Monday, January 5, 2009

The Dog Always Nose Best


My Dukealicious Dog is going on 9 this year and he isn't doing so well.  Every time I look at him, he has a new lipoma and limps a little more.  The Tramadol I give him for pain gives him the trots-and not in a good way:  the dog isn't trotting, his gut is-all over my house.  I vacillate about giving him his pain medication.  If I do, he has an upset stomach and if I don't, he's in pain.  Maybe we just need a new drug.

This has been the best dog I've ever had in my life.  He is the sweetest beast and I had my concerns about a Doberman.  They have such fierce reputations that I've found are completely undeserved.  Duke has personality with a capital P.  He is fiercely loyal and protective.  At night, he routinely made the rounds of his pack in their rooms.  If the door was closed, he'd knock with his paw or nose to come in and check.  If you didn't let him check, he'd pace and knock until he won the battle.  He wanted to know everyone was safe.  This work ethic must have been part of his genetic code.  When he was young, I couldn't even pee without him in attendance.  Nowadays, he doesn't even get up to greet me when I come home and he no longer makes the rounds of the bedrooms at night.  He has retired.  I think just like my dying hospice patients, he mostly sleeps all day long.  He still likes to eat and like any good girl of Arab descent, I believe eating and appetite are good cardinal signs.   Despite this, he is thin and his legs have atrophied from disuse due to arthritis.  It's so sad to watch his decline.

He has been the most correct judge of human intent and worthiness.  For the most part, this judgement on his part has been toward my daughter's suitors.  If the dog had an inkling that their character was flawed, or wanting, he'd growl and snarl until he intimidated the young men into leaving the house.  Because he batted 1,000 in respect to ferreting out creeps, for years if my daughter found someone she was particularly fond of, she was afraid to bring him around for the final test with Duke.  This dog's opinion was never wrong and he pretty much disliked them all.  The last serious boyfriend she had was the exception.  He never snarled and let the boyfriend pet him.  He didn't just tolerate the young man, he liked him. This relationship went on for a year and we were all comfortable with things.  I had visions of a fabulous wedding and grandchildren dancing in my head and then abruptly, Duke changed his mind about things.  He sensed what the rest of us couldn't see.  Two weeks later, the young man was out of our lives because his feelings had changed.  Duke knew it first and when he first sensed it, he had snapped at him, almost snagging his ear.  This was a rare behavior for my dog.  He never bit anyone, but wanted to this time.  Maybe he was hurt too.

Sometimes, the people he likes surprise me.  He has a thing for Mr. Larger Than Life.  I'm surprised only because MLTL doesn't like my dog.  He barely tolerates Duke.  To the dog, this is a challenge he has never turned down.  He's made it his mission to make my father in law like him.  I don't think it'll ever happen.

I'm feeling badly about my dog's suffering.  When and where should I draw the line?  When he can no longer get up?  When he stops eating?  How can I tell he has had enough and my forcing him to do things satisfies only me and not him?  I've got to tell you, this one hurts.  I know to some, he is just a dog, but to me, he is my companion and a part of my pack. 

17 comments:

WT said...

I'm so sorry to hear this, I hope you are coping ok, it must be very difficult.

For the record, I've had quite a few dealings with different dobermans, and I've always found them to be the sweetest guys.

Miss 376 said...

You can't have a any pet for that long without them becoming a part of the family. It's cats for me, and this decision is the worst one to make. You will know when the time comes. Take care

Amy said...

Granted, I'm a dog lover too, but--he is NOT just a dog. He IS part of your pack. And it shows what a great dog owner you are that you care. I don't know where that magic line is either, and I dread it whenever one of our pets heads toward it (see: Teddy, July 2007). But know that Duke has a fabulous life going with his pack right now.

Anonymous said...

You left out how Duke loves to share in holiday meals, or just helps himself is more like it; Didn't he eat 1/2 of a Beef tenderloin in a single sitting.


FTM

Brenda said...

Wow...I am at the same cross roads as you with all of this. We have an almost 15 year old doggie, who I keep checking to see if he is still breathing. It breaks my heart to have to make any decision like deciding his fate. I had a dog before him that I struggled with the same decisions. His life ended when a truck hit him in front of our house. My heart would be broken no matter which way their life ended. They are so much family! I keep saying I will never own another animal because it hurts too much when we have to let them go.

flydragon said...

