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Deciding To Put A Pet To Sleep


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Hi Kay ~ It looks as if, in order to access this article, you need to enter a user name and password. For those members who don't wish to do that, could you give us a summary of the article, or tell us what you liked about it? ♥

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I am attempting to contact the author, Jeanne Faulkner, for permission to share the content.

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This requires registration at another site.

would you either copy the article or summarize it please?

Thank you.

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The Fiftysomething Report: This Dog's Life

by Jeanne Faulkner, Contributor

Making end-of-life decisions for a pet teaches a family lessons about living.


I recently lost my dearly beloved right-hand man and constant companion. He was my first. We traveled together, raised children together and spent every moment together. I never thought I could do it, but I put my old man to sleep.

About 75 million Americans own dogs, 90 million own cats, and millions more own hamsters, lizards, birds, fish, and horses. Statistics show that more Americans have pets than have children, and they spend more time with them than any other friend or family member.

Pets don't grow up and move on. They spend their lives "being there," hopelessly devoted to and dependent on us. They're our stability in an ever-changing world. Sadly, most don't live as long as we'd like them to. The average dog lives 12 years, and cats live about 15 years, but by sharing their miniature circle of life with us, they teach us what it's all about.

We bought Max from a family who thought Scottish terriers were too intense and opinionated and wouldn't leave their people unattended. They decided they were "Golden Retrieval" people. Their loss was our gain.

Once he joined our clan, Max knew his job immediately. With children everywhere and no one standing guard, we obviously needed protection. He worried when the pack's alpha female (me) wouldn't keep the "puppies" in the den. When I drove them to school, Max scolded me. When they came home, he counted them like sheep: herding, sniffing, and licking them in welcome. When I was in the kitchen, Max was too. If I was working, Max guarded my desk. He vigilantly kept squirrels off the lawn and postmen out of the house, and did it all with a wag, a wiggle and a bucktoothed grin.

As his age crept up on him, Max's job changed from pack leader to wise honored elder. At 10--70 in dog years--he walked slower and showed us it wasn't about speed, distance or destination: It was about walking, sniffing, noticing. His dignity wasn't dented when he could no longer jump into the car. So what if he had to be lifted? It was still a car ride.

When his hearing and eyesight failed, it was no big deal. His sense of smell directed him to his people. When he became unbearably gassy and his breath smelled like fish bait, he'd flash his doggy grin, as if to say, "Better out than in, Dude. Roll down the window."

When, at 14, he'd get lost in our backyard, someone would always lead him back to the porch. When he occasionally "misplaced" one of the kids and became anxious, we wrapped him in a blanket, and set him onto someone's lap. Then he'd relax, secure that we were all right there.

One day, Max got sick. He quit eating and drinking, and couldn't "hold it." The kids peppered me with questions as they hovered near his bed. "Max will get better, won't he?" I answered honestly, "He's really old. I'm not sure." His veterinarian, Keith Gordon, DVM of Walnut Street Veterinary Clinic in Hillsboro, Ore., told us to bring him in for a visit.

I worried about Max and the kids, but also about vet bills. Friends told us about the fortunes they paid for doggy chemo and kitty radiation. Max was priceless, but we couldn't go bankrupt for heroic measures on an ancient dog. We also couldn't make Max spend his final days kenneled at the hospital when he'd never been away from home.

Dr. Gordon agreed, and reassured us that we needed to be realistic and conservative. A few simple tests determined late-stage kidney failure. We'd reached the end of Max's road. The vet said to us, "He's had a long, great life. We could keep him alive in the hospital awhile, but at what cost to Max?"

My family had some hard, tearful conversations about honoring a good death. About compassion, about what's best for us and kindest for Max. With Dr. Gordon's guidance, we decided Max would die at home. We hoped it would be peaceful and natural, but Dr. Gordon told us, "I'm just a phone call away if you need me."

Max spent his last days sleeping and taking in small comforts we provided, only rallying for the moments he couldn't bear to miss: sitting under the table during dinner, greeting the kids after school. When I thought he was too weak, he walked to the apple trees on the corner and said goodbye to neighbors who came out to pay their respects to the "old Scot." My dying dog reminded me, it isn't the big accomplishments that define our lives, but the day-to-day treasured moments--dinnertimes, greeting family and friends, and making it all the way to the apple trees.

Then Max's condition became worse. I sensed him telling me, "Honey, be the alpha female. Take care of this, please." I called Dr. Gordon. My family spent the evening holding Max, telling him we loved him. Then there were two shots: one that put him into a deep sleep and another that ended his life. It was fast, peaceful and painless. Then my daughter said, "Oh, I get it. That was a good death."

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