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Kit will be 16 in December.

For some months now, getting her to eat has been a challenge, and I have posted about this previously in the Health forum. It is still a daily challenge to find something she will eat, and no matter what she is simply not eating enough these days. I have tried so many things and thrown out so much food.

 

If I remember correctly, she most often weighed 44 pounds, might have been 45, but she was always lean and muscular. She has not lost that much actual poundage, as she weighs 40 pounds now and has maintained that weight for the past 3 months.

 

But she is so bony! She has, at this point, lost all her muscle mass in her hindquarters, which used to be savagely strong. Her backbone and hip bones stick out, and if someone saw her now they might think she was starving.

 

She is weaker, and sometimes stumbles when going up the back steps, or needs encouragement to make it up, but can always get up and walk on her own and will even trot along for the first little bit of her morning walk.

 

Unfortunately she has to be confined to the kitchen now at night or if I am going to be gone for hours, because I cannot get up every morning or come home every day and clean pee from the carpet. She hates being confined to the kitchen, her least favorite room, and I hate to do it, but feel I must.

 

When the weather is cooler, I can leave her outside sometimes if I am not going to be gone too long.

When I am home, she can ask to go out and never pees indoors. She is only peeing one time more than she ever did in any given 12 hour period, but if I am not home or am asleep, that one time is the problem.

 

She still loves to play tug, her favorite game.

 

When I had her in to see the vet about two months ago her bloodwork and urinalysis came back perfectly clear. She is not ill, she is just old. The vet told me not to wait too long before making the decision. I waited until Jester could not get up on his own any more; the vet told me not to wait that long with Kit.

 

But if I do not want for that, then what is the indication, I wonder. She still comes to me for petting, seems to enjoy things in her life, even if not food. And she never was a big "foodie".

Of course I adore her and want to do the right thing. I just don't know how to know what that is.

 

With Jester, people told me "He will let you know when the time is right." But that's really not always true. Jester would never have given up. On his last day he enthusiastically ate a whole cooked chicken breast from my hands and wanted to fetch the frisbee, even though he could no longer get up to do it. I just had to make the decision more or less arbitrarily that it should be today. And then, he was fully engaged and interested in the car ride to the vet, wondering if we were going to a park to play. I hated myself.

 

It is never an easy decision, I know. But I am having a hard time trying to figure this out. If a dog cannot get up on their own, I figure that the quality of life is too low. But my vet said not to wait for that. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

thanks.

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First of all I want to be very clear: My opinion is that the only person who's opinion matters or should matter is the person who has to live with the decision and knows the dog.

 

That said, for me, when I am basically waiting on the dog to decline far enough that I won't feel too guilty euthanizing, rather than expecting things to improve or to have more actively good days, it's time. It's a weird difference, and absolutely earlier than some would choose but. Once the dog is in decline and I find myself feeling as though I'm living with a sword dangling over my head and life is down to 'waiting for things to get bad enough' so I can give myself permission - things are bad enough to give myself permission, and it's time.

 

I guess it's hard for me to use words for. The clearest I can get is, out of all those words, to say: That when I reach a point of realizing I would be *relieved* to find the dog had died peacefully in their sleep, rather than continue on the path they are on, it's time.

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^^^ This. I set some requirements for the dog and myself. The obvious things like eating, eliminating, walking, etc. Plus a requirement that the dog be able to get up and down the 4 steps into the back yard without more than a little balancing help. Sam couldn't do that at the end, and that's when I knew it was time. And it took me a couple days to realize I couldn't keep on carrying 40 lbs up and down the stairs.

 

Just re-read Cpt Jack's post. The last line is particularly powerful for me.

 

Ruth

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I recall the anguish you're going through all too well, even though it's been 2 years since I had to make that decision for Tilly. Kit and the things you're experiencing with her now sound so much like her.

