If you don’t have a heart for animals then don’t read this post because you won’t understand what I am talking about.
I was going to write this post two nights ago but I was crying too much I decided to wait until the morning. Then the next morning my Dad mentions “Do you just want me to put him down” I couldn’t respond I began crying again. He said you don’t have to make a decision right now. I responded “Dad he just went to the bathroom on the driveway and sat in it.” It is not that the dog has lost his mind at the age of 14 1/2. He still has that personality he had when we got him 13 1/2 years ago when he was a year old. However his body is that of a 14 1/2 year old dog and he has horrible back hips. If he is not walking on flat surface he falls down. If I am walking him in the grass in the park behind us and there is an area where it goes downhill or uphill he usually falls and then just sits there and looks at you because he cannot get himself up. Some mornings I wake up he and gets up all on his own and is peeking his head up the stairs barking to go out. Other mornings it is 11am and he is still sleeping and I go to wake him and he won’t get up on his own I have to get behind him and lift him up to get him started. Last winter when I would walk Chance in the snow when the snow was deep and he would fall in it he would just sit in the cold snow and give you this pathetic look “help me”. You can even tell when he is standing in the driveway or grass that his back legs are bad. Two nights ago around 9pm he was standing in the front yard sniffing around then he saw me sitting on the bottom step of the 6 steps that lead up to the front door. He walked over towards me and just kept looking at the steps like he wanted to go up them like he did the first 13 years of his life but knows that is impossible for him to do unless I am behind him lifting his back legs. These are the same steps 12 years ago he flew out the front door and ran down taking the mailman to the ground. No one was home in our house Chance roamed the house free and someone forgot to close the front door. Our neighbor across the street saw Chance take the mailman out and came running. Chance was not biting the mailman just growling and just trying to show his tough side. Our neighbor got the dog back in the house and closed the door and the mailman collected the mail spilled all over our front yard. We were later warned by the mail service if the dog is ever out in the front yard even hooked up on a leash the mail will not be delivered. We have had many mailmen since this incident happened 12 years ago and all of them are aware of Chance. Many times in the past month I have had Chance hooked up in the garage with the door open. Even being on a chain the mailman still skips our house. I have explained to them that they have nothing to worry about him he struggles to get up on his own and would not harm them. That doesn’t matter they see the dog they won’t deliver the mail. However he does have a wrap sheet with the mail carriers. 3 years ago when he was 11 years old he saw the mailman across the street and ran out the front door chasing him down the street this time Chance got maced. You think Chance would of learned his lesson the way he reacted to his face being maced. Nope! A month later he did it again and was maced. He has never bitten the mailman or anyone for that matter he just hates the mailman and likes to growl at them.
If you have read my books Stolen Innocence and Living For Today you know how much Chance means to me. He is the greatest thing from my childhood and when there were so many painful things going on in my childhood he brought so many happy memories. In his younger days I took him on so many walks, he pulled my sisters and I on roller blades down the path. In 6th grade my parents bought me a pair of tiny red skies. I put them on and 2 year old Chance pulled me pretty fast as I held on in the snow in the large grass field behind our house. He used to love swimming. He would run fast chasing the geese in the park behind our house into the pond and he would jump into the pond swimming after them. My parents witnessed out our window Chance drag me on the ground just a month after we got him across the grass field going after the geese and the new baby geese that had just hatched. He dragged me across the field until he got a little yellow chick in his mouth. I used the words “Drop it” and he immediately released the chick in my hands. The chick was unharmed and it ran back to the rest. Chance did not only chase mailmen, geese, he pretty much chased anything living. If he saw a squirrel, rabbit, dog, or any animal for that matter he took off running as fast as he could after it. He was not the easiest dog to walk. I can’t tell you how many times I thought he would pull my arm out of the socket with his strength. Chance would love to go up to any other dog and if he saw a dog you had to hold him tight or he would pull you to the dog just so he could sniff. He was rarely mean to other dogs. One time when Chance was 8 years old my Dad took him for a walk around the neighborhood at the lake house. Well my Dad did not see the Rottweiler that Chance hated. We had experienced this dog before and learned Chance would growl and get into a fight with the dog. The minute Chance saw the dog he took off with so much force he pulled my Dad to the ground and dragged him. My dad’s hands were all scraped up. Chance was not on Dad’s side for awhile after that incident.
