Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Fading Jake



I've been thinking about Jake's death. Because he's my dog, I have the terrible responsibility of deciding whether to allow him to linger until he's so miserable he can't walk, or taking him for a drug overdose at some point before then.

Philosophically it makes sense to let nature take its course, but one of the other dogs in our household, who is the same age as Jake, is suffering terribly, yet my roommate cannot bring himself to have her euthanized. Watching her struggle every day, and knowing how much pain she's in, has set in my mind the resolve that I will not wait until Jake is that miserable. I won't. A part of nature taking its course includes my ability to feel compassion for my dog. They shoot horses, don't they?

Endings are always hard for me in so many ways. I am not great a choosing the right time to quit anything - projects, jobs, relationships - either I end them prematurely just as they're about to turn a corner towards the better, or I wait until they are long past their expiration date.

How in the world will I decide when it's the right time for Jake? People say I'll "know," but will I? It's a daunting responsibility, so well worth contemplating. Hope this isn't too grim! I know I'll be very sad when the time comes, but as my roommate says, what could be better for a rescue dog than to die of old age? Jake has outlived all the vets' predictions, so all the time he has left is gravy.

I'm watching him fade, and asking in my heart of hearts to know, for sure, when the time is right. It will be my last act of love and devotion for my old dog. But that day is not today. Right now we're on our way out the door on this absolutely gorgeous spring day in DC for the slow stroll that he's capable of.

Happy weekend, ya'll. Carpe diem!

45 comments:

Janelle said...

oh reya darlin'...it's a tough one eh? i had to end our poor old pony's life, toffee. devastating. but she was suffering so much. the vet was so kind. so i led her down the green hill. she had a last little munch of grass. i said good bye and thanks. and that was that....what struck me was the force of her life as it left the body...it was HUGE and really quick. i cried for days. thinking of you. XXX j

Celestite said...

You will know when it is time. He will tell you and you are ready to hear him. Many people just don't listen.

Andrea said...

Oh how we love our dogs! I've been having the same thoughts about our dog Buster. Although he's not that old (8 years) he has "survived" cancer. That ordeal in itself was traumatic for us (the humans). I will know when the time comes that he's had enough and will be happy, and sad, to let him. But, for today, you're right - it's a beautiful day for a walk!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks. Celestite, you're right, I am ready to listen. My roommate just can't bear it.

Janelle - wow I be that was a big whoosh!

And Andrea - hope you, too, get out into this beautiful day.

lettuce said...

give jake a hug for me reya.

Steve said...

Day by day, Reya! In addition to Jake himself, your veterinarian should be able to give you guidance. The vet won't make the decision, but he/she can answer questions about how Jake may be feeling or what his future will be like.

KAREN FIELDS said...

He trusts you and loves you. Your love will always be there for him. He knows that.

Miranda said...

Ah, this is so hard Reya. I've always wondered how I'd decide in that situation and I'm glad I've never had to face that myself (my animals always seem to have untimely deaths!). Thinking of you and yes Celestite is right - he will tell you and you more than anyone, it seems, will be able to hear. xxx

Lynne said...

Reya, you WILL know. Jake will let you know. I have had to help more than my fair share of dogs over the bridge and each journey has been different.

One dog, Mira, we had at the vet and they told us she was dying and only had a short time left (possibly hours). We had her prepped for euthanasia and the vets left us alone with her for some time alone with her before we did the procedure. That dog looked at us with such a look in her eyes that said to us both "I don't want to die here, take me home, please!" We did. She even walked in the door (we had to carry in to the vet) and we laid her next to us. Within an hour of arriving home she let out one great sigh and was gone. She did it her way and she let us know what she wanted.

They all aren't that easy, but trust me, you will know.

Give Jake a few pats from me!

Lynne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ellen abbott said...

It's a terrible choice to have to make but one you must make. Our Tilly was old when she developed a tumor so no operation. It grew until it split, putrid. We knew she was dying of blood poisoning so we took her in, but there outside the facility, she was doing her happy dog act, sniffing around. It still makes me cry if I think about it too much.

