Last year I wrote a piece about caring for my aging dog. Her name was Callie and she was our “first born.” She was 13.5 years old when we made the tough decision to let her go to doggy heaven a few months ago.
I’d love to share how we knew and what the process was like.
As indicated previously, Callie was beginning to show her old age, and things started progressing quickly in January. She was blind, and her arthritis was definitely starting to get to her. A dog that once frequented the upstairs, no longer even tried to go up them. The blind dog that used to run into stuff and then turn and figure out another route, would just sit and lay down as soon as she came upon and obstacle. She didn’t care to try to navigate anything anymore. She began weird eating and drinking habits. She also was starting to lose her hearing.
These are in the realm of “normal” for an old dog as I found out after a call to my vet. They were also signs she needed to be seen.
I took her in to see the vet and explained everything. My vet is very caring and understanding, and also direct in a good way. She told me it was clear Callie was having a hard time and was in pain. She also explained it is hard to know with dogs who still eat/drink/potty normally. Quality of life was key though, and we discussed what makes a dogs life good, and Callie’s was walking the line.
We made a plan to give her pain meds and change to a high fat food, as she had lost a significant amount of weight as well. We also discussed what would need to change in her behavior in order to know if it was time to let her go. She told me to pick three things that Callie no longer does (like barking at the doorbell, wagging her tail when we get home, getting up when we come downstairs in the morning, etc.). If she did not start doing two of those three things in the next two weeks while on this new medicine, it was probably time to let her go. She confirmed to me what I knew deep down.
I went home after that visit and explained everything to my husband. I also had to explain it (in the simplest terms) to my four-year-old daughter. We ordered a book to help explain it to her, as we wanted to be honest and prepare her. (I highly recommend Fred Rogers When a Pet Dies.)
We decided we’d be very vigilant with Callie, and also give her lots of love as these could be our last two weeks with her.
At the end of the two weeks we discussed Callie’s health as a family. During that time, the pain meds allowed her to not be so angry when petted, but did not change any of her other behaviors and struggles. It was clear it was time. I called and made an appointment for the next day.
When it was time for Callie’s appointment, we decided I would be back in the room with her. I was thankful our vet allowed this during a pandemic – I just had to wear a mask. All of the staff were very kind and explained the process well. Callie would receive one injection that would put her to sleep, like someone who is put under for surgery. Then, once she was unconscious, she would receive another injection that stopped her heart. The whole process took about 15 minutes, and I was allowed to hold her for as long as I wanted after.
It was hard, but I was so glad I was present. It meant a lot to me to be there for her.
I left the vet’s office and came home to lots of hugs from my husband and daughter. I had snuggles from my other dog and a heavy heart, but I knew I did what was best for Callie.
I woke up the next morning and walked downstairs. I teared up a bit as she wasn’t there like she had been for the last 13.5 years, but I also felt a little weight lifted. I had spent a lot of time the last year doing a lot of extra things on a daily basis to keep her comfortable. I am a helper and I thrive off of tangible acts of love. I was glad I could do that for her.
Callie lived a good life. She was my first baby girl, and I am forever grateful that I was able to call her my crazy little dog for so long.