For the Love of "Birthday": The Final Days of a Dog
Birthday was born 15 years ago on my husband's birthday, thus his name.We also have "Friday," but that's another story.* My son was 7 years old when we adopted this cuddly and exuberant border collie mix and they fell in love instantly. A boy and his dog. Aaron and Birthday were a common sight here in our small town; they'd often go to the Owens River together-Aaron with his fishing pole, Birthday chasing the cows who cooled their hooves in the water. Mayberry indeed-what lovely memories these days provide.
*: Actually, here's a link to my familial zoo:
I am writing today because I am fairly sure that I am watching our sweet Birthday's final days. He has battled long and hard against many serious conditions: seizures, a fully fused spine, and now, splenetic cancer. In November of 2008 he lost the use of his back legs, rendering him immobile. We learned through X-Rays that his spine was completely fused and the vet recommended euthanasia. We concurred and took him to be 'put down.' It was a terrible day and many photos were taken of our soon to be departed family member.
We were suitably prepared for the morbid event-the shovel was loaded along with our dog-as well as a marker for his grave. When we arrived at the veterinarian's office, we were surprised to see such a crowded waiting room-unhappy to have to wait endlessly to perform the inevitable, but also willing to enjoy a bit more time with Birthday.
The wait became intolerable, however, and Aaron asked, "Do you want to get out of here?" We said "Okay, let's go." I will never forget that moment, for as soon as we all stood, Birthday did, too. Some may call me a liar, but that's exactly what happened. We were dumbstruck and couldn't get out the door fast enough. We were in a sort of emotional suspended animation as we drove to our house, too aware of the 'near-miss.'
None of us expected the dog to fully recover, but he did. In the past few years, he has played, run, fetched and barked with joy. Birthday is one hell of a fighter.
The Seizure Disorder
Three years before the event at the vet's office, Birthday began having severe epileptic seizures. His treatment has been given to him religiously; he receives 3 doses of Phenobarbital per day. Unfortunately, the seizures have never subsided-he 'goes down' during these episodes-as we have come to call it. He is unable to get up for 2 to 3 days and crawls from one room to another in search of our company. This dog always has managed to regain his strength within the couple of days he needs to recover and becomes the lovely animal we know and adore.
Two weeks ago, Birthday began vomiting. Severely. I called the vet and she prescribed Belladonna to ease the stomach's urge to regurgitate, suspecting that he has cancer of the spleen. It isn't working. For the last week and a half I have been to see the doctor numerous times, pleading, I suppose, for another miracle. Yes, there are steps I can take, and yes, there is treatment for dogs with splenetic cancer. But is there a point at which I must let go?
The expense of the treatment alone is prohibitive. The pain to the dog would be considerable. So today, I choose to wait.
One Hard Day...
I love all of my creatures dearly and am finding myself at odds with reason. I realize that my Birthday is 15 years old now, losing most all his liquids and what rice and strained hamburger meat he can keep down. I believe I am operating on the assumption that since we came so desperately close to losing him two years ago, My magical thinking is at work. I am not yet willing to give up...yet. I think they call that 'denial.'
I've asked the vet over and over if he is in any kind of pain, and she assures me that this sort of cancer is not agonizing. She points out that he's uncomfortable as a human would be when vomiting excessively. Nothing more. And then she tells me, "You'll just know."
Today has been particularly difficult because he once again 'went down' and has been whining most of the day. He is not comfortable. I am beginning to understand, though I don't want to.
I hope with all of my heart that I don't have to 'put him to sleep;' I pray that he will die one night while sleeping. Don't we wish this for all our loved ones? But I am faced with such a terrible situation; I must be able to make the decision. I have the power of God, and I don't want it, one bit.
The Final Chapter
Birthday was 'put to sleep' today, August 24, 2010. There was no longer any light in his eyes-it was clearly time for us to let him go. However painful this was for us as a family, the decision to euthanize him was a humane one. We are in a state of shock, all of us, for we have just lost a member of our family. Time will heal us, and Birthday, may you rest in peace.
For a compassionate view of this process, see:
- How to Know When It\'s Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep (saying Goodbye Is Hard to Do) | eHow.com
How to Know When It's Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep (saying Goodbye Is Hard to Do). Euthanasia of a beloved pet who is old or in pain can be a difficult choice and is an individual one. It is never an easy decision to put your beloved pet to sleep. A
Have you ever put a pet down?
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