When Our Dogs Die

Oct 6 2012 @ 9:12am

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In The Last Walk, Jessica Pierce tackles how we deal with our animals at the end of their lives. Doree Shafrir considers the particular feeling of survivor's guilt:

It was difficult, at first, for me to read Pierce’s words without thinking: I was a bad dog mom. In the last two weeks of Lee’s life, her back legs were paralyzed, and to walk her I had to lift up her back half—which was dead weight—in a sling, and try to get all 55 pounds of her downstairs without her peeing by the elevator in my building. But reading Ody’s story I had the fleeting thought that I should’ve bought Lee a wheelchair so she could have eked out, I don’t know, another few months of life.

But then I thought, hell no. Those last couple of weeks were terrible and trying, for both of us.

She mostly stayed in the corner of my apartment. She barely ate. She seemed supremely bummed out, even though it was unclear whether she realized exactly what had happened to her. (Vet consensus was no.) So if I’d gotten her a dog wheelchair, maybe she would’ve been able to roll around for a little while longer, but her quality of life would’ve, frankly, sucked.

After Lee had her stroke, Pierce probably would have suggested that I evaluate Lee’s condition on the scale developed by a vet named Alice Villalobos, who is on staff at a Southern California pet hospice called Pawspice. (One of the enduring mysteries of life is why dogs, Thai restaurants, and hair salons inspire such terrible puns.) Pierce explains that Villalobos’ scale asks pet owners to evaluate their sick or elderly pets based on hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, and mobility on a 1-10 scale. A total score of 35 or more is acceptable, while under 35 "suggests that euthanasia may be the best option." I considered Lee’s condition retroactively, and tallied a score of 19.

Recent Dish on whether dogs can get depressed here, here and here.

(Photo by Flickr user liamahal)