An Aging Dog

This past week left me with a dilemma. My old dog was down and out. She has had bad days with her joints, just like I do. She has days her temperament snaps, where she has always been a happy dog. I can identify with that myself. This past week, however, there was a change in her that made me question if she was still a happy dog, or if I was keeping her close by my side for my own selfish purposes. No one ever likes to say goodbye to a beloved pet. It is probably one of the hardest, but most humane, decisions you can make.

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My story has a happy ending, to date. If you are like me, you can’t stand to read a sad dog story. So I will preface this post with the good news that my dog is still with me. Now you can sigh and move on, or read further to hear Foxy’s story.

Foxy was the young pup that came to my husband and me when she was seven weeks old. That was over fifteen years ago. We were getting over the loss of the dog we adopted when we first met. We were not yet a couple, but finding a dog on the street brought us together as we decided to take care of the mangy mutt that was sitting in front of a grocery store, eating a bag of Cheetoes. We took the dog home and the three of us became a family unit. I think my husband loved that dog more then me. I was Ok with that, because I understand loving a pet! Sadly, our dog left us, as old dogs do.

The quiet in the house was overwhelming. What do you do with hands that constantly petted a dog? How do you cook dinner without a dog at your feet, eagerly waiting for some morsel of food to drop to the floor? How do you watch TV, when three snuggled, and now there were only two? Dog lovers understand these questions. If you are not a dog lover, then move along, because I sound like a crazy lady and who wants to be in the company of a crazy lady?

I answered an ad in the paper for one lone pup that was a German Shepherd – Malamute mix, seven weeks old, and for sale a few miles from the house. I had to coax my husband to look at the pup, he was still in mourning over his beloved pet.

“Come on!” I grabbed at his arm and tugged him off the chair. “Won’t hurt to look.”

He grumbled, but we drove the few miles, in the dark of night, to see the only puppy left out of a litter that was snatched up quickly. When we parked our car, we noticed a couple under the carport awning, at the end of the driveway, talking to the man holding the pup.

I sucked in my breath. I hope the dog hasn’t been sold! I knew this was going to be our dog the minute I read the ad. While we sat watching the scene, the old man walked in our direction. The gangly pup was dangling from his hands. The man held the dog like it was hot coals.

“Them folks can’t make up their mind. If you want her, she’s yours.”

I looked at my husband. He shrugged and mumbled, “Do what you want.” That was the first and last time he said those words to me.

“We’ll take her!” I grabbed the pup and handed the man seventy dollars, the amount he had told me she cost when we had talked earlier.

“Go!” I looked at my husband as I grabbed the pup and jumped back in the van. I was worried the couple would run up saying they wanted the dog. Clearly she had to be ours, we needed to mend our broken hearts and she was our answer!

Fifteen years later I sit here, a widow, with six dogs. I write and use the handle, Writer With Dogs. After my husband died, I managed to adopt five dogs in less than nine months. I like to refer to my old girl and new dogs as my six-pack. I was not ready to let her go this past week.

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I called my vet and told him how badly she was acting. She would not get up. She teetered and fell over if she did. She was skin and bones. I was horrified she would fall and break something.

“It’s time.” He quietly, gently, told me over the phone. “You know it is, or you wouldn’t be calling me.”

He arranged for a traveling vet to come to the house to do the deed two days later. That night of my phone conversation I sat on the floor and looked at my thin, frail, unhappy dog.

“Tell me if you are ready.” I bent over and kissed her head. Then I ran my hand down her side and felt every rib. “I will do what is best for you.” I had tears in my eyes at the thought of letting her go.  Five dogs sat around us and watched Foxy as she raised her head and then put it back down.

That night I gave her an extra pain pill. I was only giving her half a dose, because I don’t like drugs. I was afraid it would make her lethargic, even more so then she was. I also fixed a shrimp cocktail for dinner.

While I was eating my shrimp cocktail I heard Foxy come into the room. She stood and focused on the shrimp. Foxy watched the shrimp, and tilted her head, as I dipped each shrimp into cocktail sauce and then into my mouth.  Her eyes cleared up and she actually started to smile. She has been moving around, active, ever since.

The doctor came to the house two days later and gave Foxy a quality of life evaluation. She watched her move, checked her vitals, and asked many questions as to my dog’s habits. Foxy clearly did not want the doctor fooling with her, and would circle away and come back into the room. I slipped her a cookie while the doctor checked her ears.

“Foxy is not ready.” The vet smiled at me as she snapped her bag closed. “Keep me in the loop. But this dog has to much life left.” We both agreed that the extra pain medicine, the correct dose I should have been giving her, was the answer to the question on why Foxy had improved. She could move without the discomfort she had been dealing with.

Whatever the answer, I am thrilled. I have my old gal a little longer. The time will come when I have to ask that question again. It is one that needs to be addressed when a dog comes to its days end. To keep a dog longer than it wants to stay is wrong, but to know when that time is right, is a difficult one. Lucky for me I have a vet who makes house calls and will be there for me when Foxy is ready.

I thanked the vet and hugged her as she left. The vet said it was the pain medicine. I call it the miracle of the shrimp cocktail. Foxy took one look at the shrimp and knew there were many good meals ahead if she hung around! She does not eat shrimp, but I have found rotisserie chicken has pulled my dogs through many a slump. It is my version of “chicken soup” for what ails you. Foxy, and five other dogs, are nibbling on their kibble, laced with rotisserie chicken, as I write away at my computer!

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