California Girl said...

My husband and I had a large yellow lab for 13 yrs whom we adopted from a neighbor when he and his wife split up. His name was Wheat Straw and we called him Wheatie. He was beautiful and glorious. As so many large dogs do, he suffered from hip dysplasia (sp?) which became very evident as he reached 11. I was pregnant with our first child when it became evident to me that Wheatie needed to be put down. He could barely get up and his walk was so tortured. But my husband could not bear it. That dog was everything to him. One day Wheatie couldn't get up. He just lay there looking at us with sad painful eyes and I insisted he go to the vet. My husband took him and it was the saddest day. He wouldn't let me go because I was 8 mos PG and he worried I might over-react though I knew that was not true. Wheatie died in his arms with an injection and we had him cremated and kept his ashes for many years til we finally found the right place to scatter, under our rose bushes.

I don't know if you'll know or not. I did but my husband let his feelings get in the way of his judgment. I think Wheatie suffered too long. I miss him still and it's been 22 years.

Interestingly enough, our next dog, five years later, was a beautiful black lab & long haired mix we named Jake. I miss him too.

Good luck to you.

JC said...

Old Dogs ... boy do I know all about that ! I'm on my 3rd set of them. I was the one who took Lindsey, my black lab, in. She was 11 and had cancer in her leg. We had decided not to operate due to her age. Of course, as time went on my husband changed his mind and I had to remind him, it was too late. The day my husband told me it was time, he had been up with her all night. She just could not get comfortable.

I took her to the vet the next morning before I could think too much about it. It's very hard to do when they are still mentally with us. I cried for days. A cry that took my soul with it.

I have always figured it was my job as their Mom to know when it was the right time. Luckily, I have gotten it right or pretty darn close, each time.

You will know !!!

I now have a 7 yr old choc lab who is aging very fast. She's going into dementia along with the bad leg / hip.

So, I too will be in your boat soon. Til then I help her up the stairs and check on her when she forgets to home to the door.

Just things we do for the one we love.

kathi said...

Hard thoughts about Jake, I know.
He will tell you when it's time, promise he will. My sweet 15 year old golden retriever was so weak that day that she wouldn't eat the yummy oatmeal, scrambled egg and toast breakfast I had made for her. She just looked at me sadly and her eyes told me it was time.
She died peacefully in my arms at the vet. I still well up with tears whenever I see a big yellow dog like her. Have you read the "Rainbow Bridge" poem? Wishing you peace Reya. There is a time for everything under heaven...

Just me said...

I'm dealing with the same thing here. Right now B-dog is doing well, but the cancer will return eventually. Yesterday I was looking at stats- 40-45% of dogs with lymphoma are alive after a year. Less than 20% are alive after two years. :(

She was so, so sick when she was first diagnosed, and we were lucky to get a second chance with her through the treatment. I never want her to get to that point again, but worry I won't have the courage and resolve to have her put to sleep before she gets there. When is the right time? When she is diagnosed as being out of remission? When she starts to have trouble getting around again? When she starts to be in pain?

It's really hard and I can totally empathize with you. We just love our doggies so much!

John Hayes said...

Oh, that's hard-- the best thing is to enjoy the time you have, & for Jake to enjoy the time he has, as you said at the end-- carpe diem indeed.

Joanne said...

Oh, so sad. It's wonderful that you're seizing the days as you can. The only thought I have to offer is that by choosing for Jake, you are there with him at that time, comforting him, speaking to him, helping him as best you can.

S~DLT said...

This is an extremely hard decision to make, but Jake will tell you when it is time. I didn't believe that until it was time to put my Stinky Burrito down. He'd battled a collapsed trachea for years, and he made it very apparent - just listen and you'll know. I'm sorry you have to go through this. Hugs.

deborah said...

na na na na na na
live for today
sing along

na na na na na na
live for today

and before Jake fails--if you choose what I have--you will
make a list of signs that the time is right, so there is none of that,
'if he hadn't peed on the floor, would I have done this' guilt afterward.

