Pet Memorial Day and the Decision to Say “Goodbye”

Owning a pet sitting company is awesome.  I get to come into contact with all kinds of different animals and it is so much fun to be around them.  One of the few bad things is when one of them passes away.  It’s hard on me and I can see what it does to not only the families of the pets, but the other animals in the family.

Jack N

Jack enjoying a walk on the nature trail. He passed away in May.

Sunday, June 14 is World Pet Memorial Day, and I thought that was a good time to address something that I have seen several clients dealing with lately.  A couple of weeks ago, I lost 3 client dogs.  Two of them were 2 of the dogs that I care for the most.  In both of those situations, the owners had to make the hardest decision a pet owner has to make.  Has the pet’s quality of life deteriorated to the point where it’s time to say goodbye forever?  They both felt like it had, and without much hesitation, they had people come in and put the dog down.

I have seen other clients that may not have acted in the pet’s best interest.  Several times, we were called in to help them take care of a dog.  Most of the times they need help with a dog because cats are so independent or you never realize until too late how bad off the cat is.  In most of these cases the dog needed extra help that the client was not able to do physically or because it needed so much attention they got us involved.  To be fair, we got involved after things had already happened and I didn’t know the client, the pet, or the back story.  In these cases we are happy to help make things as good as possible for the pets.

Angela has been a client for about 3 years.  Her dog is Johnny, a greyhound she

Johnny on a walk

Johnny on a walk

rescued when he was 4 and half, 7 years ago.  When I first started taking care of Johnny, he was always pretty calm and laid back.  I’d walk him 4 times a day and he didn’t take too much encouragement to get going on the walk.  He loved to eat and was always ready for a treat.  In December 2012 he was diagnosed with cancer.  It was caught early on and that made the decision to treat it easier for her.  “It was the whole process,” said Angela.  “They would resect the tumor but he must have the treatment, too.  He had to have it all.”  The tumor was on his shoulder, so it was easy to get to.  He was going to have 15 weeks of chemo and radiation.  The doctors said typically you can expect about 18 months after this treatment program.

I walked him a few times while he was having these treatments and he didn’t look or act too different.  He was a little sluggish and may have needed a treat to get started but then he was fine on the walk.  However after 12 weeks, Angela noticed he was having some negative effects from the treatments and ended them.  “It was not worth him being miserable for the next 3 weeks.”

Johnny on a walk during his cancer treatments

Johnny on a walk during his cancer treatments

About a year and half ago, Angela had moved into a home that had a fenced yard.  In addition she adopted another greyhound, Payton.  Johnny loved having the companionship from Payton.  With the fenced in yard, they could play together off the leash.  It was so cool to me seeing Johnny run that much.  They would take off and run around the yard and it was quite impressive.

Johnny and his new pal Payton enjoying the winter sun after a few laps around the yard.

Johnny and his new pal Payton enjoying the winter sun after a few laps around the yard.

Johnny would get bursts of energy and run a few sprints, but then would go back to being his lazy self and be ready for a nap.      Angela says Johnny had run in more than 180 races in his career, which is a lot.  It’s very common for greyhounds to develop leg problems as they get older.  This spring he had been limping a bit.  I was taking care of him a little bit more as Angela was traveling.  His limp had been pretty bad during a visit I did with him in April.  Angela took him to have treatment on his hip.  After talking to the vet, they decided it may be his leg that was causing the pain, not the hip.  They had looked at some x-rays from earlier in the year that this doctor had not seen and they noticed something on the leg.  It was a form of bone cancer.  They weren’t sure what kind, because Angela didn’t want to do a very painful bone biopsy to a dog now 11 ½ years old.  “I wasn’t going to put him through that.”

The doctors wanted to amputate the leg to keep the cancer from spreading, but Angela wasn’t going to do that.  “I know my dog,” she said.  “After the surgery he would have looked at me and said what did you just do to me?”

His bad days had become more frequent than the good days and she knew he wouldn’t have long.  “The day before we said goodbye was one of his best days.  He was barking at birds and had a lot of energy.  But the next day he was really panting and he looked at me and said. ‘Let me go, Mom.’”

Angela feels good about the decisions she made with him.  She got 26 months after the initial cancer surgery, when they said 18 was best case.  Payton has had a tough time without him, but he just got a new brother, so he is getting a chance to show him the ropes.  She is also putting his memory to good use.  She has set up a page on justgive.org so people who loved Johnny can make a donation to his favorite charity.  It has already raised more than $1000 in just a few weeks.   20130127_223107

Everybody goes through different emotions with their pet when they are dealing with a terminal illness or just old age.  I’ve seen people spend a lot of money on treatments to keep the pet alive, but that may not have been in the best interest of the pet, because of the pain they were enduring.  I think it’s important to get some opinions from your vet and other people you trust who know the dog if you just can’t make the decision to say goodbye.  Sometimes, like Angela with Johnny, you just know it’s time.

Fetch! Pet Care provides pet sitting, dog walking and cat care services for Roswell, East Cobb, Marietta and Woodstock, GA.  You can see the happy pets by checking out our Instagram page at http://instagram.com/fetchnwatlanta/.

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