Have you ever backed out of a euthanasia app't?

alisandeJune 20, 2009

For months I've been agonizing over end-of-life decisions for my two dogs (ages 14 and 16). It's been crazy-making, which perhaps explains what happened this morning.

Without boring you with a lot of detail, the basic situation is that the dogs do not need to be put out of their misery; I'm the one who's miserable. But I love them, and they both represent happier times and a deep connection to a daughter I lost.

Anyway, after yet another difficult night last night and not nearly enough sleep, I told myself it was wrong to wait until Angel (the older one) became sick or incapacitated, for that would be sentencing her to suffering. I firmly resolved to have her put down today. After several hours of procrastination, I called and made the appointment. And then I fell apart.

I cried myself into a nosebleed and a sick feeling. I kept telling myself I could call and cancel the appointment, but I pushed on. In pouring rain, I installed a comforter in the front seat of my car, and stuffed treats in my purse to feed Angel on the way to the vet. Angel, my Angel. My loyal protector for 16 years.

Angel just didn't seem any more ready that I was. I prayed to my daughter to give me a sign that I was doing the right thing. I changed my clothes, snapped a leash on Angel, told Wolfy to stay, and we left the house. I walked down the porch steps. Angel jumped off them like a puppy. That was all the sign I needed.

We went back in the house, and I called the vet's office. "I just can't do this right now," I said. "Okay," she said, as if people make this call all the time.

I'm wondering if they do. I've had dogs and cats for over 40 years, and have made many brutally wrenching end-of-life decisions for them. But I never backed out of this kind of appointment before. As my dad always said, there's a first time for everything.

Have you had this experience?


Here is a link that might be useful: Angel and Wolfy - the whole story

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Susan I feel for you....putting my dog to sleep was the hardest decision I ever had to make....I'm not sure anyone will be able to give you a right answer. But if you put your dogs to sleep because your life has been compromised....I don't know what that will do to you. To me it sounds as if you feel the dogs are in no pain and misery and that may be so...it may also be wrong....animals tend not to show pain and weaknesses unless its really bad. Your dogs are old so rehoming them is probably not an option...if you give them up chances are they will be put to sleep. For the incontinence problems....have your vets tried Proin? It worked wonders for my old girl. For the dog that keeps getting stuck in places....maybe at night you can limit their roaming by locking them in one room of the house that has not much in it for them to get in trouble? You may find that putting them to sleep is the best option...only you can make that decision....but as it seems you are not ready to do so....I would try to find fixes that helps you as well as your dogs. keeping them out of the pantry is a very good option...proin is another one to help with the incontinence. If they still can't hold it in...buy wee wee pads and place it in the room you keep them in at night and/or during the day when you are not around. Do you have a fenced in yard? Another option may be to install a doggy door so they can go out when they need to. I think that if you are not ready to put them to sleep as yet that you can try to make things at least a little easier on yourself. Honestly from what you have said I worry that if you put these dogs to sleep when you do not feel you HAVE to then you will kill yourself with the guilt....putting a very sick dog to sleep is hard enough.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 1:57PM
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Thanks, Trini. Wolfy and Angel have been at a plateau in their conditions for quite a long time--years--and I've explored various options with three vets. None suggested Proin, but I've heard some things about it that would make me wary of the drug, particularly for Angel, who has been on a heart med since puppyhood and has a history of seizures.

As you say, it's hard to gauge a dog's level of comfort. I would say Wolfy is not a happy dog much of the time, despite two pain meds and an anti-depressant. Since he thoroughly trashed the pantry, he doesn't go in there very much any more, probably because so much stuff is on the floor now. Angel, OTOH, seems content enough . . . when she's not panting and pacing during the day or barking at night.

Rehoming them is not an option. I would never consider giving these dogs away.

I think you're right, though, that if I made the decision for them on the basis of my comfort, the consequences would be hard to live with. Not only the guilt, which would in itself be profound, but the fact that I'd inflicted another loss upon myself.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 3:31PM
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I am sorry for your turmoil in making this decision.

I gauge my decision to go through with this by the animal's quality of life. Here's the story of my dog Scottie, who was 19 when I had to let him go.

He had a bad back that he developed late in life. Too late for surgery. So we treated him with the necessary pain, anti inflammatory meds, water therapy and acupuncture. We tried everything to keep him comfortable. He was deaf and almost blind, but as long as he continued to woof at us, wag that tail and chase our big dog down the hall, we didn't mind cleaning up after all his accidents by the back door or his nipping at our feet if we walked too close (due to the deafness and blindness). Then the day came when he was whining and no medication helped. When he would have one of his pain spells in the past he would whine and run around like crazy, trying to get away from the pain. After giving him his meds normally it would subside in about half an hour. Well this morning he was whining and running around and nothing I did would relieve the pain. That's when I knew it was time. He was very calm at the end and that let me know I was making the right decision for him. Here's a photo of my boy when he graduated from obedience school as a pup.

