The Impossible Choice With Our Beloved Dog – Our Hearts Are Broken
The Impossible Choice With Our Beloved Dog – Our Hearts Are Broken
(Long and sad warning in advance. I had to get my feelings out, so I had to tell our story from yesterday. If it touches or helps anybody else in any way at all..it’s worth it.)
My heart is broken. For days and days I was researching Hip Dysplasia in Labs. Our 7 year old Lab who’s quite obese just suddenly stopped walking one day for no apparent reason. I saw this only once before when it seemed that my former horse seemingly went lame, but by the grace of God was treated pretty conservatively and was up and walking, trotting and galloping again. I held on to that experience, and all I kept reading about was obesity + Labs =’s a great chance for this Hip Dysplasia. Something I knew nothing about prior.
Our dog was on a vet-aided diet since puppy-hood. Apparently, she just had a bad gene and it was unfortunate, but we always loved our polar bear nonetheless. She was always a neighborhood celebrity. I knew she had to be alright, and I was really praying that it wasn’t even something as dire as Hip Dysplasia. That was worst for me. I had no conception of anything beyond this, and had read stories of periodic lameness in dogs that reversed itself with treatment. Maybe she just needed a series of shots or medications. Maybe, hopefully, she just pulled a muscle, hurt a tendon or something. The problem was, I was not a vet. Nor is my husband. And even the vet didn’t know at first glance, the heartbreaking news that nobody ever in a million years expected. (We had to have them come to us, due to her size.)
Now me and the hub are in financial dire straights, but had been arguing for days about what was to be with her. How far we could go financially. I thought money shouldn’t factor in at all, but I do tend to live in la-la land where that is concerned. Would we be able to hospitalize her, pay for all of her care, give her needed surgery, IF she had Hip Dysplasia, any physical therapies. While I was fighting with my husband because I felt we needed to do everything in our power for this dog and he said, ”but there is only so much we can afford to do” and I started comparing the dog to a human, which…they entrust us with their lives. Shouldn’t we do all we can for them? This argument went on that he to loved the dog immensely, but if it came down to surgery and rehab for months because they would definitely take her in to lose an ample amount of weight on IV which would be months and much money, he had no option there. They couldn’t even do surgery on her this large, and all I could say in my head is ‘whatever it takes’ because I honestly, just didn’t want to hear about finances, I didn’t want to hear about what we could or couldn’t afford because I already knew we are in a bad way.
My husband lost his job of 30 years in January. A steady income for a family of 6 in one instant ripped away, without any retirement or unemployment. Things aren’t so pretty. OK, so life turned hard. Very hard, and he’s been very stressed with bills. My thoughts couldn’t be on that though. Mine were just on Laney and what we could do for her. At first I found him to be selfish, until I saw him breakdown and he admitted yesterday that for days he hadn’t slept over this and was secretly crying over this dog. More so than he cried for his own dog who had Lepto. and all his organs were failing, there was nothing anybody could do and that was his baby. I was there when they put him down, it haunts me till this day.
Finally yesterday I didn’t see him complaining about anything but finding out for sure what the dog had wrong and trying to prepare me in case, but I wasn’t hearing of it. I was kissing and petting Laney all morning. Her tail was going like crazy. She was happy, seemingly not in pain. She only yelped to get what she needed because she couldn’t. Aside form that, nothing but a seemingly happy dog, which in a way makes it all the more heartbreaking. At the same time, if you aren’t in pain there’s much more to hope for, right? Keep reading, not necessarily. Not in our case, and it was a devastating turn of events. But let me finish. (At this point the vet came, and I was banished upstairs because the twins had to ‘get lost’ and we didn’t have anybody to watch them. They kept trying to get down to Laney, and they would have caused a lot of disruption.
My husband actually wanted us to go out originally (the 3 of us), but I said if I came home and that dog wasn’t there and he had her put down without us conversing, he would have one very, VERY pissed off and upset wife. He told me to just stay home, but she needed to do her exam, so we went upstairs and my mind was racing, my heart was racing. I didn’t know what my husband would come up in tears to tell me, only a short while later.
