Euthanize now or wait for the next crisis and piss off our nanny?
April 3, 2011 2:56 PM   Subscribe

We're most likely euthanizing our dog this week. I've read previous posts, but want some reassurance. Much much much more inside because I want you to know the whole story.

Our dog has very serious medical problems that I've managed for a few years. The management certainly was not easy emotionally, financially, or time-wise. In terms of what I do for this dog medically (and thus financially) is very likely "too much" for most people. (He's on 10+ meds, most of which are expensive. He gets biweekly acupuncture. We went from dry food to canned food to homecooked meals.)

His day-to-day existence for the past year has been a 3 on a 1-5 scale (4 & 5 being enjoying life, 1 & 2 being not enjoying life). When he's doing well, he's a high 3. When he's ill, he's in the 2s. For the past year, he's been ill about every 3 months for a few weeks at a time. Recently when he's ill, he's required nearly constant care.

We moved to a new city a few months ago and I started a job where I couldn't be at home all day with the dog to care for him. We hired a nanny for our toddler, partially so that the dog could have at-home care. We pay the nanny more to care for the dog and were upfront with her about his condition and the care. We wouldn't have hired someone that wasn't willing to do this. (We did the math and doing daycare + a dogsitter would have nearly been a wash financially versus having a nanny, and the dogsitter would come at assigned times and we think that it is easier/better to have someone who can let him out when he needs to go.) Nanny seems to care for him and she likes dogs.

Things were going alright for awhile. Dog slept most of the day. Nanny took him out to pee in the early afternoon and gave him some pills around when the kids went down for a nap.

About 3 weeks ago though he had a spell again. He was anxious (which is part of his main disease), wasn't eating well, wasn't pooping "on schedule" -- and the extra work was a lot for the nanny.

Then 2 weeks ago he had a crisis where he couldn't breathe. I had to take a cab home and take him to the ER. He was blue. He had to be on oxygen. It was scary for everyone. Nanny did not like having to make decisions about when to call me.

The week after that crisis, the vet intentionally had us keep him sedated so his body could recover. That week was bad. He needs constant care. (I took a few days off of work.) He got put on a ton more meds. He was soiling himself while sedated (which we had never had before.)

At this point I told Nanny that our house is a democracy and that she needed to tell me if it was too much.
In hindsight, I realize that even though that was nice of me to say, she doesn't want to be the one that is "held responsible" for us making the "big decision."

So after he recovered from the crisis he was actually back to normal again (remember, this is a 3 out of 5) -- eating, pooping, sleeping normally except when the Nanny is here. When Nanny is here (and this has only started after the recovery from the crisis a few weeks ago), the dog "herds" our 2-year-old. It is so weird. If I'm upstairs working from home, I hear it. The second Nanny arrives, dog gets anxious and starts pacing and herding our kid. Then later in the morning, Nanny and kids go out for a walk and dog calms down. Then they all come home and he gets anxious again.
On weekends and evenings when we are here with our kid, he is not anxious at all.

We tried a few new things - a new SSRI (we've done this before though), gating off the playroom so that Nanny doesn't have to physically separate dog (90 lbs.) and kids all the time. This has helped a little, but it is still pretty bad and limits Nanny a lot.

I should note that there is no option for changing our childcare setup. We also have an open plan, so we can't put dog or kids in a different part of the house.

So after all this, Nanny again said (mind you, we check in on dog every day more than we do kid), this is too much for me. And I totally understand why. When I work from home and hear dog herding and being anxious, I can completely understand why this sucks for her.

So, we're 99% sure we're ready to euthanize. Why?

- Nanny is getting more and more annoyed. Our lives are super stressful right now as it is and Nanny is one of the few things that allows us to actually keep our heads above water.

- We can't think of anything else to do about this anxiety when the Nanny is home (although the email group for my dog's condition is pissed at me and says "Try a behavioralist! Get doggy hospice! Hire someone else to care for dog! Fire the nanny!") I DON'T NEED ANY IDEAS ON THIS, THANK YOU. We have really tried so many things over the years.

- His trachea is collapsed and he has laryngeal paralysis and although he's on some meds for those, we have moved to DC where it is going to get hot and humid very soon. Yet so far on the hot days, dog has had a lot of trouble breathing. 3 different specialist vets have said to us that they are greatly concerned about his ability to deal with the summer heat.

- Quality of life, as I mentioned is a 3 out of 5 when he is well.

- He does need to be coaxed to eat fairly often. (homemade chicken breast even).

- He has a hard time getting up on his back legs.

But, my doggy disease email group makes me feel guilty AND he does okay when we're home with him.