When they don't want to eat, go for walks, know how to get in and out of the house, cry in pain, etc., then I help them die with dignity and not prolong their life that has no quality to it for them.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 3:45PM
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Yes, I have--actually, twice for the same cat. We "gave" him almost 4 extra months. We simply could not go through with it.. looked into his eyes, and there was still that beautiful look, and "a sign" he was not ready... Can't tell you it was the right thing to do (there were 4 long months!), but you alone can make that decision, not the vet. So, please, only listen to your heart and to your loyal friend Angel. I am convinced he gave you the signal, and you understood it. Hopefully, he can have some quality time...
May he help you in this difficult time,

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 4:19PM
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Brutus, your doggie Scottie was a beauty. It is clear you loved him dearly. I love that photo of his obedience graduation! What a cutie. Wow...19 years old....you were a wonderful caregiver and friend. Bless you.

Susan, my heart breaks for your decision making. I guess we all put our personal lives and motives in question to some degree with our dogs lives and their problems as they age. I think for now you made the right decision to cancel that appointment. Listen to your heart. It rarely, if ever deceives wheras the brain will often give us erroneous and often false ideas.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 4:38PM
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I have never backed out of an euthanasia, but then my animals were usually ill with no chance of recovery..kidneys shutting down, etc. It's a difficult decision even then to make so I think you did the right thing today. You might have second guessed yourself if you went thru with it. I know it's a hardship with older pets with problems. I had a pee-er a few years ago. Most of her long life, she was okay with relapses. But as the cat dynamic changed, she began peeing indiscriminately. I and the vet tried everything and I just put up with it with Natures Miracle and cleaners. I'd never know what to expect. She was quite old and died in her sleep one night. I loved her but I cannot say I wasn't relieved. Now with five cats, no one knows I have pets when they come in the house. They all co exist peacefully and I will not add any more to the gang.Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 4:52PM
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"You might have second guessed yourself if you went thru with it."

Yes, you would have.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 6:18PM
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Oh, absolutely.

I really feel better, because at least for now, the decision has been made and I feel it was the right decision. The events of the day were draining, but necessary, I think.

Curiously, the first time I walked the dogs after all this happened Angel had trouble getting up. When I finally got her on her feet and out the door, she stopped, sat, and leaned against me, reluctant to go any further. This never happened before, although she's been creaky at times. (So am I!)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 6:29PM
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ohhhh Im sorry you are going through such a hard time. The motto in my house is no suffering if it can be avoided. HOWEVER dogs have bad days, especially when they get older. We think they are going to take their last breath and then next thing you know they are off chasing a cat...draggin you behind them. This is one of the hardest times of being a pet owner.
There are some guidelines to go through.
Is your dog eating?
Is your dog drinking?
Is your dog engaging in contact?
Rate your dogs quality of life. 1 being the worst 10 being the best. Then ask your self if you are both really ready and that you are reading things right...
Good luck with your babies, my thoughts are with you.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 11:43PM
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Yes. I had one cat that was having kidney problems. I would have to bring him in 1 per week to have fluid/iv under skin. He was in bad shape. I made appointment to have him put down and I guess the vet thought I was too distraught, I really wasn't, but plenty of tears. I think they strung me along too far, for about 2 months. I finally had to have my husband do it. Afterward I was upset w/vet, after making the decision to have him put down they kind of talked me out of it..made me feel guilty in a subtle way, which of course I was anyway, who isn't. I never went back to the vet again. I heard from neighbors a while later that they were not happy with that same vet for various reasons.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 12:40PM
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One of my vets would probably have done that, Izzie. He likes to keep an animal going no matter what. I learned this the hard way with one of my cats. She had cancer, and I relied on him to tell me when it was time. He was always encouraging, always telling me I was doing the right thing to continue to care for her. By the time I brought her in to be put down, I honestly didn't know if she was still alive or had died on the way there.

I was standing there, thinking, I will never do this to an animal again, and he was standing there praising me for having done such a good job.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 12:48PM
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Your dogs will tell you when it's time. That was especially true with Maggie, my 15 year old collie/shepherd mix. I knew time was getting close...she had very bad arthritis, trouble walking, and was restless and panting at times. I had made an appointment for 4pm on May 15th. That morning, I took her outside and she walked a little and then just sat down in the grass. I sat with her, and she laid on my lap. There was something different about her, and I really believe she was telling me she was so tired, and ready to go. We stayed outside for a little while, and when I went back inside, I changed the appointment to earlier. I couldn't have her go through the whole day. It was still difficult, because she was mentally 'there'. But on the other hand I felt absolutely sure it was the right thing to do, and the right time.

I have empathy for you, because her problems did impact me in stressful ways like yours. But I would have felt eternal guilt had I done it several months earlier, which I did seriously consider. I am glad I waited.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 1:22PM
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I know so well your agonizing decision. I went through it three times.

The answer to your question"Have you ever backed out of a euthanasia app't?". YES. It was hard for me to schedule their death. I kept praying God would take them.

I totally agree with weed30, "Your dogs will tell you when it's time". Mine let me know.

