The other night I just about lost it. My dog was pacing endlessly, refusing to go to bed and running downstairs every time I brought him up. I’d taken him out dozens of times during the day and during the night but he’d only gone inside the house where it could be tracked all over. Then my mom called and said she had decided to put the dog, who is technically hers, down not at the end of August but immediately, one week from today. She and my brother fly in today.
Kind of puts things in perspective, having to call the vet and the funeral home to schedule euthanasia and cremation.
In my head, I know she’s right. He has end-stage senile dementia and incontinence that won’t respond to the most powerful medication we can throw at it. Despite or perhaps because of the anipryl, which he’s been on for two weeks, my dog’s sundowner pacing and incontinence have gotten worse. Since I picked him up from the boarder a week ago 75% of his excretions have been in the house, to the point where I had to cover the floor with puppy pads just for my own peace of mind. I’ve gone through nearly 50 pads and 2 bottles of cleaner in that time. And, as happened the other night, sometimes his pacing is so bad that neither of us sleeps a wink.
In my head, I know it’s no kind of life for either of us to live. My dog is always afraid, always confused, and not at all himself. I’m bound to him like a straitjacket, with no ability to live my own life; I have to come home in the middle of the day, I can’t go out at night, I can’t even work out upstairs for more than half an hour. Mopping and Glade plugins can only do so much for the cleanliness of my house when the flow of excrement just won’t stop.
And yet in my heart I am devastated, I am torn apart, by the thought of euthanizing my dog. Despite all my frustrations, when I’m confronted with what our life has become versus his death, I’m almost willing to take that on as a burden. To keep him alive, I’m willing to put up with a level of responsibility that any dog owner or even me circa 2009, would cringe at. I can take it, I tell myself. For his sake.
After all, he’s my mutty buddy who’s lived with me for two years, the puppy who used to run with us on the Lake Michigan sands, the dog who was always so happy to see us that he’d charge back and forth barking with his favorite squirrel toy. He was born into a house of giggling Michigan teenage girls in 1998, named after a character in Titanic, an enthusiastic snowpuppy who used to come in with snow and iceicles matted into his fuzz. Even moving down here to the land of volcanic summers and no winters with my parents abroad, he’s been the only one to greet me, the only one to be happy to see me, the only one who I could hug after a long day in what’s been a very lonely and often depressing period for me.
It may be that we’d do the same for any family member, if we could, who was too far gone mentally to have any quality of life. For me, making those surreal calls to vet and crematorium in which I couldn’t bring myself to use the real words for what I was doing…I can’t honestly say which is worse, not knowing when a loved one may die, of knowing down to the second. The man at the crematoria took pains to tell me how they treat pets like humans, giving them all the dignity and care that they would any other body. He mentioned having to lose his own three dogs, which I appreciated, one pet owner to another.
The vet said I’ll have the option to be there with him at the end. It will destroy me, but I think I should.