Our Beloved Pets Final Days

Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash

Despite all to the contrary, today threatens to be a fine day.

After all, it’s Friday, not going anywhere either. Sitting still, as if my next breath can choose to engage me, or not, and who cares? There’s a feeling of freshness, one I can behold, and one I can extend a sense of gratitude to.

When this happens, we take note, as these moments seem far and in between.

Predictably, as with almost every other day, there are events unfolding here in the house. We could say it’s the human reality.

Max, our fourteen-year-old beagle not doing well. On his last legs potentially. He may hang on there but in a much more slowed down version, then again, he may just determine that it’s time to go. A dog near her or his end will sense something. I mean besides a physical agony. I believe they can feel it ending.

Mother Nature has her ways of keeping us informed. I’m not sure that the human method of sensing death is the best. An animal, it’s just much more straightforward, not a lot of beating around the bush.

Seems to me this is the way to go.

Not making myself very clear. I cross a threshold from blurriness to clarity for moments. It’s then I have some helpful thoughts, things perhaps worthwhile to note. What do we do when one’s close friend nears their time on the planet? Drawing from the deep well of human intelligence and the purely human unfortunate skill in building castles in the sky, all made of sand, insubstantial.

An animal doesn’t have to deal with this. This curse.

When their time comes, a built-in program, all preset, kicks in, or clicks on, sets the animal on the final path. Oh sure, I think they do everything possible to avoid pain. Seems logical to me. That’s what I will do. I will avoid pain no matter how, but I will.

Even if it means smashing my head against a brick wall, screaming for death to come and mercifully wrap its dank, dark cloak about me…

So an animal does the same via literal bodily repositioning, as a starter, then perhaps complaining, eating less, eating more, things out of routine, shitting when it shouldn’t. For about a week now Max awakens me without fail around two in the morning; a gentle whine, a paw across my leg. We go downstairs for a snack and to take a leak. It’s the end and the signals start coming in loud and clear. There’s even something in that nature created an inner wonder program for the time to die. A way to deal with the almost guaranteed agony. They have little choice in the matter if you think about it. Nor do we.

When it’s their time, our time, it’s when it happens. So starkly pure and in a way so richly simple.

It’s up to us human to deal with it. Our human ways are used to help a dying furry family member. We apply all the usual sentiment towards our little friend, as hopeless as it becomes. We question god’s cruel world, for cruel it is have no doubt. Notwithstanding all the excellent manual instructions in Barnes and Noble on the many excellent ways to die. It’s apparently up to us to determine in a very limited way and probably a very wrong way how to deal with our friends passing.

Sincerity, all other things being absent can go a long way to help.

No doubt in our efforts to help them along this difficult path, we for sure commit blunder upon blunder. How can it be otherwise? For god’s sake, we’re humans. We really have no clue about what’s happening when a pet approaches death. We do what seems the most logical. Cover him in a blanket, clean up after her increasing messes. We explore how to keep the little guy eating. How might we provide comfort? We caress them; we hold them. At best, we go bumping into that cold, scary night wondering how best to go about it.

One of those is we feed them. We do so probably to a point where it really isn’t helping, probably causing pain, more than there already is. Seems to me the only solution is meds. Drugs which soften the fall. Of course, at the final moments, the ideal is the injection that sends the little fellow from here to there. We cry but our pet is no more, free. No more suffering. Yay meds.

Just now, Max squirmed his way under my cramped desk space. First time. This is another sign. When the little guys behave in new ways, doing stuff never seen before. These are symptoms of what’s coming. This seems to be a no brainer. The vets seem to agree with that.

What’s with this awakening me of late, as I said, every morning at two? He wants to go downstairs to eat a snack and take a leak. Nothing wrong with that. But clearly out of sync, his physical state is clearly degenerating.

His papilloma, a growth that manifests in ugly, little greyish things that seem to grow where ever it wants. Though surgically removed for the third time, two weeks ago has returned in full bloom. I wish I could take a sharp scraper and rake it across the roof and floor of his mouth and throat. This to rid him of the ugly little bastards, cauliflower-like growths. These are the little things that make eating almost a nightmare for him. They have even affected his breathing, too.

