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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The decisions we have to make on behalf of our pets are some of the hardest we have to make. It's easy to fall deep into the Google-sphere when you have to make a particularly difficult one, grasping for straws, hoping to find that miracle answer.

In the past two years, my husband and I have had to make some particularly tough decisions about our two old girls. I wanted to share a bit about our story in hopes that it will help or guide someone else.

Last year, we had to euthanize our 15yo girl. She was old and healthy, but arthritic and had challenges getting around on her own. We went around and around trying to decide when the it was "time." We sought advice from everywhere we knew; our vet, this forum, Google, etc... and all paths kept leading us back to "when it's time, you'll know." First off, that line is a crock of poo. I don't know about you, but my dog whispering skills are not great. We knew the time was approaching, but pinpointing when to take all future cuddles away was the grayest, most gut-forward decision I think I've ever had to make. And if you're anything like me, you will second guess yourself 1,000 times.

For us, we had to keep reminding ourselves of her favorite pastimes. In her old age, she was about 2% of who she used to be. She slept all day. She needed to be carried out to relieve herself. And her risk of falling and injuring herself was growing each day. We had a really hard time making the decision; as much as it pained us, we laid out the facts and tried our hardest to remove our emotions from the debate. Once we did that, the answer became more clear. Still muddy as can be, but definitely more clear.

We made the difficult decision to end her life using Lap of Love. They came to our house and our sweet girl took her last breath under her favorite tree in our yard (one she used to swing on a few years back). Up until the moment we started, I was still second guessing our decision. It wasn't until it was over and we saw her at peace that we felt like we did right by her. For the first time in a while, she looked comfortable, relaxed, and pain-free. Looking back now, we're incredibly grateful we could "hold her paw," be there with her in a spot that we can now memorialize, and that we could do so in a low-stress environment.

This year, we're back in the same spot with our 12yo girl. Three days ago, she was fine. She still plays. She still eats. Her eyesight and hearing is good. On the outside, she's a perfectly happy and healthy older dog. Two nights ago, we had a bit of a scare... just before we were going to bed, she started acting very lethargic and her breathing became very rapid. We called our vet's emergency line and brought her in.

Through that, we learned that cancer has been silently taking over her lungs for the past several months. That morning, they presumptively diagnosed her with advanced, primary lung cancer as they have not found evidence of cancer elsewhere in her little body. For perspective on the speed of this disease: last year, we discovered a benign lump on her right arm. Out of an abundance of caution, during her annual physical, they did a few tests and a full-body x-ray to rule out the possibility of cancer. There was absolutely nothing at that time. At some point in the last 12 months, this disease developed and grew to multiple lobes of her lungs... and unfortunately, one mass is quite large and precariously positioned at the base of her heart.

Our vet has gone over a number of options with us. He's been great at laying out the pros and cons of each, while giving us both his professional and personal opinion. We are beyond grateful to have his guidance through this, because I don't know how I would process all of this otherwise.

We've been given the following facts:
  • Based on the radiographs, the cancer is far along and treatment is not recommended. Radiation is definitely out of the question as the cancer has spread too much and they're too close to vital organs. If we feel obliged, we can opt for chemo. In order to do so effectively, we would need to biopsy one of the tumors which would be an invasive procedure.. we've been told of two ways: one that requires full anesthesia and another that requires mild sedation. Regardless, the procedure is risky given her current state and the chemo is not likely to add any meaningful time.
  • To help her, we can administer steroids and pain medications to expand the lungs and provide comfort. It was even suggested we give her 1-2mg of THC, if we have access. This is a temporary solution to give us time to be with our girl until we can find the strength to make the inevitable decision.
  • In either case, we have three very traumatic risks: 1) the largest of the tumors continues to expand and puts fatal pressure on her heart or a vital artery 2) one of the tumors ruptures and causes cardiac arrest or seizure 3) her lungs continue to fill with fluid and gas, which will eventually cause suffocation.
Given the facts, our vet is recommending we take some time to give her love and soak up all the love she gives us, and then we make a proactive decision to end her life, so she does not have to endure any of the painful and inevitable risks. Just merely based on the fact of how fast this has spread and some of the facts, the oncologist and our vet are in agreement that we have, at best, a few weeks with our little girl. Each day that goes on, the risk of a traumatic end increases.

This one feels a lot different than the last one. One the outside, she's happy and healthy... we can see her little lungs working in over-drive when she's laying down, but otherwise, everything is normal. For that reason, I've been completely sucked into Google; I've called Canine cancer clinics, talked to friends, family, paid for an online vet consultation, looked into at-home oxygen therapy, frantically started ordering all-natural, low-carb dog food. You name it. My husband finally said to me, "as you're doing all of this research, make sure you separate what you're doing for her and what you're doing for you." And it finally hit home. For very selfish reasons, I'm ignoring all of the facts and hoping to stumble on a miracle that will offer some other explanation or glimmer of hope.

I'm avoiding the inevitable decision for me, because I'm not ready for her to leave this world. I'm sure a lot of people can relate. I rescued this little girl the week after I graduated college. Since then, I've moved from Chicago to San Francisco, from San Francisco to Chicago, from Chicago to New Jersey (all three by car, with her in the backseat), I've had failed relationships, I got my first "real" job, moved up the ladder at various companies, I found the love of my life, I got married, we bought our first house, etc. Beyond life milestones, she's been at the center of many of my life's decisions: for example, I've never gone on vacation without thinking about where she'll be or how she'll be cared for. Through all of that, she's taught me countless lessons about selflessness and responsibility. It may sound dramatic and cliche, but she really is more than "just a dog" to me. She has quite literally played a significant role in shaping me into the person I am today.

All that said, I have to keep reminding myself that it's up to my husband and I to make sure this doesn't end traumatically. We need to do right by her. We need to make this difficult decision for her as a way of thanking her for giving us so much over the past 12 years. Most of all, we owe it to her to make sure her perfect doggy life doesn't end in a traumatic way.

For those of you who are going through something similar, I feel for you. If you're on the fence about what to do, my best advice is to lay out the facts and try your hardest to put your pup's well-being above your guilt and sadness. Our little creatures depend on us for so much, including preserving their dignity and allowing them to peacefully exit this world after they've made their mark on it.
 

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I can't bring myself to ”like” your post but what a beautifully written, poignant description. Your love for your dogs shines through.
 

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I can't bring myself to ”like” your post but what a beautifully written, poignant description. Your love for your dogs shines through.
Thank you for your comment. I know firsthand how hard these decisions can be and I can only hope my experience might help someone find the answers they’re looking for. <3
 

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Thank you for your comment. I know firsthand how hard these decisions can be and I can only hope my experience might help someone find the answers they’re looking for. <3
Please, not now but later, may I share your post with people who are struggling to make this decision?
 

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I have two male Shih Tzu crosses, 13 and 14 years old. The oldest still bounces around jumps up on the bed with a low stool to help. He is completely deaf and does not see too well. The other one runs around like normal, can see and hear fine. It just shows that age is not the only factor but one to consider. I have owned many dogs in my lifetime and these two have lived the longest. I know the day is coming but hope not for a while yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I have two male Shih Tzu crosses, 13 and 14 years old. The oldest still bounces around jumps up on the bed with a low stool to help. He is completely deaf and does not see too well. The other one runs around like normal, can see and hear fine. It just shows that age is not the only factor but one to consider. I have owned many dogs in my lifetime and these two have lived the longest. I know the day is coming but hope not for a while yet.
Every day with our little furbabies is a gift. Enjoy each and every one of them!
 
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