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The "one bad day"... and pets

 
pollinator
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I probably have more questions than answers on this topic, and more of anecdotal stories than anything else. But I'm interested in your experiences and thoughts.
So we're pampering our animals, the farm animals anyway. They have more than one purpose in a permaculture system, and usually they live in beautiful settings. The only "bad day" is when they have to be butchered, and it's often just a bad moment if it can be done on a farm.

But it's quite different if these animals are pets. I keep seeing stories (on Facebook) about older animals with long term illnesses. Yesterday it was a dog taken from its owner, because he wanted to euthanize the dog instead of treating it. There was a photo; said dog had serious back/pelvis problems, maybe a spine injury. It could barely walk and now it was being rescued, which means not only long and painful treatment, but also changing humans and places.
Today: an older dog, given up by its family when the owner died. This dog is visibly old and has a bladder problem, which means it does not hold urine. It's also being rescued and treated by some organization (which is raising money to do so).
The arguement for treating all these animals is that they're family, and you wouldn't abandon a family member. More often than not, when I hear that an animal is treated "like a human", it eventually means trouble for that animal.
So I'm trying to never compare these animals to humans. I think it's always different for the human. Even if an elderly person with a bladder problem somehow ended up with an uncontacted tribe, or some other extremely exotic humans, and didn't get killed by them, they would still be more able to communicate.
Strangely enough, in yesterday's news I heard about a successful lung transplant in an elderly man; he was the oldest to survive this kind of surgery so far. The doctor said something like: "we're not only bringing him back to life, he will even be able to go back to work, pay taxes and thus continue to contribute to society". Although the guy was already retired.
Would anyone say anything like this about a dog? Of course the pet's only job is to make humans happy, and they are usually happy when they can rescue an animal.

I suppose that many of you have pets along with your farm animals. Maybe you also let your farm animals die of old age and/or treat them until their last breath. How do you know when enough is enough?
Many people judge the sitiuation by the amount of pain and discomfort the animal has to go through; but often it's hardly predictable, when it changes from day to day. Some of these things happen to farm animals too; I have friends who let their egg laying hens die naturally. I recently asked my vet about it and he said that no hens die naturally; if she died, she had to be sick. But these friends still think that it's more humane to let the hen get old and sick, than kill while she's still young and healthy.  
Sometimes I think it would be better if people were able to euthanize pets for no reason, anytime. Even if they somehow euthanized all cats and dogs, it wouldn't disturb any natural ecosystems; it could actually be a relief for them. Isn't it forbidden just so the irresponsible people can't get rid of a burden? Even if, should being responsible for another creature ever be a punishment? It's usually said creature that gets punished, anyway; by being abandoned, neglected, or put through a long and painful treatment.
 
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I've watched relatives go through cancer treatment I would not force a dog to go through the same. I do not believe in treating animals like humans but I do differentiate between farm animals and pets. When one of our cats came in through the catflap with it's tail hanging on by a strip of skin it was whisked straight to the vet. A chicken that had it's tail pecked off was caught, treated with antiseptic and put into a clean box to make it or not. (both animals survived fine if tailless) My dog got hit by a train, she lost lots of teeth and broke the last two vertebrae in her tail, had she broken the next one up she would have been paralysed and put down. as it was she spent the night at the vets and the next few weeks on painkillers. So farm animals live until they get sick, then they get palliative treatment if they recover great if they don't they are killed. Chickens are killed when they stop laying well unless they are good broodies and then they stay around. Pets get more care but not limitless.

There's a big difference in my opinion in treating something that is then "fixed" say removing a deformed leg from a puppy, it will do fine on 3. to putting one with no back legs into a wheelchair. We have limited resources and I feel a lot of these treatments waste them. How many humans could you help with the cost of that dogs lifetime care?
 
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I just started a similar thread. The guidelines I use is if the pet is suffering and quality of life.
 
Flora Eerschay
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I noticed that it got linked to my other thread on a similar topic. Looks like I'm pondering on this for a while now, haha.
 
