Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ode to A Great Dog and The Decision to Euthanize Her

The day after Christmas, my wife and I made the very painful decision to euthanize our border collie-lab mix Misty. Misty was almost 12 years old, originally a rescue dog, and was diagnosed with a terminal bone tumor in October. The veterinarian gave Misty two months to live.

Unfortunately, the doctor was right on the mark and Misty lived about eight days beyond the projected two months. Monday, the day after Christmas, my wife knew that just looking at this great wonderful dog that no longer wagged her tail, started to isolate from the family, appeared confused and refused to eat, that it was time to put Misty to sleep.

When the decision was to take her to the vet hospital, Misty was still mobile, and she wagged her tail as she walked down the deck stairs to the car. And as always on car rides, she was alert as she watched the landscape on the bright sunny December day from her partially opened car window.

When we arrived at the hospital,  Misty exited the car and she walked with a slight wagging tail as the technicians took her for preparation of the IV drip, which would be used to put her out of her misery. And when the technician brought Misty back into the room for the procedure, she noted that Misty indeed was a great dog.   Prior coming into the room,  the technician  had given Misty a piece of chicken that she had been providing some of the other ailing dogs which were being fed.

And with very sad pride, it was either myself or my wife who responded to the technician's observation that yes indeed we knew Misty was a great dog and in our hearts both of us probably knew Misty was a dog with an extraordinary temperment which would be hard to replace.

Misty came to us about 6 months after our last collie mix, Briggs had died. My wife, my resident mother-in-law and myself had decided not to replace Briggs for at least one year.

Ironically, just 7 months into our self-imposed ban on another dog, the day before Misty came to us, my mother –in-law and I both had remarked to my wife that we were ready for a new dog. Cats just did not replace the presence of a dog in household.

That very day that we mentioned the desire for a new dog, my wife had received a call from her cousin that some friends found a large bearish black dog with root beer brown eyes rummaging through the trash bins, recklessly crossing a busy Summit County, Ohio street.

The couple would have kept the dog, but they had two other dogs and were expecting their first baby and so they had to part with this dog that they nicknamed “Bear.”

That night when she was in our car going to her new home, my wife decided “Bear” would be renamed Misty and she then became a part of our family for almost 12 years.

As with every dog owner, we have our favorite stories about our dog.

Misty never listened well to directions and would escape through an opened fence gate and run through the neighborhood avoiding all attempts to capture her. And as were about to grab her, she would just look at us and take off and continue her sprint through the neighborhood crossing the street recklessly unaware that a car could easily hit her.

Misty loved being outside and when not going for her chaperoned walks or planning her carefully orchestrated "jail breaks", her favorite past time was to sit on the deck for hours and just dreamily stare through the deck’s rails into the yard and watch the animal drama of the ground hogs, rabbits, squirrels and birds scurrying through the yard.

This vision of her dreamily staring into the yard is the memory I will most miss about her.

Misty liked all people and despite her initial deep bark, everyone was a friend. She genuinely did not need to be socialized with other dogs, because as with people, she liked them all,  which could be of course dangerous, as not all dogs shared her affability.

About six years ago, a bossy female chow-lab mix arrived at our house. Her name is Muffin and she indeed liked to boss the gentle giant Misty around who chose not to become subservient to this alpha dog wanna- be. Misty's response to her new play mate was  passive aggressiveness either by her nature or her design.  Misty  just did not get excited about her new bossy sister who she could have easily torn  apart. 

When the doctor came back with the very stunning diagnosis of her cancer in middle October, the news was very unbelievable, as by all accounts, though now an older dog Misty was a healthy dog. Right until the last few days of her life, Misty still enjoyed going for walks and rides in the car.

As my wife and I both some times tearfully and sadly have noted, Misty was a quiet giant in our household who had a non-judgmental presence. She was just happy to be alive. A house without Misty is just a lot less exciting.

But the reason for this blog is to recognize how significantly important an animal can become in our lives as even I found myself addressing Misty as “ our girl.”

But more importantly for those pet owners who will go through the same painful decision about putting a pet to sleep, my wife and I mutually had agreed upon specific symptoms that would let us know when to put Misty down and not let her suffer.

I was a bit reluctant that day when my wife said it was time. I was hoping Misty would have some more days left ahead, but as we talked Misty’s brown eyes let us knew she needed our assistance to let her go.

My wife and I were with her when the fatal dose was administered and this gentle giant was gone in seconds.

Misty left us quietly in a most graceful exit that could only be expected of her.

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