Up until the age of 12 years old Chance loved to go down to the pier on Lake Geneva and jump off the end and swim. My dad said that was the greatest enjoyment he got out of Chance was the long walks in the neighborhood. It gave him a reason to walk the neighborhoods.
Chance loves eating even to this day he won’t turn down food. I cannot even begin to tell you what this dog has eaten. He gets in the garbage any chance he had even right in front of you. If there was a garbage he would eat anything inside it including tissue. I came home once to my college apartment after class one day when Chance was 11 years old and found a roll of toliet paper coming out of my roommates bathroom all the way into the kitchen. When I got to her bathroom I noticed he had tried pulling it off the roll with his teeth marks on the toilet paper. It looked liked someone failed to teepee our apartment. Just a walk down the path over the years he would eat all the geese droppings. It was gross and he was determined not to miss one dropping. It was like watching a kid eat candy. Chance also has a thing with cleaning out the cats litter box. I cannot tell you how many times I have caught him in there and his nose covered in litter. I know your probably wondering how is this dog still alive and how he hasn’t gotten sick over eating this. I think his system is so used to it that it couldn’t kill him because he has been doing it for 14 1/2 years. It’s the new dog diet geese droppings and dirty cat litter. He has also had his share of eating chocolate. Nearly 3 years ago at Christmas my sister got a nice large box of cholocate and when no one was looking Chance went upstairs and his nose led him to the box and he ate it all including part of the box.
Other then getting into the garbage, chasing the mailman, and pulling you when you walked him when he was younger. He has been a good dog. My parents would add in that he barked a lot over the years especially being put in his dog run at our lake house or that he smelled a lot. Something I have never experienced not being able to smell him. Swimming in a pond and lake frequently what could you expect. Chance always got the most attention from the rest of the family when he would come back from the groomer who would make him smell great. While he got in his share of trouble over the years he did have a smart side. Since the day we had him he has been house broken. So accidents were very rare and didn’t happen until around the age of 13. He was easy to teach tricks to. Everything from sit, lay down, roll over, we would give the signal with our hands to “speak” and he would bark, we taught him to pick everything up. My mother would be doing laundry and if she dropped a sock she would say pick it up and he would bring it to her. He used to get so excited when you asked him to pick things up because he would think he would get food he would pick up anything and bring it to you. One of our favorite tricks Chance can no longer do was “tornado” we would say the word tornado and he would lay down and cover his head with his paws. It was so cute.
Chance came into my life at a time when I was keeping a lot of painful secrets and I wanted more then anything a dog. My first experience with being published had to do with Chance when I was 12 in our local newspaper.
The cover of my 2nd book which is a photo of myself would not be the cover of my book if I didn’t have Chance for the entire reason a New York writer/photographer flew in to meet me was to do a story on how dogs have a healing touch on survivors of sexual abuse. She took many photos that day of Chance and I.
I have walked this path thousands of times with Chance.
When I went away to college the first two years I had to leave Chance behind. My parents soon had my role walking him something I had done every day since I got him at age 12. I knew if I did not take care of him they would give him away. When I moved off campus my junior year of college I brought Chance to college with me. I had so much fun having him there. I enjoyed the walks around campus with him and discovered a great dog park that I would take him to all the time. While he was 10-11 years old the senior citizen among the other dogs he loved being around the dogs and people. My sister used to stop by my apartment with her college friend and ask “can we borrow chance and see if we can pick up any guys” of course I would let her but they didn’t have much success the people were only interested in the dog.