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A timely topic for our family. Another thing is finances. I had cats in a time in my life where if their medical bills exceeded a few hundred dollars I would not be able to treat them.

My morals guide my feelings on these matters. Cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation? I wouldn’t. Those are very painful and we have no way to gauge how bad our animals are hurting. There is also no guarantee of success. Bladder issues? Yeah, I would deal with that. They can be made comfortable as an outside dog or diapering isn’t too difficult. Putting down an animal that has perfect quality of life but is just inconvenient doesn’t jive with my morals.

Most importantly, I try not to judge the choices of others. If they have the money to pay for a really expensive procedure that’s their choice. If people donated their hard earned money to pay for a doggy wheelchair that’s what they wanted to do with their money. It’s not my money or my choice. I believe life has value and I don’t like the idea of people killing animals when they become a little more work. I don’t see why its bad if someone out there wants to take on animals that are a lot more work when their previous owners can’t or won’t care for them.

I‘ve always questioned why we have the double standard of putting sick animals down to ease their pain but don’t allow humans to make the same choice for themselves.
 
John F Dean
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We had a cat with cancer.  I had the tumor removed once.  It grew back. We did not opt for chemo. The cat was much too old.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Skandi Rogers wrote:I do not believe in treating animals like humans but I do differentiate between farm animals and pets.



Yet another anecdote: I used to have pet rats. I chose rats because "officially" they're pests, so I would be able to put them down whenever I feel is right, instead of waiting until they're "suffering enough". I also chose animals that live in a cage, because I could create a perfect world for them in that cage (most people believe that cages = bad, so one reason they decide to keep a cat or a dog is that it doesn't have to live in a cage; but a human house is far from ideal dog environment usually).
And then there are people who decide that a certain farm animal becomes their pet, and people who will butcher their beloved pet farm animal to spare them any future suffering...

S Greyzoll wrote:I don’t see why its bad if someone out there wants to take on animals that are a lot more work when their previous owners can’t or won’t care for them.



In my opinion, the problem is that for most domesticated animals, comfort means people, things and places they're familiar with. When they have to change homes and owners, that's already suffering. If they're sick at the same time, it's just more suffering.

Sometimes a change of lifestyle is already too much. I had an opportunity to adopt a retired racehorse, which had a career ending injury on the track. It was still in the racing stable, and it died to ulcers before I even arrived to see it. The horse was already recovering, but the stress of not being able to work along with other horses was unbearable for her.

As for the inconvenience; I think it's very personal too. Like Brian wrote in the topic about humane slaughter: "One of the things not often considered when looking for "the most humane way", is the comfort of the person doing the slaughter.".
In this case, it's the comfort of the person who will care for the handicapped animal. For example, I don't believe a 3-legged dog can be happy. I know most people think it can, I've seen all the cute pictures, I've seen their doggy smiles, but I still don't believe it. To some extent, yes; just like brachycephalic dogs are as happy as they can, and german shepherds with their mutilated spines, and so many other cases that Jemima Harrison described in her Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog and documentary.
Still - pets are to make people happy. So if person is happy changing doggy diapers, walking a dog in a wheelchair, etc., maybe that's the point?

While I try not to compare animals and humans, if we looked at it differently: how would the animal "treat" us? When my animal thinks that I'm sick or suffering, it will cuddle me, maybe lick my hands and face, scare away any strangers, maybe even bring me some of their food. Similarly to what they do when they try to protect a vulnerable member of their herd (not all species of course). That's nothing like what we do. Of course we know better what will really help them, but what they experience is just pain and fear.
 
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Thanks for this thread. I think about this a lot.

Our middle-aged dog has dilated cardiomyopathy (so can't efficiently pump oxygenated blood, has an elevated breathing rate). I follow a DCM group on Facebook to see how the disease progresses. We will probably go further in her treatment than some would (because we can afford to) but not as far as others (our dog's quality of life will seem too decreased, as described by others going through this with their pets).

