Yesterday I had to carry out the hardest and kindest act we can do for our pet. I had to give my 16.5 year old dog her Angel Wings. If I could have given her eternal life and health, I would have done so. However our dogs are only on loan to us for a short time, and when they age they have quite distinctive needs.
As my girl got older I first noticed she experienced hearing loss and poor eyesight. The hearing loss wasn't easily picked up because she always had "selective" hearing anyway, however when I could arrive home, put the car away, and come in the door without her waking from her nap, I knew it was real. The failing eyesight meant she had to learn to navigate by nose so I didn't move furniture around. She needed to be able to predict where things were located.
As she aged she also was prone to feeling the cold more intensely. In winter I made sure she wore a coat outdoors, and I made sure she always had a warm place to sleep indoors. Mostly she was an inside dog as she got older. In summer I also made sure there were cool places for her and multiple water containers so she could easily find a drink when she needed one.
She developed mild kidney disease which meant limited food choices for her. With a strict regime of no red meats she remained fairly healthy although her urine smelled horrible. Like all very elderly beings (people and dogs) she gradually became unable to hold on to her bladder and bowels for more than about 5 hours, and that soon became a shorter and shorter period of time. There were daily messes to clean up and bedding to wash. Eventually she was unable to hold in her wee whilst sleeping so I added old towels to her bed which meant I could do a quick change if she weed overnight. I fastened a bell to her collar so I would hear her getting restless and I could get up to take her outside.
In the last two years there was a steady increase in dementia. There were times when the familiar world puzzled her. There were times when she wandered the house aimlessly until I picked her up and placed her in her bed and soothed her to sleep with pats. She used to be an incredibly snuggly dog, but towards the end she didn't want to be held.
I will miss the snuggles and her funny ways. I will miss my small white dog who was an escape artist, a dedicated hunter, who lived her life with joy and gave so much love when I sorely needed it through some tough times. I will miss the click of her claws and the jingle of her collar as she paced the house. I miss making her special meals. I will even miss the cleanups, the laundry, the smells. They all meant she was with me, but now she is gone.
If you are not prepared to live with an elderly dog, to care for them and clean up after them, then don't get a dog. If you have an elderly or ageing dog, treasure every moment, even the yucky ones. Believe me, you will miss all of it.
If you are needing help and advice about grieving for your pet, or if you are trying to make that final decision, then I strongly recommend you look at "Fur the Broken Hearted" by Nikki Catley. This is an eBook and is available on Amazon. The information and advice helped me to come to terms with what was happening to my old girl, and I am hoping I was able to release her before she was in distress.
The pain will continue for a while. I will never forget my girl and will take her memory to the grave with me. She was my companion for a quarter of my life and taught me so much about caring for and training a dog. She gave me unconditional love. I am forever in her debt.