I am ready to call the at-home service to come on Friday so that we can have the weekend to grieve. But I am having little second thoughts. Just talking to my dog disease email group is dumb because these are people that go to extreme lengths to care for their pets (and have a need to justify that it is okay that they do that... not to say that they haven't been great, but I hate the way that they're making me feel like I'm not doing enough.) Thus, the wise practical people of MetaFilter seem like a good group to talk to about this.

tl;dr: My dog is ill and is going downhill. Do we wait for the next crisis and continue to piss off our nanny or do we euthanize him now and get it over with?
posted by k8t to Pets & Animals (65 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should probably add that due to doggy's health we can't leave the house for more than 4 hours at a time, we're no longer to go out of town, we can't really have overnight guests anymore (gets him worked up), and even having visitors is getting harder because it gets him worked up. He hasn't been able to go for a walk longer than the front yard to pee for over a year. Going to the vet/in the car means a 1 day recovery.

I don't know if this matters but some people may wonder about our quality of life too.
posted by k8t at 3:02 PM on April 3, 2011

I love my dog and dread the day I'll face a decision like this, but... if you haven't reached the line yet, where can it possibly be?
posted by jon1270 at 3:05 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

People that go to extremes to keep their pet alive, aren't necessarily doing the best thing for them.

All other things put aside, it doesn't seem like your dog is having a good quality of life. Remember, they are a different species, and that species hides pain as much as possible.

It just doesn't even seem his quality of life is a 3 out of 5.

How old is he and what are his chances of recovery? If he is going to be like this and worse the rest of his life, I don't think you need to feel guilty at all.

Maybe just confirm with your vet that this is definitely a downward spiral (as in, in a few months he won't recover and be as happy and playful as a puppy). That would help in really knowing what to do. But really, it sounds like you are doing the right thing.

I am so sorry you are going through this.
posted by Vaike at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This sounds like a miserable existence for your dog, if his best days are the ones offer no enjoyment (at a 3), and more and more of his days involve anxiety and pain. If he doesn't have another "4" day to look forward to, what's the point of all the 1s and 2s? My vet gave me a great metric when I had to put down my last dog, which was to make a list of three to five simple things she enjoyed, and when she was down to only being able to do one or two of them, it was time to let her go. On my list were things like eating, resting comfortably, and going to the bathroom on her own. Your dog doesn't have those, it sounds like.

Everything else you describe in this situation is, to me, just noise. You're guilting yourself over convenience, when from the perspective of the dog's comfort, it should be so very, very simple. It would be cruel make him suffer longer because you feel too guilty to let him go. So let him go, knowing you gave him the best life you could, for as long as was possible.
posted by amelioration at 3:08 PM on April 3, 2011 [12 favorites]

Honestly, if your dog has been a maximum of a high 3 on a 1-5 "enjoys life" scale...that's no way for a dog to live. Are you keeping him alive for him, or for yourself?
posted by kro at 3:08 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Time to say goodbye.
posted by Max Power at 3:10 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: But, my doggy disease email group makes me feel guilty

Well, screw them. Really. You can just stop participating if it's not helping you.

Also, Nanny's annoyance can't be the deciding factor here, though the fact that the dog presents such difficulties for the entire family in terms of functioning should be a sign that the situation is getting extreme.

Do you want your beloved friend to suffer longer than need be? I'm sure you don't. From what the vets say, it sounds like there is no real hope of any improvement in the quality of life. Please be merciful to this animal. There is nowhere for him to go except for more confusion and pain. Don't confuse your own fear of his death and the pain of your grief with the sense that he "wants" to keep going. Your dog cannot possess the hope that he'll feel better, or the wish for "one more day."

In almost every instance when my family has had to euthanize one of our beloved pooches, we've rather quickly come to realize that we acted a little later than we should have -- and that actually compounds the grief and guilt.

I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by scody at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I think your dog would prefer not to go on like this. I don't know him, but that's what I think.

When the people in your email group chastise you, I think they're projecting some peculiarly human aspects of attachment to life on to a dog. If a human gets to the point where he's soiling himself, in pain, can hardly breathe, etc., he may well still want to live, in order to reach some family/friend milestones or because the fear of death is so great. Dogs don't think that far ahead, so it's much harder for them to ameliorate their own suffering with the thought, "I am still alive, and there is something wonderful in that alone." I think he's just plain suffering.

You sound like a warm, attached, fond pet owner -- much more so than most other pet owners, I'm sure! -- and I think that if you have reached this point, you are absolutely right that this is the best thing for your dog and for your family.
posted by palliser at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is so sad. I really feel for you, and think that you have done everything within reason to help your pet. You want to do the right thing, and the best that you can do for him and your family now is to recognize that it really is the time to let go. Sorry for your pain in all this.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't a poll, but it sure sounds to me like it is time for the dog to go to doggy heaven. We so often keep pets alive longer than we should; dogs have incredible pain tolerances and will tough out situations that a human couldn't.

