How to Know When to Say Goodbye
People tell me all the time, "oh you'll know when your sick and/or elderly pet is ready to leave you". But as someone who has been through this experience over a dozen times, I will tell you it is never that simple!
My eleven-year-old German Shepherd Zeus is ailing and everyday has become an exercise in frustration for him and despair for me. He has an ailment very common in German Shepherds, called Degenerative Myelopathy. It's human equivalent is Multiple Sclerosis. In fact this disease has been so prevalent in German Shepherds it is often referred to as GSD Degenerative Myelopathy (German Shepherd Dog DM) and some research indicates there is a genetic element to this horrible malady.
It has led to him losing strength, muscle tone and feeling in his hindquarters. He will drag his rear feet behind him or presents a posture called "knuckling" in which he walks on tip-toe or his knuckles. His rear toenails are worn to the quick and quite often bleed and now his skinned knuckles have led me to put socks on his rear feet for the short walk to my backyard. I have researched every kind of protective shoe or boot you can buy for a dog with DM and even purchased and tried a few. They have all been expensive failures. For now he is donning little boys gym socks just to get him down the driveway and into the yard.
In addition to all of these issues, he has (and has had before) a problem with low blood platelet volume, a scary sounding syndrome called Thrombocytopenia. Normally they should be at a 100 count, his have been near 30 for weeks now and he's being treated with prednisone, which increases his hunger and especially thirst. This wouldn't be a major issue unless he were an elderly dog with muscle control issues in his hindquarters. Oh- wait a minute. . .
I was forced to purchase a new carpet shampooer and it paid for itself within the first week I had it. Zeus can no longer climb the 4 steps from my driveway landing to the kitchen, unaided, so I lift his rear end and help by wrapping a towel around him and using it as a lifting harness.
At this point you may be thinking "Why are you letting this continue? Are you that selfish? Let him go!" But I would disagree with you and this why. His appetite has not waned at all, he still lives to eat, whether it is his supper or the Milk Bone mini-biscuits he receives every time he comes in from going outside. He would take off your fingers if they were holding a treat and happened to get too close to his teeth. (As my sister Carmela, from Colorado, discovered when they were here this summer).
He still greets me excitedly at the kitchen door when I get home everyday, barks like a maniac when he wants to go outside, and when he gets there will still occasionally chase his partner Bella (my other German Shepherd) around until he falls down. At that point he will lay in the grass and luxuriate in being outside, usually with a big, toothy grin. And most importantly- -his eyes. I look into those big brown beauties, numerous times throughout our days and nights and see nothing that tells me he is ready to be done with this world.
When these circumstances change and/or he loses all control of his bodily functions (which he is destined to do with this idiotic disease) and is miserable in his own fur, I will not make him stay with me any longer But until then I will lift him, treat him, love him, hold him and help him in all ways possible.