This is the only life our dog gets, so we'll try to make it as long as it can be without suffering, as much as we can judge that. But we also have the means to do that. Is that the best use of our money? I don't know. Probably not. And yet, she's our responsibility. It's a tough one.

We don't raise animals for meat now, but might at some time. I think I could only do it if we were able to figure out butchering on our own property, to make that "one bad day" into just a moment.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Erica Colmenares wrote:I think I could only do it if we were able to figure out butchering on our own property, to make that "one bad day" into just a moment.



I must say, that I desensitized myself to that after long and painful treatment my dog received. It was weeks, not days. Of course butchering should be as quick and painless as possible, but... perhaps veterinary treatment too. The end shouldn't justify the means.

On a lighter note; during one of the visits (at some point I was at the vets every day), a friend of mine said that in the movies, the criminals are usually taken to a vet instead of a human doctor. I've just watched "Inglourious Bastards" and there was such scene indeed. Seems like in popular perception, a vet is like someone between a doctor and a butcher; maybe rightly so. Also in the movies, they usually fix people in a gruesome manner, but quickly and effectively...
 
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Taking my old dog to the vet to be euthanized was the worst thing I've ever had to do and I never want to do it again, and for that reason I don't want a dog again.  I still feel guilty about it seven years on, even though she had got to a point where she could barely walk and was hardly eating.  I still wish she had died at home without me intervening.  

Yet I don't feel guilty about the chickens I have killed;  I've killed several to eat, plus one because she had a terrible prolapse.  It's kind of a strange disconnect, because after I killed the prolapsed chicken all I felt was relief that she was no longer suffering.
 
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Yes, this is a very tough subject and many people have strong opinions that they are sure are what everyone should feel, even though we don't. There are so many factors - the animal's feelings and condition - the human's feelings and state of being, and feelings are "feelings" not rational logic.

S Greyzoll wrote:

I‘ve always questioned why we have the double standard of putting sick animals down to ease their pain but don’t allow humans to make the same choice for themselves.

I agree - there are now limited laws here in Canada which allows under very narrow circumstances (mainly painful cancers where the line is pretty sharp) for "doctor assisted suicide".

A point which has not been raised is that some of the drugs used to put animals down are highly toxic and stay so for a very long time. That limits our ability to allow the "circle of life" where an animal can decompose and feed the soil and surrounding plants also gets impacted.

Luckily we have friends with low-powered bullets, as a well-placed shot is actually fast enough to be humane in many situations. Another one we've used is hypothermia - the animal tends to just curl up and die quietly with no sign of distress and I've read of this technique elsewhere.  I suppose in a way that was what the Inuit did when elders who could no longer contribute to their group chose to float off on an ice flow. We certainly had a rescue cat who would have preferred that if she hadn't wandered off on her own following a stroke. I hope she just curled up and passed, rather than being attacked and killed violently, but I suspect the former as she knew lots of hidey holes in the forest.

Ultimately, every case must be judged on its own merit - every animal is different as is every caretaker. Many animals and humans know when they're "done" - I believe in respecting that.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Jay Angler wrote:A point which has not been raised is that some of the drugs used to put animals down are highly toxic and stay so for a very long time.



Here, the euthanized animals are taken to a municipal waste incinerator. During the time when I was at the vets daily with my dog, people brought him animals that were already dead; for example a cat that fell out the window. He would then call the place to send it there. I don't know how toxic the smoke is... maybe they filter it somehow? There are also pet cemeteries and some people bury their pets in their gardens.
 
S Greyzoll
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My mother In Law had to put down her cat just a few weeks ago. She paid a bit more to have a vet come to her home. Kitty got a tranquilizer first, and went under in her loving owners arms being petted and loved. Then she was given the shot to stop her heart. There was no indication of pain or distress and my MIL got to keep her until she was ready for the vet to take her. I can’t imagine anything much more humane than that for a pet, and if the situation allowed for it I’d do the same for my own pet.