My kitties are 21 they can't make the jumps, Hobbes is really thin--I can feel the time passing and end coming

I got the list from websites and my vet--when 5 of the 7 signs present,
I'll take the pet I've loved most in my life, and let him go to sleep for the last time.

No second guessing, no personal guilt--a decision based on science and compassion--I think this will work for me.

I love you so and cry for the loss of Jake and Hobbes and also for Bessie

ArtSparker said...

My dear old cat I kept around longer than I should have...a friend said it's just when they seem to be unhappy more of their waking time. Some vets to house calls for this purpose.

Happy walks.

R.L. Bourges said...

carpe diem, indeed. Hope you two had a great walk.

It's our job as caregivers to think about these things, obviously - while remembering that things don't always end the way we'd planned them. Jake may simply choose to go on his own; two of my dogs did that.

The main thing is staying open for the signals of distress and doing what feels right for your buddy - and that's clearly the tack you're taking. Enjoy your time together, guys.

Cyndy said...

He will tell you and you will know. But it is really very difficult to do what needs to be done when the time comes, and as Janelle said, you really do feel the life leaving. We sure did with our 18 year old cat Ted a year and a half ago. But it feels like he comes back to visit us now and then and I'm sure you'll always have Jake with you in some form or another.

hele said...

I still meet Mithril when I journey into my heart.

My heart is with you and Jake.

Hammer said...

I went through this around three years ago, and what makes the timing tough is that dogs have a way of staging multiple rallies. God knows mine did. Looking back, we might have acted a little late but not terribly so. And even though he was scared and hurting in the last days, he was constantly surrounded by "his humans" and seemed to want a long goodbye anyway.

Susan said...

I waited too long with Edith; I couldn't bear to let her go. With Maude, the time was right and I was able to know that I had given her a good life.

After Maude, we adopted Geoffrey. Strangely, my husband and I both want to call him Edward (another rescue cat that I had to have put down). Geoffrey is like the reincarnation of Edward--a gentle, loving spirit. I found a photo of Edward as a kitten and was amazed that Geoffrey even has his poses.

Hm. I'm rambling. Point is, that we have these dear, dear friends and have to make a tough decision. We then move on to new friends--and sometimes, by some miracle, they become a living reminder of the beloved companions we've enjoyed.

Joanna said...

We had a wonderful vet come to our house when our old cat Taffy was ready to leave. The vet said something that helped me with what was happening. He said our pets are lucky because we are able to give them an easy life...and an easy death. Of course you're never ready to let a loved one go, but Jake will tell you when he's ready.

Washington Cube said...

I agree with the others. You will know. In the meantime, I also know you will slow your own pace to meet Jake's, so that he can enjoy the maximum of his walkies today.

Reya Mellicker said...

I am flabbergasted by the kindness and love in all these comments. Made me cry. It's a good, releasing cry.

Thank you all so much. Really, thank you.

Siobhán said...

I think it's all been covered here.
Thinking of you.

sciencegirl said...

My heart goes out to you, Reya. Help him go peacefully into the good night. You'll know when. Jake will know.

willow said...

We had to put our beloved Ralphy down a little over a year ago. It was hard, but we knew it was time. You're so in tune. You'll know.

Adrianne said...

As someone who recently went through this, all I can say is that there will come a point when your beloved pet will find a way to tell you, "I've had enough." It's in that sense that you will know. The hard part is following through with your pet's request. My thoughts are with you, dear Reya, as always. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help.

Susan said...

I just found your blog. Your photos are beautiful, as is your writing. I have three dogs and a cat... all over the age of twelve...all rescue animals. I have been thinking about losing them a great deal lately. I did lose my beloved, Comet, last October. I,too, try to find comfort in knowing they have lived long, happy lives.
I will hold you and your Jake in my thoughts and prayers.
Many blessings to you both.

Delwyn said...

