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As the journey starts nearing the end


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I took Jester in to the vet this morning.

For those of you who do not know, Jester is fifteen and some months old and has been with me since the age of two. He has been my hiking companion, freestyle dance partner, and best buddy.

 

He started dragging first one hind foot and then both about a month ago. He got unsteady on his feet; sometimes he falls and on occasion yelps when he hits the dirt. He still has a good appetite and attitude, still runs after the throw toy every morning with great enthusiasm..... and as much joy as ever, as best I can tell.

 

I started watching him closely, really looking into his eyes asking myself if I saw pain there, because he would never admit it to me. Recently, I started seeing pain in his eyes. He has a hard time getting comfortable in any position; maybe he is never fully comfortable. I am starting to see anxiety in him. He has never been an anxious dog; I think it is because he doesn't understand why his body is not responding the way it used to, and may also be from the pain.

 

It is heartbreaking to me to watch this. Such an incredibly strong, athletic dog. Such a good dog.

 

The vet said he has deteriorated since the last time she saw him, which was perhaps three months ago. She would see it better than I; I am with him daily and admit to practicing denial. I shouldn't, but I do. Part of it is that I keep up a good attitude for Jes, telling him he is fine and doing great. He doesn't need or want sympathy, and it would only add to his anxiety.

 

Vet said there's not a whole lot we can do. Probably isn't neurological, could be any number of things, but at this age trying to make him comfortable is more appropriate than a whole lot of diagnostics. She prescribed Rimadyl for the pain, and gave me some Flexadin chews, and some new stuff: Canna-Pet biscuits. They are made with a whole lot of CBD (cannabinoids). This is for his anxiety.

 

She said she did not think that he will be with me a great deal longer; pointed out that sometimes the kindest thing is to let go before the body collapses.

Of course, who knows how much longer. I want to believe that it will be several weeks, or several months even. but who knows. I want to do the right thing. I don't want to give up my dog. All of you who have been here know what I mean.

 

So here is what I want to ask you folks about.

My Kit dog, a year younger than Jes, thinks the sun rises and sets in Jes, and has since the day she came to my home 8 years ago. I have no idea what she will do without him. I have a friend who had two dogs who were bonded like that, and after she took one of them for that final vet visit the other one looked for him for weeks, and seemed never to trust my friend again. She thinks it is because she took that dog away and did not bring him back.

 

So, as much as I do not want to think about these things, I am thinking it's better to think about it now than try to figure it out in a rush. I think for Jes it would be better to take him in rather than have a home vet come because he knows and likes his vet, has never been anxious to go in to the office, and the doc and her wonderful tech have been part of Jester's and my lives for 11 years. I am thinking I should perhaps bring Kit with me so that after the final injection is over I could bring her into the room and she would know what happened to Jester. Better than having her wonder where he went, and why I did not bring him home.

I know Kit became close friends once with a foster dog and even though that foster was with me only a month, Kit looked for her for a couple of weeks after she was adopted.

 

Have any of you had experience with showing the body to the other animal(s)?

 

And, what have you done to make the last weeks or months of an elder dog's life better?

 

Thanks for reading, and sorry for such a long post.

 

 

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I almost feel like I am taking every step of this journey with you. My Tyra is the same age and we are going through much the same, maybe with a bit more dramatic ups and downs. Hugs to you!

 

I do know I will be using an at home vet for the end because it must be so. But I also am very interested in how to deal with the end with Seamus. They are not close. They kind have always existed together each in their own orbit. But lately there have been some moments between them. I kind of selfishly just want to deal with it alone. But perhaps Seamus should get to be there right after it is over.

 

As for making life better just being there every step with him makes his life better!

 

My heart breaks for you.

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Hello D'Elle,


I am so sorry that your journey with Jes is nearing its end. Try to find comfort in the wonderful memories that you have of your relationship with him. You have asked some very pertinent questions, and I would like to share my experiences regarding two of them.


Like you, I had two geriatric dogs that were very closely bonded and both nearing the end of their days. The older dog was sixteen and a half and had been doing very well for her age, until one day she told me that she no longer had interest in life here on earth. The younger dog was fourteen and despite having failing kidneys since she was nine (caused by a bout of leptospirosis), she was doing extremely well. I took the older dog to the vet to be euthanized, and the younger dog stayed home. When I came home from the vet's office, the younger dog noticed that her lifelong friend did not return (of course). Unlike your friend's dog, my dog accepted that her old friend was gone and did not look for her for weeks, nor did she distrust me in any way. However, the younger dog's kidney values, which had been checked shortly before the older dog was euthanized, plummeted. The younger dog's condition continued to decline, and it was necessary to euthanize her six week after the old one's death. I am certain that her pre-existing kidney failure, which had been only gradually deteriorating, was greatly affected by the loss of the older dog.


