a random aisle in the supermarket of life

May 23, 2005

Saying goodbye

Filed under: pet — emjaydee @ 3:41 pm

I think this week might finally be the time I have been dreading and hoping it would somehow never need to happen for years now. I think I am going to have to make the decision to put my dog to sleep. This is definately the hardest and saddest thing I have yet to go through in my life, but it really seems that this will be the best thing for him.

The hard part isn’t as much watching him go, but having to actually make the decision that it is time. When my grandfather died a couple years back, it was really sad and I felt real guilty. But the thing is, we knew he was on his way out, just like with maxwell (my dog), but with my grandfather, he died on a hospital bed, pretty much after everything possible could have been done for him.

In maxwells case, I know that isn’t completly true. Everyone can tell me I did as much as I could for him, and that I did more, and spent more helping him than almost anyone else would, but the fact still remains that in the end I feel as though it comes down to a matter of money. How exactly am I supposed to decide now is finally “enough”? is it because nothing else can possibly be done? not exactly. Is it because he is suffering too much? I don’t really know. Is it because doing anything more will cost too much money? I can’t help but feel that this is the real reason. I know more can be done for him, and I feel like that could extend his life a bit more, but is it worth the money and suffering he will have to go through?

Maxwell has always had a lot stacked up against him. Sure, my family and I gave him a good loving home, but over the last maybe 4 or so years, it seemed like every couple months something terrible happened to him.

There was the time he was breathing wierd, then started coughing up blood..large amounts of it too. We brought him to Danvers animal hospital, and apparantly he had caught pneumonia. They had him oxygen and an IV for a day, put he pulled through it and was as good as new.

Then he started having joint problems, mostly in his hips. Sometimes, especially after he got up after laying down for a while, he would limp around a bit until his joints loosened up. It seemed to kind of come and go depending on the weather, but somehow, it seemed to kind of fade away and he rarely had that problem again.

Then he grew a tumor on his side, right behind his right front leg. We got it tested, and it turned out to be non-cancerous, but it kept growing. His vet said we should leave it alone until it starts getting in the way of his walking. Then sure enough, maybe a year later, it seemed like it was getting too big, and we decided to have it removed. It was supposed to be a relatively simple day surgery thing. The vet was going to put him under anethesia, take out the tumor, and we’re done, but…it didn’t end up quite like that. Apparantly the tumor had a bunch of veins and such going through it, and when they removed it he started bleeding a ton. They had to give him a blood transfusion, and he seemed like he might be okay. We went to pick him up at the end of the day and he was the saddest looking thing. He had that big funnel thing over his head so he wouldn’t bite at the stitches, had a bandage over one of his paws where the IV was attached, and was a little more than half completly shaved. The worst part was that coming out of the top and bottom of where the tumor was..was a “drain” because apparantly when you get a tumor removed, your body gets confused as to why this big thing is gone, so it fills up the space where the tumor was with fluid. The drain is supposed to make sure this doesn’t happen. So I covered the floor of my bedroom with a plastic sheet, and got a bunch of beach towels and hoped for the best. The poor dog could barely even lay down with that stupid funnel on his head. But that wasn’t the bad part.

After we brought him home from the surgery he just wasn’t acting right. At first we thought it was just some after effects from the anesthesia, but a day later, he was barely walking and wasn’t eating or drinking…or anything for that matter. A night later, when he was barely moving, and I honestly thought it was the end for him, my mother, father, brother and I piled into my fathers truck and headed for Angell Animal Hospital in Boston. Maxwell couldn’t really even stand, so I made a little stretcher for him out of a piece of plywood and his bed. He was making all kinds of unhappy sounds, and the drive to the hospital was the longest one ever. When we got there, I was amazed with how that place Operates. We pulled up at the front and someone actually came out with a real stretcher for him. They wheeled him inside, and the ER Vet looked at him, and brought him into the intensive care ward immediately.

What apparantly happened was that Maxwell had Addisons Disease, and the surgery to remove the tumor apparantly made it got nuts since his body was in such rough shape especially after the blood transfusion. He was in the hospital for 4 days. I visited him every day, twice a day, for the whole hour of visiting time they gave you. Basically he had to stay there until he started to eat on his own again. So I would bring him in turkey and ham and things like that, hoping he would eat it. Every time I showed up, and even more so every time I left him there, he would cry, and all I can picture is that sad face he had on.

But sure enough he pulled through. Aside from his shaved side, and the gross drain sticking out of him, he was almost as good as new in about a week. Then this started his new life.

While at Angell, they also discovered he had a heart murmer, along with the beginning signs of glaucoma. So, between addisons disease, the heart murmer, and glaucoma, for the rest of his life, every day we had to give him a prednisone pill for the addisons disease, an enacard pill for the heart disease, and eye drops…every day. Plus, every 25 days or so he had to go to the vet to get a percoten-v shot.

I think he has been on this plan now for maybe almost 2 years. It was real rough at first, but after a little while it was almost like a normal thing for him, and he seemed happy.

Then this brings us to the present. About a month or so back, he started having a bit of a bloody nose every day, and to make matters worse, he would sneeze, and more blood would come out. At first it wasn’t too bad, but as it came closer to today, he would have these times where the bleeding would be real bad. He would sneeze, and a ton of blood would come out. It would make the house look like a crime scene. The first time this happened, we brought him to Saugus Animal Hospital, (his vet) and they held him there all day, and we decided, as risky as it was with his collection of medical conditions, to put him under anethesia, take a bunch of x-rays, and get a better look at his nose. The vet cleaned out his sinuses, and packed them with some kind of medication, and then he was back to having the mild bloody nose here and there.