I would also consider the outlook for treatments and therapies. Is this a very old pet, or one that could be gaining 5+ years of life from treatment? There’s of course a lot of personal preference and situational consideration we all have to think through when the time comes to make these choices. As long as no one is killing healthy happy pets for their own convenience I don’t have a hard time letting everyone make their own choices for their pets.
 
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I see all sides of this, I am owned by 11 dogs who are all 7+ yrs old; I also take in "broken dogs" be they rescues or when my vet is facing a "convenience euthanasia"; I also rescue sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

MY dogs: we often hear the phrase "quality of life", but what does that actually mean? To me that is does my dog have JOY; do they enjoy feeding, cuddling, light up when I come home, have "interest" in what is going on; but most of all, do they have JOY.

As to treating an illness, condition or injury I first look at the animals expected lifespan, am I going to do an invasive surgery on a dog that is at or past it's expected lifespan, no. It would spend it's remaining time recovering and adapting. Rule of thumb, for every week an animal is ill, it will take a MONTH to fully recover.

If that dog has more than a year of expected life, then yes, I will treat MOST conditions, BUT it would take a lot for me to do extensive, invasive chemo, or anything that would exceed $5,000.

I figure a dog provides AT MINMUM one or two dollars worth of joy/work, a day; so are WORTH at least $5,000, each, over their lifespan in care, above just food and the purchase price.

Our pets are completely dependent on us to provide the best quality of life, and the best death possible. Most are, give or take, the mental equivalent of a human toddler so we are responsible for them, as we would a child - that is not to equate them with a child, but to explain OUR level of responsibility, in my opinion.

So yes, when your pet needs a dental, cough up the cash (mine run $500-$1,000 a pop), no one should suffer or die for bad teeth. When an injury occurs, yes, amputate that leg (even in the wild, tripods live long full lives). Get regular vaccines, blood work, urinalysis; if meds are required, get them and use them appropriately - in my opinion, that is the deal, we provide the required care, they do their job, even if that is only as our companion.

As someone that has taken in countless pets that were no longer "wanted", abused, or old; whose owners died, could not afford their care or CHOSE not to provide care. I can assure you, I have yet to have one that "did not come around". Majority simply don't even blink, dogs live in the moment, not on memories, they have NOW. Some take a day or so, some it is years before they shake off horrific abuse fully; but they all MUST have some joy, at all times.

Often these animals come to me, with a laundry list of issues; the truth is they got the dog for the kids who have now left home; or the brown dog is shedding on the new white furniture, so they decided to "replace it or trade it" for a white one!  I have personally experienced these situations, sadly, multiple times.  These are NOT valid reasons for euthanasia, this is killing due to inconvenience, in my opinion.

These are LIVES, before we make the decision to end a life, we must honestly ask WHY. If there is the remotest chance we ARE being selfish, making assumptions, or simply can not afford it's care, we need to surrender that animal rather than extinguish that joy.

I will also say, just because a treatment or surgery IS available, does NOT mean it is the "right" choice. I face this a lot with wildlife, but the issue is the same with pets or livestock. Always, honestly, consider what this will cost the animal, mentally, physically and spiritually. The necessary treatment may compromise the kidney's, complicate a pre-existing condition or affect a necessary medication. It is always a balancing act, and often, a sliding scale.

There is NEVER a hard or fast rule when it comes to animals. Treat when it is right to do so; pass the animal to another if that is beyond your means; and be strong enough to never let them suffer a moment longer than necessary.  Once their joy has dimmed to flickers, and you KNOW they are living, solely for you, honor that friendship, and let them be at peace.
 
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I love animals, and I've been through this enough times to know how truly horrible it is to lose them. My own rule, that I try my best to live by, is that it's time to put them down when I'm keeping them alive for my sake rather than theirs.  And yes, I think that same rule should apply to humans.
 
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Lorinne, I would have given you an apple if I had one to give, your sentiments resonate with mine but you express them better than I could.  Thank you.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Trace Oswald wrote:My own rule, that I try my best to live by, is that it's time to put them down when I'm keeping them alive for my sake rather than theirs.  And yes, I think that same rule should apply to humans.



