When do you put your dog to sleep? When do you make that ultimate no return decision?
Sometimes are easier than others when you are making the decision. Sometimes you have a vet who helps you decide. Sometimes you have a vet who encourages you to try to extend the life of a very sick companion. Often times, if you listen, the companion will tell you when the time to be put to sleep is.
I decided to put Hammy to sleep in less than a minute...and they say it is so hard to decide to make the decision to put your beloved companion dog to sleep. It turned out it was so easy to tell my vet I didn't want Hammy to suffer a minute longer than he had to. I am usually an ambivalent person. I like to have nature take its own course. I loved Hammy way too much for him to continue his journey on earth as his kidneys were giving out.
When do you put your dog or cat to sleep or when do you let nature take its course? I have been in both situations. I was so frightened that I would have to make the decision and would second guess myself afterwards but with Hammy it was so clear
His final summer started fine. He was almost 15 1/2 and showed a great appetite and a strong heart. The vet said his liver was slightly enlarged but at times he behaved still like a puppy. He still mourned the loss of his brother Morgy who died a year and half of heart failure.
Morgy beat the bone cancer but his using three legs and fighting the cancer was too much for his preexisting heart condition. Morgy was on pain killers and free from pain. Even though he lost a lot of mobibility and had to be carried a lot, he was so alert and so eager to eat and so "with it" in the last year and half of his life the thought of putting him to sleep never entered my mind.
In the first year it did and I did ask the vet three times. I couldn't bear having him suffer. The vet reassured me that he wasn't in pain. During the first year, Morgy slept a great deal and fought the cancer. I treated him with holistic supplements since chemo and amputation and radiation were out of the question due to his age and heart.The first year was a roller coaster of emotion as the vet had given only Morgy three months to live and I kept looking for signs and focussing on he cancer more than on Morgy. I regret that. I should have just focussed on my Morgy and not on the cancer! His last year and half I focussed on Morgy and worked around the limitations while maintaining his dignity!
Morgy was very alert the last night on earth. He ate with relish. I didn't have a clue it would be his last night. He hobbled to the closet and I carried him back to his throne, a large pillow. I woke up at five to find him near the litter box. He had tried to get in i guess...the only natural place in the apartment.
In the morning, while Snowy was still sleeping I took his precious body to the vet's.
For over a month, Snowy would look out the terrace window as if he were looking for Morgy. He hadn't done that before. He did that everyday. Also our mourning dove, hooed for over a month. She also usually didn't hoo. She probably was also in mourning. Under Morgy's collar, it was still warm..I had probably missed his death by a couple of hours. True to form, Morgy always liked to do things HIS WAY...i AM SURE HE HAD FRANK SINATRA BEAT .
My two cats Pumpkins and Tui also died naturally. Tui died in my arms. She died from cancer and fought it for six months. She showed no signs of pain and no signs of wanting to leave. Every night for the last month and half we spent the whole night looking into each other's eyes as I petted her. The last day on earth, she made an attempt to get off the bed. She died that night in my arms. Pumpkins death happened suddenly. She didn't want to be held but I felt her last breath as she let out a wild cry. She joined the universe. She was 17 1/2
Our cats showed Hammy attention but it wasn't the same. But then something strange happened. Snowball, a white Persian with a very deep soul started really paying attention to Hammy. He started trying to rub his body against Hammy's and as the summer progressed, Snowball became more fierce in rubbing his body against Hammy's body. Toward the end Hammy even was rubbing his head against Snowball and at least one point, they both rubbed heads....one of the most beautiful things I have seen. I, of course, was in denial. I refused to see how thin Hammy had gotten. When Hammy was finally weighed, and he had lost five pounds and weighed 19 pounds, I asked the vet to weigh him again. Afterall, Hammy still had a great appetite. I didn't think of cachexia or wasting away. The vet reassured me that his scale was not broken.
I didn't realize that cachexia just did not happen with cancer, but also happened with renal failure and heart failure. Morgy lost a lot of weight the first year of cancer but then gained most of it back the last year and half.
To tell you how clueless I was, the vet had asked about Hammy's appetite and I told him it was just fine. I was handfeeding Hammy loads of treats. He appeared to love it...Instead of putting them on the rug, the treats would go gently in his mouth until Hammy was ready for the next one. I was only worried that Hammy might get fat. So clueless....So happy I did it..I tended not to give Hammy and Morgy many treats when they were younger although I did share my food with them. I thought that was a big enough treat! Both were never heavy.
