Tuesday, May 22, 2007

To kill my dog or not to kill my dog. That is the question.

A serious one, at that.

I'm in a MAJOR predicament. It sucks ass. It's about my dog.

Nikita is a German Shepherd. My husband and I adopted her from an animal shelter in the summer of 1997. We had been dating a little over a year, lived together and decided to get a puppy. I had a specific type in mind so we headed over to the animal shelter.

I didn't see any puppies that I truly liked, although I wanted to take every one of them home. We were just about to leave when my husband saw her. She was in the very last kennel at the opposite end of the shelter. She was standing up on her hind legs with her head peeking out over the top of her kennel and her HUGE ears sticking straight up. It was almost as if she was saying "Pick me, PICK ME!!"

She was nine-months-old, rail thin and timid as hell. I knew by the look on my husband's face that we would be bringing her home. He went down to see her while I turned around and told the shelter worker to get the paperwork started.

Nikita came home with us an hour later. She was adorable ~ totally meant for us. She got along with my stepkids wonderfully, even protecting my stepdaughter while we went for a drive in the car or when she was taking a nap. It's like she knew how delicate and fragile my stepdaughter was.

Nikita has been with us through all but one year of our relationship. She was there when we bought our first house, got married, had our first baby together, bought our current house, had another baby, lost my stepdaughter, and had our last child. She is just as much a part of our family as any human could be.

Nikita is almost 11 years old now. A few years ago, the vet told us that her hips were getting arthritic. Over the last few years, her legs have gotten worse, she has gotten slower, fatter (yay!) and very, very grey. Who knew dogs got grey hair? I certainly didn't.

Back to the matter at hand...

About a month ago, Nikita fell down the steps in our house. She was pretty sore the night it happened and no better the next day. I took her in to the vet, where she was sedated and xray-ed.

When I picked her up, the Vet told me that her x-rays were "fascinating" from a medical point of view. Basically, Nikita had arthritis EVERYWHERE. He told me that the x-rays showed a MAJOR change from the previous ones and that she has gotten a lot worse.

We briefly discussed the plan for Nikita and between myself, my husband and the Vet, decided that SHE would tell US when it was time to go. The Vet said that she would lose that sparkle in her eyes or perhaps fall down and not be able to get back up when it was time to go.

Ever since that visit, watching Nikita struggle with her pain is heart-wrenching. She NEVER vocalizes it but you can see it when she walks. When she lays down. When she struggles and struggles to get up. Sometimes she looks so sad...but she always is excited to see us with her tongue hanging out and her tail wagging like mad. The thought of "she is hurting more than she is showing" has been in the back of my head for weeks now.

Today, I had the dogs outside with me while the kids played in the front yard. Nikita started to bark and since she is deaf, couldn't hear me when I was yelling at her to stop. I swatted her on her snout and she dropped. I felt AWFUL. It's like I startled her and she just fell down. She couldn't get back up. She was sitting on her haunches and trying SO HARD to stand up. She ended up spinning around in a 360 on her ass before she could get up. I was close to tears and felt like absolute fucking SHIT. I hugged her and told her I was sorry but I still felt, and feel, like the biggest dick on the planet.

Watching her struggle to get up only deepened the question in my head of whether we should have her put down or not. I called the Vet shortly afterwards and have been waiting for him to call back. In the meantime, my husband, stepson and I have talked about it. We all feel she is hurting but still has her spark. My husband wants to hear what the Vet says. My stepson says that he will support whatever decision we make. My younger kids have no idea (and I plan to keep it that way for now).

So many questions are running through my head but the biggest one is:

How in the HELL do you know when it is time to put down your dog?

My heart is torn in a million pieces but my head keeps saying "Yes, it is time."

I know that only we can make this decision but I just had to get it out there. I am hoping the Vet will call soon because this is fucking AGONY.


~ xoxo ~


the real ~Roxann~ said...

Oh, I am so sorry. (((hug))) Unfortunately, I have no advice. However, my SIL is a German Shepard breeder/trainer and I could ask her. Her main male dog had arthritis like this and he eventually even had a little doggie wheelchair when he back legs didn't work. Let me know if you want me to contact her. She trains at Pets Mart and works on the East coast. So it would be tomorrow.....but I would be happy to call her for you w/ any questions. Best of luck w/ your decision.

Oh, and Nakita knows you feel bad. German Sheps are SUPER SMART!!! Don't beat yourself up over it.

dont eat token said...


Beth said...

Oh Sarah, my heart hurts for you. It is never an easy decision to make. It would be easy for me to just say, "you'll just know when the time comes." But as you now know it isn't that simple.

Yes, she is probably in a lot of pain. But she is so loyal to you and the family that she won't show the full extent.

This will sound weird but I suggest that you sit down with her and hold her, pet her and tell her that you love her and give her permission to let go. Then she will feel like she can give in to the pain and stop the fighting. Then you can do what has to be done with peace in your heart.

Think of it this way. She'll be with Amanda again and they will both be running and playing together with no pain.

Angela said...

Long time reader, first time commenter.

I am so sorry. All my animals have always made the decision for me - so much easier that way. I have four animals now - one cat that has been with me through college, first job, meeting my now DH. I don't look forward to the prospect of deciding his fate. Good luck man.

EquineSpirit said...