I agree with both! With humans, it's a bit complicated as they tend to get scared of the idea that they lose independence and opportunities, as they age or their health issues get worse. Animals are much easier to reassure. Although working animals seem to have similar issues when they can't work anymore. They get depressed similarly to retired people sometimes.

As for dogs adjusting to new places: with mine, it was different each time. There was a drama queen who would try the Lassie thing even long time after parting with his owners, and there was a happy-go-lucky goldie who thought that her home is where her furry butt is, as long as she's fed. For my current dog, it takes a week to get over the 'grief' when I leave and another week to bond with a new person. He is a dog of one owner. He's also a bit wild, so he would probably escape if he had to change houses too. He was sort of a "working dog", because he's a sighthound and people used to keep them in orchards so they would hunt rabbits. It's illegal now, but some people still do it illegally, and he was one of such dogs.

I like the idea of having multiple dogs; that's one thing I envy the breeders. They get to observe the pack behaviour, and also maternal instincts in females. But it's hard to manage a biodiverse permie ecosystem that includes dogs, especially when it's relatively tiny; so I never had more than three at once, and even then each usually had a different owner, they just lived together (or rather: used the same garden as their toilet...).

My rule (which I broke) is that my dog shouldn't be more miserable than its food. I can't grow dog food (although I know owners who do - mostly rabbits and sheep), but I know where it comes from and what impact on the environment it has. I now have a more "permie approach" to that, and I suppose that in the future all animals in my homestead will be something in between pets and parts of the ecosystem.

There is a wonderful book by Kay Milton, titled "Loving Nature: Towards an Ecology of Emotion". She described two seemingly opposite approaches to environment protection: one is to rescue any living being, regardless of its status, and the other: to maintain biodiversity and protect endangered species mainly. Of course we can only go so far down the rabbit hole of "pet food chain" and other supplies... but maybe it's worth a thought.
 
Olga Booker
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Jay Angler wrote:


A point which has not been raised is that some of the drugs used to put animals down are highly toxic and stay so for a very long time. That limits our ability to allow the "circle of life" where an animal can decompose and feed the soil and surrounding plants also gets impacted.  



It is true, but there is worse then that.  You might not know and you might not like it but euthanised animals (including pets) have been used for pet food for years. Besides the sheer immorality of it, the highly toxic pentobarbitalf is ingested by our pets.

https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-industry-exposed/euthanized-pets-dog-food/
https://www.change.org/p/nestle-purina-petcare-are-you-including-euthanized-animals-in-dry-pet-food-products

I guess it is another good reason for me to feed my animals a natural diet and to bury them on my land.  If I could not bury them I would have them cremated.
 
Flora Eerschay
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Even simple painkillers have negative impact on the environment, when their processed remainings are flushed down toilets. This reminds me of when my dog was on antibiotics (three kinds of them for two weeks, along with other drugs), he never wanted to pee in the garden. I had to take him out to the street every time. Maybe he somehow wanted to protect the micro life in our soil? That would be some clever instinct.

 
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Flora Eerschay wrote:
I recently asked my vet about it and he said that no hens die naturally; if she died, she had to be sick.


I'm not so sure about that. I had a chicken that was eight years old when she died. She had stopped laying years before, she was blind in one eye and couldn't see out of the other and obviously a little arthritic. It always amazed me that the other chickens let her eat but it was almost like they were afraid of her. Anyway one morning she didn't come out of the coop, I found her still on the roost having died in her sleep. Was kind of nice I thought that this one particular chicken died like that as it is more common for my chickens to die by rapid beheading.

In the last 30 years I have had to have two dogs put down by the vet; one because of cancer the other kidney failure.  Due to their level of suffering it wasn't possible to let them pass like the chicken did. Wilbur was 14, I buried him by light of the truck headlights in a cold October rain. The uncomfortable nature of it seemed appropriate.  15 years later Ethel went in the ground beside him on a very, very hot July afternoon, the ground was so dry I had to chop at it with a ax.  I won't write any more about them except to say I still miss them both.