What amelioration said above is really true: when the dog can't do the basic things that make him happy, it is time for the end. (And my guess is that the inappropriate herding is coming from pain or confusion, just one more sign that it is time.)
posted by Forktine at 3:15 PM on April 3, 2011

I can almost feel your distress. You know what is best for your pet. The group you mentioned can be a good thing up to a certain point. They are probably convinced they know best. You should listen to yourself and do what is best for you and for your pet. There is no pat answer. I assume your vet shares your concern. Even if he does not agree with you there is a limit to how far you can and want to go. In your head and heart is the answer. Go with that.
posted by JayRwv at 3:16 PM on April 3, 2011

I feel a lot of compassion for your situation- you are going through incredible stress and sadness. You should trust your heart in this. It's a personal and painful decision- but I think that you care more for your dog than any stranger on the internet and you alone will deal with the grief and loss. If you feel now is the time, don't be hard on yourself and I agree with other comments- he seems to be suffering with little hope for a recovery.
posted by catrae at 3:16 PM on April 3, 2011

Best answer: Last fall, our oldest dog, at about 13yrs old, began to have trouble walking, doing stairs, and there were times we'd find him in odd places, just staring at the wall or standing in a corner -- we were unsure if it was dementia, or if he just couldn't make his legs do what he wanted without pain. He wasn't messing in the house, and he was eating OK (although less than usual), and after a week of deliberation and seeing this wasn't something temporary that he would snap out of and seeing his mobility and appetite continue to degrade, we called the local travelling vet and had him come put the dog down in our home.

While we loved the dog very much (he was, literally, the nicest dog I had ever met), we had enough experience with old dogs to know that, if we kept him around purely to avoid the sadness of loss, it would amount to cruelty. I'm not accusing you of cruelty - it's a line that you'll have to figure out yourself, whether putting a dog down or keeping him alive is more cruel. It sounds like you've done the right thing by helping the dog live a fuller life than if his medical care was ignored, but if you haven't crossed the line yet into sustaining the dog beyond what the dog deserves, you will be crossing it soon.

There were two injections, and while our dog's breathing slowed we sat on the kitchen floor with him and petted him and told him we loved him, and then eventually he was gone, and I helped the vet take his body out to the trunk of the vet's car. We were all very, very sad, and the sadness lasted a few days, and every so often something will remind one of us and bring back a little sadness. It's nothing compared to prolonging the dog's unhappiness, prolonging the unhappiness of dealing with a dog who is unable to do the things he once could do...and then still have the sadness of putting him down in the end anyway.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:17 PM on April 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so, so sorry you're going through this. It's a terrible, terrible thing. But we humans have a duty to help our dogs end their lives when they can no longer enjoy them.

You sound like you already know the answer here. It's time to pull back from your dog disease group for a couple of weeks or so and ignore what they're saying. It's time to, in the absence of that, evaluate YOUR life on a scale of 1 to 5. You can't leave the house for more than 4 hours at a time. Your childcare situation is at risk because the nanny isn't comfortable making decisions for you about the dog's life (and she sounds, understandably, scared for her and your child's safety). And your dog has little of the autonomy and dignity it surely used to feature long ago.

You've already been through one horrible time when your dog stopped breathing and was blue. The answer is so painfully obvious, but I know firsthand it can be difficult to see this from the inside: It's time to say goodbye. It's your duty to do it while your dog has the wherewithal to enjoy one last day of life. It's your duty to do it while you can still have good memories of your dog.

It's your duty. Don't fail your dog in this most important aspect of pet ownership. It is a gift to let your dog die peacefully and at home at at time of your choosing. And it is your choice, because it is your duty.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:21 PM on April 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

How old is your dog? You mention that anxiety is part of his "main disease" - what is his main disease? It's hard to give an objective opinion without knowing more details. You mention that he is on more than 10 medications, plus goes for acupuncture treatments. To be honest, "acupuncture" raises skeptical flags for me, a non-chiropractic, Eastern alternative medicine type. It brings me back to the original question - what is your dog's diagnosis, what meds is he taking, etc?

Personal anecdote: my greyhound was 13 years old (very elderly for a large-breed dog, from what I've been told) when he started crying out loud when he tried to stand up from a prone position. Mr. Adams and I became tuned-in to when Trai need to get on his feet (so he could go outside to attend to his toilette) and would lift him up. A month later, he was very unsteady on his feet and one of us had to stand close enough to support him at the shoulder when he "did his business." He ate his food if we brought it to his bedside, likewise his water. He still acknowledged our petting and cooing and such, but it slowly became obvious that we were prolonging the invevitable because of our attachment to him. Two months later he refused all food, only drank water when brought to his bedside and had to be physically supported in order to relieve himself, and we knew the time had come for that decision that no pet owner relishes making.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:22 PM on April 3, 2011

Best answer: Another piece of advice, if you decide to euthanize now: wait a month before going to your email group with the news, if at all. Something that would be merely hurtful in a few weeks could be terribly distressing right afterward.
posted by palliser at 3:23 PM on April 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

If someone on your doggy disease email list or a local rescue is willing to take on the responsibility, let them. If not, it sounds like it might be time to let it go. Your biggest concern here should be your children. It is a relatively large dog in potentially a lot of pain showing odd behavior. It should not be around children no matter how much they love each other.
posted by Yorrick at 3:25 PM on April 3, 2011

- His trachea is collapsed and he has laryngeal paralysis and although he's on some meds for those, we have moved to DC where it is going to get hot and humid very soon. Yet so far on the hot days, dog has had a lot of trouble breathing. 3 different specialist vets have said to us that they are greatly concerned about his ability to deal with the summer heat.