Aww poor Dukealicious. What a great friend and protector you've had all this time. I love that picture of him sitting on the couch, long legs down to the floor.
Very sad and funny at the same time.

The Crusty Crone said...

A dog is never JUST A DOG. They are a part of your heart. And my heart goes out to you. A loss of a loved one is tough, even when the loved one has four legs.

{{{ Duke }}}

Pandora's Box of FIber said...

I went through this earlier last year, and I tell you, Koby was the best dog there could have been. I had decided it was time when he didn't like going for walks anymore (his legs would give out).

It took my parents three more months to decide that he was not living a quality life (he was then not even getting up to go meet and greet)

Choose carefully, because you do not want to feel guilt for making them live too short a time, or too long. But take a look at Duke's quality of life. That's the most important.

Take care

Betty Flocken said...

Rudee, I'm so sorry; we just went through this painful situation with Rex - basically the same problem Hip Dysplasia (sp). We didn't realize the pain he was in until the vet told us. I'll keep you in my prayers and good thoughts - it's such a hard and painful decision to make.

Sandy said...

It is so hard when our fur people get sick and start declining. I went through that with my"goldie". She was such a good dog. As long as I didn't think she was in pain, I finally just knew it was time when she was having difficulty getting up off her bed to go to the bathroom. She never seemed to be in pain except she walked slow because of arthritis. I feel for ya. What a sweet dog you have.

Lisa L said...

This just makes me so sad Rudee...for many reasons..I know the pain for sure. Our dog Joe had a steady downward decline (including diabetes with bid insulin!)... blindness, weakness etc. I think in retrospect we hung on to him for far longer than we should have. He had no quality of life at the end. It was different with our next dog Riley. He was definitely aging, and showing some serious signs of hip pain etc. One day I got a horrible feeling about his pain and took him in for an xray - osteosarcoma. He lived ( with great quality of life) for several more weeks, but as soon as things took a nosedive, we had him put to sleep by a very compassionate vet who came to the house. It was hard. I saw 'Marley and Me' yesterday..made me cry remembering, but an awesome (true)movie none the less. Maybe the vet could prescribe another pain med? Or give him half the dose?

Anonymous said...

You are torn because he is more than just a part of the pack, some days he is the LEADER! It would be comparable to taking me to that FARM!!!! (JOKING, but not really.. cause he is one of your babies)
I say we get Duke a new puppy to help raise!
Just for entertainment purposes I will bring some new "suitors" by this week for Duke to play with.
It has always been a fun pass time for the family.

distracted by shiny objects said...

So sorry to hear about Duke's poor health. We've had these issues, too, and know how painful it is. I think you will know when the time is right. In our case it was when our dog wasn't showing any signs of enjoyment anymore--no wagging, no love-look in the eyes. It's terribly hard though. I'll be thinking of you and your family and wishing you all the best.

Rositta said...

That's a tough decision you'll have to make, hopefully not too soon. I had a 14 year old black lab that I loved. She had cancer and was prone to seizures. The Vet told me I'd have to make a decision soon but luckily for me my doggy just died in her sleep. It made it easier on me but was still very traumatic. Have you tried Prednisone? That's what my neighbour uses on her aging and arthritic border collie, hugs...ciao

Rudee said...

I want to thank you all for your input. Rositta, I am smacking my forehead. Duh. Of course, maybe a low dose steroid would be perfect for him. It's one of the first things I think about with dying but not quite dead patients who feel blah. You're brilliant and I'm calling the vet tomorrow. I also like my daughter's idea of sacrificial suitors. My brother's idea of beef tenderloin is too pricey.

laurie said...

oh dear i'm so sorry you're dealing with this! especially at only 9. i think a new drug is in order (prednisone? it has some pretty severe side effects, too, but maybe not at a very low dose.)

we are seriously thinking of getting a third dog in the fall--because by then boscoe will be 14 years old, and we think the whole transition will be easier for riley if there's another dog around.

but it's a terrible thing to consider, and a very difficult thing to discuss.

good luck to you and duke, and long may he live.

J'Ollie Primitives said...

We just lost a very dear and very old cat. Clemmie was 20 or so.

Aside from Prednisone, there are weekly arthritis injections you might be able to give Duke if the med is suitable for dogs.