It’s so hard to know how to read what’s going on with Mandy (my 11.75 year old miniature schnauzer with heart failure). She’s obviously not feeling well judging by her appetite and resistance to taking her medication (one is chewable, and she usually loves it; the others are pills I put in fruit that she usually snarfs right up). Her breathing isn’t ‘right’, and she’s coughing a little. She’s not peeing as much as she should be- but nothing smells funny or has a dark, concentrated color (she’s paper/pad trained, so it’s easy to assess). And, she’s alert, getting up whenever I move, and doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort. She hasn’t fainted, and her tongue is pink. Right now, she’s by the front door grumbling about something. That’s ‘normal’ for her!
I’ve been down this road before. My last schnauzer had heart failure for the last year of her life, and she did quite well until the last couple of days. The only time she didn’t eat was the last 24-36 hours she was alive, and it was horribly obvious that she wasn’t doing well. I tried the extra doses of the medicine to help her get rid of extra fluid, but it was over. (I’d made a mental list of ‘it’s done’ symptoms to watch for). It was- thankfully- fairly ‘quick’ at the end. The signs were easier to see. I got her to the vet, who tried to turn things around, but he called me at work to let me know I need to come quickly. With Mandy, it’s harder. Regardless, she has to go to the vet tomorrow to get checked out.
My dad and I have a ‘plan’ (God bless him – he’s 80 years old, and such a huge support, and he loves his ‘grand-dogger’). If I think I’m going to have to put Mandy to sleep tomorrow (not thinking that at the moment, but things are going back and forth a lot this weekend), he’ll drive and then take me to the pet crematorium. If she seems like she’s doing fairly well, and just going to be seen by the vet, I’ll take her myself. She’s good in the car (and loves car rides until she gets where she always goes- the groomer or the vet). If something happens quickly tonight, and God forbid, she dies, he’ll take me to the pet crematorium. I’ll be a wreck. The idea of putting her into a box to go to ‘that place’ breaks my heart. I know she won’t know the difference at that point, but I will. She’s been too good of a companion to put into a box for any reason. If there’s any way to keep her just wrapped in a blanket, that would be much better. Even if it’s just for a 4 mile trip. Even if it’s just because I can’t stand the idea of her being ‘disregarded’ by being in an ordinary box.
I’ve been through this before. I survived, and got another puppy who stole my heart all over again. I can’t afford a schnauzer (which has been my favorite dog since I was a little kid), but my dad said he’d be sure I got the puppy I want, since he’s very aware that being on disability and having very little contact with people makes the companionship all that more important. I’ve got my name on a schnauzer rescue list, and got an e-mail with 3 available, and very adorable, puppies just yesterday. But, I won’t get another one until Mandy is gone- the stress of a rambunctious puppy probably would be too much for her- she’s never interacted much with other dogs (she hides behind my legs when I take her to the groomer), and gets a bit snooty about them sniffing her back door. She almost seems offended at ‘dog’ behavior :D. I’m just hoping that Mandy does well enough to indicate she’s still enjoying life for a while to come. I know the outcome of canine heart failure. I just have to be sure I’m reading her well enough to know when enough is enough.
I know other people love their pets as much as I do. I think it feels ‘worse’ because I’m alone, and really don’t have contact with any other living thing as much as I do her, since I’m home all of the time. In the last 8.5 years on disability, we’ve been together nearly 24/7 unless I’m in the hospital, at some doctor appointment, or brief trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. I talk to my dad pretty much every day- which is also really important. But Mandy is my primary source of interaction with anything alive and in ‘person’. She is also really in tune to my routines, and understands a LOT of what I say (it’s kinda creepy sometimes- LOL). I’ve never had kids or been married, but I think I can relate to the intense love a parent has for a kid, at least to some degree. I’d do anything I could for Mandy, and if someone ever tried to harm her, I’d go postal. And have no regrets.
It’s going to be horribly painful when she no longer has any quality of life. Once it becomes a struggle for her, or there is any indication of suffering, it’s over. I won’t put my best friend through anything that prolongs her misery to avoid my grief over losing her. I know I keep writing about this, but it’s just so hard to think of her being gone. I don’t mean to sound ‘dismissive’ when I talk about another puppy before Mandy is gone, but it’s how I keep my mind from being totally overwhelmed by grief. The circle of life and all of that. Knowing I’d get another puppy (Mandy) after my last dog died really helped me look forward, and not stay stuck in the crying part of acute grieving. I could find some joy in a new ‘baby’. I bought toys every payday until Mandy was old enough to come home. She has an obscene number of stuffed animals now, most of which she ignores, so the new puppy will have a lot to play with as well.
As with anything in life, I can’t predict when Mandy will be too sick to ‘make’ her keep going, and I’ll have to let her go. So, I have to keep myself prepared, and try and make her life the best it can be during the time she has left. I also have to enjoy all of the time she has left. Yes, I need to keep being realistic, but also can’t have her half gone while she’s still here! I know I’ll love another puppy intensely, but right now it’s hard to imagine loving anything as much as I love Mandy. She has been such an important part of my life. My primary goal is to give as much as I can to her for as long as she’s around. And know when the time comes to give her the final gift of no suffering.
In the meantime, I’ll probably keep writing. I’ll keep having times when I’m in tears, and standing in the laundry area of my apartment so nobody can hear me cry when the spin cycle is going. I’ll be a wreck after she’s gone. And I’ll love every minute I can still see her sweet face looking at me while she’s still here. ❤