Poor dog. You've done so much for him, I think it's now time to give him the final gift and let him go.
posted by humph at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was very slow to euthanize our dog - I didn't feel comfortable "playing God" that way. But finally the day came when it was clear that it was time to do it. Afterward, I realized I had been "playing God" for months, by keeping her alive. She hadn't been able to get to her food dish, or up and down the stairs to go outside in quite a while.

Also, the vet told me that people regretting waiting too long is common. People regretting doing it too soon is not.
posted by Ellemeno at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "my doggy disease email group makes me feel guilty"

I'm so sorry about that, particularly because I was one of the people (I think) who suggested that you check out the Yahoo groups for information. Cut them off cold turkey.

Please remember that they're projecting all of their fears about not doing enough for their own pets onto your situation. I saw the same thing on the group for feline lymphoma, i.e. "Try this! This vet knows a better formulation! I really think this treatment will do wonders!" I also witnessed the same thing when my father was dying of colon cancer - I wish I would have supported him in his desire to not go through a 2nd round of chemo, but so many other people were telling him "Well, you have to at least try."

I'm here to tell you, that last statement, while oh-so-common, is an insult. You HAVE tried. This is a decision for your family alone, which includes you, your partner, your child, and the dog. The nanny's opinion is useful, but should not be the sole deciding factor.

If you can, spend a weekend with just your family and your dog, no nanny - enjoy some good times together, pet him, coo over him, make special treats, etc... I think you know, even though it's extremely difficult (god do I know this), that it's time.
posted by HopperFan at 3:30 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The thing that I kept in mind when I've had to make that decision for pets is that without my care, they would have likely lived short, difficult lives and died miserable painful deaths. In my care, they lived long, happy, lives and when it was clear that any care was palliative, I saw to it that they died quietly and comfortably with my hand making contact.
posted by plinth at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. This is good.

He's 13. He has Cushings disease, hypothyroid, Horners syndrome, a slight arythmia.

The acupuncture was actually the most helpful thing for his anxiety. I was skeptical too, but I am a total convert.

Our internist here thinks it is time (and when he was put on meds after the last crisis I asked her if this was the last thing to try and she said yes.) Our acupuncturist vet says he sees worse daily but both think that the summer will/would be an exceptionally difficult time for him.

We go to the best specialists. He's on all the best drugs.

A little bit of me is excited for the near future when I won't have to be constantly worrying about him.
posted by k8t at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

No one, and I mean no one, can make that decision for you. Not us, not your doggy disease group, not your nanny. The decision is yours to make, based on what's best for the dog (foremost) and your family (secondary).

With that said, it sounds from your post that you're bouncing between feeling guilty about euthanizing an ailing pet and getting resentful about the great lengths you're taking to keep him alive, to say nothing of the lifestyle disruptions. Both feelings are perfectly normal, given the circumstances. If you're waiting for the guilt to dissipate before putting the dog down, forget about it. You will always feel guilty about euthanizing a beloved pet.

But your resentment seems to be growing, and you need to take that into consideration as well. I'm guessing that you'd rather remember the dog with love and a twinge of (inevitable) guilt than mixing your loving feelings with resentment and self-recrimination for letting it go on so long when the dog doesn't seem to be enjoying his life.
posted by DrGail at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2011

Your email support group is no longer a support group, because the inherent nature of disease support groups is to say that there's always one more thing that can be done, even when there isn't.
posted by holgate at 3:44 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Give the dog a really good day and then let him go. With all of this extra lifespan you're striving for, what are you really buying him when he doesn't have a quality of life he enjoys?
posted by DarlingBri at 3:44 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Having just had to put my 16-year-old cat to sleep, I know exactly what you mean when you say it's a little bit exciting to think of being able to come home and not have to worry about what state your pet is in.

I felt so relieved right afterwards, even though I felt rotten about saying goodbye to my cat (he had lymphoma, plus thyroid problems). He wasn't quite at death's door, but he was less and less responsive every day. He didn't have much of a life at the end, but I'm glad we didn't let him go on in any more pain and misery. (He couldn't walk properly, and he was crapping everywhere. He looked like shit. Poor old thing.)

Our vet said we could have tried chemotherapy and various steroids, but that wouldn't guarantee him more than another six months. Plus, it would have cost thousands. And running back and forward to the vet's office twice a week. It was too much.