You also asked about showing a dog the lifeless body of its packmate, and I feel that this can be beneficial. I have livestock guardian dogs at my farm, and when it is necessary to euthanize one, I have a vet come to the farm to put them down. I do allow the other dogs to see and sniff the body, and I believe that it is cathartic for them to do so. I wait until all of the dogs have had an opportunity to "experience" their fellow guardian before moving the body. This does seem to help the dogs with the loss of a member of their team.


I hope that this information helps, and my heart goes out to you at this difficult time.


Regards,

nancy

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Thanks for the replies.

 

Nancy, I appreciate your telling me of your experience; it is very helpful. I think I am on the right track, thinking to take Kit with me. I just hope it doesn't happen soon. (What a dumb thing to say. Any time would be too soon.)

I am feeling so sad. I make the best effort I can not to show it to Jes, but how could he not sense it, after all these years?

I think that subconsciously I somehow always believed that Jester would simply never get to this time, because he was always so intense, so strong, so lively, ...so intense, so active, with such endurance and speed and, oh, did I mention intensity? Just so, so much of everything that he was and, on the inside, still is.

 

I want to do special things for him, but don't know what to do. I wish I could take him to the mountains where we hiked so many hundreds of times, but he couldn't do it now.

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I have never had the experience with 2 dogs, but I did inherit my mom's Shih tzu mix when she died.

 

Toby NEVER let mom out of his sight for the 5 1/2 years she had him, He was completely devoted to her and she to him. When she was in the hospital for the last time and they thought one morning she would pass, I brought Toby in under my coat because I thought they both deserved one last chance to be together. She woke up because he was there. The nurse called him the miracle dog. We managed to take her home on hospice that day and he laid on her bed, no food, no water, no potty breaks until she did pass away the next day. After the funeral home came to take mom away, Toby willingly hopped off the bed and came home with us. He didn't look and search for her... he just knew. I really believe they understand death and think if I had kept him away from her in another room he would still be searching and looking for her a year later.

 

I would think the same applies for 2 dogs with a strong bond, and if you're able to take Kit with you she will understand.

 

Heidi

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I think it is a good idea also. At the veterinary practice I work at we have two clients who have "viewings" for the remaining pets. The pets sniff their friends body and are mildly curious and then that is it, they seem satisfied with that and go home and don't look for them. The one client will cut hair from a pet after it has passed it one dies unexpectedly. When she goes home she will give everyone the opportunity to sniff the hair as much as they want to and she feels that they understand.

When I worked at a large animal hospital if a foal died, the mare was given some tranquilizer and the foal would be put in the stall with her. When she was done sniffing and the tranq had taken affect the foal was removed. Mares seemed less distressed this way.

If he has favorite areas (parks, pet stores, playgrounds) perhaps do short day trips with him if he can travel comfortably. When my first Border was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma (post splenectomy) I knew his time was limited and so was his energy so we did short trips to fun spots. I took pictures and though it made me sad at the time and immediately afterwards I enjoy looking at them now.

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I don't have any advice on showing the body to other animals but here is what I am doing with Wisp to make her time her enjoyable as possible. She is 13 and the last few months her liver tumor has gotten even larger, takes longer for her to get up, its only a matter of time. Since she is going down hill we go for shorter walks, I pat her head and tell her she's a good girl. I remember the days when she could still work sheep and how much she enjoyed it, or the summer days spent down by the creek where she would swim and snap at the waves she made. She no longer likes her kibble, but will eat canned dog food and loves Saturday night as thats pizza night where she still manages to beg for crust. My wish is that she will go in her sleep but I know that won't happen so when I see she no longer is happy that will be the time.

 

Enjoy Jester and the time you have left together and treasure the memories you have made with him.

 

Samantha

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A few years back, when my 16-year-old husky mix let me know our contract was ending, I asked a vet to come to the house for the final visit. I did that specifically as Sylvie never liked going to the vet's and I figured there'd be less stress for her, particularly as that day she became pretty much immobile. The other reason I asked the vet to come was so that my other dogs would know what happened. My two males never really cared for Sylvie and viewed her as the dog that ruined all the fun (she was very much the fun police). Nevertheless, she'd been there for the entire life of one of my males and had helped raise him as a puppy. My other female though was at one time very closed bonded to Sylvie. There'd been a few scuffles over the more recent years - brought on in part by my bringing home the puppy, and the relationship had seen a few fractures, but the younger female still closely watched Sylvie and was always in whatever room she was in. I did not have the dogs present when the euthanasia was done, but brought them all into the room immediately after. It was deeply sad (more so for me), but also fascinating. All three dogs gave Sylvie's body a sniff. The two boys gave a quick sniff, then turned away. Jasmine sniffed a bit longer, looked at me, sniffed Sylvie's body a bit more and then sat down a little way off and looked at me. Of course she was concerned about my reaction, but I got the sense that she also understood that her friend of many years was gone and that she was at peace with it.

