How do they always know when you are planning to go on vacation? And why do older pets often go downhill right before you leave?
Is it because they know they won't make it and want you near when they go? Is it because they don’t want you worrying about them while you are away? Are they sensing the tensions in the home and it makes them sicker? Whatever the reason it happened to us just a couple weeks ago.
We had a trip planned to Hawaii for more than a year. Our oldest dog, Poppy, was a 12-year-old Sheltie with multiple health issues. She had Cushing's (for several years), which had caused high blood pressure and was throwing her liver values off.
Not to mention that she had lost her hearing and was thin as a rail. In addition, she was getting some supplements for joint support and incontinence. A total of nine medications and supplements daily along with prescription foods, our house looked like a pharmacy.
It was clear Poppy was one sick puppy but her energy level was high and she eagerly jumped into the car each morning to go to work with me. She joined us on walks and though she slept more and ate less, she just seemed like an aging dog…getting closer to the end but not teetering on the brink. So we were caught by surprise when she just suddenly started to vomit one day that last week. She vomited all afternoon and when I took her temperature it was 103.9, which is quite high.
So we made a quick trip to the emergency hospital for some anti-nausea medication and antibiotics. The next morning, we went to our regular vet to have a blood panel done (advice: if diagnostics can wait until the next day, i.e., it wouldn't dramatically change the outcome or treatment plan, it's best to wait as the emergency center is much more expensive). It showed that her liver values were all over the place but couldn't explain why.
This is the point at which decisions have to be made and guilt comes into play. How far do you go with testing and to what end? Did I really need to know if she had a tumor in her liver, knowing she wasn't a surgical candidate? With so many health issues going on I knew this was the end coming and it really wasn't fair to our pet sitter to leave such a sick animal in her care. Also, selfishly, I knew I wanted to be with Poppy when she transitioned. So instead of spending money on more tests and diagnostics, I hired an animal communicator.
Don't laugh. I truly believe that being able to make the decision to euthanize a pet is one of the most loving gifts we can give. I personally am not afraid of dying – I'm more afraid of suffering and relief from pain is something that we can offer.
There is something very healing in being able to express your love and to say goodbye and hear back that your pet is ready to go. Now that might sound “convenient” to you but it didn't feel that way at all. So we said our goodbyes and helped our girl over that rainbow bridge. I know she'll be there waiting for me.
• Fix-it clinics: Free cat spays/neuters and low-cost dog surgeries (up to 80 pounds) are available for low-income residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. Call (707) 588-3531 for more information or an appointment.
• No More Lost Pets campaign: Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. Free pet ID tags and backup microchips are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1-5:30 p.m.; Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.