You've already given your dog a long, happy life and lots of attention and love. I think you're ready to say goodbye. Maybe have a special day or stretch of time with him where you lavish lots of attention on him, give him some fancy food, and tell him how much he's meant to you. Hug him and kiss him and then let him go.
posted by vickyverky at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2011

My heart hurts for you that your family is having to go through this.
I've had to make this decision twice with cats. It doesn't get easier. But both times I've found that I've moved from feeling "I love this animal so much that I can't possibly make this decision" to "It's BECAUSE I love this animal so much that I know that it's time to make this decision."
In your heart you know what you need to do. Please try not to let others who are not living with your situation sway you by trying to "guilt" you into something.
posted by bookmammal at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2011

I listened to the ER vet and let my 16 year old dog live what turned out to be her last night gasping for air in an oxygen tank. She had congestive heart failure and the vet showed me x-rays with her huge heart pressing on her spine and her trachea, and still told me to keep trying to save her. In the end I couldn't get them to give her the injections fast enough because I couldn't bear to see her struggle anymore.

I wish to god I could have given her a better end instead of waiting until the last possible minute when she was suffering. You have that opportunity, but it doesn't sound like you'll have it for much longer.
posted by walla at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: folks, please take nanny side concerns to email, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:07 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He's an old dog with chronic illnesses which are no longer capable of being managed well, and his quality of life sounds poor much of the time. What other reasons do you need? I do feel that a lot of the time people don't explore every option for their pets, especially when many conditions can be managed reasonably well if you just have a vet who knows what they're doing, and an owner who doesn't have crazy-low ideas about what constitutes "extraordinary measures", but you don't seem like one of those people, it seems to me that you've done more than many people would do for your dog, you've explored all kinds of avenues to help, and your life and your dog's life seem like they're just way more stressful than good now. Let him go, and give yourself permission to understand that this is the right thing for him.
posted by biscotti at 4:10 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry that you're going through this. The best piece of advice I received when I was faced with euthanizing my sick dog was "Better a day too soon than an hour too late." I set up an appointment before his "bad days" came back in force (I could tell they were coming back soon), and if I had to do it again, I would have scheduled it even earlier.

And as for the disease email group, stop reading it. You are not those people, and your dog is not their dog. Only you can decide what's best for you and your dog, and screw the people who would tell you otherwise or judge you for your choice.
posted by specialagentwebb at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2011

Response by poster: For those that asked, here are his meds:

DOG NAME, canine, Labrador Retriever, 13 y/o, M/C, 87 lbs., Cushing's disease/PDH & Hypothyroid & Horner’s Syndrome (15 mg Trilostane caps 7am/3pm/11pm, 25mg Benazepril 2X day, Denamarin large 1X day, Glucosemin, Thyrosyn Levothyroxine .7 mg 1X day, Gabapentin 100 mg 2X day, Tramadol throughout the morning for pain control); recently added Trazodone and anti-tussin and Zantac - used to do Pepcid AC; eating some Innova Senior kibble, but mostly commercial canned and homecooked. We also use D.A.P. collars and acupuncture to great success.

I am putting myself on "no emails" on the email group. HopperFan, it was incredibly helpful throughout the past year and I appreciate that you gave me the head's up. The group was helpful with ideas, recommendations for treatment, and support. It is only recently that I've said "I think that it is time" that they're sort of turning on me. I have long thought that some members were going too far in my opinion. And a strange side effect of having a very ill dog -- I feel like a much better consumer of medical care generally and I owe that to the group.
posted by k8t at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2011

Nthing that you've done an admirable job of trying to give this animal a better quality of life. It sounds like the best way you can continue that trend of compassion and honor is to give him a comfortable, peaceful death.
posted by tetralix at 4:19 PM on April 3, 2011

Best answer: Dogs will roll with whatever circumstance they are given, even if it is uncomfortable. Our last, most important duty to our dogs is to not let them suffer. It sounds like you've done everything you could.

We are fortunate that we are able to keep our dogs alive and healthy for so much longer than in the past, but that makes it even more important to help them when it's time to go.
posted by mccreath at 4:19 PM on April 3, 2011

And a strange side effect of having a very ill dog -- I feel like a much better consumer of medical care generally and I owe that to the group.

You can come back to the group down the road, if you like, and share your information. Right now, though, your only obligations are to your dog, your family, and yourself -- not the group. It will be fine without you (and I think you may be better off without it yourself for the time being; I've seen a similar phenomenon with other online support groups for illness).
posted by scody at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, this is hard. I'm sorry you're going through this.

I think you've done all you can do for him. It sounds like his quality of life can only go down from here, and it seems unkind to wait until he has the kind of intractable pain and suffering that will make this decision clearer. But I think you need to realize that you're not euthanizing him for your own convenience--I think you're focusing on this issue because you feel guilty and you think if you could just come up with a care solution that would give him a few more weeks or months, nature will relieve you of having to make this decision.

