, IMO. It is an important life lesson. IF they're over 8 or so.

Last year we lost our dog Sasha. She wandered off about a week before she died - all the way into the nearest town, where our in-laws found her and brought her home. She had left the pack - so it is instinctual, I guess. Ren Man stayed up all night with her the night she died, keeping her comfortable and administering painkillers in liquid form. He buried her next to our kitty who we had to have put to sleep in 1997 (a month after my Grandmother died - that summer sucked for many of us, from what I hear).

Whatever you decide, Deb, we'll be here for you Heart

... in a world where I feel so small I can't stop thinking big!
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