((((BIG HUG TO YOU))))


    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 2:17PM
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my heart aches to read this. i, too, will be facing this decision, most likely in a matter of months. i know exactly what you mean about that special connection with your daughter. my dogs both saw me through countless agonizing days and nights when my husband was terminally ill with cancer. since i lost him, my dogs have been my therapy. the thought of losing any of them pains me beyond belief.

i agree, for the most part, that your dogs will "let you know when it's time". however, sometimes we have to make the decision for them. in my situation, my male corgi is suffering from degenerative myelopathy. this is a painless disease that will, if i let it go on long enough, render him paralyzed. i have to consider his quality of life. because there is no pain associated with this disease, i will have to decide when the time is right, and that will be when he begins to show signs that he is having trouble getting up and walking. i will not let it get to the point of paralysis, i will not put him in a wheelchair, i will absolutely not allow this proud little dog to be forced to drag himself to where he wants to go.

when i lose my little guy, i will lose another tangible connection to my late husband and i know i will be sent into yet another tailspin.

for your dogs to have reached the ages of 14 and 16, it is obvious they have been loved and well cared for. i know you will make the right decision, when the time comes.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 8:00PM
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Yes, I have backed out but eventually came to the decision when it was better for everyone - me and the dog. I don't envy your decisions. Your story... it touched me. I'm so very sorry the pain you find yourself in now. It of course reminds me of my own decision making not so long ago (black lab, 15, I enherited her when she was 12, when my father died) - I would set limits in my mind - when she was incontenent, or couldn't get up and down the stairs, or lost her bowels, or didn't recognize me... I would have her put to sleep... I set all those limits and lived with each and every one of those things b/c I couldn't do it - I wasn't ready to let go of her (and my father in some ways). Finally my father's gal looked at me to say SHE was done... tired - in HER way...
Angel will communicate when it's time to you.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:58AM
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I too have a beautiful shepard-husky mix named Ebony who is 14 years old. I looked at your web site a story of Angel and Wolfy. Your wolfy looks so much like my Ebony (Ebby). I talked about putting my girl down 3 weeks ago but didn't/couldn't do it. I would look into her face with her beautiful brown eyes staring back at me and decided it still wasn't time yet. My neighbor would say' don't you think it's time? I thought, sure she is walking a little slower and doesn't eat that well but I don't think it is time yet. I took her to the vets the middle of May and she gave me medicines for her arthritis and also to stimulate her appetite but neither helped much at all. Over the past week and especially since yesterday I now know it is time. She can't stand up for long in one posistion. She has fallen over several times. Prior to that, the past several weeks she has aimlessly walked in circles not knowing what she is doing or where she is going. She has drank some water today but would not eat. She hasn't really eaten very much over the past 2 weeks. Her kidneys have shut down I know ,because she has hardly voided. She doesn't even bark to go outside. She is very listless. I am a hospice nurse. I've seen the same terminal restlessness in my poor Ebby as I have seen many times with my beloved pts. With hospice we have the medicines to help ease the terminal restlessness and the narcotics to ease the pain and/or to help with the shortness of breath. Wouldn't it be great if there were a pet hospice were our beloved pets could die painfree at home with the proper medications and not have to be euthanized. I had to put my cat Purrie down 2 years ago this month. It was very hard but like my Ebony it had to be done. I wouldn't want them to suffer. I hope that I will be okay because I am alreay very sad this week because yesterday was the 1st anniversay of my mothers death from cancer. I don't know why everything has happened in July. I believe that you will know when the time has come for your Wolfy and I pray for you. I am already sick to my stomach and I'm crying rivers knowing what I have to do tomorrow. I wish you the best and hope you will know when it is time so that they will not have to suffer.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 8:06PM
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Yes, it's clear that it's time for Ebony's spirit to be released. Still, I know how heartbreaking this is for you. I know you and Ebby will be reunited one day. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow, Grama2.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 10:35PM
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I will be thinking of you too. The most difficult decision, but the right thing to do. The last gift that we can give our beloved companions.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 11:04PM
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I'm sure people back out all the time.

There will come a time when you will know its right time. Your dog will tell you, you will agree, there won't be any second guessing.

Cherish these last days, or months, or years with no regrets.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 8:27AM
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I thought I'd post a little update. If I didn't mention it before, Wolfy has completely stopped acting anxious and agitated at night. He no longer goes into the pantry. I don't know if the drug gets the credit, but he seems normal otherwise.

Angel still has a period of panting/pacing in the morning and after dinner at night, but it's limited to those times. She seems to be sleeping somewhat less, which surprises me, but she simply seems alert, not uncomfortable. She still barks at night sometimes, for no apparent reason, but not every night, and not for long. She still wakes me up early every morning. Lack of sleep remains a constant problem, but I'm trying to be a better napper.

Both dogs seem to be thriving on our more frequent walks. They are slow walks, and not very long. But they obviously enjoy them. We weren't able to walk last winter, and we won't be able to do it this year. So at this point I'm reluctant to put them through another winter like the last one.

Easy for me to say in July.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 12:15PM
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