This Monday I had to put down my 11 year old Rottweiler. She had just turned 11 this week, in fact. For nearly 1.5 years now we had struggled with her health. She had been a picky eater for most of her life but had gotten much worse about it, so my wife started making her homemade food. She would take a new food for a few days and quickly start refusing it, which made feeding her very difficult.
About a year ago she began exhibiting symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. For a dog, this means that we had to keep trying “unique protein sources” until we found food that her body would accept without giving her diarrhea. Despite our best efforts, we could not find a food that worked for her. She was kept on a regular regime of prednisone which mostly ensured that her food would not irritate her bowels, but she refused to eat the foods that did not upset her. She would accept a new food for a while and then begin refusing it for no explanation that we could see.
Even with her illness and refusal to eat she seemed happy and playful. We would often spend 2 and 3 hours a day trying to make meal time more interesting for her. We would mix up which foods we were giving her and make a game out of it by tossing the food to her.
This play worked, to an extent. For a couple of months her weight was almost stable. However, through this time, we watched her weight drop from about 80 lbs to 60 lbs. She seemed happy, but she also seemed to be getting very tired and bored of eating! We made the decision to stop fighting with her over food. We still would offer her food many times a day; and offer her as many different foods as we could. She would eat maybe 200-300 Calories a day. We watched her weight continue to drop even more to something below 50lbs, and stopped weighing her at this point.
Even though she was choosing to starve, she was still happy and playful and would get up to chase after a ball. Until the end of last week. Around last Thursday it was clear that she no longer had the strength to get up and play, we knew the end would be soon. Saturday we made the decision to take her in to have her euthanized on Monday.
This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. In one regard, she was “just a dog.” In another, we don’t have children and don’t plan to. For 9 years of my life, 11 for my wife, she slept right beside our bed. We played with her, fed her (often by hand), held her, comforted her, went camping with her, disciplined her and loved her. If she got sick, we cleaned it up. If we were sad, she comforted us.
We have another dog who is great, but our house feels too quiet. Regen used to sleep on the floor beside my wife, that spot is now empty. We still have her dog bed, but have no idea what to do with it. Our other dog seems a little bored now, and occassionally seems to be looking for her missing sister. They didn’t necessarily always get along, but they spent every day of their lives together. I don’t know if this will change her personality, but I do know that there will not be another dog fight to break up. This is sad in its own way.
Dogs add so much to our daily lives. They are in tune to us and respond to our emotions. They remind us that no matter what else we have going on there is something relying on us to feed them and send them out to pee. They add life to our houses and distract us from our problems that seem big, but really aren’t. We’ve always said that after the two dogs are gone we’ll travel much more. Right now, though, I cannot even imagine how lifeless and boring our house would be without a pet here. We both agree that we could not stay in this house when our remaining dog is gone, the house would be just far too big and empty.
I don’t know where dogs go when they die. It’s hard to believe that they go to heaven. I mean, what would the qualification be? Are the streets of heaven filled with all kinds of life that once lived here? From the perspective of a dog lover, having rodents in heaven seems less than appealing. There’s certainly no such thing as a Christian dog. However, if anything on this planet ever deserved to go to heaven, it’s the simple minded, innocent canine.
This was Regen. She had the mentality of a 3 year old and rarely grasped it when the situation was serious. She maintained that simplicity for her entire life and never got that sort of quiet wisdom that you often see in an older dog. She struggled to hold on to life as long as she could. In her last week she couldn’t walk up the stairs by herself but she would muster all she had to chase after a ball.
I’m glad that her struggle is over and that she is at peace. I wish we could have found a food that she would eat. I miss her.
Goodbye Regen. Good girl.