Now the vet had previously put Laney on an anti-inflammatory and a mild painkiller dyas prior, though even she admitted she didn’t seem in pain. I didn’t know if Laney was just being docile though, as some dogs are. I mean I didn’t stop cracking a smile and jokes while birthing the twins. Maybe she just was a tough cookie and didn’t let us see, I thought to myself. Maybe meds alone could help her. I had read that sometimes medication can be enough to get a dog with this ailment up and around again. My head and my heart were literally banking on this. But it wasn’t happening, and the meds even seemed to make her feel sick and throw up. Taking shifts day and night to clean up poo, pee and sometimes after that happened vomit, is a grueling task for a HUGE dog, but it was like caring for a sick child in my mind. It needed to be done. She’s part of our family.
My husband was very worried that despite all of the cleaning we were doing that eventually the smell would come up and become a living hazard for the kids. I assured him we could do it together for Laney’s sake, and prayed they were wrong about the Hip Displaysia. How could we afford two hip replacements? I was thinking about calling my father and pleading to borrow money, which is HUGE…if I had to. I kept telling my husband maybe the vet will have a heart and help us out with the finances because Laney is so cute and lovable. I guess I didn’t realize how easily vets can turn off their emotions. I could never be one. I could never put a dog down or watch animals suffer and fight to treat them, yet fail sometimes. I don’t have the heart nor the stomach for it, but that is just me.
So, when the vet came back yesterday with big enough x-ray equipment to scan the dog this time. She had come ill prepared (guess she didn’t know how big we were talking about) and had suggested that yes, the dog was lame, but lameness can be reversed and caused by a number of things. That I hung on to for days, but it was sad when I didn’t see any miracles happening from the meds. She said she fit the profile for Hip Dysplasia, and the way that she was laying she felt that possibly both hips were affected. She needed more testing to be sure, and my eyes just started balling as I waited for the info.
She’s too heavy to be a candidate for the more conservative surgical treatment at this time for HD. If that is what we were facing, it was weight loss, loss of quality of life for some time in a facility, and a hip replacement or replacements. I said the days prior…is it possible for her to just have something more minor? YES. That I held on to. They took 3 large people and hub and brought Laney to the truck and scanned her. Nothing prepared me for the news to come. Nothing in a million years. Nothing in a million billion years.
The look in her eyes made my husband well up. It was not going to be good news. As I wait for news he said that the vet’s face and the faces of the two assistants looked bleak. His hopeful heart started to fall to the floor. It wasn’t Laney’s hips AT ALL. It was her back. But she didn’t have any accident we saw. No event where there was crying or limping or ANYTHING. We would have known something, right? How does one injure their back then without an incident?
She was frolicking playfully in the snow a couple weeks ago, and I remembering bolting upstairs to get my camera because she looked like a little puppy, but at the same time like a polar bear, thrashing about in the snow. It was adorable. I wanted to share her actions with You Tube it was so cute, but when I got back downstairs she was standing there, no longer on her back playing (DARN IT, I thought). I waited for her to frolic again with camera in hand, but she didn’t. I thought to myself, ”Maybe tomorrow. If not..the next snow I will catch it for sure.” I didn’t know that Laney might not see a next snow. I thought she had YEARS worth of snows to come. I never knew how badly I’d wish I had that video sitting here where I am right now, as tears fall from my eyes.
Her back. OK, what could we do for it? What was wrong? Surely there are options. I have herniated discs and have a perfectly fine quality of life. My husband to. Then she said the words to him that I had zero idea of what it meant at first when he told me seconds later. She has a ‘blown out’ disc in her back. OK, that has to be like what I have or close right? Then I heard a word erupt from my husband’s mouth that I never in a million years expected to hear that wiped most of the optimism right out of my mind…PARALYZED! When he told me this, I just don’t remember more than a millisecond going by before I started bawling in front of the twins. I mean really bawling, and I was trying to not upset them, but it was simply uncontrollable. How could that be? What could be done? This was worse than anything I could have imagined in my nightmares, but I was awake. It was no bad dream. I felt awful for the twins who were consoling me. They didn’t know what was going on, just that Laney was sick and the doctor was helping her.
