Death with Dignity

It might be ironic that today begins the new Death with Dignity act in the State of Washington, just now, when I am up to my eyeballs in dogginess.

We have an old Golden named Harley. She is 15 now and I am usually awakened two or three times a night because she needs to be picked up off the floor. I spend the entire day doing the same thing. Often she can’t control her poop and so I clean that up too.

Arron and I got Harley in London, after rejecting a Jack Russell Terrier for being way too small (at 8 weeks it was smaller than a tiny kitten), and a Scottie dog, known for having crabby personalities. We took one look at Harley and we were lost. We got her and on one of the first days that we were able to walk her in the park after she finished all of her shots, she was brutally attacked by a pit bull (and I barely escaped). They never found the owner and we were left with a £1000 vet bill. She was a mess, but eventually recovered.

We were the typical young couple with a puppy and six months later we were pregnant. Harley stood guard over both our kids as they rolled about on the floor grabbing clumps of fur in their tiny fists. She didn’t flinch. Carter used to use her as a pillow while he drank from his bottle.

When Arron died, she mourned her beloved Master, refusing to go for walks in the park without him. Since then she and I have lived in guarded harmony. I don’t think she has ever fully trusted me. She likes men. Can’t say I blame her. I have been a pretty crabby Mistress.

And now she can’t get up off the floor and poops on the rugs. And I am tired. I don’t know how to tell when it will be “that time.” She still eats her food, still goes for very slow walks around the block with me. But is she happy? or miserable? Is it better to prolong her life so I can avoid what is sure to be hell-blown grief all over again? And what of the kid’s grief?

Twice now she has bared her teeth at me when I have gone to pick her up. It scared me. She has never done anything like that before (unless devouring a bone). I worry she might do it to the kids.

Is it time?

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  1. anniegirl1138 March 5, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Perhaps it’s painful for her to be picked up? What does her vet say?

    End of life decisions are never clear cut, not really, and it is hard to make them for another – even when the other is a beloved pet.

    I’m sorry.

  2. Betty and Boo's Mommy March 6, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, Abigail. We were in a similar situation in October with our cat. Without boring folks with the details, we made the decision to put her to sleep. Not easy, and one that we are still dealing with in terms of behavior from DD. But, I think it was for the best. Only you can decide if it is time, and you will know when it is. Again, sorry that you have to go through this …. all of it. 🙁

  3. Abigail March 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I am not expecting hard and fast answers to my question. Just hints at when one knows. I guess it raises the same question that people trying to make this choice must ask. How do you know when its time. Time to put a dog down, time to undertake assisted suicide. And in such a decision, who is being served, the patient or the family? Such tough questions.

    Betty and Boo’s Mommy: Thanks for the sympathy. It will not be fun when the time comes, that is certain.

  4. won March 9, 2009 at 11:21 am

    In regards to this statement:

    “And in such a decision, who is being served, the patient or the family? Such tough questions.”

    I share with you something from a very pure and innocent perspective, one with little fear. That is of my eleven year old as she was in the final stages of battle with her brain cancer. She would beat her chest in frustration and tell me “I just want to die!!”

    I think that is about as honest and unencumbered a perspective as I could find to the question you ask.

    She did not want to live any longer with the struggles of not being able to walk/see/hear/swallow.

  5. Ms. Single Mama March 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    So sad.

    And being Aaron’s dog… must make it even harder.

    I’d be scared having her around the kids. Just as long as they’re aware to keep their distance it should be fine. Right?

    Good luck. So hard.

  6. Abigail March 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm


    I am so, so sorry about what you had to go through with your daughter. I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been for you. I guess Washington State at least is on its way towards making her decision a viable option. Odd that we treat our pets more humanely than our own species. God, the things life throws at us…

    Ms. Single Mama:
    It being Arron’s dog is particularly difficult, though there is a part of me that imagines their joyous reunion in the afterlife. I suppose that is weird. Arron was just such an animal person, and I know he would welcome his dog. I guess its the kind of mindset that gets me through at any rate.

    Don’t think she’s dangerous. She is the gentlest soul. I think she is simply telling me she doesn’t want to be picked up, either because of pain, or because she is happy with her position. I have warned the kids to be gentle and on the lookout for a bad reaction.

    My fear is that she continues in this way for another 2 years…

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. LisaMM March 12, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Aw, I’m sorry. Poor Harley. We had to make this decision for our golden retrievers several years ago. It was so hard. One of our dogs died in her sleep at 14 just a few days after we started discussing it, so we didn’t have to do it. We decided to wait on our other dog, then about a year later, when he was 15 yrs, Rusty lost control of his bowels and couldn’t stand up, so we had no choice. We were sick about it. He was deaf and arthritic but he was our beloved puppy, and our baby before we had babies.

  8. fergrules2 March 15, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    It’s time for her to go.
    Let her go, Abby…

  9. Andrew July 18, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Very cute one..

    Thank you very much…
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