View Full Version : Losing Faith

6th December 2007, 03:40 PM
I'm not sure where to put a post like this. My parents lab/shepherd mix named Faith is not well. She's almost 13 years old, and we got her from a shelter when she was just a puppy. She has issues associated with old age for a few years now: cataracts, arthritis, and hearing loss. Earlier this year, we noticed a tumor growing outside her anus under her tail. After talking to the vet who said that surgery to remove the tumor would not really be feasible (it would most likely mess up her muscle control of her anus) and at her age and health, my mother decided to give Faith the fall. The vet said that the winter would be very hard for her. She didn't seem to be bothered by the tumor, and she was still getting around, getting into trouble, and has a decent qualify of life for an elderly dog.

Anyway, this morning I found an email from my mom. Over the fall, the tumor had grown quite large. This morning, she noticed that it was bleeding. My mom called the vet, and he said the fluid is probably building up so much pressure, it is perforating the skin. I assume this must be very painful for Faith, but Mom said she wasn't whining or licking. If it is painful, it isn't so much that she's not handling it. So my mom had my brother hold Faith's head while she wiped the tumor and tried to relieve the pressure. Apparently, the tumor released a great deal of fluid, and it shrank in size considerably. They put antibiotics on the tumor, and are waiting to see what happens.

It's a tough call with what to do. Despite all of her problems, Faith is still engaged and active. She eats and drinks normally, and begs for treats and food. She's slow, but she can still get up and down and move around. The tumor doesn't seem to cause her extra pain. No one wants her to suffer, but we can't tell if she is. No one wants to end her life too early, of course, and just the idea of saying goodbye makes us cry. Still, we don't want our feelings to cause her suffering to last. It's all terribly difficult.

I guess I'm just needing to talk to people who understand the emotional pain of the process that comes with a beloved dog's end of life. I'm sure other people may have done other medical intervention and other people would have put her down right away. I don't make the decisions over Faith's care, so I'm not really looking for medical advice. I just .... I need help figuring out how to say goodbye.

6th December 2007, 04:16 PM
Hi there. I'm sorry to hear about your sick dog. Last February, my dog of 20 years, Snuggles an American Eskimo, had to be put to sleep. It was the most difficult decision of my life. Snuggles had always been in good health but has recently experienced seizures and had difficulty walking. She was struggling. One night, during a seizure episode, I had to take her to the emergangy vet and put her to sleep. I held her and talked to her in a calm voice. She never knew what was happening and went peacefully. Then, I held her and said goodbye for the last time. Although very sad, it was what she needed me to do. After all the years of giving to me, this was what I had to do for her. It's been 10 months, and I just got a 10 week old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named McKenzie. She will never replace Snuggles, but I feel like Snuggles would be happy that I have a new friend. Remember, the dog doesn't know what is happening, just that you will take care of her/him. Be strong and everything will be okay. You will have peace knowing that you did the right thing.

Hope this helps,

6th December 2007, 05:41 PM
We just lost a cat of the same age two months ago. Understanding that it's a process has really helped me. Don't judge yourself by time, etc. just deal with it as it comes--and it comes in waves, even after two months it's still very difficult. It's easier than the first few days, as that rawness passes, but it's still difficult. It is what it is, and you need to allow yourself to totally move through it. One thing I found very helpful is writing. I wrote down all the things I wanted to remember about Niko--all his quirks and habits, what he smelled like, etc. I know at some point I'll loose memory of these things, so it's nice to have them in writing to look back on.

6th December 2007, 06:02 PM

Most of us have been where you are now. It just is one of the costs of loving something that nature intends to live around 10 to 15% of the time we are accorded. It hurts like blazes when the beloved dog departs, but that over time the pain the initial separation eases and the good memories that you have of that animal will overtake the pain. And you smile in and with those memories and you go on. Some go on in hopes of meeting the beloved dog in an other place at another time. Some go on with the assistance of another dog. Some feel that the only way they can go on and still honor their departed companion is to go on alone. All of these are valid ways of dealing with the pain.

Personally, I needed a puppy to lead me back to wholeness. Plus I am comforted by knowing that my beloved friend (you can find a memorial I write to her on this site. Her name was Leisl) is no longer in pain and may meet up with me again at what is generally called the "Rainbow Bridge."

As to how to go about the initial seperation, though. That's so incredibly hard. I'm not sure you're right about not crying with your companion. Faith already knows something's wrong. She may be wondering how to help you through whatever is wrong. You may need to allow her to serve you this one last time. I did. I sat on the front porch of my home, hugged her, wept and begged her not to leave me. She understood and let me cry. Then she licked away my tears. I may be putting into it, but I took it as her consent to do what I knew I had to do. I don't think it stressed her anymore than her illness already had. In the end, she, my new puppy Zack (whose picture you can find here as well) went to the vet. Zack and I sat on the floor with Leis until she was gone. And then Zack together went on together.

However, you decide to handle this nearly impossible moment, please know that we are with you. Please allow us to cry with you. We know that one day, you will cry with us. Its just the way it is.

7th December 2007, 12:48 AM
sending you and your family big hugs. very sad I wish I had some words for you.

7th December 2007, 03:45 AM
Sending you hugs & warm wishes in this difficult time. I've gone through having to put our dog Maggie (13) to sleep back in 2001. It was one of the hardest things we've ever had to do. It was time because keeping her alive would just have kept her in pain. Her ashes are in a special place in our garden with a stone marker and an angel sitting next to the stone. Her collar still hangs near our door.

