Hospice for Dogs… Letting my dog die naturally at home…..

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I have had 17 dogs in my lifetime.  They have either died suddenly or I have “known” it was coming and had them put down at the vet.  This death…this dog, Squirt is different.  Imagine any sappy movie or commercial or TV show about a boy and his dog and them multiply that by a thousand million and that is the relationship my son, Jett has with his buddy squirt.  Jett has known Squirt his entire life.  He doesn’t know a life with out Squirt.

I rescued Squirt, his mother and siblings.. and a few other dogs at a kill shelter fifteen and a half years ago.  I was on a “save the universe” OCD rampage.  I went to a kill shelter in Indio California and walking down death row seeing the notes on the cages of what dogs were to be killed that day was heartbreaking.  I rescued all I could.  There was a litter of 15 puppies I hoped that others would save that day.  I was tapped out.  Squirt and his three siblings were days old.  They still had their eyes closed.  I just could not believe that they were going to kill these babies before they had a chance.  I still can’t.  I was going to find homes for all of them…. That didn’t happen… so we moved to Montana for more space.  All these dogs had a great life.  They got out of every fence we built.  They chased cars, brought home dead animals, and drove the neighbors and us CRAZY barking at chipmunks in their wood piles.

It was not all rose petals and rainbows.  I was in denial that “my love” would be enough to control them.  However, when you have 14 dogs and really no training as a dog whisperer and are not a dominant pack leader things go awry.  Some of the dogs got jealous.  Fighting started before we left for Montana. Montana didn’t fix it, and two of the dogs turned on Squirts mom and killed her right in front of me.  It was horrible and one of the worst experiences of my life.  I detached from the 127% unconditional love I had for animals.  Saying that, for probably eight years we had seven dogs and they were all wonderful.  That was 8 solid years of love and running and water and snuggles. Eight years of my daughter and my son thinking that their lives were a wonderful fury wonderland of dogs and love and licking and mom going a little crazy when the dogs would come home all muddy with a deer leg in their mouth and have to deal with it.  Having that many dogs is expensive…. very expensive, but They costs were lower in Montana.  We found a great place to board them when we went out of town, and we traveled a lot for work.  I ordered the dogs their shots on line and gave them to them myself.  We were blessed because the dogs were healthy… always…for years… no wild animals attacked them, none got bit by the rattle snakes that lived on our property, no broken bones, no one got hit by a car on one of their daily car chases.  Besides the dog hair, dirt, and daily vacuuming… and POOP and PEE it was magical.  A lot of poop… a lot of poop…. and the boys loved to lift their legs on everything… but I loved them all.  Dogs don’t live forever and neither do people.  I put some down, some died in their sleep I never let a death draw out…. until now.  It has been a rough year.

Last year Squirt didn’t move all day.  I thought “this was it”.  I wasn’ t ready.  Jett wasn’t ready.  Squirt was minutes away from passing.  He was stiff and unresponsive.  I brought Squirt to Jett when he got out of school to say good bye.  It was a disaster.  Jett wanted me to take him to the Vet and so I did.  I thought they would immediately put him down.  The doctor asked me if I wanted to try to give him IV fluids and antibiotics so I did.  I refused and blood tests or xrays.  He was 14.5 years old. I thought “this is it”.  Miraculously after about 30 minutes on the IV Squirt perked up.  After two hours I brought him come for the night with instructions to bring him back in the morning for more IV.  He got home and he was like a new dog. It was bizarre.  It was a miracle.  I still had my doubts so I gave him antibiotics I had gotten from Mexico years ago for several days and then I pulled the IV out.  For months he was a new dog. He was happy, running around, still jumping off furniture, but then he started to decline.  Falling off beds not jumping off, missing steps, not seeing well and then the pooping started.  He had no control when he pooped.  He would just poop wherever.  I didn’t know where to keep him when we were gone.  If I kept him in a bathroom or in a kennel he would poop and then walk in it and then get it all ground into the floor and his fur.  I dreaded coming home. I knew I would spend at least 20 minutes every time cleaning up poop.  Giving Squirt baths was getting harder and harder because he would just shiver after for hours.  I found it was just better to let him have full run of the house and hope that he didn’t step in his poop.  This daily ritual went on for I don’t know… 8 months?  Its been trying….. but everyone in the family was just happy he was still alive…. One more day we would keep saying… and most of the days were great.  He was eating and kind of running… the falling of beds in the middle of the night was not cool… but we kept on with the day to day.  He was not in pain.  He was just a little more foggy each day.  Jett had hope he would keep on keeping on.  However, months of the same turned into weeks of everything changes and one day even Jett asked if Squirt was going to make it until Christmas.  I didn’t have an answer for him.  I still didn’t think we should put him down, but I knew the days were numbered.

