The time I had been dreading since I became a pet sitter has come and gone: That of dealing with a sick/dying pet while working varied hours as a pet sitter.
Three weeks ago on December 9 (one day after the anniversary of losing my cat), I took my dog Mr. Blue to the ER vet on a Sunday for lethargy, leaning to the left and pale gums that had developed overnight. He had had full bloodwork, xrays and even an ultra sound in July, but yet here he was with a mass in his abdomen, internal bleeding, and metastasized cancer in his lungs. I opted to bring Bluie home and put him on prednisone to try to make him feel better while we waited for the “sign” that it was time.
I slept a few nights on the couch with him and told him from now on, he could do and eat (almost) whatever he wanted!!! Lucky Bluie got to munch extra dinners, taste a Bugle or two, and lick the cat food spoons. And extra doggie treats daily, of course!
The prednisone really helped. He stopped leaning, started walking and even got the pep in his step again when on walks! There were even days when I didn’t worry about him constantly while out pet sitting other dogs and cats.
But in week three he started slowing down again. We almost took him to the vet to put him to sleep a couple times, but then he would bounce back a little or get a flicker in his eyes that made me say “not yet.” I thought I would just know, but I kept doubting myself.
I googled things like “how to know when it’s time to put dog to sleep” and found some articles with check lists that didn’t help much.
- Does your dog still have an appetite? (Yes, he did.)
- Does your dog still enjoy being around you? (Yes, he did.)
- Is your dog able to get around on his own? (Sometimes yes, sometimes he needed help.)
- Does your dog still enjoy the same things? (He loved sleeping on the couch, so yes, but he wasn’t playing or chewing his bone anymore.)
- Does he seem comfortable or uncomfortable most of the time? (He did a lot of couch potatoing, as usual, which made me feel he was comfortable enough and I should let him be.)
One article did help. It included a quote from a veterinarian: “If you can save your dog or cat even one day of discomfort, you must.” Another article said that as tempting as it is to allow a dog to just pass away naturally at home, such deaths are rarely painless. These reminded me of my cat Oscar’s death, which was natural at home after a long illness and was painful for him. It took a long time; it was not quick and not peaceful.
I suddenly realized that my dog could go into crisis mode at any time without warning and I shouldn’t wait around for him to experience more pain. So, we took him to the vet.
I would love to say I knew it was time, but to be honest I doubted my decision to the end. Even though we had to lift him out of the car and use a sling under him to help him walk into the vet. They took him back to put the catheter in his arm and then brought him back to us so we could spend time with him. When he came back into the room, he saw us and his eyes lit up as he wagged his tail. We got on the ground to greet him and he gave us tons of kisses. It was all I could do to not drive him back home.
After he gave us those kisses, though, he laid down and fell deeper and deeper into relaxation mode. After a while, we gave the vet the OK. I don’t think I can honestly say “I think he knew,” but I must say looking back it was pretty special the way he saw that we were there for him, wagged his tail, gave us kisses, and laid down acceptingly. He laid there breathing and when the vet put the first of two shots in his arm, his breathing sped up and then slowed down. Nothing else changed.
Then the second shot, and he gradually and VERY peacefully left his body. And THEN, I knew it was time.