 

I'll add that I made that decision too in part becuase I'd lost a dog years before at a fairly young age to cancer and he was deeply attached to one of my mother's dogs and vice versa. We joked how they had a bromance thing going as they were so fond of one another. The first time I drove into my mom's driveway without Kip still tears at me. Cooper came running out of the house looking for his friend. I started bawling, and he stood looking at me, and then jumped into my car, something he'd never done uninvited before, and started frantically circling inside and looking, then jumped out, barked at me, jumped back in. It was very sad. Then he walked back in and quietly stared at me for most of the time I was there that day. It took several months for Cooper to stop looking for Kip every time I came over.

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Thanks again for the replies. And I appreciate the support as well.

I know it is really too soon for me to draw any conclusions, but I think the Rimadyl and the other things may be helping significantly. He gets up off the floor so much faster, and I do not see the pain in his eyes this morning. He seems more lively this morning that I have seen him in a month. And last night, after getting the cannabinol treat in the late afternoon he did not seem as anxious at bedtime. Maybe all of this will give him more time. I hope so.

have decided that I will definitely take Kit with me when the time comes.

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I feel for you, this is such a hard time to come to.

My first border collie died at home, asleep on his dog bed, we knew he was terminally sick and had regular conversations about when we would know it was time, but he chose his own time. Our GSD x mix who was very much a bonded partner knew he was dead, she saw his body, was there when we buried him, it was obvious she understood but was depressed for ages afterwards, something that did not change till we got Brody 3 months later. (We only have ever had two dogs).

When I decided that jesters time had come, 2 years later, we took Brody to the vets with us, he was there when she passed and was burried, he did not care or show any interest.

Sadly we lost Brody 3 years later, he also passed at home and our current dog saw the body and was with us when we burried him, he certainly seemed to understand he was gone, but like Jester before was terribly depressed for a long time afterwards, made worse by him being an only dog.

When the situation arises again I will try to make sure the survivor gets to sniff and see their buddy.

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My vet makes house calls for euthanasia. I've found over the years, this is a 'less worse' approach than taking the dog to her for euthanasia. We lost the last one in February, we'd been watching him lose function and on the evening before, he was unable to get up even with support. I went to the vet's office the next morning and her immediate comment was "It's time, isn't it?" She and her tech came out at noon. The other dogs and the cats each took a moment to investigate the body, and went about their business. His favorite cat hung around his crate for a few days.

This has been the usual scenario over the past 35 years. The two who were in pain which wasn't controllable were immediately euthanized. There is to me no reason for prolonging any discomfort which can't be alleviated. Your vet is obviously aware of your situation, I'd ask now if a home visit could be arranged.

I'm a total sentimentalist, the dog's final memory is going to sleep in my lap just like always.

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My vet doesn't make house calls, not even for a long-time favorite patient like Jester. Just won't happen. I can have someone come; she is a vet who specializes in euthanasia, and who is wonderful but very expensive. I have had experience with her. But I am not sure that is the best thing; I have not made up my mind. Jester knows the regular vet and her wonderful tech, and it sort of seems to me that they should be with him at the end.

 

What I am debating now, though, is whether to take Kit with me or not. I think on the one hand I should, but on the other hand Kit (unlike Jes) is anxious about the vet, so maybe I should take Jes in, then bring him home for Kit to see and bury him. Only thing is that the ground where I live has to be dug with a pickax, so burying is not a simple thing, as I will have to dig the hole on my own. I am wondering if I should start now to dig a hole. It is just such a saddening prospect to do it ahead of time but the truth is it will take me several days to get a hole dug if that is what I need to do.

this sucks.

 

Jester is in a lot less pain with the pain medications. But today when I came home and he got up he was hardly able to stand or walk at first. I was watching him out the window; he did not know I could see him. It was pretty bad. After about 30 seconds, though, he got his legs under him and was OK; came into the house with a lift to his step as always.

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I don't know if this helps but I have pretty bad arthritis in my feet. When I first stand up my feet really hurt and I can hardly walk. But once I get them stretched out I can walk with very little pain.

