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Monday, 01 November 2010

My Dog, Rita

I know I said it would be personal radio silence, but I'm dealing with something really tough, and my blog pals have really been there for me over the years. Thanks, blog pals...

I'm having a really hard day. I am getting closer to the decision to have to put my dog down. I can't stop crying. It's difficult, and no choice feels fantastic.

Rita is nearly 13 years old, and I've had her since she's 7 weeks old. She is the Jack Russell in pictures with me. Heck, she's even a cartoon mascot on the As Was website (and will always be, if up to me!). She's been the only consistent element in my life, and certainly nicer than the guys I dated. :)

She's a freaking genius with a great command of language, and a real sense of humour. She thinks she is a cat, and loves cats. She hates dogs, and will attack dogs, so I've spent 12+ years apologising to neighbours. This is from 2007, and no, I didn't train her to do this. She was doing it, so I gave it a name. She learned the name.

In 2008, Rita started having pee accidents, mostly in the kitchen. I figured she just wasn't getting used to the new house, or still hated the guy I was living with. She was slightly better in 2009, and I didn't see other symptoms, so I didn't think much of it. But a few months ago (from when I'm writing this), the pee thing got out of control when she started having pee accidents in her sleep. This lead to a bunch of vet visits, including an emergency one my house sitter had to do while I was on a business trip.

What has unfolded since has been a bunch of health problems, all unrelated, and some that have nothing to do with pee or kidneys. I'm also seeing cognitive issues as well as balance issues... in the smartest, sturdiest little hunting dog ever... it's just not like her. Our vet is out of good ideas. His two most recent ideas were 1) to run every test for every disease, just to rule every disease out, and 2) send her for a catscan because maybe all the seemingly unrelated problems could be a brain issue. He ran urine and blood tests, and they only showed that her kidneys are slowing down. No disease or infection (yet). Some of the tests he wants to run are $300 each, let alone what any treatment might cost.

I decided after he told me that that whatever are her last months should not be full of tests, meds, poking, prodding, treatments, or surgeries. I just want her to be happy and feel as good as she can. I'm not sure how good she feels. She looks pretty unhappy most of the day with some sparky moments. She goes from sleeping to me rushing her outside to pee before she pees inside back to sleeping. On my last trip, my house sitter told me she was thinking of setting an alarm every 2 hours (at night) so she can wake up and take the dog outside (so she doesn't pee in the apartment). I feel like I spend a lot of my day looking for a mess, wondering if there is a mess, smelling a mess, cleaning a mess, and trying to avoid a mess.

The next thing in my life is a big move (stressful) and some changes to my career. I work from home now, so I've been able to do the 24-hr care cycle. I think it would be worse if I were gone all day (and she's home, scared, going in the apartment), and it's likely that my career changes will have me gone a lot. We've been sitting next to each other all day, every day since February 1998. She falls apart when I'm not there (which is why I have a house sitter that stays overnight rather than just a dog walker when I'm gone). So I don't think my next move is NOT going to go well for a weak and sick dog who gets depressed when I'm not there.

I thought about giving her to some friends who love her, but that made no sense. It doesn't seem right to give someone a sick and elderly pet who needs nearly 24-hr care, and is only going to have increased problems and vet bills. That's not really a companion. If they made dog assisted living, that would be the right place for her!

Even though she still has a bit of a spark, I'm thinking the quality of life isn't there. It's now a 24-hr cycle of care between the pee, and unfortunately also throwing up and diarrhea... a lot of that IN my apartment, even with me taking her out every 2 hours. :( I'm patient, and I'm not mad at her. I know this is the best she can do right now. But with the vet having no clue, and there being no treatment other than stabbing at catscans, I think it may be her time.

I plan to give her the best few weeks ever. I got her a burger at Carl's Jr today. :) I just want her to be happy, and seeing her decline has been beyond heartbreaking. I have no idea how much discomfort or pain she's in, and I know I do not want to see the day when I can read palpable pain on her face. I wouldn't be able to handle that... I don't think I could deal with the idea that I kept my dog alive to the point where she's in agony. It's hard enough to see her with all the symptoms she has now, physical and cognitive. I'm not sure I could bear to see her get worse... hence the decision I'm coming to.

I also have 2 cats. Mickey grew up with Rita, and he's now 11 years old. Eve is nearly 10 years old, and I got her in January 2010. So I'm not alone, but that doesn't make this easier. It just means I'll have to do through this at least 2 more times... and it's agonising. I'm barely making it through my day. One of my best friends has human hospice training, and is really helping me out. She's making the call I can't make right now.

Thanks to anybody who writes in with support. Everybody else can keep his or her lack of support to himself or herself.

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I had a golden retriever who was 13 years old. I waited longer than I should have to let him go, and it was probably the unfairest thing I have ever done in my life. It was more about me than about him. He was my buddy and constant companion and I just didn't want to let him go. You're doing the right thing, and the fact that it isn't easy kind of proves that.
We're here for you and will be keeping you in our thoughts through the time that you're going through this.

'Cause we care.

Thanks, Roy. People have said to me that I'll know when it's her time, and I should look for her to be lethargic and nearly dead and things like that because that's when you put them to sleep.

I don't think I could BEAR to see her in that state of uselessness, discomfort, and probably pain. I want our last memories of each other to be happy. These are NOT great times for my dog, but I don't think I can live with myself, watching her just keep getting worse.

Thanks again.

I am so very sorry that you have to make this decision about your little buddy Rita!

I have had to put animals down in the past and it is always heart rending. They truly do become such a HUGE part of your life in many ways. I know that you will do what is best when the time is right. I wish there were words to offer to help you feel better but, I have none. Just heart-felt pain along with you and my prayers for you & the Rita girlie.


I'm very sorry to hear about Rita, Deb. My condolences and sympathies for what you had to go ahead and do. I know how big a part of your life a pet can become, we always wish they had more time.


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