It's never easy to see someone you love decline in health. I experienced it with my dad in 1997, my mom in 2008 and now it's happening again. This time it's with someone who can't verbally tell me how she feels. I have to just see it in her struggle to stand up and her slower paced walk. This time it's with my nearly 13 year old Chow, Ginger.
It really started, I guess about 5 years ago when she was seven and developed arthritis in her front legs. Thankfully, a visit to the vet and some medicine eased her pain and helped her get back to normal. A year old two later, her ears stared to look different. The vet explained that her digging her ears and shaking her head caused hemotomas and eventaually scar tissue. She looked a little different since her ears didn't raise the same anymore, but she didn't seem to notice. Her skin over the years has always seemed to be a mess. Every bath causes a hot spot. She's been on so many rounds of antibiotics that I've joked that she must be allergic to cats! I've tried the lamb and rice diet to see if it's a food allergy, but she eats cat food every chance she gets.
Around this time last year, she REALLY scared me! She was having trouble getting up in the mornings and any time she laid for a long period of time. I was terrified that she was near the end. Thankfully, once again, medicine did the trick. Half of a $2.50 pill every morning made all the difference in the world. She was literally better over night!
Right before Labor Day this year, I noticed she seemed to be slipping when she walked around the house. I thought it was due to her nails being too long. I had the trimmed when I took her to have her kennelled for the holiday weekend. When I picked her up a few days later, the vet mentioned that he had seen her wobble when she walked. I asked if she needed more arthritis medication. He shook his head and said it was her muscles getting weak. He also reminded me that she was getting old for a Chow...which I knew already.
She has her good days and bad days. One thing I have to give her credit for is that it may slow her down, but she keeps trying. She doesn't bounce through the house anymore (I miss that SO much!), but she still insists on visiting the yard next door every morning. One morning I planned on just taking her out to the cable on the porch, but she insisted on heading down the street. That wouldn't have been a problem if I were dressed in more that a bath sheet and flip flops! I'm glad the two houses next to me are vacant...I'm sure I was a sight. She was almost to the highway before I caught her. Not bad for a arthritic, weak-muscled dog! She might stagger, but she keeps trying. I love her determination.
My biggest worry is that I will have to make that final decision for her. I don't want to do that. It breaks my heart to even think about it. I don't want to lose her, but I'd rather she go in her sleep. I had to make that horrible decision for my last dog, Comet, and two cats that I had. I got Ginger when she was 8 weeks old. I've watch her grow from a tiny puppy to 55 poiunds of fur. I'll be with her until the end, but I don't want it to end! I hope she leaves this Earth peacefully in her sleep, but if she tells me she's not happy, I'll do what I have to do.
Until then, I plan to make her as happy as possible. That means slow walks up to the end of the block now instead of a mile or more. It means letting her have some cat food and human food now and then. It means car rides whenever I'm going on a quick trip or even a long ride just for her. I wish I had know that she liked car rides before she was 11 years old! I have a lot of regrets. I wish I could have done some things differently. I can't change that, but I can do my best for the rest of her life.
I got a an email a couple weeks ago that included the following link. I think it's a great idea for anyone with a beloved pet. Ginger and my 17 year old cat, Snowball, have both outlived Max and Salem who were only 8 and 7 when they died from cancer. You never know when their last day will be, so try to have a perfect day every once in a while.