Which brings me to this horrible but family bonding week.  I watched my grandfather and my grandmother die slowly with hospice care and with dogs I guess it can be much the same.  When My grandparents died I was ok with the death.  It was time.  Those last couple weeks .. and months were agonizing. 6 days ago, the day before Halloween Squirt slept all day.  I was concerned, but I was still going to force this dog to live.  If I would have not intervened he probably would have died within a day or two.  However, we still weren’t ready and I didn’t want him dying on Halloween. Squirt could not walk.  His back legs were crossed when I tried to help him walk.  I used a towel to support him.  I gave him antibiotics and I force fed him food and water.  Yes, I thought to myself “What am I doing?” I should put him down…. Am I torturing him?”… but I gave it one last ditch effort…. What happened?  The miracle dog perked up again… His legs even started working… I’ve never seen anything like this… It was crazy.  Halloween, he slept most of the day, but then started walkingish around in the evening.  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday I continued with the force feeding.  He started to drink water on his own, but then he would throw it up. He wet the bed Monday and Tuesday night in his sleep. He hadn’t pooped for days, he fell off the bed again, I questioned myself all the time if I should put him down, but he just liked laying on our laps.  He was peaceful.  Ending his life so WE would be more comfortable seemed…. selfish. Yesterday, November 4th, my Birthday Squirt took a turn for the worse. I knew this was it.  He couldn’t control his bladder at all anymore and was peeing on me constantly. He was becoming unresponsive, but he was peaceful.  Jett came home from school and he cried, we cried, and Jett asked me if I should bring him to the vert so they could put him down.  Jett was finally ready.

I had a lot of time to think yesterday when the kids were at school and it was just me and Squirt.  I put down his sister, my Muffin this summer.  She was almost blind and had terrible anxiety when I wasn’t around.  No one could handle her constant pacing.  I had to take the kids to Illinois for two weeks so I made the decision to put her down.  Leaving her to pace constantly for two weeks would have been cruel.  However Squirt wasn’t pacing, wasn’t in pain and just wanted to lay on our laps.  I can not bring him to the vet and have them end his life with a needle in a cold room.  These last 24 hours we have snuggled, I have brought him outside to feel the sun, smell the air and we even laid on the graves in the back yard of his other siblings.  Instead of just ending a life like I did with all our other dogs and then it was just…over, I have had these hours to think about all the good times and the wonderful memories that this dog and all of the dogs we have had have given us.  I do not regret having any of them.  They were gifts from the Universe and I know these dogs “saved me” on more than one occasion.

As I type this Squirt is laying next too me and Jett. I kept Jett home from school today to process all of this and spend the last moments together with Squirt.  It is hard being a parent, but I am confident in the path I chose for this situation.  Squirt will die with in the next 24 hours and we will be right there when he decides he is ready to go.  We owe him that.

I tried googling how long he would live for with this whole dying process and what I found was very vague.  Even when my grandmother passed the hospice people wouldn’t give us a time frame when we knew it was just hours away.  So for all of those reading this that this might happen to… my best guess is this:  If I wouldn’t have interviened with the force feeding and antibiotics I think Squirt would have passed on Saturday or Sunday, so one or two days when he stopped moving and his legs stopped working.  Messing with nature?, God?, with the antibiotics, force feeding, force walking… might buy you a handful more of days, but that’s it.  Once they lose control of their bladder and stop eating or drinking death is hours or a couple days away at best.

Update 1:45 am Friday morning.:

The last 24 hours have been the worst.  He can’t control his bladder so we reek like urine.  The past 12 hours he gets up to vomit about once every couple hours. And now….. Uncontrollable very smelly diarrhea. I had to give him a bath. Doing this is not for the faint of heart and I might be regretting my decision.  However, we don’t put people down at this stage……. Maybe we should. This is really hard. I will be putting dogs down in the future that are dying before it gets this far.

Update 6:42 pm Friday:

When I got home from work at 3 pm Squirt was in obvious pain.  He couldn’t get comfortable.  Kind of pacing, but hardly walking. I was informed during the day he continued to try and throw up.  At 4:30 pm I brought him to the vet with the intent to get him pain medication to make him peaceful.  Jett wanted him to die at home.  Jett stayed home from school Thursday and today, Friday.  The vet really did not want me to take him home with just pain medication.  He didn’t know how well or if at all it would work and could be hours or more days of this… he didn’t know when he would pass.  The nurse was crying.  Last year Squirt almost died.  She couldn’t believe he lived another year.  He lived for my baby boy.  At 5:30 pm I had him put to sleep.  I brought him home.  We cried and now we are at peace.  He will be buried in the back yard with his brothers and sister.

This post was long.  Im sure there are a lot of typos.  I am doing this more for myself.  Writing helps me think and the waiting is getting really hard. That is all I have to say.