Deciding if it is time to put your best friend down has to be one of the hardest decisions to make.
- Is it too soon?
- Will the dog get better?
- What is her quality of life?
Sometimes it’s obvious; the dog no longer enjoys anything; is not eating; and is in pain. Sometimes it’s not. Cassie’s last few days involved many of these questions. She still enjoyed eating, especially Mitch’s cooking and turkey heart treats.
She continued to deteriorate day by day. As of May 5th, Cassie couldn’t stand, even with the assistance of a sling and harness. As Mitch and I tried to ‘walk’ her over the grass, one supporting her rear with a sling and the other holding the harness to support her front, trying to get her to pee, her paws knuckled under her and she dragged them along, slanting hard to the left, a condition caused by a brain tumor. As we struggled to position her to eliminate, we both knew it was time to let her go.
As I drove Cassie to the vet, she lay sideways on the passenger seat with the back of the seat as flat as possible, the only position she could tolerate, and I kept questioning our decision. Should I give her another day or two? Maybe the drugs will have some effect if I give them more time. But we had already given them many days to work, and they hadn’t. She had only gotten worse.
I had a paralyzed dog before I got Cassie, could I handle it again? ‘No’, I decided. I had learned how difficult living with a paralyzed dog had been, and Cassie condition was worse than paralysis. It caused stress for both Mitch and I, with her panting in the middle of the night, waking us up to go potty, only to find her unable to go. Cassie had been a Velcro dog, following me from room to room, now she could no longer follow me and this stressed her. Her only enjoyment was eating.
Our vet showed tremendous kindness and consideration. She had been with Cassie through a lot, first coonhound paralysis at the age of three, then Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) starting at the age of eight, followed by arthritis, at ten years old, and now a brain tumor. Through it all Cassie remained happy and energetic, sometimes seemingly too energetic.
First Dr. Barcus installed a catheter in Cassie’s front leg, and then they brought her back to Mitch and me and laid her on a red blanket on top of a floor mat. As Mitch settled her down, I went to pay for the procedure. When I returned, he had propped her into a sitting position, watching me through the glass windows as I approached. How could she smile at me! Did she know what was about to happen, smiling only moments before dying? That smile will stay with me always. Maybe she knew and was okay with it. I can only hope.
We petted Cassie and gave her treats as we said our goodbyes. I gave her a kiss on the head and a hug. Then Dr. Barcus injected a tiny amount of salt water to test the catheter, then gave the narcotic and the overdose. Cassie laid her head down and went very peacefully. Her heart stopped within seconds of receiving the overdose. Mitch and I stayed with her for a few minutes, petting her as she passed.
For days as we discussed if it was time to put Cassie down, I had said I wanted her buried in our backyard, along with our last dog, Kaylee. The vet said technically it was illegal, but wouldn’t stop us. But when the day came, I decided at the last moment to get her cremated. Mainly since the appointment occurred during the middle of the day, and I would need to return home and lay her body on the garage floor as I returned to work, only to bury her around six hours later, during which her body might begin to smell in warm, damp weather.
Once Mitch and I left the vet in our separate cars to return to work, a sense of relief washed over me. The decision to put her down had been hard, but it felt right. Cremation also felt right. I found this poem written in 1925 by Ben Hur Lampman, on my work computer stored under Cassie and saved in 2009. I’m not sure why I saved it then, or what made me stumble over it on the day she died, but it rings very true http://www.thedogplace.org/PROSE/Where-To-Bury-A-Dog_Lampman-1925.asp
So, goodbye to the “most beautiful dog in the world,” someone said as I walked Cassie home from work a few years ago. She was definitely the prettiest dog I ever owned, and many people agreed. At least I still have Buffy and Chipper to keep me company through our daily routine of walks around the neighborhood.