 

When I have to drive a lot my feet are stuck on one position for a long time. Those first steps out of the car really hurt. But after a few steps I do ok. And I think weather makes a diffetence, too.

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Coming to this topic late, but I think you know the best for Jester and Kit. If Jester doesn't mind going to the vet's, that may be OK for him. I think that bringing him home for Kit to experience his current state will be a good idea too. It sounds like you have a good plan.

 

When I had to put down my 19 year old rescue sheltie mix this past Thanksgivng, I didn't think she would be as anxious as she was. She never liked the vet, but usually tolerated her visits. This last visit, she had an extremely heightened level of anxiety - which left me sad that I had not made other arrangements.

 

With regard to letting companion animals experience the body of their deceased: I think that it is a good idea. Not all animals need it, but at least you have given them the choice. The saddest one I experienced was with one of my alpacas that had a stillbirth. She had the baby while I was gone for 1.5 hours one day. She was standing over the body. The vet examined the cria, and since it seemed to be a normal baby, the best explanation she could give was that perhaps the chest area got stuck on the way out and she suffocated. I brought the cria into the barn where I let the mother stand by her baby for hours - maybe 5-6 hours for which the mom never went outside to eat with the rest of the herd. Finally, I took the cria away to bury. The mother eventually returned to the herd, but for the next 3 weeks, EVERY time she saw me, she would come running over to me as if asking 'where is my baby?' It was heart-wrenching. Once she was re-bred, she immediately stopped this behavior.

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If you can locate a sympathetic teenager they could help you with the hole digging process. Perhaps inquire at your vets office to see if they know anyone? Or maybe someone with the BC rescue that you've fostered for might know someone? My brothers have helped neighbors before. In fact, I couldn't do that part at all. I could be strong while my dog needed me to be but after that I was spent. My brother buried Missy and my Dad buried Kipp.

 

FWIW, with Missy, I went at the end of the day and asked the vet to come out to my car. She loved rides so sitting in the back if the car (small suv) was a happy place for her. It was simple for the vet to access and she just sat in my lap (being dosed up on tramdol and rimadyl helped).

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Thanks again for the replies and support, and the ideas on getting hole digging help. I live so far out of town that it's pretty hard for anyone to want to come here.

It is up and down these days with Jester; guess that is pretty standard for this kind of thing.

In the evening he might stumble so much I am thinking that it should be soon. But every morning I go out with him at 5AM while it is still nice and cool outside and throw the toy for him and he runs with such joy and abandon, just like always even if slower, that I know it is not time yet. He is still having fun.

 

There is humor in this too and I make sure that I enjoy that part and encourage him to as well. I come home from working and let everyone out to potty; the other dogs come in, but not Jes. He doesn't hear me calling him so I clap my hands. No Jes, so I go looking for him. He is standing behind the shed looking through the fence, puzzled, Seems to be saying "Where did everyone go? And How did I get on the wrong side of the fence?" I come up behind him and touch him ever so gently so I don't startle him too much, and he turns and "says", "oh there you are! Are you on the wrong side of the fence, too?....OH, there's the door! So it's that way, not the other way. OK, cool." And then he tries to dash up the steps as he always has but he's a lot slower at it now. Honestly, it is funny and sort of sweet.

 

I have to watch him closely when we are out in the unfenced part of my property because he will tend just to forget what we are doing and wander off. I found him across the road one time, looking into the neighbor's fence with that same puzzlement. I have to jump up and down and wave my arms for him to see me if I am more than 10 feet or so away from him. He has such a good attitude about it all; none of it really seems to upset him, so I follow his lead and don't let it upset me. At least, not that I show to him. The only part that really bothers me a lot is when I can tell he is in pain. I do know the Rimadyl is helping with that.

Thanks for reading. Writing about it helps me to deal with it.

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I have to jump up and down and wave my arms for him to see me if I am more than 10 feet or so away from him.

Yes, this^^^^

 

I remember doing a lot of this with my old girl. Once she saw me, her ears would perk up and she would run towards me with her stilted, rolling gait, then run past me and up the 4 steps to the door. She had to get a running start to get up those steps. :-)

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Another thing that he is doing that he never did before is following me around the house all the time. He was never a really cuddly dog, nor the velcro type, and did not care to follow me around the house the way some dogs do. But now every time I turn around, there he is, and I am tripping over him because he gets behind me or in front of me and then just stands there, spacing out. I am pretty light on my feet these days, always expecting him to be wherever I am trying to go, so that if he is I can dance out of the way so I don't bash into him. Again, it is kind of funny.