Hello Jakes mum,

Before kealia we had a golden lab who lived through 4 children, cancer and hip displaysia until she was 15, until one day I said to my husband - the time has come. He ( a real softy) couldn't do it so I took her to the vet..they called her the Wonder Dog at the vets as she had passed all their expectations in longevity...She was ready to go...and it felt right...a blessed reprieve...

Ronda Laveen said...

I have many dogs. I have had many dogs. I have many dogs who have died. About half did the long walk. And I knew it was time. I would come home from work and they would just not come inside or come to greet. They would not eat nor drink. They just allowed us to make them a little more comfortable and received loving strokes and last goodbyes. They left within hours of these events.

The other half just went on and on. Until we just knew that there was no more joy left in their lives. Thank God my husband is the strong one to take them for their last car ride. Bless you. Bless them. Bless him.

Barbara said...

You will know when it's time, but that doesn't make it any easier. And you will miss him forever after he's gone. Enjoy what's left while his quality of life is still acceptable to both of you.

beesbess said...

I had a Jake too. He was there when I found out I was pregnant with our first baby, and my fourth was three when Jake left us. We kept his tags for my second baby and his collar for the third, my husband kept his leash. He went on his own, but we knew it would be time soon. You will too. Hang in there.

lakeviewer said...

Reya, we have such connection with our pets that helps us prepare for our own demise. They teach us so many things.

Reya Mellicker said...

I am profoundly thankful for all these wise, loving and human comments. When that time arrives, and it's not today (Sunday), I'll come back to this post and re-read everything said here.

Thank you all again so very much. Thank you!

Poetikat said...

I am a firm believer in putting the animal's comfort first. I think if we let them linger and suffer it is only for ourselves. When the time comes, be strong and think of Jake. I can't stand to see an animal in pain. I've watched a few cats be put to sleep and it is hard, but I know it was the right thing - they were released from their pain and they were leaving behind a very good and happy life.

Kat

Periwinkle said...

Dear Reya:

I stumbled upon your blog this morning. I went through the same thing with two of our dogs not so long ago. While it was heartbreaking, at the same time I felt such relief and so thankful that there was something I could do to stop his suffering. It made me wish it was easier to do the right thing for people as well. I'll be thinking of you and wish you the best.

Kerry said...

Enjoy a warm spring day with an old, old dog. Each and every day, a gift.

The Family Julz said...

My heart is with you both. xoxox

Cloth, Yarn and Life said...

Dear Reya and Jake,
It has been almost a year since I had to make that unexpected and horrible decision. We had a wonderful rescued greyhound named Kelly. She was a goof ball and wonderful companion. She loved to cuddle and we were very close. She had been kinda limping and I had taken her to the vet several times. This time he decided to take an X-ray because he thought the problem was in her spine. He had taken one picture and was positioning her for another when he heard a crack!. He quickly took another picture and called for me to come back. Kelly was panting heavily which meant she was in pain. The x-ray revealed bone cancer in the rear leg femur and the bone had broken just above the cancer. There was no real way to determine how invasive the cancer was but there were no choices that were good. Without know the extent of the cancer, just amputating the leg was not a good option, which left only one option. My heart was broken. I called my husband and he joined me and we said good bye. I held her head in my hands and cooed and told her I loved her. It didn't take long and it was over. I was sooo sad but I knew there was no other alternative for this. So I guess my point is, that you have some control over what will happen to Jake and when. Be so grateful for that. There are tears running down my cheeks as I write this. Don't mean to be a downer at all, but I just want you to know I really, really understand. Be grateful for all the time you have with Jake, give him all the special days and love you can and be confident that you will know the right time.

RaeRae said...

With any luck you will find Jake in his favorite spot, eyes closed and know that he is finally at peace. That is how I found my dog and while I cried, I was happy she lived a full life and was in her favorite spot when she left.

I very quickly found a dog that needed a new home. Maggie was able to fill that horrible void and while it took time, we are a team now - different for sure but together. Good luck.