Below is a link to what I think is the best blog post ever about the love and guilt associated with having to euthanize a dog - for any reason. Patricia McConnell is an animal behaviorist and dog trainer whose books, DVDs and blog are invaluable to anyone who owns a dog and has a desire to better understand that dog.
I'll get back to my 'Treating People Like Dogs' theory soon but today I wanted to talk about choices where our dogs are concerned.
Yesterday, Ginny who is 12 years old, had surgery to remove a mass from her chest. The mass was involved in a mammary gland and was causing the nipple to leak a clear, brownish fluid. That was the reason I chose to have the mass removed. What I did not choose to do was have the mass sent to pathology to determine what it was. While it would have been nice to know, definitively, what we were dealing with it also wouldn't have changed anything for me. If it was cancer, I wasn't going to put Gin through chemo (assuming that might have helped) because she is 12 years old and, honestly, I can't afford it. If it wasn't cancer, there's no guarantee she won't get cancer. It's a non-issue - I'm going to continue to treat Ginny just as I always have; doing the best I can to maintain her health and quality of life.
Sam has gotten a lot of extra meds in recent months. I'm choosing to give him these because, overall, he's still doing very well and his quality of life is really good. However, in choosing to give him these meds I also had to weigh potential long term side effects; increased risk of bleeding, potential liver damage, etc. He's 13 years old. At the absolute outside limit, he might live another 3 years. I don't think the meds he is taking are going to shave years off his life. If giving him the cocktail of meds helps him have more good days than bad in the time he has left, then I choose to do that.
Today we have the most incredible things available to us to improve and lengthen our dogs' lives. With all those improvements we also have a responsibility to make hard choices. Those choices aren't always about the dog though. Several months ago, I read a book called "Merle's Door." It's a true story about a rescued dog and the long, happy life he lived with his rescuer. Toward the end of Merle's life he starts having the kinds of health issues that a lot of old dogs do and the question of euthanasia came up. His owner asked himself a series of 9 questions from the book Active Years for Your Aging Dog by Bernard S. Hershorn, DVM. In addition to these questions, Dr. Hershorn also emphasizes that the dog's chronological age should never be a factor in the decision. That means young or old, you need to ask and answer these questions honestly and make a decision based on them. The 9 questions are:
1) Is the condition prolonged, recurring or getting worse?
2) Is the condition no longer responding to therapy?
3) Is your dog in pain or otherwise physically suffering?
4) Is it no longer possible to relieve that pain or suffering?
5) If your dog should recover, is he likely to be chronically ill, an invalid, or unable to care for himself as a healthy dog?
6) If your dog recovers, is he likely no longer to be able to enjoy life, or will he have severe personality changes?
7) Can you provide the necessary care?
8) Will such care interfere with your own life as to create serious problems with your or your family?
9) Will the cost involved become unbearably expensive?
I think it's a great list of questions because it addresses both the dog's well being and the owners'. In one way or another I ask myself these questions, or a version of them, every time I have to make a choice about my dogs' health. They don't take the emotional element completely out of the picture but they do help mitigate it somewhat and allow me to make decisions based on what really is best for the dog - not just what will make me feel better.
First, I hope you like the new, fall-themed look of the blog. I loved the previous blog background and it carried me ably through spring and summer but, with the advent of cooler temps and falling leaves, I felt like it needed a change. Thanks to Elizabeth at The Chronicles of Cardigan for the inspiration. You'll notice there is a new quote in the header and another quote in the right sidebar. I'm going to try to change these out regularly as there are literally hundreds of great dog quotes out there.
Now for my theory. This is a theory I've held for several years. It's one that UHM says I should never talk about in public but, UHM is a human resources professional so she has to say things like that. I believe that all the principles you use to train your dog can be applied to managing people who work for you. There, I've said it. I think you should treat people like dogs.
I'll go into more detail in subsequent posts but, right now, what are your thoughts on my theory?
Finally heard back from the company that flew me in for an interview over a month ago. Today I received an auto-generated, anonymous email from a "Staffing Representative" indicating that while "many aspects of your background are impressive" there were other candidates whose qualifications were more in line with their current needs. Oh, and I got this barely an hour after I sent an email asking for an update to the HR flunky who had arranged my whole trip, and, by the way, where is my check to reimburse my expenses for the trip?
I'm ok with not getting the job but, I really think if you actually bring someone into the offices to interview they deserve the courtesy of a phone call and an opportunity to solicit feedback if they didn't get the job. See what the electronic age has done to us?
I've been at it again. Last week I baked off some pie pumpkins, scooped out the flesh, ran it through the food processor, drained/strained it and then froze it. Now I will have fresh, real pumpkin to use in recipes throughout the winter. Or, I can give it to dogs who need to 1) lose weight, 2) stop pooping, or 3) start pooping. It really it a multi-purpose vegetable.
Today I made some fresh marinara sauce using tomatoes from last summer and zucchini from this summer. Then I mixed it with some ziti and cheeses to freeze pans of ziti to be popped in the oven at a later date, when we don't feel like "making" dinner.
Later in the week I expect I will get more pumpkins and apples too that will need to be processed into food stuffs for the winter months.
Yes, I've done a lot of canning, freezing, baking, cooking, etc. this summer. A few of you have commented that you are so impressed with that. It's nice of you to say but, I have to share a secret with you.... NOTHING that I have made this summer takes any particular skill or equipment. If you can boil water, follow a recipe and set a timer you can make all of the things I have made and make them just as well as I have. The only ingredient I have right now that most of you don't is time.
When I was working full time, I very rarely froze, canned, baked or cooked much of anything. When (notice I'm saying 'when' and not 'if')I return to work, I'm not sure I will continue to do all these things. Sure, UHM and I will still make supper for ourselves and, if I have a little time on the weekend I'll whip up a dessert that will last through the week. But, I have to tell you that I am not entirely certain I will make the time to do all the things I've done this year. It's takes a full day to can 20 lbs of apples into applesauce and pie filling. If I only have 2 days off a week, I'm not sure I'll want to spend one of them doing that.
Still, those of you who don't currently feel like you have the skill set to freeze fresh green beans or make your own applesauce I would encourage you to try. It's a wonderful feeling to sit down to a meal and know exactly where some of the items on the table came from and how they were made. Plus, the flavors simply don't compare to anything you buy in the store.
"All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers is contained in the dog."
- Franz Kafka
About Me, UHM and The Horde
Me: I'm a 40-something dog mom. I never intended to live with five dogs and a cat, it just happened. Funny thing is, I can't imagine living any other way.
UHM (Understanding House Mate): She didn't even have a dog when she was a child. FIVE dogs and a cat!?!? Now you know why she's understanding. She loves the dogs as much as I do. The cat, not so much.
The Heathen Horde: Sam, Ginny & Moira are the original Horde members. In the last two years Bogey & Georgia have been granted full membership status. Everyone is red & white - that way the neighbors aren't sure how many dogs we have :)