You're not giving up on him by doing this--you're easing his way through an imminent death that could otherwise be very traumatic. Your doggy doesn't have plans. He doesn't have goals. He loves you and wants to be loved in return. He won't feel cheated of the few "good" weeks he may have left.

You say you're 99% sure you'll do it. I think it's because you know it's the right thing to do. I don't think that 1% that isn't sure will ever be reassured by anything anyone says here--I think you might always have a doubt, always wonder if you made the right call. That's a natural response to any sensitive human being who is in control of another creature's life or death. But in time, you too will heal, and forgive yourself.

Good luck. What a lucky dog you have, to have such a concerned, caring, thoughtful person in his life. Your dog's going to be okay, and so are you. Hang in there.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:44 PM on April 3, 2011

We had to put one of our dogs down last year. When the time came, I knew it was the right thing to do, but that didn't make it any easier. I still miss her. If you know it's the right thing to do, call the at-home service, it's time.
posted by jack.tinker at 5:12 PM on April 3, 2011

My friends had to euthanize their beloved dog and I came in here to tell you about it.

They invited friends to come and say good bye. It was very beautiful and I felt honored to be included. It meant a lot to me to be able to support them and their dog. Your plan seems very appropriate for your circumstances. It's never easy.

However, I wanted to comment on the online group...

I'm so sorry about that. This is between your family, not them. Your dog is part of your family. I know you know this. If you feel your family is in agreement, then it is time.

It's OK to thank these folks individually or en masse for their support and then move forward.
posted by jbenben at 5:12 PM on April 3, 2011

I'm so very sorry for what you're going through, your pup is very lucky to have you looking out for him. In my experience, if the owners think it *might* be time, it really really is time. Its great that you're going to do this at home. If I were in your shoes, I might take the afternoons off this week to spend time with him, and relieve some of the stress from the nanny situation.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:36 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think that you have all the confirmation you need to validate the decision to euthanize. You have done so much more than most would do. You have given your dog a good life. When you look at how most dogs the world over are treated, he was unbelievably lucky to have you as an owner.

And don't let anyone tell you that you are taking his loss too hard, either. This is a huge loss. He filled a very special part of you and your family's life. And take special care to see how this affects your toddler. I think this article might be helpful.

I went with a friend who put down a cat she had for 14 years. Before we went to the vet we went over some photos of him throughout the years and she reminisced about him. It seemed to comfort her a little bit. Maybe I am being too intrusive here, but would it be helpful for you to post a photo of you dog when he was in good health? And maybe share a story about him? If not, I totally understand, you have a lot on your plate at the moment.

Thank you for being such a great friend to your dog.
posted by MiggySawdust at 5:39 PM on April 3, 2011

Best answer: I would gently suggest that his quality of life is perhaps not a "3", even on good days. He needs to be coaxed to eat even homemade food, and it sounds like he only spends a few hours a day awake and engaged. He's developed a sort of paranoia about the nanny that adds another level to his anxiety. And then he's seriously debilitated by illness a third of the time, and the episodes are getting worse. Ohh, I'm so sorry, but I think he's telling you that he's lost the will to live.

I'm sorry, I know that making the decision to put down a pet is horribly painful, but you're doing the right thing. For him. You've gone way above and beyond what most people are capable of handling regarding an ill pet, and anyone who tries to tell you that it's selfish for you to consider your own quality of life is being a miserable jerk.

Your doggy doesn't have plans. He doesn't have goals. He loves you and wants to be loved in return. He won't feel cheated of the few "good" weeks he may have left.

Well said, and quoted for truth.
posted by desuetude at 5:55 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

A 13 year old lab with Cushings disease? For the love of all that is holy, take that poor dog to the vet tomorrow and let it go in peace.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:56 PM on April 3, 2011

Just chiming in with many here; it's probably time, and you sound as though you know this.
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this, but it is indeed a gift we can give our pets to end their suffering humanely.
Call your regular vet and see if he/she will do a house call for the 'final visit'. If your dog is anxious, then you'll spare him the anxiety of the car and the vet's office. You'll also gain some privacy, which, when you are hurting, is invaluable.
You've been wonderful, giving owners - give the last little bit now.
My heart goes out to you.
posted by dbmcd at 6:05 PM on April 3, 2011

A little bit of me is excited for the near future when I won't have to be constantly worrying about him.

Just wanted to say that this is a legitimate feeling, and I doubt that you will feel guilty afterwards. If that's worrying you.

I had my beloved 15-year-old cat euthanized (the one my username comes from), and I held her and scratched her head and cried while her heart peacefully slowed to a stop. This end was better for her, and it was good for me as well.
posted by torticat at 6:35 PM on April 3, 2011

I'm so sorry you have to go through this.
We went through a somewhat similar situation a few years back with one of our cats. She had a long, slow decline, with lots of meds, steroids, fluids, acupuncture, special diets, and so on. She was such an awesome cat, and we felt like we'd do anything for her. In the end, she just got so sick that we had to put her to sleep - she had one last day of special treats and hanging out in the sun, and we took her in.