They may leave this life with us but they never leave our hearts.

I'm sorry you have to go through this :hug:

7th December 2007, 11:32 AM
I'm so sorry you are facing this Cindy. It's very hard, and so unfair that our companions only have a limited life span.

perhaps in time it will be a comfort that Faith has enjoyed a wonderful life with you where she has been much loved and cared for - sadly so many are not as lucky :(

It is always hard to make this dreadful decision, but it is the kindest and most loving thing we can do for our companions.

This helped me at that difficult time:


If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand.
Don't let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We've had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You'd not want me to suffer so;
The time has come -- please let me go.

Take me where my need they'll tend,
And please stay with me till the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.

Please do not grieve -- it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We've been so close, we two, these years;
Don't let your heart hold back its tears.

--- Anonymous ---

It is in the quiet corner of this site http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=13471

this was written by Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM (http://vetmedicine.about.com/mbiopage.htm), - some practical help with making the decision

Here are some questions to consider when evaluating the quality of life for your pet. A general rule of thumb is when "the bad days outnumber the good days", but that can be difficult to assess. Becoming familiar with these guidelines will help pet owners determine when it is time to determine the best course of action for a terminally ill, geriatric, or injured pet.
Here's How:

Is your pet enjoying the activities that s/he used to? Is s/he eating, walking, and playing as what would be appropriate for his/her age and ability? Is your pet interested when you leave or come home?
Is your pet able to eat and drink normally, and eating regular amounts? If your pet needs to be assisted, is your pet getting adequate fluid and nutrition?
Is your pet able to urinate and defecate ok? Is your pet still housebroken, or having more accidents? Pets that are housebroken but are unable to maintain hygiene will often be distressed -- they know that it is "wrong", yet are unable to control the behavior. Also, health issues can arise from soiled skin and fur (infections, ulcerations).
Is your pet in pain often? Is pain adequately controlled with medication?
Is your pet part of the family, or alone most of the time? Do the pet's age or illness-related behaviors alienate family members?
Does your pet become stressed or afraid when left alone, assuming this was not a problem before?
Does your pet continue to recognize you?
Does your pet seem to enjoy interaction with other pets and family members?Tips:

You know your pet best, and the decision regarding euthanasia (putting your pet 'to sleep') is always ultimately yours to make.
Discuss your feelings with family members, friends, and your vet.
Actively seek support groups or counseling if the sense of loss and grief is overwhelming.
Please don't let people dismiss yours and your parents concerns and grief - when we have spent so much time and shared so very much with our companions, we go through the grieving process just as much {or possibly even more than} we would for a human companion/family member.

If Faith has any animal companions, please try to let them have the opportunity to say goodbye too. When Peaches was given her wings, we put her in her bed on the floor and let the boys have time to say goodbye. Rupert knew straight away, but poor TedBear couldn't work out what was wrong and kept nudging her and sniffing at her. He would then wander away, going back again a few minutes later. It was heartbreaking at the time, but once he had accepted what had happened, and had said goodbye, it was much easier, as neither of them looked for Peaches at all - they were obviously sad as we were, but weren't hunting around as I have knonw dogs to do previously.

We are lucky in that our vets will come out to the house in this situation - Peaches' passing was very peaceful - she lay across my lap eating prawns, her most favourite thing - and didn't react at all.

We are all thinking of you - you know there is support and comfort here whenever you need it, we all have to face this at some point.

Cathy Moon
7th December 2007, 12:29 PM
I'm so sorry that Faith is not well.

The only things I can add to the compassionate advice offered here are these:

You might want to take a photo of her now if you don't have one.
Try to be there with Faith at the end; you won't regret it.
Consider making a quiet toast to her afterwards (if you drink).
Consider saving a lock of her hair.
Plant a little memorial for her in your garden; for example, we planted pink Forget-me-nots at the foot of a little St. Francis statue for our beloved Tasha.
Keep something of hers, like her collar or a toy; it will bring back fond memories.
Make a quiet toast to her on all holidays and special occasions.
Find other compassionate animal lovers to listen when you need to talk about her (we're all here for you!)

(These are things that helped me grieve my loss of Tasha.)

7th December 2007, 02:11 PM
Thank you everyone for your support. There's absolutely nothing like having other animal-lovers to support you in these moments; most regular people don't appreciate the emotional pain of losing a beloved pet.

I received word from my mother this morning (after trying to get a hold of her all night!). Faith is doing fine. Mom said that Faith does not seem to be in pain from the tumor--while she was expressing it, Faith didn't have a problem. No whines or wimpers. She did tuck her tail, but she always does (and always has) that when someone messes with her butt or her feet. If she CAN feel the tumor, it must not be too bad.

Going by the checklists that people here have posted, Faith's not ready right now to say goodbye. I think my Mom feels the same way. She's not acting sick. As long as Faith behaves like normal, eats, drinks, eliminates, and gets into trouble, she's going to see how she gets through the winter. She is on supplements for her arthritis, but you just have to be patient with her getting up and down off the floor and going up and down the steps. Mom's just going to try to keep the tumor expressed to keep the pressure down inside of it; we'll see how it goes.

Thank you all again for your support.

Lexie in CA
7th December 2007, 03:47 PM
I'm glad to hear that she's acting normal. I'm so sorry that you and your family have to be going through this.

Cathy Moon
10th December 2007, 12:25 PM
Glad she's feeling well! :)