Dealing with pre-emptive grief

My dog has a degenerative nerve disease, at least that is the 95% likelihood at the moment. He has trouble standing up, moving - especially turning corners, even basic ablutions. In the last two days I've had to put a sling under his belly and hold him up to walk to his food bowls, his water bowl, and out to defecate or urinate. Every few hours. Day and night.

The vet has put him on some medication that we hope will control the wobbles and allow him to get around on his own. We have a few options available to us in medication stakes, but we realise that this can only manage, and can't cure. There is also the possibility of surgical intervention that is showing some promise overseas, but given he is an 11 year old German Shepherd, I don't see this as being an option worth considering.

So it has come time to deal with the inevitable. My dog is going to die, and it is likely to come down to me having to make the decision to end his life. I have to put aside my own desires and think only of his welfare and his quality of life. At the moment he is not in any pain, and since he is a bit of a couch potato he is not overly troubled by the current status. The time will come, however, when it will become troublesome.

I don't really care much about the lack of sleep or the having to lunk around the arse end of a 50kg dog, I've done that before when he had first one back knee reconstructed, then the other. It is a pain, but in both those cases it was temporary. I guess this is temporary as well, just an unknown period.

So now I'm starting to have to deal with pre-emptive grief. Trying to steel myself for the loss before it happens so I won't be devastated when it does. The worst thing for me is that Gryphon is not in pain and not troubled, just a bit confused when his back end won't accede to his brain's requests. So the decision is likely to be difficult and I'm going to have to work out when the time has come that it is no longer fair on Gryphon keeping him alive.

With my previous dog it was a lot easier. When he stopped eating and stopped interacting, we knew it was the end. He was a brave soul but his time had clearly come. I'm not sure it is going to be that clear cut this time and that scares the shit out of me. I am going to have to play God and I don't feel up to the task. I said goodbye to Shinto and he sat on my lap as the injection went in. When he looked at me that last time my heart broke, but I knew it was the right thing and I think he knew it too and was forgiving me. I just don't know how I'm going to cope with looking into Gryphon's eyes that last time.

So I'm working through it. I'm not there yet, and I doubt I ever will be.


Comment from: Eli [Visitor]  

I took my twelve yr old golden retriever for a checkup and although she had been put on a reduced calorie diet and lost some weight and her arthritis was starting she had some really good days. The shock was the blood test showed she has leukemia and will die in 30 to 60 days. She shows no signs except the blood counts, eats well, no stomach problems but has anemia which slows her down. I am hoping I will not have to make that choice unless she stops eating or drinking as I feel I would feel I am betraying the animal that loves me most and will do anythings to please me. I understand how you feel pray so that he goes before you have to make a choice and he does not suffer.

30/08/12 @ 09:21
Comment from: [Member]

Hi Eli,

Unfortunately I ended up having to make the decision, as I knew I would. One thing you learn when owning pets is that you will outlive them, and that more often than not you are going to have to make some hard decisions. What you have to remember is that you have to act in the best interests of your pet. It is not betrayal to end suffering, although the point at which you decide that quality of life has gone will be different for different people and different situations. In fact, I see it as a duty, a responsibility of ownership.

I hope that your situation is easy on both of you, but please, don’t shy away from the hard decision if and when it becomes necessary. You will have doubts, that is only human - but if you love your dog the way it comes across from your words you will know when it is time to act.

30/08/12 @ 11:17

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