He also got put on 2 new medications. The vet didn’t know what it was, so maxwell had to take an antibiotic and an antifungal medication every day now too. We hoped it was just an infection or something like that, and things would improve, but they didn’t and after 2 more really bad nose bleeds, Aimee and I brought him back to Angell memorial to see a specialist. I hoped she would give me an easy solution to make Max all better. She looked at all the work and X-rays Saugus Animal Hospital had done, and said that she didn’t think medication would do anything, and that the next step would be to put him under anesthesia again for a CT scan and a Rhinoscopy The 2 procedures, plus the anethesia would run about $1500, and all this would do is possibly tell is what is actually wrong with his nose. According to the vet, most likely it is 1 of 3 things. In the best case, it is some foreign body, in which case they just take it out. Next in line to that is if it is some fungal growth type thing. In this case he has to come in for one, and worse yet possibly 2 surgeries. During which they put him under anethesia again, drill a hole through his nose (dog noses apparantly are much harder to work on than human ones) and then they insert a tube in there, and flush all of his sinuses and nose out with some kind of topical antifungal liquid, then that should fix it. But in the worst case, it is some form of a cancerous tumor, which would mean a series of chemotherapy visits.

All of which may not be successful partly because of his other conditions, especially the heart disease, which greatly enhances the risk of death when he he is put under anesthesia. The vet also said that more likely than not, it is either some fungus, or cancer, so in the best case we are talking about 2 times under anesthesia, but it is more likely to be 3 or more, plus, if it is the fungus, how happy is he going to be with a hole drilled into his nose? and if it is cancer, how well is the chemotherapy going to go? it may not even be successful.

The, just to add more to the story, a beagles average life expectancy is about 13 years, and maxwell will be hitting 12 years old I believe in August. Between all his others problems, its real possible that even if I did everything I could, it would only delay the inevitable by a year or so.

And obviously all of these options arn’t cheap, so we decided to leave it alone, deal with the bleeding as it comes, and as long as he stays happy, then everything is fine.

But the last week, especially the last few days, breathing through his nose has been tough. It sounds like he has a stuffy nose, sometimes he will sneeze up blood, sometimes he will sort of be okay, and last night I think has been the worst, because it seems like he can’t use it nose at all. He is breathing completly out of his mouth, and it makes it real difficult for him to sleep because every time he breathes, he opens his mouth a little bit. At some points it looks like he is trying to sleep with is head up, and sometimes when I look at him, I see that same look I got from him when he was in Angell Memorial for that week. He just seems so sluggish and lazy, and it kills me that he can’t use his nose. Being a beagle, he likes to sniff everything…everywhere, and now he can’t. When I bring him outside, he just kind of mopes around, and he puts his nose to the ground every once in a while, but I don’t think he can actually even sniff.

but the biggest problem I am having is dealing with the fact that I have to decide whether to let him live or die. Whether to end it now, or hope he gets better, or maybe either way, just let him die on his own. I don’t know if he is actually suffering, I don’t even know if it is as bad as I think it is. All I do know is that above everything maxwell is, and was always my best friend.

When I came home from work, he would know it was me and get all excited.

At night, he wouldn’t really go to bed until I did, and then he would sleep in his little bed right next to mine.

If I got home late, he would still be waiting up for me. Even if I came home drunk at like 4 in the morning, he would still be waiting for me.

I got him as a puppy only a couple weeks old when I was in the 8th grade. I really wanted a dog, but the rest of my family really didn’t. I begged for a good 2 years, trying differant types of dogs, making deals…anything I could think of. Then finally, my parents started to cave, and they said I could get a beagle. They actually wrote up a contract that I had to sign saying I would take care of him, walk him, feed him…all that stuff. And ever since then I have loved having him, but now its at the point where I am afraid to bring him anywhere. I feel like walking him might be too much.

Over everything else, I feel this huge amount of guilt though. I suppose it is like this when anyone dies, but I can’t help but feel like I failed. Like I could have done more. I know I didn’t walk him nearly as much as I should have, and he always loved going for walks. He kind of made the rules when we went out, he would spend the whole time sniffing everything he came accross, so it was kind of hard to actually walk anywhere. There was plenty of times, especially during the summer where we would go for our nice little walks at night, and he loved going out every time. Sometimes when I worked on my truck he would come out and sit and watch, but he would get unhappy if he was away from me. I never really brought him for too many car rides, because he would shake and it seemed like he hated being in the car, and then, after all the problems started to happen, I just felt like he was too fragile and I was afraid to even take him for walks at times. Really I don’t know if I could have done more, or if there is anything else I can do now, but I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty about how I took care of him, and if I gave him as good of a life as he could have had with some other family. It would be nice if making this decision wasn’t so hard either. I don’t like having the end of someones like completely in my hands, and I hate feeling like there is all this uncertainty. Like maybe in a couple days he will be fine. Maybe if He went in for the CT scan and all that stuff, and had the surgery that he would last 5 more years, or maybe he would last less. Maybe he would die on the operating table, but at least in that instance, I tried all I could. Right now I feel like I just weighed the pros and cons of the options available and where I am at now is because of the choice I made, and I hate even more the fact that money is obviously a factor in the whole decision. People I know can say a million times that I did all I could, and I spent more than anyone else would, but it doesn’t really matter. Since the surgery for the tumor on his side, I (and my parents in some instances) probably spend $10,000-$15,000 on him. I think it was worth every penny, and I can’t help but feel like giving up now is just that. Giving up. I look at maxwell as a member of my family. I don’t really look at him as a dog. He has been there for me so many times over the past 11 years, I feel like I owe him the same. But if he was a person, there wouldn’t even be a decision to make. He would have been on that operating table probably a month ago. Health insurance or not.

Dealing with that simple fact, and the immense amount of guilt I feel about how I ran his life is a lot to bear, and I just don’t know how I can handle bringing him to the vet to end his life.


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