how do you know…?

Our oldest dog, Zoe, turns 15 July 30th.  If she makes it that long.  That’s her up above, a few months ago.

Zoe was called ‘Trilingual’ in the newspaper ad where I found her.  Her mom was a full apricot toy poodle, and dad was half Italian greyhound, half chihuahua.  So she had French, Italian, and Mexican in her.  That still brings a smile to my face.

Zoe (named after the Doctor Who character by my hubby), loved to run.  That Italian Greyhound in her.  And she is/was just the sweetest darned dog ever.  But she has the annoying habit of shredding any ‘potty pad’ that she is left in a room with, and whining constantly to get up in the morning.  Never could break her of that habit.

Anyhow, in the past 3 months, her quality of life has gone downhill fast.  Before that, we all used to joke, ‘are you sure she’s this old?’, because she was still so lively.  Although about a year ago, she started having pooping accidents at night.  She was sleeping downstairs at the time, alone, because that way she didn’t whine in the morning.  (yes, daddy has always spoiled all of his girls.)  Because you couldn’t leave her with a potty pad, hubby started laying out cheap bath towels for her.  That worked.  He dealt with the clean up.  She also started struggling to get up and get going in the morning, particularly cooler ones.  We attributed that to arthritis and age, and hubby just wouldn’t force her to take that early walk, and would just walk her a little later in the morning once she got going. (he works from home 4 days a week.)   If you can’t already tell, she has daddy wrapped around her little paw.

That’s kind of the problem now.  We had had ‘the talk’ when she was about 10, about how far we would go, financially, for any of the dogs (we have 3) as they got older, and agreed on that.  We didn’t have the talk about what symptoms would indicate it’s time for an elderly dog to be ‘let go.’  The unspoken was that it would be some obvious sign.

But now, we are here at that time.  In the past 3 months, she started throwing up several times a week.  This past weekend, I found 2 containers in the fridge that were a mix of white rice, carrots, and chicken.  I knew but asked anyway, ‘what’s with the big containers in the fridge?’  Hubby admitted that Zoe hadn’t eaten her (regular, dog food that is the kind made for elderly dogs) for 2 days; he was moving her to this food mixture he had made.  (fortunately, it’s worked.  She’s eating again and not throwing up, so far.)  She’s always been very lean (the Italian greyhound in her), but now she feels like skin and bones.  Her back legs occasionally will just shake, almost like shivering, sometimes when she stands up.  He now carries her up and down the stairs.  Sometimes, if she’s moving fast, or turning a corner, her back legs slip out from under her and she kind of stumbles.  He doesn’t force her on the 4 long walks a day he takes the dogs on.  (he admitted that recently, as soon as she’s done her business, she is DONE.  Before, she was the front dog on all walks.)  (he just takes her to the grass outside our unit for each trip now, alone.)  She sleeps so deeply sometimes now, that you have to check to see if she’s still breathing.  Every morning he’s now in the habit of half-joking when he opens their door  (she no longer stays alone downstairs, because I was smelling something foul about 6 weeks ago, and decided she’s doing something to cause the foul smell, so she’s upstairs in the room with the other 2 dogs.)  He says, “Zoe, you are still with us!” (or Zoe, you made it another day.)  But our hearts are hurting.  She doesn’t play with the chihuahua any more like she used to.  She doesn’t play with toys.  She’s mostly sleeping, even more than dogs normally do.  She isn’t in any apparent pain, but she doesn’t enjoy life anymore, either.

I’ve read the articles.  I know the time is now.  Hubby is trying to squeeze every last moment of love from and to her that he can.  When I’ve tried to broach the subject, he admits he knows it’s soon, as he picks her up and smothers her in soft hugs and kisses.   It breaks my heart.  I’m at the point that I can’t softly suggest it anymore; it’s gotten into nagging territory.  And trust me, at me being 16 years younger than my husband, it does warm my heart to see him being so faithful and loving and resistant to letting Zoe go.  I know that indicates (oddly enough), how he will be with me, too.  When my time starts to come.  (Heck, he already is with my recent UC diagnosis, and other sundry medical issues associated with my aging.  He is an absolute rock star with me.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Zoe too.  Although she’s always had a habit of throwing me the stink eye occasionally.  (I kid not.)  But that’s because I’m daddy’s ‘bad cop’ in the house with the dogs.  Just the rolls we have ‘parenting’ three little dogs.  Daddy’s the good cop, mommy is the Enforcer.