It took 4 people to get Laney up and use sheets underneath to raise her to check out her backside. Her hind legs were limp he told me, as the tears continued to flow on both of our parts now. (Poor twins. We never expected this, or we would have found somebody to help us and take them out of this sad situation. Too late now.) The legs never looked limp the way she was sitting before. But she wasn’t raised up like that. We had tried many times but had failed with me, him and his brother. She was just too heavy. All she was doing was scooting around on her front legs. I expected this if she had any problem with anything in her legs, but her back??? That never entered my mind. Our minds. In tears he asks me, ”What do you want me to do?” I told him to ask her what CAN be done for her in a situation like this.
He went back downstairs. Then my cell phone rang. It happened to be my dad who loves his dogs more than he loves kids. I always said that if his dog needed a new heart, he would get one before I would get one (maybe not true, but….). He doesn’t call much, so it was very coincidental, but nothing that he couldn’t understand, as he was faced with this before. My husband was to, several times in his life, but I needed to talk to somebody else besides hubby. And if I did need money maybe I could beg with him there on the line. I picked up crying. My dad is used to me always having problems in life, always something dire, so he couldn’t imagine what was wrong with me at first.
I told him the news. I could tell he was extremely empathetic, which is what I needed so badly. Hub was downstairs, and I was waiting to hear what Laney’s fate would and should be. I couldn’t think straight, so it was helpful to talk. He reflected back on his girlfriend’s dog whom he loved very much, and how hard it was to make the choice to let him go. He had liver cancer. It was a surgery where part of the liver would be removed and drugs that would make the dog endlessly sick with no promises of a positive outcome. It may have already spread and the dog was ill. That is what made this so much harder. She is wagging her tail and licking and seemingly alright. This wasn’t cancer or misery it seemed. So how could she not have quality of life?? If I were paralyzed (and I thought about it many times) I used to say I would wish I were dead, but if it did happen, would I really want to die? I’m sure, as a mother at least, I would not. There had to be something they could do.
The vet was laying out the options to my husband as my father continued to keep me sane on the line. Then he came up and I paused the phone call to listen. The vet didn’t want to give her opinion either way, but Laney would need to be transported to a facility right then and there. It would be $3k-$5k just for the transport, more x-rays, an MRI, and two days of care alone. If that would have been enough for her..of course, we would have done it. But then she went on. She would be given a course of steroids, and then would return home. She prepped him for a life of 24 hour care and cleaning of messes and with kids, she kind of made it seem like that wasn’t going to be a very easy nor sanitary task at all, but it was the option. Then down the line she would have a very ‘up in the air’ back surgery, with a not real good success rate, especially in a dog of her size. Quite a low one, but it was an option. She would be hospitalized and cared for and she said we were looking at $30,000, possibly more..long run. She had ZERO sensation in her hind quarters, legs, paws..nothing. Worst case you can get :cry:.
I kept saying, ”Is she certain this isn’t something else??? How did this happen?” It just all seemed surreal. He said that she has seen this many times before, and it takes something as little as twisting her body to get up on a body full of wear and tear from being overweight her whole life. There was nothing more that we could do. She was on a highly weight controlled diet and only ate one time a day which made me feel terrible enough as it was. I wanted to go down to the breeder who gave us that pup and ring his neck. (I know we always need someone to blame, but…) He knew what the future held, I BELIEVE. Hubby firmly believes he handed us the runt on purpose. He knew. He picked the pup, not us.
So anybody I can be bitter and angry at right now..I am bitter and angry at. So we could do all of this and there was no assurance that she would ever walk again. And she would certainly never be the same again regardless, even in the best case scenario. I started bleeding (not a period) but because of the immense mental stress. That only has happened in life before with my son. My head started pounding so badly. My blood pressure must have been sky high. I still have a horrible ache.