The summer was hot and I had the air conditioner on most of the time for my companions. Snowy is a delicate cat with feline herpes and I didn't want a flareup and have him feel rotten. Even though Hammy had a strong heart, he was a senior citizen and I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible. I was taking medication which made me very tired. Hammy's walks were very short. He seemed to like that. I also didn't walk him that often for which I felt so guilty. He didn't seem to mind it.
We passed most of the summer with my promising to give him great walks once the weather turned and we both would probably feel like walking.
Things just didn't work out that way. Hammy started showing confusion...He would stand for five minutes and do nothing. He would get trapped under the desk. He never went under the desk before. He stepped in the water bowl twice ...he never did that....he started having accidents in the house regularly...he never did that. I would carry him to the terrace. I also didn't realize but he was drinking a great deal of water.
I took him to the vet at first to have his nails and ears cleaned but the behavior I described wasn't evident except maybe for the excessive drinking of water.
Probably within three weeks, the strange behavior started being exhibiting itself and I was sure it was canine cognitive dysfunction. I quickly took Hammy to the vets and he was put on medication. Within a few days Hammy was back to the alert Hammy...but his appetite was gone.
He started vomitting and then dry heaving and had diahrrea and he had a foul odour from his mouth which got worse. The vet gave him a blood test and fluids. The next day, the tests came back and they showed the extensive renal damage. Ham was put to sleep that afternoon...three and half hours after the tests came back.
He died with nobility and with dignity ....the way he conducted his whole life.
Some people say they see it in their dog's eyes that is time to go. Some can see their dog is in pain. Some people don't wait even as long as I have waited and immediately have all sorts of tests performed at first signs of change such as weight loss. Some people start having their dogs have complete physicals and blood tests once they reach a certain age and practice preventative care.
I never asked my vet what if I had started giving Hammy blood tests when he was 12 for instance...if he could have seen the renal failure coming and if I could have given Hammy fluids and a change in diet. Even though he died at 15 1/2, guilt remains...
There was a period when he was a puppy that I had wished he were docile. Towards the end he became docile with the cognitive canine dysfunction and i hated it. That wasn't my Hammy. Thank goodness the medication took it away and he regained his noble personality.
A friend went with me to the vet's and waited in the waiting room while I went with Hammy to the room. Hammy was already at the vets as I had taken him in that morning for more fluids. Hammy sat on my lap for over twenty precious minutes as I petted him ...I guess I could tell Hammy was ready because he stayed still and didn't look around the waiting room....
His passing went so quickly. There was no movement that I couldn't believe he died. My vet had to show me that his body was without life. I left the room. My Hammy was in Heaven.
As I walked down the street with my friend and reached the corner, a huge vision of Hammy flashed before my eyes...he had the broadest grin as if to tell me ...Bobby you did good...you did the right thing....
I comfort myself knowing that Hammy and Morgy are probably together again. Their ashes were sprinkled in the same garden. .but I bet they are playing in heaven waiting for me to join them.
I couldn't have loved Hammy and Morgy more. I made some mistakes with Hammy. He was a very very proud dog and as a puppy I used the B A D word on him and the N O word.....Hammy only responded to positive reinforcement and did things when it pleased him. He wasn't famous for following orders or commands. One time he bit me when I gave him a treat. He didn't do it on purpose...He just thought carelessly that my fingers were part of the treat. I let out such a yell of pain after that whenever I hand fed him which was often, I had to put the food into his mouth and he gently took it. People were shocked because at first it looked as if he were turning it down. That is an example of how noble intellectual and how dignified my Ham was.
Another time a crazy little dog attacked Morgy and Hammy. The dog broke off the leash. Hammy just grabbed him by the neck without breaking any skin and waited until we got the other dog. Was I ever in awe of Hammy! He didn't like to show affection but occasionally would break down and then appear embarrassed. I hope in heaven he can show all the affection he felt but was too dignified to express....
Thank you God for such blessings....
It has been over three months since Hammy died, and I find myself taking time outs where I just focus on my life with Hammy. The pain of his loss hasn't subsided..but there remains no doubt in my mind about my decision. I haven't accepted the loss or the pain of his death and know that will just take time. Distractions are distractions and are only temporary. Some people are blessed to be able to find another dog to love and care for. I am hoping for me volunteer work with dogs will help. I love cats so much but Hammy and Morgy and I were a pack.
When I no longer could provide Hammy with a quality of life he deserved and the vet gave me no hope of restoring that quality, I put my precious Hammy dog to sleep and although I did not get my wish that he would die naturally, I am greatful that the decision not to let Hammy suffer a minute longer than he had to was all that existed in my world at that most painful time...but I find it more haunting that I had to make the decision and it has been over four months....if only he could have died naturally in his sleep of old age.