Today was a rough day. I have been so fortunate in my life to never have to make the choice about whether or not to euthanize an animal. Of the 30 some dogs I have encountered in my lifetime, all have either died of old age in their favorite spot in the yard, or have died of other natural causes.
Last summer, I chose to foster a litter of eight beagle mix puppies from the Southwest Humane Society after our volunteer coordinator contacted me to explain the puppies would be put down should they not find a foster home for them.
While the idea of looking after eight puppies scared me, I was up for the challenge of cleaning up their accidents, healing their ringworm, and keeping a constant eye on them. What I wasn’t prepared for was Parvo. Within 24 hours of bringing the puppies home, one pup suddenly died in my arms. I felt helpless. As I watched one by one as the others became sick, I started rushing the pups to the vet, who believed the litter was stricken by Parvo. For those of you who have heard anything about deadly puppy diseases, you know that this prognosis is not good. We fought day in and day out to save the pups.
On Wednesday, things changed. I overslept, so the morning trip to the dog park got pushed back an hour. Unlike usual, I decided to ride with my windows down and the radio off. As I was pulling into the park, I heard the most heart-wrenching yelp. Being a dog park, it took me a few seconds to figure out if I heard it coming from the fenced in park or somewhere else closer to the street. I knew deep down that I needed to go check it out. Sure enough, as I approached this grassy area next to the street, I saw a helpless 3-month old German Shepherd puppy in pain. She was in just the spot to where you couldn’t hear her from the park or the nearby Walgreen’s. The only way you could’ve heard her is if you happened to drive in with your windows down and radio off.
My first reaction was that she had a broken leg, since she couldn’t stand. After calling numerous shelters and the emergency vet number, and having all of them tell me I only had two options (1. Call animal control and have her put down or 2. Take her on as my responsibility and get her to a vet), I rushed to the nearest vet. At first glance, the vet thought she had been hit by a car. However, she didn’t show any outward injuries, she had problems often associated with long neglect (roundworms, maggots infesting her back end, ear infections), and where I found her didn’t make sense. He asked me what I wanted to do–if I “wanted to get involved.” I asked him where I could pay.
We experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from that day until today. To be a “patient,” we had to name her, so we named her Bonnie. Bonnie was put on i.v. fluids, given pain medicine, and kept in the office for round-the-clock care. On day 2, when we went back to check up on her, the vet said he now thought she may have Distemper, because of a nasty twitch she was developing. He said “in my gut, I think you should put her down.” The other vet and the vet assistants, though, told us she could pull through, as she was showing small signs of improvements (like eating and going to the bathroom). She, however, still couldn’t get up and still whimpered in pain constantly. It was on this day that both vets finally agreed that something neurologically was wrong. Very wrong. What caused it, they didn’t–and still don’t–know. Maybe it was a car accident, maybe it was Distemper, maybe it was a heat stroke, maybe it was a multitude of things. Each time, though, the vet asked what we wanted to do. Each time, though, others in the office would come in and tell us how all she needed was TLC and how they hoped we wouldn’t give up hope. Having the constant dread of trying to decide what is more humane to do–fight for her life or end it painlessly–was making me sick.
We never gave up hope. We fought for three days praying for some signs of recovery. Today, though, when we went in to see her, we were told she had a seizure last night. She looked little better than a vegetable and could no longer eat or go to the bathroom. We had a feeling it would come to this, but we kept hoping she would beat the odds and pull through. In the end, we had to let her go. I still don’t know if it was the right thing to do, and I will probably always question the choice we made. It’s the “what if” that will likely bother me for years to come.