Losing an Older Pet

Losing an Older Pet

How do they always know when you are planning to go on vacation? And why do older pets often go downhill right before you leave?

Is it because they know they won’t make it and want you near when they go? Is it because they don’t want you worrying about them while you are away? Are they sensing the tensions in the home and it makes them sicker? Whatever the reason it happened to us just a couple weeks ago.

We had a trip planned to Hawaii for more than a year. Our oldest dog, Poppy, was a 12-year-old Sheltie with multiple health issues. She had Cushing’s (for several years), which had caused high blood pressure and was throwing her liver values off.

Not to mention that she had lost her hearing and was thin as a rail. In addition, she was getting some supplements for joint support and incontinence. A total of nine medications and supplements daily along with prescription foods, our house looked like a pharmacy.

It was clear Poppy was one sick puppy but her energy level was high and she eagerly jumped into the car each morning to go to work with me. She joined us on walks and though she slept more and ate less, she just seemed like an aging dog…getting closer to the end but not teetering on the brink. So we were caught by surprise when she just suddenly started to vomit one day that last week. She vomited all afternoon and when I took her temperature it was 103.9, which is quite high.

So we made a quick trip to the emergency hospital for some anti-nausea medication and antibiotics. The next morning, we went to our regular vet to have a blood panel done (advice: if diagnostics can wait until the next day, i.e., it wouldn’t dramatically change the outcome or treatment plan, it’s best to wait as the emergency center is much more expensive). It showed that her liver values were all over the place but couldn’t explain why.

This is the point at which decisions have to be made and guilt comes into play. How far do you go with testing and to what end? Did I really need to know if she had a tumor in her liver, knowing she wasn’t a surgical candidate? With so many health issues going on I knew this was the end coming and it really wasn’t fair to our pet sitter to leave such a sick animal in her care. Also, selfishly, I knew I wanted to be with Poppy when she transitioned. So instead of spending money on more tests and diagnostics, I hired an animal communicator.

Don’t laugh. I truly believe that being able to make the decision to euthanize a pet is one of the most loving gifts we can give. I personally am not afraid of dying – I’m more afraid of suffering and relief from pain is something that we can offer.

There is something very healing in being able to express your love and to say goodbye and hear back that your pet is ready to go. Now that might sound “convenient” to you but it didn’t feel that way at all. So we said our goodbyes and helped our girl over that rainbow bridge. I know she’ll be there waiting for me.

4 Comments on "Losing an Older Pet"

  • Rachel Daniel says

    Thanks Mickey for posting your story. Poppy was always so special to visit with. Knowing how her life ended brought me closer to what you went through and I hope it gave you closure. I am going to miss her out in the field, looking over at me with her beautiful eyes at all the shelter dogs. Peace to you and Brandi too.


    So sorry to hear about Poppy, Mickey. It is never easy when your beloved fur baby leaves to go to dog heaven. My sincere condolences.

  • Dominique says

    Wow. I have goosebumps & am crying like a baby. I couldn’t have come across this at a better time. I thought it was “time” for my 17 yr old Catahoula last weekend. But after given anti nausea meds & fluids he’s bounced back as best he can. After some testing we know there is something bigger going on…but what? I know my time with him is limited…and I too have a trip coming up this weekend. Thankfully, it’s a girls weekend just an hour away….so not only is he still with my husband…but if I get the call then I can come home. This has been a whirlwind. My heart has been so sad lately knowing what is around the corner. Thank you for giving me something to relate to & make me realize that if it comes down to it…the decision I may have to make will be a gift and not the least bit selfish.

    But I pray…God do I pray…that he goes peacefully in his sleep :'(

  • Arline says

    Our Shelti died at 12 years of age also. It was about 3 weeks before we were to go on a trip. She had a heart murmur and also kidney problems and took medication. We had to take her to the emergency early one morning and they said she had heart failure but they would treat her and give us more medication to give her at home. They said she might last another six months or a couple of years. We went home fully expecting to pick her up later. They had her in an oxygen chamber so she could breath better and we went to see her but weren’t able to give her a hug goodbye as they didn’t want to open the door to the chamber. A couple of hours after we got home we heard from the vet who said she might be able to come home that night. Then we got another call shortly after telling us she was “gone”. It was such a shock and we are still not over it.

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