Unfortunately, I had to make the difficult decision to help my oldest dog, Spencer, cross over the rainbow bridge. He was 14 years old, and his hind legs were failing him to the point that he could no longer stand to eat out of his bowl. He was only 12 when we adopted him two years ago. When I first saw Spencer at the shelter, I realized his chances of adoption were slim to none based on his age and health issues. We were fully aware of the expectations when we adopted him, but we decided to give him the best life possible for the time he had remaining. I wish Spencer a very happy journey and look forward to reuniting with him when I crossover myself.
If you have ever lost a pet, you can understand the sorrow and sadness one feels. Dealing with the loss is a very individual experience. Some people grieve for days, weeks, months, and even years. Many will say they will never have another pet because it hurts too much when they leave us. Others, will adopt a new pet within a week. A new pet will never replace the pet you lost. The new pet becomes a distraction, and your focus will be diverted to helping it acclimate to its new home.
I am one of those who like to fill the void of a lost pet as soon as possible, but this time, we have decided to dedicate our love to the two dogs still sharing our lives.
Knowing when to decide to euthanize your pet is very difficult. Spencer was no different. When I was making the appointment, he was in bad shape, yet when it came time to get into the car to go to the appointment, he was up on his feet and trying to jump into the car on his own, which he has never been able to in the past. His behavior made me second-guess my decision. Should I wait to see how he does for another few days? I have done this before with two previous dogs. In both cases, as soon as I brought them home, instead of having them put down, their health continued to decline, and I had to bring them back for the procedure. Getting another day or two with my best friend is important and worth it.
Your pets try to communicate their feelings and needs the best they can, but the process is not as efficient as talking, and often we miss the first indication of an illness. As pets get old, they tend to sleep a lot. No longer are they running and wanting to play as often as they once did. I usually sit by my pet’s side, and while petting them, I ask, “Are you okay today? Do you feel alright?” I will touch their nose, and if it is wet and cold, I feel a sense of relief. Of course, the pet doesn’t verbally answer my question, but sometimes, their eyes will tell you all you need to know.
Depending on the ailment or illness the pet is experiencing, they may tell their owner that they are in pain. A dog yelping for no apparent reason indicates that something is not right. If you attempt to pick up your pet and they scream in pain, there is an issue with the area you place pressure upon. Sometimes, a pet has a gastral intestinal inflammation condition that can be corrected with pharmaceuticals. Yet, other times, the ailment may be more serious, like a tumor or internal organ issue.
Like modern medicine for humans, veterinary medicine is also making strides. Incurable illnesses of just a few years ago can now be treated with pharmaceuticals. Self-diagnosis and using the internet can help narrow down the possibilities and causes of the illness. However, visiting your veterinary clinic is still the recommended action to take to confirm your conclusions.
I often say, “If it weren’t for pharmaceuticals, many of us wouldn’t be here.” The same applies to animals. I hope that within the next twenty years, research will allow the advancement of pharmaceuticals to the point of helping the majority of pets to live a much longer life. Quality of life is the most crucial consideration. If the pet can live pain- free without suffering for thirty years, that would be a significant accomplishment.
Give your pets a loving and caring home. Lastly, adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the former Community Outreach Director of Halifax Humane Society. E-mail him at bkukes@gmail. com View more of his work at minicoop erproductions.com