When you have a 15-year-old labmation, you have to start asking when is it time to put her down. How will we know? “Oh, you’ll know,” people tell us, so, this morning, we wondered if we knew. Mariah had been crying off and on all night because of the pain in her back legs. Despite heavier-than-usual doses of her pricey dog meds, she seemed to be crossing a threshold.
We’ve never had to put down an animal before. Past ones have vanished, been eaten by coyotes (that’s why we have indoor cats these days), or, in the case of our beloved Saulina, smartest cat in the universe, simply died beside us as we slept after a stretch of kitty hospice. With a dog in pain, it was no longer an option to take the road of least resistance.
Cancelling morning appointments, we called the vet, and then began the arduous work of getting a big dog with walking issues into the car. It helped that she walked outside by herself. Driving toward the vet, Ken’s hands on the wheel and mine on Mariah’s head, I wondered if this was it. Would we be digging a hole in frozen ground tonight? I devised a plan to bring each of the cats to sniff her after her death to make sure they understood; after all, they loved her like a sister, which she was to them. I knew Shay would be bounding all around her whether she was dead or alive.
When we got the vet, she didn’t want to go in, and she didn’t want to let the vet touch her. She kept cowering behind my legs and panting hard, but being feisty enough that it was clear she still had some life left in her. It was as if she were saying to us, “No euthanasia for me today, please.” We all heard her. Our wonderful vet gave her a super-sized shot of anti-inflammatory drugs, we talked over strategies for the next week or so, and he told us to call him Monday to say how she’s doing.
He also told us what everyone does: “When it’s time, you’ll know.”