 

I wish I had something to tell you to help make your decision easier, but I don't. For me what it finally was that Tilly stopped eating entirely. But I waited three days (well, two days until I made the call to the vet to take her the next day) because I kept hoping that later that day would be when I could get her to finally eat something. But she didn't and now I sometimes wish I'd accepted that just a little sooner. Still, I'm glad I made it while she was still happy to take another car ride and joyfully toddled into the vet's office on her own very shaky 4 feet.

 

None of us can tell you what you should do. It's a terribly lonely place to be and the best any of us can offer you is sympathy and support. From what you describe and what your vet recommends, I think you know it will be very soon. I can't speak for others but you have my unconditional blessing and understanding if you decide to do it today or tomorrow, or whenever.

 

I truly believe some dogs will hold on if they think we're having trouble letting go. I always tell them they don't have to do that, that I love them and will miss them but that I'll be OK.

 

And, yeah, that last line that CptJack wrote says it all, though it takes being brutally honest with yourself. And also remembering that you're doing what's best for Kit no matter how hard it is for you. She'll love you for that.

 

Dogspeed when it's time, dear Kit. And peace for the one who loves you best. It's all you've ever wanted for her.

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Thanks so much for the words of support.

I know that it is not time yet. Might not be for weeks or even possibly months, or could be next week. But, sadly, it's time for me to think about it.

 

I, too, appreciate the last line from Cpt. Jack. I did not think of it that way....but probably would have been relieved if Jes had died in his sleep. I knew he wouldn't get better, only worse. But still, I waited until he couldn't get up on his own because up until then he was still happy to chase something, even if he fell down. Once he couldn't get up, he was just frustrated all the time and complaining.

 

Guess I have to wait and see what it will be with Kit.

It is almost harder with her than it was with Jes, if such a thing is possible. Because when she is gone I won't have a border collie any more.

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16 is a wonderfully long life!! As others have said, it is such a hard decision - the last final gift we give our oldies.

 

Someone once gave me the advice about the three As:

Attitude - does the dog seem happy? (sounds like Kit is now!)

Appetite - this might be harder for you, but if and when Kit doesn't want those scrambled eggs with cheese, yogurt, etc.

Ability - to do whatever is important for her AND you. If it's simply staying in the kitchen - make it as comfy as you can. (I had a waterproof bed for one of my oldies, and just threw a towel over it; yeah, I had lots of old towels...) Make it a happy place when she doesn't NEED to be in there. But if she can't get up, or can't wag her tail about something - well, there's another sign.

 

Best wishes to you and Kit.

diane

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Thanks, Diane. There will be some kind of sign, just don't know what it is at this point.

 

Terrecar, thanks so much for saying such a kind thing. Warms my heart.

 

This morning she played a really good game of tug! I am truly amazed at how incredibly strong she still is, even with all her muscle mass gone from her hindquarters.

 

she never wants to quit and I have to stop or she would exhaust herself.

 

And, how her eyes light up.....

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Nikko lost a lot of muscle mass in his last year of life. That was the worst. I was lucky enough to get a sign from him that he was ready. Border collies just never want to let us down so it's hard to know when they're ready. Kit still sounds spry and happy!!!

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I'm lending moral support also. With my job I talk to clients about this a lot. I'll have to remember the three A's. It is good advice. I pray my two Borders live as long and with good quality of life.

One thought though, Ollie's and Dollar General have cheap throw rugs that give traction on slippy floors and are easy to hose off on/or replace.

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I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm sure I'll be there soon with 14-year-old Daisy. I think you can trust yourself. One can never perfectly predict outcomes. But in a lifespan of 16 years, I believe it's preferable to err on the too early side rather than to be too late. They don't deserve to suffer.

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Again, thanks for all responses and support.

 

I do have old yoga mats I got at thrift stores on the kitchen floor so she has traction.

 

She goes for a walk every day. Just a short one, but she is enthusiastic about it and sometimes even trots out for a ways. But her muscle mass in the rear hindquarters is simply gone. No bringing it back now.