His old skin condition, which he has dealt with since a puppy in Panama, has come alive again with a vengeance, it seems, as though announcing that this time we will not get rid of it. There’s so much unseen bacterial growth in the fertile tropical air of panama. Whatever his skin condition is has hung on for his entire life. Now it has returned, increased with renewed vigor.

This latest manifestation, apart from the many skin aberrations around his body, is a smudge like rash which began on his chest. At first, just one inch round. Our vet gave him creams, anti-biotics, instructions to clean frequently. Last night, as Johnny did his nightly curing of Max’s afflicted areas, which include unsightly growths emerging from between his toes, I examined his chest area.

The original smudge has spread to cover his entire chest, creeped down to around his genitals, and is constantly dripping blood. It’s this sore which is giving Max his greatest source of discomfort. He deals well with the skin sores, even has managed the persistent papilloma in his mouth and between his toes.

But this massive ‘scrape’ on his chest imposes itself upon the little guy’s sense of peace. I think it’s driving him crazy. He does the only thing he knows, licks all day. He can just reach the sore with his back paw, doing more damage as he scrapes at it. The chest sore has formed an incredible scab in some places, almost a quarter inch thick.

Looks like an over cooked slice of thick French toast…

It’s like there’s just no getting away from it. It’s like no matter what meds we give him, how often Johnny scrubs the area washing with oxygenated water, then, with his special medicated soap, applies a curative cream when done. Nothing. It just gets worse! I mean, come on, how the hell is that possible? The bug, the badness he holds in his body, is so damned persistent to Johnny’s efforts.

About all we can do at this point is to be there for him. Johnny makes a wonderful effort at curing and providing comfort with little result.

So this is pointing in several alike directions. It seems inevitable that this may be the last days for Max. It comes down then to how much longer? What is his level of pain? A key question. Recovery would really have to be some sort of miracle. Though I believe in these things and that things beyond our understanding happen. At seventy-one, I’ve been witness to one or more of these things. Happen every day, most of the times we’re not even aware. But a miracle to cure and heal the mess he’s in, I find highly improbable.

Veterinarian and we alike find useful the words, ‘quality of life’. Is Max at a place where his discomfort is still manageable? If we knew that he’s not suffering too much, then life continues, albeit limping, but within a certain acceptability.

The big question being: how can we know if he’s not going through an insupportable pain? If I knew his pain level was a nightmare, I’d load him up in the car right now and drive him to the vets to end his pain. That’s just it. We have no way of knowing. He is incapable of telling us, hey I’m dying here, the pain is the worst; I want to get out of here.

But there’s no way for us to know. Oh sure, animals will cry when in serious pain. But who can tell me that animals, our dog friends, can’t be so strong that when in pain often choose silence? Oh, of course they do!

Frankly, if I err, I’d rather it be on the side of being overcautious rather than hope his pain isn’t all that great. Hold out in the faith that by pumping him full of meds that he’s feeling no pain when he finally goes.

Then, that would be a good thing, As well as ‘good’ can be given this situation.

There seems to be room for common sense, a careful logic. Again, pain being the enemy here. I don’t even want to hear that animals are built to handle pain and discomfort when they’re dying. Personally, I feel such an assumption is baloney.

You do as you would like to have done to you when it’s your time. At least I feel this way. Think about it. What’s the point of extending the time until death by hours or minutes? Oh hell, even a week? Not me anyway. I’d like to think that those around me, if I’m lucky enough to have them at my time, will know that I will want to be suitably loaded with all the drugs available.

Send me on my way.

I should think the same thinking applies to our beloved pets. Again, falling into that old trap. Imposing the unreliable human desire and all too often ill advised perspective over my dear pet’s wishes. Whatever they may be, we have no way of knowing. Well sure! I mean, I don’t know what my dying pet wants, do I? So I do the next best thing. Give him drugs leading up to his last moment so that when it’s time to put him asleep, he will be relatively without pain and discomfort.

Put yourself in our furry friend’s place. I try. A bit of empathy is a required here. Think for the little guy, and not of what’s best for their human fellow beings.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store