Tonight I said goodbye to my 13 pound sidekick, Chip.
I adopted Chip from a Minnesota rescue in 2008 when I lived there, when he was 5 or 6 years old (nobody really knows). He was my first dog…and for that alone he will always have a super special place in my heart. We’ve had a good run throughout the years. He’s tested my patience but has brought me tremendous joy. His family had given up on him, and he moved from foster family to foster family (I think he was in 5 or 6 different homes by the time I adopted him). Chip was a mini me on 4 legs: Loud, energetic, independent, bossy, and…unique. And, a snuggler when nobody was looking.
Chip in 2008 when I adopted him.
The downside to being a pet owner is that our pets’ lives are not long enough. Chip began having health problems last winter. I thought I was going to lose him more than once. He proved to be resilient, and I’ve tried to accommodate him to the best of my abilities. When he was diagnosed with kidney disease earlier this year, many people reassured me that pets can live many years even with this. So I decided I’d just spoil the heck out of him for the remainder of his life, no matter how long that might be.
In the past 5 or 6 weeks and even more so in the past few days, his health had really taken a turn for the worse. His breathing became labored and he panted often. He was unable to walk, or if he did he often fell down. He was disoriented and had severe incontinence where he’d have accidents as often as every hour. I was waking up every 2-3 hours with him as he needed to go outside, and earlier today when I left for 2 hours he had soiled his kennel and was laying sprawled out in his mess, unable to get up and move around it. So many times the term “quality of life” have resonated in my mind – not only Chip’s, but mine too.
This morning I got to bed at 6AM because he kept me up. I slept with my light on because he has cataracts, and I didn’t want him bumping into his water bowl or worse – falling face forward into it, while I was sleeping. He’d hover over his water bowl for as long as 30 minutes, and by today was refusing even canned food, when in the past he loved all food. And as I continued to make my decision to have him humanely put down, he vomited – which might have been one more sign to me that it was time to put Chip out of his misery.
I researched a lot about pet euthanasia and tried to educate myself about the subject. More importantly, I tried to find articles that would tell me what the signs were that it was okay to humanely end his life. The answer is that there is no right answer. Maybe your pet will let you know and maybe he won’t. All I know is that after many, many tears over the past year and a half, and not sleeping for the past 5-6 weeks because of his incontinence (and trust me I tried it all – puppy pads, diapers, getting up with him), I had to think not only about Chip’s quality of life but also mine. My once spunky dog who peed on my leg out of spite because I was ignoring him, didn’t even know who I was anymore because he was so disoriented. He was going through the motions, whereas before he loved to destroy squeaky toys within minutes, dance on his hind legs for treats, and snarl at mailmen.
After watching Chip suffer and deteriorate these past few days, I made an appointment with my vet to have him checked out. But in my mind, I knew what I was going to do. I snuggled with him for a good hour – just him and me, him laying on my chest, before I took him to his appointment. It was just weird as I drove there how peaceful everything felt. Chip, despite his labored breathing, was calm in my lap. The sky was a beautiful mixture of blues and purples, and through my tears, I felt a sense of peace inside. I was making the right decision.
My vet examined him and confirmed that Chip had fluid in his lungs again. She offered options to get the fluid out, but at that moment I knew I had to have the tough talk with her. I had never spoken of euthanasia with her before, and prior to entering the clinic was afraid she’d think it was a hasty decision if I decided to go through with it…when in actuality euthanasia had been on my mind many, many times and I had read a lot of articles on it. Sure I could put him on meds to get the fluid out, but what would happen in 3 weeks if they filled up again (which was the case before)? He might be 11, 12 or even 13 years old, and at what point does a pet owner say enough is enough?
I have to thank my vet clinic – Broderick Animal Clinic – for their kindness and compassion. My vet said that Chip could have been experiencing a slew of problems and we could treat his issues based on symptoms, but without further testing it would be tough. Some people have asked before, “What monetary amount is the point where you say is enough for a pet?” For me personally, it’s not a set amount of money but the combination of finances, timing in life, his age, his quality of life, and my quality of life. I couldn’t justify a $1,500 MRI to diagnose problems for a 11 or 12 year old dog with kidney disease…because that could be just the start of many trips and many bills.This was my third trip to the vet in 5 weeks.
My vet supported my decision to humanely end his life. I opted to stay in the room. I petted his head while the vet and technician kindly put Chip out of his suffering. She let me know that I was being selfless in my action.
Animal lovers and pet owners can relate; non-animal lovers would never understand my feelings or why I’d be so affected or blog about my dog. I’ll never understand some people’s sentiments towards certain hobbies, or things, but I respect that they are important to them.
May you experience a forever of mailmen and delivery guys to growl at, squeaky toys to destroy within minutes, and the biggest, baddest closet full of Victoria’s Secret panties to sneak into and destroy. In fact, the more expensive, the better, Chip-a-rooni.
I love you to the moon and back, Chip. You’ve taught me a lot. You showed your shy, sometimes scared brother Woody the ropes to become a confident dog. First it was you and me buddy…then the 3 of us…and now just Woody and me. We miss you already so much; the void in my life and heart will never be able to be fully described.
I hope you breathe and walk easily now without pain. You are the reason I’ve volunteered hundreds of hours for animal rescue. And in leaving this earth you have made room for another animal to be saved…when the time is right.