On Tuesday, December 18th, I said goodbye to the best friend I’ve ever known or expect to know. Dudley had been failing and I knew the end was approaching when he couldn’t go down the steps from the deck into the backyard several days earlier. That Monday, I made an appointment for Dr. Susan Kinsey of Pet House Calls to come by the house on Tuesday to take a look at Dudley. She always brings liver treats, so Dudley was happy to see her.
The first thing she had said to me was Dudley wasn’t the same dog she saw several months earlier, he looked like an old dog. She talked about Dudley’s “quality of life.” He was “mobile”, but only in the strictest sense of the word. Each day he was having more trouble walking and it was only a matter of time before he wouldn’t be able to go down the front steps. His “appetite” was okay, not great, but he was eating. The only changes in his ability to “breathe” was he snored more than he used to, so that part of his life was good. Then there is the “pain” aspect in quality of life and I knew Dudley was in pain, but we talked about the possibility of acupuncture.
She also talked about Dudley keeping his dignity and although it might seem funny to think about dignity in a dog, Dudley was a very proud creature. The previous Saturday night a friend stopped by and Dudley was having trouble getting up from the tile floor in the kitchen and I told her we had to go into another room because he wasn’t going to struggle in front of us. I also remembered he growled when we tried to help him — that was an indicator of pain, because Dudley never growled at anyone in our home and Jeneane was an old friend. A happier image of proud Dudley is how he would preen after he would get his summer hair cut, although that was probably more vanity than pride. Dogs, as well as people, deserve to keep whatever dignity they can when they die.
Even at that point of our conversation, I hadn’t made any definite decision as to “when” but Dudley again struggled to get up off the tile floor in the kitchen. We put pieces of a rug pad under his paws and went into the other room and a minute later he came in and plopped down on the rug. Dr. Kinsey wanted to feel his belly and as we went to put Dudley in a different position, he snapped at me. Dr. Kinsey said that changed everything, he had to be in extreme pain and snapping like that was his way of protecting himself. I asked about her schedule and we discussed waiting until Thursday, but now that I knew how severe his pain was, I asked if we could do it then. She asked me if I was prepared to let Dudley go and I told her I sort of was ready. As ready as I could ever be.
The night before, I had snuggled with him on the floor and combed him for about 45 minutes while he slept. We spooned and he seemed really relaxed and I just cried. I was pretty sure at that point he wouldn’t make it to Christmas. So I told Dr. Kinsey I was ready then. We went back into the kitchen and I told Dudley how much I loved him and what a great friend he had been. He ate a handful of liver treats while Dr. Kinsey gave him a sedative, he remained conscious for about a minute then went to sleep. After 10 minutes or so, he received the second injection. It was all very peaceful, he never moved or gasped for breath. He spent his last minutes relaxed at home and not stressed out in a vet’s office.
My handsome, sweet boy went out with his dignity. He could still walk and eat, and aside from the incontinence a couple of months back, he wasn’t having “accidents” in the house. I miss him terribly, but I know his pain would have only gotten worse. Looking at previous blog posts, I think that up until the last week or maybe 10 days, he was still feeling pretty good for a dog that was close to 100 in human years. Rest in peace my most faithful friend.
Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
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