I’m a firm believer in the idea that nothing good is free. There are different ways to pay for things: through hard work, time, perseverance, etc.
Perhaps the worst payment of all is grief. That’s the ultimate payment, and we can’t avoid it.
I recently had to euthanize my lab mix. She was fifteen years, seven months old. I know she was ancient. For her size, my dog was 107 years old! It’s mind-boggling, actually. But as old as she was, I wasn’t ready to let her go.
The cards were stacked against her from the time she was born. She was the runt of the litter, the last dog born to a malnourished mother. The sac didn’t pop, and had to be pierced manually by my husband. (She was the puppy of a friend’s dog.)
She couldn’t walk well at the end, and she always seemed to be in pain. She got excited about the ball for a minute or two, but she couldn’t really chase it anymore. She was eating, but not enough. She’d gone from a stocky 55 pounds to a skeletal 35 pounds.
And yet, until the end, she would follow me around the house. She’d go outside to do business, and she got excited about food.
Making the choice to end her pain was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. I firmly believe that she would have held on as long as I wanted her to, because dogs don’t understand selfishness. She would have stayed with me because she loved me, so I had to make the decision for her.
Even though I’ve had to do this a number of other times with cats (and another dog when I was much younger), I did my research, trying to find something on the internet that screamed THIS IS THE RIGHT DECISION. It never feels right, even when it does. We always want just a little more time.
Almost unanimously, most veterinarians agree that it’s better to do it a little early while the dog is still themselves than to do it too late when the pain has stolen everything from them.
I found this great scale that helped me, so I wanted to pass it on.
HHHHHMM Scale: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, & More Good Days than Bad.
In the end, my girl wasn’t even having good days anymore. She was having good hours. Because we’d planned it, I got to make sure she did her favorite things. I took her to the creek, and though she could no longer swim, she waded. We got a brand new tube of tennis balls, and though she couldn’t chase them, she carried one around. She got a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, and a milkshake from McDonald’s.
I’m going to carry those memories (and so many more) with me. Even though grief is a steep price to pay, it’s so worth it. The best things always are. And it doesn’t get any better than love.