I remembered seeing dogs on these wheelchair things, and I knew that she would still have no bowel or bladder control, which with kids would be hard, but she could get around at least, and I told him to go and ask her about that option, as she even told hub that she can tell Laney had no desire to get up. Even with everything going perfectly, and eventually surgery enabling mobility, the dog has to WANT to stand up and try and walk again. She has to have the fight in her. The doctor said she could tell she had no desire to stand, and despite her admitting that she was a very well-cared for and happy dog, she didn’t have any desire, and after this long, long road would likely have even less of a fight.
They tried lifting her several times and she just seemed like she was done with that part of her life and just wanted to continue lying down. She needed fight to make the surgery a success. Even with fight, odds weren’t in her favor. But I guess like with people..spirit is important in recovery. My heart was on the floor. My mind reeling as I waited to hear about the wheelchair option, praying for one last straw of hope to cling on to.
I relayed everything to my father, and he said, ”She gave you 7 great years.” Sorry choking up like crazy here. ”She was a great dog. But it sounds like even if you had all of the money for this, this just isn’t right for the dog. Her quality of life is slipping away, and would be gone soon. It wouldn’t be fair to her. If it were me, and you know how much I love my dog (and oh yes I do. His and his girlfriend’s new dog mean the world to him *them*), I wouldn’t go any further. I would have to let her go.” I bawled again. For him to say that was as big as big gets. There is nothing on earth he loves more than his furbabies. I always thought he’d do anything and everything to save his dog. He said, ”In some cases, it is better for them, not for you emotionally, but for them in every way..to let them go and be at peace.”
My mind raced back to the days of my son being sick. He had died several times over the years and was resuscitated . I knew his life had purpose. He smiled and loved me and I was not going to let him go. I refused to even think about signing a DNR. After he was gone for some time I remember beating myself up heavily over this. How selfish was it for me to not let him go sooner? I couldn’t believe he was in much pain because he didn’t complain and he showed me like Laney that smile that happiness. I knew his life had purpose and meaning and I didn’t ever want to let go. And he had good times and he had bad times. But I knew that I couldn’t live without him. I knew I would die along with him, and it was very selfish of me in hindsight.
I said (at the time) if God wanted to really take him, he would not be brought back. I was in such denial and pain with my son, I couldn’t see any future without him. He was going to live or I was going to die, one way or the other. I saw no other option. I brought this insight of mine into the present, as an older, wiser woman. I don’t regret one second of my son’s life, HOWEVER, I do regret trying to alter what was very obviously his fate. I just couldn’t let go. And it felt, on a lesser scale naturally, but it felt similar here. I wanted Laney to live because she seemed happy and I loved her. I wanted her to stay here. Was I going to be selfish AGAIN?
My father really helped me as I waited for my husband to return. I didn’t want to give up on her, and I was hoping for good news on this. Sadly, I didn’t get any. The wheelchair was not an option. That is for smaller dogs he was told. It would never work for a large breed, obese dog like Laney burger. (Pet name.) Also, we have stairs for her to go outside from the basement, stairs going upstairs to both floors. Stairs to get outside from the main floor. Stairs everywhere. It takes 4 strong people to lift her. If Laney couldn’t be outside in the sunshine that she loved, I knew her life wouldn’t be the same. She loved the sunshine. I cried. The last option was outted. She would not be able to be in wheelchair. She was way too large of a dog. My heart cracked into its final pieces.
This is when I finally saw my husband breakdown..for real. ”What should we do Shelly? What should I tell her?” He was really unsure even knowing he’d be in severe debt. Suddenly money didn’t come up at all. It was all about the dog. I guess whether you have money or not, it always should be. We didn’t want to lose Laney. We loved her like a family member. But the vet kept telling him this is not your child. This is an animal and though you love her, you can’t think about her like you would never put a family member to sleep, you’d do anything. This situation, though painful, IS different.” She even noted that when they held her by the back paws, that while she could support herself in front, which is absolutely a must to go through with these treatments and surgery, however, they were a bit shaky and ‘weakened’ in her opinion. They did do the job ENOUGH. She could tell it was a matter of time really until there were other issues at play. So we could go and do all of this, and not only might she not walk after 6 months or a year of hospitalization, surgery and then rehab, but by then, there would likely be other issues to contend with.
