To his dog, every man is King;
hence the constant popularity of dogs.
When is it time to say goodbye - or more accurately, euthanize a pet? Just asking that question makes me feel ... squeamish, uncomfortable, disloyal, and more than a little guilty.
I've been surfing the net to find perspectives and advice on knowing the right moment. This is probably my roundabout way of starting to get comfortable with something that needs to happen in the not so distant future, even if it's not this week or month or calendar year.
One of my problems is that about the time it seems very obvious that my 12-year-old schnauzer Colby has no 'quality of life' and is so miserable that putting him down is simple kindness, he perks up and shows a flash of his youthful vigor. Even if just for a day or two.
I'm sure that some of the guilt I feel comes from the way we anthropomorphize our pets. I know in my mind he's not really a human, but he's been part of the family so long - and paws down, he listens to me more than anyone else in the house - that it feels like I'm contemplating the life and death of a person.
Another stream of guilt feelings for me probably has to do with the realization that I'm not just looking at his quality of life but my own. The extra care and expense of an older pet, one who gets a couple shots a day and needs to be looked after and helped in other ways is probably one thing I simply don't want on top of the responsibilities of family life. Doing something that is in Colby's best interest that just happens to be in my best interest is not necessarily a matter of rationalization and those two dynamics are not mutually exclusive - but you try telling yourself that when your internal dialog includes phrases like 'lethal injection'.
The most common advice I've bumped into on the net - from the 'ask the vet' to the 'my pet tribute' sites, and on over to Old Yeller movie forums - has to do with the matter of pain. I know Colby is at minimum very uncomfortable. But how much pain is he in? He definitely favors one hip and he struggles to breathe sometimes. He's very lethargic - but so are a lot of other dogs and even a few humans I know; doesn't mean we put them down for wanting to lay around. Then other times he seems to really enjoy his walk and looks content to just be here.
Should I just call the vet and ask him or her what to do? The non 'ask the vet' sites warn you that many vets will just listen for a little while and then tell you what they think you want to hear. I've had worse conversations than that!
One bit of counsel that showed up numerous times is to not fall in the trap of 'waiting for God to decide the time' - that as a pet owner you have the responsibility to make a hard decision if the pet is miserable. This is just another variation of not letting Colby wallow helplessly in pain, and as I've noted previously, I'm no expert on observing what is 'too much pain' and 'miserable'. I did have a friend on Facebook this morning tell me that dogs hide pain because they are people pleasers. I don't doubt that but I'm still not convinced anyone can really 'know' that. And she got that from her vet who might be a bit of a people pleaser himself.
Well. I filled his bowl with food. I gave Colby his morning shot. Still not sure what I'm going to do. But at least now I know it isn't today.