Other farm animals are just that, farm animals. Still they deserve good care and respect until the bad day comes and in the case of sick or injured helped on their way as humanly as possible. I've found a bullet to the back of the head to be effective but it is never a pleasant task.
 
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Long ago I worked at a veterinary teaching hospital that had an experimental cancer wing. Yeah, some of the dogs were "cured". However, I decided I would NEVER do that. Those dogs do not understand what is going on. They just know that they feel bad and when they go for treatment they feel so much worse. I've had to make that decision too. We put down my absolute favorite dog when he had cancer. He was only 4 years old and it broke my heart. Watching him suffer and not understand would have been worse though.

We've also put a dog down at home. It was way harder on my hubs to do it that way but as we've put plenty of dogs down at the vet, and this one was so old and injured there would have been no recovery (being old and blind he severely hurt himself while outside). We could have driven to town with him. It would have been emotionally easier on us. It's less easy on the animals though. That's my opinion. They know what the vet office is. They don't like it. Dying at home is preferable.


We have two dogs right now we are simply trying to keep as comfortable as possible. When it is no longer possible they will be put down. One has really bad hips. He's still able to move about and such and we are giving him lots of stuff, but when he can't get up anymore we will put him down. The other one is 11 and we've been giving him antibiotics for 3 months. Every time we stop the antibiotics he starts peeing blood again. Vet has no idea what is up with him other than it may be cancer, because he tested negative for everything else. When we can't keep him comfortable we will put him down.
 
elle sagenev
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:.

As someone that has taken in countless pets that were no longer "wanted", abused, or old; whose owners died, could not afford their care or CHOSE not to provide care. I can assure you, I have yet to have one that "did not come around". Majority simply don't even blink, dogs live in the moment, not on memories, they have NOW. Some take a day or so, some it is years before they shake off horrific abuse fully; but they all MUST have some joy, at all times.



I don't know about that. We had a dog abandoned on our road. It just lay there at the very spot it was abandoned, next to the starbucks cup thrown out with it. All of us tried to catch this dog. We couldn't. Even animal contrl, who set up various traps and such, couldn't catch it. We put food out for it but it never, ever ate it. Everyone on our street watched as this dog starved to death. It couldn't, or wouldn't, move on.
 
Flora Eerschay
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My dog still doesn't play fetch, although it's been a long time since he had any related trauma. When someone throws a tennis ball to play with another dog, he will hide and be like "people are throwing stones at dogs!".
I believe in creating a happy life, whether it's a pet, or breeding stock, farm animal, or a pest. Which reminds me of this article: Why I'm ashamed to be a vet: a shocking exposé of the profession that puts pets through 'painful and unnecessary treatments to fleece their trusting owners'. Quote:

"Common sense must prevail. A loving pet owner does not humanise their cat or dog but realises it is an animal. The loving owner does not want to maximise their pet's life at any cost but puts their animal's welfare first. Do not fear the death of your pet when the time comes. Instead, embrace it and ensure your pet has a good death in the same way you gave it a good life."
 
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Lorinne, thank you so much. My little Chihuahua, age 20, is declining. He is going blind and deaf and his sense of smell seems to be failing, as well. I have felt guilty for wanting to end it because of his incontinence - I clean up multiple times a day.

His sole joy is lying in the sun on the porch. I expect he may die peacefully at home soon, but your post (particularly about joy) makes me think I should consider euthanasia now regardless of his incontinence.

He can’t frolic outside any more because he can’t see well enough. Even last week he sometimes still did that. So little joy. It might be time.
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Lorinne Anderson
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I am grateful any time I can help someone with a difficult decision. If my words did that, then I offer you my virtual hugs, and thank you for hearing what I had to say.

A good death, is one of the last gifts of love and loyalty we can offer our furred companions. My heart is with you.
 
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