 

Nevertheless, she is still very beautiful. :)

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So sorry to hear about Kit. It is very sad to watch a well-loved dog grow old, with all the complications, when their spirit is still strong. I went through this about 2 years ago with Ritz, a sheltie-mix, who was 19.

 

My experience, with (only) 2 dogs that lived a long life, but several long-lived cats, is contrary to the "you will know when it is time" or "they will tell you when it is time". I NEVER knew the right time (maybe I was obtuse). But so far, all my pets have never given up, so I didn't want to give up on them. But looking back, I definitely think that it might have been kinder to have taken action sooner.

 

I love that your vet has reminded you to keep the dog's quality of life foremost. I think too many vets do not speak frankly with their clients about this topic, and keep trying more and more treatments to extend life. Most of that may be catering to the human part of the team, who is often too attached to let go.

 

I hope that Kit keeps tugging away for months to come.

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I will also offer some moral support, but I would not be the best one to give advice on this. I will always be that person who is too attached to let go, and probably look back and realize it would have been kinder to let go sooner than I did. But for me, it just never seems like it's the right time unless it becomes very obvious. I guess I'd always prefer to regret having waited too long than wondering with guilt if I maybe didn't wait long enough. At any rate, stay strong and try to get the most out of your remaining time with Kit, however long that may be.

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Thanks.

I guess I am like you, Rush Fan, and also like you, gvc-border. I would actually rather look back and know for certain that I should not have waited any longer than second guess myself thinking maybe I acted too soon.

 

And the dividing line between what becomes very inconvenient for me and what is poor quality of life for the dog is not always clear.

 

At this point, Kit is definitely a lot of work for me what with the food issues and the peeing in the house.

But she still gets excited about her walk. She loves to tug. Even though she hardly eats and is skin and bones, she loves it when I come to pet and hug her. (She is one of those rare dogs who really likes to be hugged.)

 

She is sleeping more and more. Her hearing is pretty poor and so is her eyesight. But she is not unhappy.

I just want to be kind to her.

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The problem is that if you wait until you are certain, the animal may have crossed the line into suffering.

 

I waited too long with my first dog. He was distressed. The guilt is still with me 16 years later.

 

After I euthanized my old, sick dog in 2016, I felt like I pulled the trigger too soon, but she was a medical catastrophe waiting to happen. Better relaxed in the comfort of her home, than with her seizing or gasping for breath or crying at the e-clinic at 3 AM.

 

Regardless of the timing, you are going to feel awful afterwards and will second and third and forth guess yourself.

 

I think that everyone needs to decide in advance what their line or more importantly what their dog's line is.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to Gentle Lake and Urge To Herd for your kind words of faith in me.

And thanks, Blackdawgs, for saying that no matter what I will second guess myself.

That actually makes me feel a bit of relief about Jester, because I have done that many times since he died. I knew...knew...that I had to do it and should not wait. But how can you not second guess yourself and feel terrible about killing a dog who was actively enjoying the ride to the vet and possibly hoping that we were going to the park?

 

Kit, for an update, is still hanging in there. She is down to 38 pounds, and is skin-and-bones skinny.

She doesn't really want to go for walks any more; gets tired and wants to go back pretty early on.

BUT, she still loves to tug! And I don't know where she gets the strength to tug as hard as she does. It's amazing.

Her eyes just light up when she is tugging.

 

I am constantly trying to find what she wants to eat today. Lately it seems to be raw beef or chicken in one bowl and Castor and Pollux chicken kibble in another bowl. As long as I can guess (and have on hand) what she wants to eat, I can get her to eat 2 cups of food a day.

 

She is getting vague, but is basically still my girl.

But I don't think she will live until spring, and it makes me so sad.

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When the time comes, you will ease her on over because you love her that much.

 

I have a 15 year old and one who will be 15 in a few weeks. I know things will never improve but they both are doing well right now and enjoying life.

