Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Decision

This week I had to have the discussion with the vet that every dog owner dreads. My 16 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Bertie, has been in declining health over the past year and I have made “the decision” but am unsure as to when it will take place.

Up until this past week I knew it was coming, but last Thursday she was bitten by something (a mite or a spider) and the area under her swelled up like a pelican's beak. She was in no pain, eat like a horse and was normal in every other regard that a 16 year old dog can be. We decided not to do MedVet because just walking in the door there is $300. She wasn't in distress, so we weren't worried.

So we took her to the vet (a floater, not her normal vet) and described everything that was going on and found that we spent more time talking about what she couldn't do any longer that she used to do. He eye site is gone, her hearing is shot.  She's develped a limp and navigating the stairs is difficult.  She's also lost much of her personality - going from an energetic pup to lost old woman. 

And we talked about how my husband found her in the basement, lost, on one night and spent the night sitting in a cold cellar, alone and unsure of what to do or where she was. I should point out that we have no door to the steps to the basement and she has never gone down to the basement in her entire life.

The vet took blood samples, did a full work up and $300 later told us that her organs were fine and strong.

But the idea that she got lost in her own home prompted me to have the talk with her regular vet on Monday.

My Vet is a sweet man, and he listened. We talked about what days he does the procedure. We talked about the cremation. We talked about who performs the cremation, and what are my options for the ashes. And we talked about how I need it to happen – that I will drop her off, tell her I will get her in a week and leave.  And true to my word I will pick her up a week later and then give myself some time to decide what to do with her ashes.

“There are going to be a number of people who will criticize you for not being with her, but you know her, you know you, and you have to remember to listen to inner voice because its the right thing to do for both of you,” he said.  "There is no right way, no wrong way.  Just work the decision through.  I'll be here."

I have had people tell me that I should have it done at home. That I should be with her. And that I am a bad person for choosing not to be there.

But what none of these people can ever understand is how much I love her, how much I have done for her and how much she has done for me, and what is the best way to do this for both of us.

So now we wait for the moment when lets us know that the time has arrived, that she's tired, and that its time to move on. And the waiting is the worst part.

Making the decision to love a pet enough that you need to let go when life becomes a stranger to them is a hard choice to make. She's been my little girl for 16 years. I don't know how I will go on after the time comes, but go on I will because that is what life is all about. And one day after she's gone I'll know that I did what was best, what was hardest and what I need to do to move on.


  1. such a terrible time. don't forget how lucky you & bertie were to find each other. could she have had a better life with anyone else? of course not.

  2. Thanks to you both.

    Intellectually, I know she's had a good life, but emotionally this is a hard decision. But as a vet friend of ours pointed out, Bertie has no idea of "future", just the "now", and the now isn't as easy as it used to be. So we wait until the moment becomes clear WITHOUT waiting to the point where it is overdue.

  3. Stu -

    I still remember meeting BBtWT some years ago -- she was a bright, bouncy, bundle of energy and spirit. I know that's how you'll always remember her. She's led a cherished life and she's lucky to have someone who loves her enough to make the difficult decision.

    The Other Michael

  4. Oh, sweetie. I can't even imagine having to make that kind of decision. But, as your very wise and understanding vet said, only you know what is "right" for you and Bertie.

    You know, I've kind of breezed through life without having to make any strong emotional connections of the truly, deeply meaningful sort: serious boyfriends/husbands, pets, children (ugh). My relationship with my family is cordial but from a distance, and my friendships are generally of the pleasant, let's-have-lunch-or-cocktails sort - nothing Golden Girls-esque. That concept is actually quite foreign to me. I wonder if it's based on a fear of having to "let go" at moments like this. Things that make you go "hmmm"...

  5. miclew - you found me! Its a mitzpah! OY such present I could only dream about. ARe you on Facebook? The rest of us are on Facebook.

  6. Well, here's some good news - BBWT has rallied. Still blind as a bat, still gets dioriented, but she's eating well and crapping outside, for the most part. So the decision is still on the table - we take it as we do, a day at a time.

    I would also add that while this is a horrible place to be, the pro's outweigh the cons when it comes to having a dog in your life. They are so good for your spirit and getting you out of the house when you don't feel like it; manys a time that I have returned from walking the dog feeling like I was the one who got the benefit.

    Now when it comes to cats, I prefer Katz - Dr. Richard Katz and his lovely wife Holly. But cats, feh.