 

He will do this thing when I let him outside: he goes half way out the door and then stops and won't move. I have to shove him the rest of the way out the door, which I really do not like to do, but I can't let him stand there in the doorway. The cats will go out, the air conditioning will go out. The bugs will come in if it is night. So I am always saying "Keep going! Keep going!"

If we are going out to play fetch he is dashing down the steps. If he knows I am putting him out because I am about to leave to go to work and he will be left outside all day then he stands there as if all of a sudden he cannot go down steps at all and I am so cruel to be asking him to do so. He knows that pretty much whatever he does or doesn't do these days he will get away with it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just an update in case anyone is interested.

It is well over 100 degrees here now; has been over 110 for days, so I cannot leave Jes outside as I have for years when I leave the house. I am turning down clients for now; I really do not want to leave Jester for more than a couple or three hours at a time; just long enough to go do shopping in town if I have to.

 

I decided that when the time comes I will take Jes to the vet and bring him back here to bury so that all the other dogs can see his body. I have a hole almost dug; it's deep enough but needs to be wider. It has been so strange and surreal, digging the hole. It has taken many days to dig, and sometimes while I am digging it I will take a break to throw a toy for Jester to fetch. This weird juxtaposition brings up all kinds of thoughts and feelings.

 

Last night he was hardly able to get up, and hardly able to stand. His back legs kept giving out on him. I was thinking to myself, gosh, does this mean that it will be this week? And right then he got up and brought me a stuffie to throw for him, backing off on four steady legs and looking at me expectantly. I threw it for him ....only about six feet, mind you.....probably 20 times and he enthusiastically fetched it every time without falling down more than a couple of times. I had to make him quit then, but he looked so happy playing that I know it is not time yet. This morning we were out at 5AM (by six it is already 90 degrees) playing in the yard and he was doing great.

 

So, who knows.

I have always said that Jester would probably die in mid-leap for a frisbee. Maybe that is not too far off. I know that he knows he is going downhill. I know he is never really comfortable these days; his body is stiff and even with the medications he is in pain at least some of the time if not most. But as long as he is having fun, I will encourage him to have fun.

 

I think a "lesser dog" would have given up by now and would no longer want to play. These dogs have so much heart. He is amazing. I love him. I wish you all could have known him. Such a respectable dog; I have always admired him. I don't want to do without him. But I won't keep him here just for me, past the time that he is ready. I just hope that I know when that time is.

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Thank you for the update. I'm following closely and I think of you two often. I don't want to hijack your thread but I myself am struggling with when is the right time to release my old gal. Her tumor is growing back on her cheek. It seems uncomfortable, lots of head shaking, but not sure how much pain she is in. But the rest of her seems pretty good for her age. We cannot do any more surgery. People keep saying, you'll know when. But sometimes it seems like time but a few hours later she is perky again. Its a draining roller coaster ride I never expected to be on this long.

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I've been on the roller coaster for 3+ months since the discovery of multiple liver masses on an ultrasound. There were neuro issues before that. And kidney disease. And polyarthritis. I agonized, many tears, many sleepless nights. She was bouncing around like a yo-yo and I almost made the call numerous times. She looked miserable yesterday AM, so I did make the call and of course she bounced back to her new normal an hour later, but the new normal really wasn't so wonderful.

 

I've been up all night questioning the decision. The problem is that if you wait until you really know for sure, you can easily wind up in an emergency clinic at 3 AM. For over 3 months, I was afraid to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time because I was terrified that one of the tumors would bleed into her belly and I would not be there to rush her to the vet (for emergency euthanasia)

 

This wasn't intentional, but I happened to have several short videos made at various intervals post ultrasound. What seemed like a stable disease on a day to day basis became a very definite decline when comparing the dog in front of me yesterday to the dog 3 months ago and 2 weeks ago.

 

It is a horrible decision and I wish you well.

 

We did let my other 2 dogs view the body, but they were more interested in the visitors in my home.

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I've been up all night questioning the decision. The problem is that if you wait until you really know for sure, you can easily wind up in an emergency clinic at 3 AM.

 

This is exactly my biggest worry! At this stage they can decline so rapidly.

 

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Although I am still questioning my decision, I will say that she went very peacefully in my house while eating chicken. The vet, who came to my home doing her lunch time, has known the dog for many years. We cried and hugged afterwards. This was a hell of a lot better than a strange vet in an emergency situation after a panicked car ride.

 

But I still question.

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I've been on this roller coaster in the past, and will take more rides in the future, I'm sure. I do heartily believe that a calm, peaceful, painless passing is the best gift we can give our treasured friends. I also believe that 2 weeks too soon is much better than 2 weeks too late.

 

Wishing the best for all who are going through this.

 

Amy

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