I meant to write this a few days ago, right after the checkup on Wednesday, but things got in the way.
Patchy went in for a checkup with the oncologist on Wednesday. He said everything looked good, including her blood work from that day. He assured me that the increasing amount of blood in her urine wasn’t anything I should be worried about. It could be good (her tumor is dissolving), it could be bad (the tumor is becoming more aggressive), or it could mean nothing (her body is just fighting harder). We won’t know what’s going on until her ultrasound in another 4 weeks. Its too early at this point to see any real effects of the chemo.
He asked me how I was doing, and I explained that I had been pretty stressed out over the large concentration of blood in her urine, and that her doggie Alzheimer’s has been getting much worse. He gently told me that I might want to think about when I would let her go. I immediately told him “When she stops enjoying life”, which he agreed was a good sign to look for. But he also wanted me to think about “When you’re no longer able to be her nurse”. Meaning either the ‘job’ is getting too demanding, or its taking too much from the rest of my life. And I… I had a really bad reaction. Its really unfair to Patchy for me to say “Nope, I’m done taking care of you.” My selfishness would be really callous. And I’m one of the few that think of dogs as equal to or greater than human family members. So saying to my grandma “I’m done changing your diapers, time for you to move on” just seems… ridiculous.
I understand that there are people that put their pets to sleep due to medical and financial reasons. I also understand that there are those people that put them to sleep when they get to be too much work when they get old. But, I just can’t do that. Its absurd to me that humans are allowed to make those decisions for the four-legged members of their families, but not the two legged. Humans have an impossible time choosing to die. If you are terminally ill, in tremendous amounts of pain, the best you can hope for is to be on so many pain meds you are unconscious for the rest of your (hopefully) short life. (Unless you are lucky enough to live in the very few places that offer voluntary medical-assisted suicide.) And yet, pets are killed for little to no reason, all perfectly acceptable. When the shelters get too full, when they are ‘too much work’, when their owner gets lazy, when some dumbass hits them with their car and doesn’t bother to see if they are even dead.
Apologies, I got heated there, but I think you can understand why when the oncologist gently hinted at that, it was incomprehensible to me. I can’t kill Patchy, not until she’s ready. And I no longer think the cancer will be what kills her. I mean, yes, she has some physical issues: severe arthritis, incontinence, cataracts, hearing loss, cancer. But I think, what will really take its toll, is the Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (doggie Alzheimer’s). I’m in new territory here. All of our other pets we eventually let go due to physical ailments. Patchy’s mom was on ‘pain patches’ that were stapled into her skin and lasted ~72 hours. She had been through enough. Tinkerbell, my adorable childhood Pomeranian, could no longer stand up or walk, let alone go to the bathroom without severe pain. Toward the end, she wasn’t even sleeping through the night. Easy decision.
But Patchy, well, she isn’t in pain. Not enough for me to judge her beyond enjoyment. Her joints are stiff and ache, but she takes pills for that. Her cancer causes her to pee, a lot, and may be giving her some pains, but not enough to prevent her from going about life. She still loves going to work, going on walks, seeing and socializing with people. She’s still enjoying life. What makes me think that the CCD will be her downfall, is that she has severe states of confusion now. She’ll stare at a blank wall for minutes at a time, before finally looking around, confused. She forgets what she’s doing, be it eating, or walking to the door (to pee outside). She looks at my friends and family as if they are strangers, even when she lived with them for long periods of time. She never truly remembers Clover either. Clover is just “that tiny animal that moves around a lot”. The only constant and anchor in her life is me. Even my Mom said “she’s always looking for you. If you leave the room, she’s trying to follow. If you disappear and she didn’t notice, she tries to find you.” And thats wonderful that she at least always knows me, but its heartbreaking when I have to leave her alone, or in another room. She starts pacing erratically, unsure of what to do or where to go. I am her calm. And I’m terrified that someday in the future, that will change or won’t be enough. CCD is known to cause extreme anxiety in dogs, to the point where just leaving the house is terrifying for them. I don’t want to see her get that far.
I recently took some work from home days (because my work is very understanding) and while they were great for me, they were terrible for Patchy. I get so stressed out watching her all day at work, taking her for ~hourly bathroom breaks, changing her diapers, making sure she doesn’t tangle herself in cords or her leash… But, for her, being at work is stimulating. Its new sights, sounds, smells, people, things. She loves being there, and she loves being there with me. After my second work from home day, she gave me the most sorrowful expression. People think that dogs don’t get depressed, but I don’t know what else that look could have been. And when we went to work later that day, she was giddy.
I’m not ready to give her up, and she isn’t either. I need to think more about her needs, and not just mine. I can handle (regretfully) a bit more chaos in my life, if it eases her last few months, because its true, she only has a short time left with me. I love my baby, and I want to make her remaining time wonderful and precious to both of us.