Nearly a month ago, one of our dogs woke up with blood in his eye. My sweetie and I promptly took our pup to the vet – who was rather nervous about this unexpected development. (It’s never a good feeling when the person you are looking to provide answers not only doesn’t have them, but is anxious about the situation before them.) The vet consulted with one of her peers, then provided my husband and I medicine to apply to our dog’s eyes at home – along with specific instruction to bring our pup back immediately if his eye worsened.
After two weeks of daily treatment our dog’s eye hadn’t worsened, but it hadn’t improved, either. My sweetie and I took our pup back to the vet for a recheck – and she confirmed that not much had changed with our puppy’s eye. The vet recommended we bring our pup to a canine ophthalmologist, who could do more specific testing and hopefully provide us with better answers to the questions we were asking. Being the pet parents that we are, my sweetie and I scheduled an appointment with the specialist. (Go ahead and judge if you must; I don’t mind/care.)
This afternoon I drove our dog across town to see the canine eye doctor. After Mr. Jojo and I checked in, the nurse took us back to an exam room, where she asked me if our pup had any other medical issues apart from the blood in his eye. I answered, “Yes. He has Addison’s disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, metal posts and pins in his two front legs, a perpetually displaced back right hip, and is incontinent. Oh yeah, and he had all of his teeth removed two years ago, and currently has cataracts in each eye and is going blind.” The nurse just looked at me. Then she said, “Um, okay, is he on any medications?” I nodded my head, and told her the nine different daily medicines he ingests. She shook her head, and commented, “Poor old dog.”
It was this last statement that gave me pause. Because our dog’s various health issues came on individually over several years, I don’t fully realize exactly what we all deal with each day until I have to list it all out for someone. Only then do the medical issues, medicines, and accommodations feel ‘big’. Some of my friends and acquaintances question the money and effort my sweetie and I put into our pups; one friend even commented, “That dog is lucky he lives with you. If he were mine, I think I would have put him down a while ago.”
To me, such a thought is almost unimaginable. There may come a day when it makes sense for us to euthanize our dog: if he ever lives in perpetual pain or fear, or if his life ever becomes more harmful/hurtful than happy, then I will endure the excruciating experience of ending his life so that he doesn’t have to suffer. But so long as he is happy and enjoying his life, who am I to end it prematurely? To me, caring for an old animal is similar to caring for an old human: Just because a grandmother might be confined to a bed, require loads of medicines and much attention and care, does that mean that people who are younger/healthier have the right to dictate how/when she lives? What about the wisdom she possesses and can share, if only we are willing to learn? What about the fabulous stories she can tell, if only we are willing to listen? Though she might be taxing to her family emotionally and financially, they wouldn’t kill her because of it.
And this is exactly how I feel about our dog. Yes, he needs much attention and care. Yes, he requires a lot of gentleness and patience. But for all I do for him, he gives me a lot in return. He loves me with a dedication and a passion that I have experienced from few other beings. His antics often make me laugh out loud, and I smile nearly every day because of him and some new cute (or crazy) thing he has done. He gets me out of bed when I might otherwise be lazy, and he shows me the positive power a good snuggle can yield. He is old, he is frail, he is needy, he has issues – but his personality and love is larger than all of those things. There’s no need to pity our puppy; he’s a survivor. And he’s an amazing part of our family – bloody eye and all.