Yesterday, I made the painful decision to give my 13 year old Lab, Zoe, peace and had her put to sleep. It was a very difficult decision as she was always head strong, defiant, yet loving and happy even during her last weeks when she stopped eating and fought taking her heart pills to ease her congestive heart failure. Even yesterday morning, as frail and weak as she appeared, Zoe insisted on joining me and the other dogs on our morning walk and ran out the door when her ‘daddy’ returned home from work to drop something off before leaving again.For days, I struggled to try and figure out what was best for Zoe. I do not take euthanasia lightly but do believe when a dog can no longer live a quality life and are clearly suffering and in decline that medication or other treatments cannot help, it is time to say goodbye. But stubborn Zoe never made it easy for me. And as a result, I grew weaker, fibro fog expanded, sleep was fleeting, migraines were almost daily and joint pain increased. My indecision was causing a flare-up as I watched Zoe lay uncomfortably on her bed while I lay just as uncomfortably on the sofa. Then, she would get up, head to the door and would join her unrelated lab siblings as they chased a squirrel. How could I let her go when she still had bursts of life in her?
I was calling the vet daily, seeking his advice. Dr. Mark was shocked too to see the life in Zoe’s eyes on Monday when I brought her in to try and figure out why she refused to eat anything. It turned out to be kidney failure and I realized then that we had little time left.
I knew nobody could make the final decision but me but my mind was in a blur and I didn’t know what to do. I sent my husband a
frantic text and he called while I was in a state of hysteria. Wonderful as he is, he listened talked through scenarios and let me cry on his virtual shoulder. After we talked, I picked up the phone and made the call the vet. I then texted my husband: “we are going to the vet at 11:30.”
Of course, the process is emotionally painful but I was lucky to find a caring, patient veterinarian with a terrific staff. I felt nauseated, my head was throbbing, and I hurt all over as my tears shamelessly fell on my dear Zoe’s soft body. We were together 13 years and she lived with me in Denver, Cleveland, rural Alaska, and finally, Texas. We had been through a lot together and her zest for life boundless. In some ways, she was a role model for me. Zoe always got what she wanted and did what she wanted. If I took her swimming in a river, she’d find a current and paddle in place. When I called her to come, she’d look at me and turn away. Zoe came out when she was ready. She loved to play ball and would fetch balls forever if I let her. She’d bring the ball, drop it in front of me and jump up and down barking ‘more, more, more, mommy!’ When she was younger, Zoe could fit two tennis balls in her big loud mouth as well as balance one on her nose until I said okay – and she’d catch it. Sorry, I didn’t intend to go on about my memories as that is not the point of my posting.
Yet perhaps it is. Returning from the vet, my other two labs immediately knew something was wrong and a family member was missing. I took them for a car ride to deliver something to my sister-in-law an hour from the house and I was glad to keep busy and give them something fun. My head continued to pound and driving back home, I had sharp pains in my fingers.
We went to bed early last night, and woke up this morning almost pain free. My mood was lifted with the understanding that Zoe was no longer in pain, she had a great life, and was loved by many though none more than me. I forgave myself and realized that I had done the right thing and after weeks of struggle, I could once again move forward with my life hoping that she is running through the woods and swimming endlessly with her first brother, Argus.
Every one of my dogs has brought me purpose, joy and laughter daily and I don’t blame Zoe for my flare-up. Rather it was my own emotional struggle that hurt which in turn caused physical pain. But like Zoe, I am strong-willed and committed to living a full and happy life which can only occur from within.