 

I have been guilty of waiting too long before, and sometimes it's just harder than other times to know when it's the right time and proceed. I know you will choose with love and consideration for her sake.

 

Very best wishes.

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Thought I would update.

 

Kit no longer wants to go for a walk, so we have stopped that, but she still loves her tug play every day.

 

The thing is, she just won't eat enough. This week I am only getting maybe a cup of food into her a day. Now all she will eat is raw chicken or beef.....no problem, I will feed her that.....but she just doesn't eat enough.

 

The expensive high quality kibble that she ate enthusiastically for a few days is now No.

Satin balls are No.

Canned food is No.

Scrambled eggs are No.

etc.

 

She has lost 6 pounds since March.

 

She will eat biscuits, and cheese, but I can't get a whole cup of that kind of thing into her, and they are not really all that nutritious or good for her if I could.

I am at a loss.

 

She is somewhat incontinent. She has to sleep confined in the kitchen because of that, and I usually come home to find pee I have to clean from the carpet. Because I don't want to confine her to kitchen day and night.

 

Good thing I don't have to go to work every day and am more often home with her. She wakes me twice a night or so when I hear her nails on the kitchen floor - I get up to let her out, but sometimes she has already wet her bed.

 

I have known some aging dogs who got very upset when that happened, and that was a cue to move toward euthanasia. But Kit is never upset about it....seems matter of fact about it, and of course I act as if it is nothing, clean it up while she is outside.

So I ask myself - do I keep trying everything to get more food into her.....or do I just let her go her own way? Let her slowly starve herself to death? She is already just about skin and bones.

 

If I saw her on the street I would think someone had stared her. Hip bones and backbone sticking out. It makes me sad.

 

Kit isn't sad, though. She smiles at me. She sleeps a lot, but when she is getting petted she loves it as always; when tugging her eyes light up same as always.

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When Nikko refused food entirely, I made the decision. He was never one to let me down, but when I tried getting food in him, he looked at me with sad eyes telling me he was ready.

 

Borders are so stoic and too stubborn to let us down.

 

Try putting faces on a calendar. A smile face for good days, a straight face for so-so days, and a sad face for bad days. When straight and sad faces start to outweigh smile faces, it helps with the decision.

 

You know Kit better than all of us. I wish you and kit well, and I hope she starts eating more!

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Again I'm amazed at how Kit's paralleling my Tilly, almost exactly.

 

After some time of trying to get a little something, anything, into her every day, she finally stopped eating altogether. On the third day I called the vet and took her in. Sometimes I still think I waited too long, but by day three I was certain she wasn't going to eat, no matter what I tried. I'd put food into her mouth hoping she'd swallow it and she just let it drop out of her mouth.

 

I like Laura's suggestion of faces on the calendar. It might be a useful gauge.

 

As always, my most sincere sympathy with your struggle.

 

roxanne

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Thanks so much for the support.

 

Kit really doesn't have any "bad" days. She doesn't seem unhappy or sad at all, just less and less interested in food. She is still very interested in other things: alerting and barking if something is outside, playing tug, getting petted and hugged, sometimes even engaging in a few seconds of play posturing with Boo.

 

Jester was the same. He had no "bad days" and his spirit was as full of life and joy on his last day as it ever was. The only difference was that he was deeply frustrated because he could no longer get up or run, and that is how I made the decision.

 

My vet said "don't wait until she cannot get up on her own". But if a dog is still enjoying life, I honestly do not know what other criteria to follow.

 

If Kit stops eating entirely for three days.....that would be a criteria. thanks for mentioning that, Gentle Lake.

 

Because the soil here is like concrete at all times of the year except during monsoon, and digging a hole takes a long time if all you have is one woman and a shovel, I have started digging a grave right next to Jester's.

 

I did the same thing when it was Jester, and was glad I did because it took me a couple of weeks of daily digging, and to try to dig it all in one day would be too hard. But it is such a weird thing to do and I don't like it.

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