Looking back on it, I feel like we were selfish and should've done it sooner. There were probably a lot of days when we talked ourselves into believing she was at a '3' when it was more like a '1' or a '2', but we didn't want to accept that. I feel bad that we didn't have the strength and awareness to give her a humane end earlier on. Don't put yourself in that situation - find the strength to do what is best for your dog at this point. He's had a great life; give him a peaceful exit.

And take care of yourself afterwards. We were pretty shell-shocked for a few days. Little stuff like finding one of her toys or her brush would set us off all over again.
posted by chbrooks at 6:35 PM on April 3, 2011

Putting down my old cats was the hardest thing I've ever done. It even hurt more than when my favorite cousin died of cancer. But they were too wonderful to have to be in pain. They didn't deserve to suffer.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2011

A little bit of me is excited for the near future when I won't have to be constantly worrying about him.

You won't have to subscribe to the email group, either. They can be grumpy about you not making it about you and your pursuit of treatment, but if that's the way they're going to be you can say your peace to them and go on your way. Your heart is in the right place.
posted by rhizome at 7:42 PM on April 3, 2011

People that go to extremes to keep their pet alive, aren't necessarily doing the best thing for them.

I was one of those people, and I have regretted ever since: I should have tried to find the courage to put my dear Pippy to sleep before pain literally broke her heart.
posted by francesca too at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2011

fransesca too: we do the best we can. no regrets.
posted by Vaike at 8:13 PM on April 3, 2011

Not much more than a data point:
My wife and I are facing the same decision ourselves.
We have been blessed by some extraordinary dogs and cats.
It is very difficult to let them go.
posted by Drasher at 9:43 PM on April 3, 2011

so, i've been on both sides of this in a manner of speaking. my best pal doug, a big fat orange tabby, had a stroke (literally) as my partner and i walked in the house from a business trip, and we spent the next three days rushing around the greater chicago area trying to keep him alive in the face of absolutely impassable circumstances. in retrospect, i was so grief-stricken, terrified, and full of guilt that i listened to some really extreme advice from the doctors, which ended up costing doug a calm death, me a crapload of cash, and our presence at his deathbed (he died with a specialist two hours outside the city). decidedly the worst experience of my life so far.

fast forward to now. we have a little cat named jcksn who's on phenobarbital to keep seizures under control (i'm not a masochist, we didn't know when we adopted him) and must be dosed twice daily. finding care for him when we go out of town is incredibly hard, and we have to time our social life around his meds (which, frankly, don't sound nearly as daunting as yours).

with doug's experience in my rear view mirror, i try to keep one eye clearly on jcksn's quality of life. if he ever ends up in pain that looks like it could be open-ended, it's time. end of story.

if i could go back and let doug go with that initial visit to the vet who diagnosed his stroke, i would have stopped trying right then and there.

no advice, just my experience. everyone's experience with death is their own.
posted by patricking at 10:00 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

We had to put down our black lab seven years ago; lungs full of fluid, etc. She had been getting progressively weaker for some time; in hindsight we were in denial and didn't acknowledge the seriousness of the situation until it became irreversible and unavoidable. Think midnight trip to the vet hospital, having to carry her in and out of the car. The brief discussion outside the hospital, making the decision and going back in to tell them to do it. Watching them do it. Saying goodbye. Coming back home to see the remains of her last meal (scrambled eggs, in a futile attempt to get some protein in her - we aren't exactly vets.) The ridiculous attempt, later on, by the clinic to sell us a grave in a pet cemetery after the fact - that one I still find unforgivable.

It was the hardest thing I've done in my life to date, but at that point expensive "heroic" measures gave us maybe a 30% chance of recovery, maybe, I can't remember exactly. The money wasn't there, at any rate. She was already in double digits age-wise.

Our friends were sympathetic; either they had been through it before themselves or knew they would one day or just understood. I never thought about it until reading this thread, but if someone had given me shit like that in the days immediately after her passing, I probably would have broken their fucking jaw and happily gone through the system for doing so.
posted by trondant at 11:45 PM on April 3, 2011

From Patricia McConnell, author of "The Puppy Primer": "It is easier to believe that we are always responsible (”if only I had done/not done this one thing….”) than it is to accept this painful truth: We are not in control of the world. Stuff happens. Bad stuff. As brilliant and responsible and hard working and control-freaky that we are, sometimes, bad stuff just happens. Good people die when they shouldn’t. Gorgeous dogs brimming with health, except for that tumor or those crappy kidneys, die long before their time. Dogs who are otherwise healthy but are a severe health risk to others end up being put down. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it hurts like hell. But please please, if you’ve moved heaven and earth to save a dog and haven’t been able to… just remember: Stuff happens. We can’t control everything. (Difficult words to dog trainers I know. . . Aren’t we all control freaks to some extent?) You didn’t fail. You tried as hard as you could. It’s okay."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:32 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

We had an old, sick dog, too. And one night, in the middle of the night, we had to have her put down - it was obvious that was the right thing to do at that time. We had to take her to the emergency vet to do it. She was scared, and that made the whole thing a thousand times worse. Also, we had to take the baby with us, since we both knew it was probably time and neither one of us wanted to go alone. (Having the baby there, at that time made it a thousand times easier, sort of, but she couldn't walk or talk, and did not understand what was going on. I would not want to do that with a toddler, holy smokes). I sometimes wish we had done it sooner, so that we could have had the vet come to the house, or at least gone to our vet - the vet who knew everything we had done, the vet our dog liked. So there's that to consider, perhaps.