But I feel bad.  For both Zoe, and especially for my husband.  I know he still hopes she’ll give a definitive ‘sign’, (or just pass naturally on her own)…but I hate to have her circumstances degrade much further, but I can’t force this on hubby or back him into a corner on it.

ugh.  This just SUCKS.

50 thoughts on “how do you know…?

  1. Grace

    Ah, my heart goes out to you. Men seem to struggle with this more than we do. We seem to be able to love and let go while men love and want to hang on – I went through this with my husband and one of our cats – it was heartbreaking for me to watch the two of them struggle so.


  2. laurie

    oh she is a luvvy,,, I have been in your shoes, not very long ago,, its a hard place to be,,our little guy was 17, the vet said I would know when it was time, I did. It still hurts but so much more joy that furry guy gave us, we loved him dearly as you love yours,, stink eye lol, thats a good one lol,, take care, I keep you all in my thoughts,


  3. Marcia

    Sounds like she has lived a full life but what a tough decision you both are facing. Your husband will get there if suffering increases for Zoe.


  4. Sharon Anck

    Going through this stage in a dogs life is the hardest on us humans who love them. That's one reason I don't have a dog any longer. When my last two dogs left me, I decided I just couldn't go through that pain again. I have a really good friend who is going through it right now. She lost her beloved dog 3 months ago but is still feeling it. Good luck!


  5. Silver Willow

    It's going to be hard. I'm sorry for your suffering. I still think the joy outweighs this suffering…but I'll likely lose 2 dogs (the oldest 2 are only 2 years apart) in the next couple of years. I might change my tune by the time that happens and we are down to just one dog (only 6.5 now, but by the time both are gone, she'll be elderly too.) We'll see. I just can't imagine life without a little dog around, though…


  6. happyone

    Everyone of us who has had pets have to deal with this. Yes, it is sad and one of the hardest decisions to make, but you do know when it is time.


  7. Arkansas Patti

    We know when we pick out that adorable little puppy that this day will come. Nature just didn't give dogs a proper lifespan. I have been there with Mighty Dog at 17 and I can only say, the day will come when your husband will know the time has come. It just happens.


  8. Olga Hebert

    I am so sorry. At some point my husband said “NO MORE PETS” simply because they don't live as long as their humans. I am quite convinced, and it gives me a great deal of comfort, that he is animal heaven with all the pets he loved so very deeply.


  9. tammy j

    my heart to his. after being with her through the days it is even harder. he'll know. or maybe she will just go to sleep. in peace and love. I too have marveled at his patience with your own illnesses and problems. he is a love for sure. many men wouldn't have stuck it out. bless the both of you. xoxo


  10. Martha

    I'm in tears just reading this. I can only image how difficult it is for all of you. This is a really heartbreaking decision. I'm sure your husband knows it's time but letting go is painful. My guess is he'll come around for Zoe's sake.


  11. Jeanie

    You're in for some hard, sad times and I really feel for you. I think almost everyone who has loved a pet has faced that “when is the right time” decision. And I wish we had the options for people as we do for pets, to see the suffering and know it is irreversible and be able to say a loving goodbye on our own terms.I think all you can do is love Zoe and do whatever you can to make things easier or more comfortable and appreciate that kind, good man who has such a big loving heart — and whom, I think, will one day soon say, “today is the day.”My dear vet says, “they tell you when it is time to let them go.” I think she'll know how to communicate that to him. I hope so. Meanwhile, big hugs to you.


  12. Silver Willow

    Oh Martha. :: hugs :: I hope he does. It's just hard, because I know in my heart Zoe isn't enjoying life anymore. She of course loves us, but… but I can't force him.


  13. Nance

    I'm so sorry about all this. I've been in this situation with pets too many times, and sadly, I've had to be The Strong One to make that final decision which is Best For Everyone. It's all terribly difficult.


  14. DJan

    We all have to let our loved furry ones go way too soon. I am glad Hubby is having plenty of time with Zoe. So very sad. You all have my sympathy.


  15. Beatrice P. Boyd

    So sad to read this post (a bit late). Letting go of family, friends, and furry friends is always so sad. They are all part of our extended family. I too hope all goes peacefully and falling asleep in the best way.


  16. Elaine

    Sorry, I seem to have missed seeing this post.Nothing makes this time any easier. We 'give our hearts to a dog to tear', as Kipling says. I have been there a few times, you have my sincere sympathy.


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