She didn’t want to press hub (and myself via secondhand info.) too much because it was our choice to make, but she wanted to be honest. She likely would be one to never walk again, and have additional problems due to her weight that may be beginning as early as now. So the wheelchair wasn’t an option for more than a couple of reasons now 😥 . My final hope..POOF! GONE!
He still asked me what I wanted to do. I cried and replied finally…broken, ”What can we do? We have to let her go.” I never expected in a million years that I would say that. I never expected anything that happened yesterday. My father was right when I was talking to him at first that I was completely talking from my heart and not my head. He told me that it was totally normal to do, but that I had to start thinking with my head and think about the dog. It was no way to live. No matter how much we cleaned up the pee, we couldn’t bathe her every time she urinated. We couldn’t get her upstairs and we couldn’t have urine and feces around the babies.
My father kept reminding me I have kids whose health I had to think about. I wasn’t single in my own place. I knew it’d be hard, but it was an absolute last, last resort. I mean this took quite some time to decide for certain on. I tried to figure ways around things, but none were panning out logically. Eventually her skin was going to end up breaking open and bleeding from the urine, and then she would be in pain. The vet saw all of the mops and stuff around, and told hub that she knew we were trying, but that still was going to happen. You can’t get it all off every time. Right now she wasn’t in any pain. I guess finally I felt that we had to keep it that way. I didn’t want to become the reason why she did end up completely miserable.
Last moments together. My husband couldn’t even crack a fake smile.
I took the twins down to say goodbye and I took a few pictures of them with her. I wished my older kids were there to do the same and say good-bye. We didn’t expect that, and she couldn’t stay for 2 hours and wait (the vet). I took my babies back upstairs and my dad kept me on the line so I didn’t lose my mind knowing what was going on out there. Unfortunately, she was so large they had to put her down inside of the truck, not in the comfort of home. But my husband told me how peaceful she was. She didn’t seem scared or nervous. She just laid there, wagged her tail, which this choice would always be easiest if you actually SAW your dog in pain. But when the pain seems non-existent….that is just the hardest thing in the world. It’s much easier to sit in denial and not face the reality of how dire the situation actually is. She just drifted off to sleep as my husband held her paw and cried. I wished I was there, but then again..not. I’m still haunted from that time I did that for him and his dog, and I barely knew the dog.
And yes afterwards I thought with my heart again like, ”Maybe I should have had them wait a few more days and looked online for information on this, because obviously I hadn’t.” I looked up other things, mostly landing on Hip Dysplasia. Maybe I could have learned more. But I know we did the right thing in my head. I just can’t get Laney out of mine. And I’m sure it will be a long time before I can move on, just like any other big loss in life.
The vet told my husband, which gave us both some peace, that she would have made that choice if it were her own dog. And that it WAS the right decision to make. We did the right thing. We did the right thing, not meaning for us, but for the dog. It would have been a long painful road with very little to hold on to. It was horrible, but right. That helped my soul a bit, but I miss my baby. Sadly, me and hub and the kids aren’t the only one missing Laney bad right now.
Our pug Peanut has been around here longer than her. He’s almost 12, and that was his ‘girl’. They always played together, they always slept together. I have been up since 3 am and he’s been crying and scratching to get downstairs on the door, thinking that Laney is still down there. You want to talk about ripping the heart right out of your chest. This is doing it. HORRIBLE!
Just please pray for us all here to heal and to have no regrets in this. I keep going back and forth. I knew the facts, but it’s still hard to not think about all of the ‘what ifs.” They can make you crazy. If you read this all THANK YOU!! I needed to write it for my own sanity. Writing always helps me through the toughest times in life. Also, if anybody else might be in such an awful predicament, maybe it will help you to deal with and heal from the situation as well. I know we aren’t the only ones out there. Likely not the only one with an eerily similar situation to your own maybe. God bless if you are reading this and hurting right now.
RIP Laney. You were always loved & will be forever missed by many!
Never forgotten 😥