Chance has had many near death experiences a total of 8 times now that we thought it was his last day and we would bring him to the vet and the vet would somehow put him on something that would bring him back to himself. He has had a disease called Vestibular also known as old dog disease a total of 4 times now. It is where the dog is so dizzy some cannot walk and those that can walk can only walk in circles and fall down. It is the one time he shows no interest in his dog food unless you put a cheeseburger in front of him. Last time he had it in May I brought him to the vet and like the times before they put him on medication and in 5-7 days he is back to himself again. The latest incident with Chance was back in middle of June the day I was moments from putting him down. He was discovered by a neighbor in the back yard with heat stroke. He hadn’t been outside that long but the heat got to him quickly and he was totally unresponsive foaming at the mouth. I thought I was witnessing the dog die before my eyes. It was the most awful thing I have ever seen with Chance. We rushed him to the animal hospital where he was pumped with fluids, cold towels placed all over him. Chance’s vet came to speak with us and say his temp was at 106 and normal for a dog is 101-102. He said once they get his temp. down to 102 they will be able to tell if any damage has been done to the dog. When the doctor came back the next time he said we got it down to 102 but the dog is not responding and told me it was time to put him down. I was balling my eyes out and said please let me first say good bye. It was hitting me that this was it I was saying good bye as my mother, sister and I all cried. Minutes later the doctor came back in for the third time. “Things have changed since we last spoke he is responsive and alert” I will bring him in here and we will see how he is. A few minutes later Chance was brought in the room we were in on a stretcher just laying there. When it was set down on the table the dog that was seconds away from being put down suddenly popped his head up and was looking around like “whats up” Now we were laughing as my sister said “he is the dog that never dies” We decided he must have cat in him with 9 lives. It has been 3 months since that incident and he has not been sick but one look at him you can tell he is very old and many would have put him down awhile ago because he began having accidents in his sleep. Many would not put up with cleaning up after that but someone like me who cannot smell and plans to change the diapers of 6 children someday looks at it as preparing myself for motherhood.
The last time he was at the vet was over labor day when I boarded him while we were out of town. My parents kept telling me I was going to pick him up and be told I need to put him down however doctors did an exam on him and didn’t say that to me when I picked him up. I don’t know if it because older dogs cost more so the longer I keep him alive the more money they make. My concern I ask every time I go in is “the dog suffering” I also recently asked when do you know when is it time to put him down. I was told by the vet what is Chance’s favorite thing. I told him eating anything and everything is his favorite. She said when Chance is no longer interested in food that is a sign to put him down. Well he still is very interested in food, but his quality of life is not good. He does not get the enjoyment of what he used to do. Which is where I feel stuck. I feel I need to make that decision to put Chance down but at the same time feel like I am murdering him by putting him down. I have been praying since May for God to take Chance in his sleep. I have even said out loud several times at night to Chance “You can let go and quit fighting to live.” Well Chance is either stubborn and wants a few more cheeseburgers or God is testing my strength because I have not cried over anything as much as I have with the thought of putting him down.
Then I deal with the thought of how do I do it. Stay in the room with him but then do I want the last image of him gone forever etched in my mind. Do I say my goodbyes and leave him in the room alone with the vets or will I feel guilty for doing that but remember him last being alive and not gone. My mother and sister have already said they will not go with to put him down. They experienced putting our cat Chicken down in December when his kidneys shut down and they said it was the worst experience seeing his life leave his body. My Dad has said he will go with me or do it for me if I cannot handle it. However I want to be the one to say goodbye. My neighbor told me yesterday that her sister left the room when she put her dog down and to this day she carries guilt for not staying with him. My neighbor also told me I would not want to find that he died in his sleep. I told her I would be at so much peace if that was how it happened because then I wouldn’t feel like I am ending the poor dogs life.
I just keep telling my family I have to do it when I am busy because the days to follow and weeks after putting him down there will not be this routine of starting my morning off walking him and ending my night with walking him. It has been the start and end of my day since I was a kid and that is going to be a huge reminder of him everyday for awhile. My parents worry that the stress of me putting the dog down is going to cause me to have a seizure due to my seizure condition. Due to stress and lack of sleep being the leading factor of having seizures. I told them they don’t have to worry about that. I will cry my eyes out but I am not going to lock myself in my room for a month, go off the deep end, or start having seizures.
I say this now but I know one day I will change my mind. The heartache I am going through with this decision makes me never want to get another dog again because it is too hard to let them go, but at the same time I know I will get to a place where I move forward and will start to remember how much fun having a dog is. I do know if I were to ever get a dog again it would be when I already have my hands full with children because dogs are a big responsibility too. Unlike having cats if you want to go out of town you need someone to watch them or be home at a certain time to walk them.
I will end this by saying God has giving me a lot of strength in life over the trials I have faced I now ask him give me the strength to make this decision in the next few weeks. I feel the longer I wait the more I will cry about it and not be able to start moving forward.