I'm so sorry; this sucks so much.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:03 AM on April 4, 2011

You have a lot of great responses here. Good stuff.

This is an incredibly hard place to be in - to decide when to end a life. But it is the responsibility we all take on when we bring pets into our lives.

For many years I've been aware of the phenomenon of people who refused to let their pets go. Friends, acquaintances, perhaps influenced by vets, or love, or fear of the responsibility, who perhaps let things go on for months longer than they should have. I didn't want to be one of those people.

And yet, when I was standing in the emergency vet this January, in the middle of the night, looking at my beloved nineteen-year-old cat, who had been with me through so many epic times of my life, a huge part of my heart was screaming, "Save her!" She'd suffered a major stroke, was comatose, she had blood in her eyes, her mouth, coming out of her anus. X-rays showed she also had tumors in her lungs. The emergency vet was talking months of recovery, provided she woke, with a neurologist and probable loss of brain and motor function, and I was on the verge of agreeing, frantic to save her.

It was so, so difficult to back off and make the right decision. It was so, so difficult to be the one to decide to out her to sleep after all she'd given me, for so many years.

And I imagine, thinking about what you need to do, that it would have been even more difficult to make the decision in a non-emergency moment. But you will face the moment of making the decision eventually and I support you fully and send my support if you think now is the time.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:59 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry.

You commented in my senile dog thread, so you know I'm dealing with one senior furball. But I lost that dog's best buddy last fall. Tessa was 13, had Cushing's, hypothyroid, and Horner's. We knew it was time when she developed an anxiety with ataxia that we couldn't help with meds or care.

After a couple of episodes we thought things were improving slightly, but then she had another terrible episode, and it never improved after that. I deeply regret that I didn't let her go while she was slightly comfortable. We obviously can't know the future, and I used the best judgment I could at the time. But I will do my damnedest to make sure THAT doesn't happen again. If it's progressive, it's rapidly getting worse, it's not curable, and my dog is still somewhat comfortable, IT IS TIME.

We had a horse with COPD. It was very, very bad in summer--despite an insulated, air-conditioned stall. If we hadn't lost her, also, to a freak incident last fall...we'd likely be putting her down now. It's okay to let a pet go so they don't suffer through another difficult season. In horses it more often happens that a struggling senior horse is PTS before winter, but when summer is the problem, hey. It's okay to say that one's pet should never have to go through a bad summer again.

I'm so sorry.
posted by galadriel at 11:09 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone.

First, the fact that everyone (in an Ask Me post!?!?!?) said the same thing was helpful.

Second, a number of you framed this issue in ways that I could not being inside of it, and it was incredibly helpful for me.

Third, I appreciate all the personal stories.

Once again, MeFi has been a tremendous help during a difficult time. Thanks to all of you.

(Made the appointment this afternoon for Friday morning.)
posted by k8t at 11:17 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just popped back in to say, oh, you have a lab! What a good life you've no doubt given him, and I just know he's given you many great years in return. My black lab was only 9 when he was dying of cancer. I chose a day on the calendar, made the home vet visit appointment, and filled his morning with Chick-Fil-A, swimming, a nap in the sun, a squeaker ball, and a steak. It was his Best Dog Day Ever. I wish you luck and relief and peace this Friday and beyond.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:06 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?"

--Sir Walter Scott
posted by jack.tinker at 7:18 PM on April 4, 2011

Response by poster: while we scheduled it for Friday, last night he had a mini-crisis. he didn't sleep. had diahrea.

I think that he wanted us to know it was time.

The vet came and did it with compassion.

Thanks again all.
posted by k8t at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss but so glad for you and your friend the dog that you were able to make this wise and compassionate decision. Peace to all of you.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2011

Oh, I'm so sorry, k8t. You and your sweet pal are in my thoughts.
posted by scody at 12:18 PM on April 5, 2011

Hugs and tissues for you, k8t.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2011

I'm sorry, my friend. He was a good boy and I've been all boo-hooey thinking of him and the tyke and I think you've just done wonderfully here. Dogs end with boo-hooeyness. The quote above is so spot-on. Someday you'll love another puppy, and you'll be the best thing that ever happened to him, too. You're a good mama.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:07 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all.
posted by k8t at 4:24 AM on April 6, 2011

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