As your 16-year-old dog continues to deteriorate daily before your eyes – how do you know when is the right moment to say, “Yes, put him down”.
When he has been more than a first pet, when really he was your practice baby. The shy one-year-old puppy that walked in your door and straight into your lap, and never seemed to want to leave it.
A pure breed border collie so handsome, so pretty, our walks were continually interrupted by well meaning punters who just wanted the chance to pat and admire him.
A frequent flyer, who in his early years flew so often between Perth, Hobart and Melbourne, he should have been upgraded to a cabin seat rather than banished to cargo.
A dog that in his youth was so fast he could outrun any well-hit tennis ball, and took screaming marks that would have been the envy of any AFL player.
But last year we went on a month long family holiday and left him with our neighbours. When we came back, it was to a dog whose spirit seemed to have deserted him.
He did not recognise us, he did not even wag his tail hello. As if he was an old man with dementia, he walked around in circles looking scared and lost, and tried to return to the neighbour’s house.
As the vet told us he was never really going to recover and become ‘our Joel’ again, my ten-year-old son sobbed and drew pictures of Joely going up to heaven.
But nearly nine months later, he is still hanging on. Or is it us that is hanging onto him?
Are we doing the right thing, keeping him alive, or are we being cowardly and cruel?
I did phone the vet a month or so ago and found out all kinds of scary information – we can choose to wait with him while he is given the needle, or not.
We can choose to bring him home to bury him, we can ask the Vet to take care of his body, or we can ask for his ashes.
Every day there is something else. His legs and will power are now so weak, he can barely get off his mat to relieve himself. And so we refer to our deck as ‘the minefield’ as you never know where you might step in something.
At first he seemed embarrassed by his incontinence, now as it has worsened to a runny state that this morning had me dry retching, he just seems resigned.
My husband says – would we put our parents down simply because they lost control of their bowels?
I think my husband is in denial and wish he would man up. I do not want to have to be the one to put Joel in the car and take him on the fateful drive to the vet.
Last week when I took Joel on one of his painfully slow walks to the end of our street, for the first time it wasn’t just his back legs but also his front legs that gave away beneath him.
As I dropped to my knees and sobbed, I told him I was sorry. For a brief moment my Joel returned, as he buried his head into my arms and tried to make me feel better.
But nothing seems to make Joel feel better for very long, not the medication to help his arthritis, not even the cuddles from our kids.
Every now and then there is a flash of the old boy. Like yesterday when he tried to nip the visiting young tradie. But then just as quickly it is gone, and the sad and lost looking old dog returns.
As I write this with the tears streaming down my face, I realise I do know the time has come.
If only I could find the strength to do something about it.
Till next time,