Well the day finally came. My beloved “Max”, my beautiful wonderful King Shepherd and buddy for 13+ years, finally told me it was time. I had always hoped when the time came he would pass away peacefully in his sleep and I’d bury him out back next to his brother who died at 7 weeks from a heart defect. That was not to be.
Max was losing control of his bodily functions and had become very wobbly when he would get up. His appetite was becoming non-existent and he would rather drink water than anything else. The sparkle in his eyes was gone and he was clearly uncomfortable. His occasional “good days” had become a memory but I kept clinging to the idea that he would get better and he kept clinging to life.
I’ve had dogs for over 40 years and Max is not the first one I’ve had to put down. They were all hard but there was something about this boy that made it even harder. Maybe it was because Max was born in my house and was my buddy from day 1. Maybe it was the way he would howl at every siren or fire whistle no matter what time of the day or night; his head high in the air with that long loud howl of his ancestors. Even if he had woken up the whole house, it always made me smile. Or maybe it was because he was just a wonderful dog; 120 lbs. of love without a mean bone in his body.
Don’t get me wrong, he was every bit the protector of his domain that you would expect and could be very intimidating with his deep booming bark and scary growl, but if one of us welcomed someone in, be it a person or animal, he was o.k. with that; friendly and gentle but always alert.
Three of my dogs I had to put down were because of cancer. One was Max’s mother. She had a cancerous tumor on her spleen that no one knew about until it burst and by the time we got her to the vet and then rushed her to the veterinary hospital there was little that they could do. She was only 7. Two others developed extremely aggressive cancer in their throats and couldn’t be saved. They were bith 5. Why did they get cancer? Who knows. None of them were related or even the same breed. (Lab, German Shepherd & King Shepherd) But losing a dog is always hard..
It’s always difficult to make that decision for one of your dogs but this is the first time I felt a deep sense of betrayal on my part. It’s the first time I really thought about the trust Max had for me. Strangely enough, Max loved to go to the vet. I don’t know if it was because it was just a road trip or was it because he knew if he wasn’t feeling well, after a vet visit he always felt better. But knowing Max it was most likely just because we were doing something together.
I had taken him to the vet many times over 13 years and he knew that nothing bad was going to happen to him. He trusted the vet and he trusted me totally. As he followed me into one of the exam rooms he had no idea that this time would be different.
After my vet did an examination he agreed it was time. After our good byes and a couple of injections it was over. No turning back; no do overs. As I looked at his lifeless body laying there I couldn’t help but feel I had betrayed his trust. This time he wouldn’t feel better. This time he wasn’t coming home. This time I had brought him in to end his life.
Is euthanasia the ultimate betrayal?
The answer is NO. It’s an act of love. I believe that. It’s an extremely hard and sad decision to make but even when you love a dog as much as I loved Max, when there is no more quality of life and each day becomes more miserable than the day before, that same love dictates that you relieve them of their misery. You are not betraying a trust, you are fulfilling it. And although your sense of loss is great, when it’s time, it’s the right thing to do.
(When your dog is gone: http://doggy-stuff.ncc-de.com/when-your-dog-is-gone/)