Thursday, August 27, 2009

It was inevitable, but hard . . .


Last Thursday, we took Rufus to the vet for the last time. It was inevitable, but hard, because he was not clearly dying, not suffering intolerably. He had gone three days without eating (which was a kind of benchmark I'd set earlier for deciding he was declining beyond pulling him back to a reasonable plateau) - but then had finally eaten the night before the scheduled appointment and was seeming somewhat more energetic. Still, he was wobbly enough to fall over if I tugged a bit on the leash.

He just plain wore out (he was over 15 years old) - kidneys shot, something growing in his sinus cavity that blocked his breathing, hearing and eyesight nearly shot, trembling and wobbly legs - it was getting harder and harder for him to brace himself to pee.

Then we were going to be gone for three days for my niece's wedding and had lined up a young man to care for Rufus, but the previous Monday when Nick came over to visit, Rufus seemed particularly ill, clearly not willing to eat, and quite weak. I thought leaving Rufus in Nick's care would be hard on both of them, and would likely just postpone the inevitable for a few more days.

And then the new school year was starting, and I couldn't imagine how we could continue to pour the time and energy into trying to get Rufus to eat that had consumed many hours of these late summer weeks. I couldn't come home in the middle of the day to let him out, and Peter would be traveling to Mankato to teach twice a week so unavailable those days.

Also, I had also vowed earlier to myself not to drag the inevitable out past the time that there was any reasonable quality of life left for Rufus.

But it was hard, because as weak and limited as he was, Rufus was still the same character he had always been, still interested in some of his favorite things (the sound and vibration of the vacuum cleaner - going into the car for a ride). Who were we to make this decision for him? (But how could we duck the responsibility for giving him a gentle end?)

And it was a gentle end, thankfully. I'm still torn with some regret and uncertainty around having had to decide, for playing the role of God in his life. Mostly I'm sad when we come home to an empty house.

A few weeks ago I wrote a longer story of Rufus's life with us which you will find here.

9 comments:

Laoch of Chicago said...

So sorrowful. He seemed like a fine dog. : (

Leone said...

I am so sorry, Mary Ellen, that you had to make this difficult decision. My heart goes out to you. Our pets are so much a part of us, it's the same as losing a family member. It is hard to play God but how can you let your furry friend continue to suffer? Take care.

Minka said...

I'm so sorry! But you thought it over (and over). It was the right thing to do. Take care.

Mel said...

I'm so sorry that it came to such a decision...

Instead of feeling regretful....remember that you DID give him the gift of a gentle end....the conditions that he had would only lead to pain and suffering (especially the growth in his sinus cavity) and the fact that he wasn't eating voluntarily is a sign that he was letting go...putting on a brave face for you..but he was letting go...

I know he had a full and happy life and that most of all, he was Loved....

~blessings and Light~

Steph... said...

Im sorry that you lost Rufus.
When my dog died, I cried a lot.

Kim said...

Rufus was a lucky dog to have had such a caring and committed companion.

Mary Ellen said...

Thank you all - Mel, I really do believe Rufus was ready, with his refusing to eat (actively refusing, much of the time). And I haven't really had time to take it in yet. This support from you all helps a lot.

shoreacres said...

Mary Ellen,

I've had this experience only once. A stray cat I'd been feeding for months suddenly became willing to be held and petted after living a stand-offish life. It became clear to me she was ill, and I took her to my indoor kitty's vet. He confirmed she was quite ill, with little time to live.

I couldn't bear the thought of her dying alone under a bush somewhere, and so we did what had to be done. But I stayed with her, and it was peaceful, and I believe the vet was right when he said, "She came to you because she knew she needed help and you were the one who'd been helping her with food."

Our creatures do trust us. Rufus trusted you, and his trust was well-placed. You did what he needed - one of the greatest gifts in the world.

Nancy said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. Our next door neighbor is doing the same thing tomorrow, and we are right there with our daughter's dog. It is so hard.