Saturday, 5 September 2009

Our ancient and creaky dog: do we move him, or kill him?

We have, in one corner, our ancient staffie, Duke. At almost fourteen, he is arthritic, creaky, stone-deaf, and riddled with skin cancer. He's an elderly, grizzled old chap who is too sore to jump up on a couch, who pees everywhere and who limps around our home with a pained but cheerful attitude. He's had a hip replacement, a knee replacement and about five thousand other procedures during his life. All he can really do, at his age, is snooze by the fire and gently deflate.

I'm not an enthusiastic dog lover, but I do have a deep affection for Duke, who has been my constant companion over many years. He's snoozed at my fire, snored on my pillow, licked the dinner dishes clean and - thank you, Duke - saved me twice from being bitten by other dogs during our early-morning walks in the suburbs.

In the other corner, we have a family - mine! - who is moving house and city, from Jo'burg to Cape Town - in three months' time. Our two younger dogs - tiresome but loveable basset hounds - will come with us, but what to do with Duke? Should we put him through the trauma of a move to a new house in a new city? Put him on a train, a plane, or in a car?

Or should we bid him farewell? In polite parlance, 'put him down'?

That is, ask the vet to kill him?

Or, if we take him along, are we really being fair to him?

Is it fair to prolong the life of this dear old dog just because I'll miss him?

You tell me, because I don't know what to do.

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Muriel said...

This is such a hard one, Juno. Maybe speak to your vet? She/he could give you a sensible assessment without too much emotional weight?

Audrey said...

Fourteen's a good old age for a Staffie. If you want a completely personal opinion, then mine would be: don't put him through the move. That sounds so harsh and Muriel might be right about getting the vet to make an unemotional assesment, because that opinion of mine is purely emotional, although based on personal experience too. It isn't killing, not in the awful sense that we usually use the word killing. Adrienne Rich's poem about unavoidable violence in certain hands rendering violence obsolete always comes to mind at times like these... I think it's just called Number Six, from 21 Love Poems. If you are there with Duke when it's time, he'll go in the best way possible. It's not killing.

Anonymous said...

Personally I would have the vet put him down - please don't think that I said that lightly, as I adore animals, but he has had a good life and I don't think he would cope with the move. Let him die with dignity and if you can be there with him. It is the right thing to do.

Juno said...

Thank you for all these kind and considered comments. I will let you know what transpires.

Tessa said...

My mother had cancer for 3 years and a few months before she died she commented to me how unfair it was that we could take our pets to the vet and make a merciful choice, but that she could not ask for us to do the same with her. She wasn't being morbid, or wallowing in self pity, she was being purely practical, as she had been her whole life.
She also told us not to be sorry when she died, because she wouldn't be. But it was OK to be sad because she knew we'd miss her. We mourn for our own loss when someone (or something in the case of an animal) dies.
Having heard such feelings expressed by the person closest to me, I took my cat (age 15) to the vet 10 days ago, to make him sleep forever. And although I miss Kitty, I am not sorry that I spared him the pain and suffering and trauma that I had to watch my mom go through.

Yor Nesot said...

Juno, I can't help you decide,I am sorry, but whatever you decide will be right, believe me.

Juno said...

Thanks Tessa and Yor for your comments. They are much appreciated.

Tessa, I am so sorry about your mother, and your cat. I couldn't agree with you more about the fact that animals are allowed to die with dignity, but that terminally ill humans don't have this choice. Both Muriel (my co-blogger) and I have been through this experience with a parent, and I know I speak for Muriel too when I say that it's a thundering disgrace that
a person who's sick isn't allowed to choose the time and circumstances of their departure.

tom said...

Let's do a total suffering estimate (TSE).

Amount of suffering if you put him to sleep:
Dog - none.
Family - sadness if you loved him, which would coincide with a life change.

Amount of suffering if you take him with you:
Dog -? (you'll have to estimate this)
Family - Sadness delayed til after the move when he'd likely die soon anyway. Also would the dog add extra stress to the move, urinating everywhere and making life difficult?

My opinion is if the dog is really going to suffer during the move, or if he's going to make the move incredibly stressful for the humans, wack the dog.
Otherwise take him with you and keep him happy.

Juno said...

Thanks for that insight, Tom, but I'm not sure what you're actually advising.

ali g said...

If you want to be fair to him take him with you.. He doesn't know he's past his use by date.
Too many pets are arbitrarily put down just because they become a nuisance in their owners moving house plans.
We can justify ourselves by saying it would be traumatic for them but how do we know that?
He certainly doesn't get a say in it.
He's been devoted to you all his life saving you from getting bitten etc. so give him the benefit of the doubt, hang the expense and take him with you
You'll feel better by doing that.

Yor Nesot said...

Children choose their parents. Parents know what’s best for them, regardless of the children’s age. Dogs more often than not, choose their owners, so you will always know what’s best for him. Soberly agonize about what you should do. That is what will take away most of the uncertainties. Last night I agonized about this subject enough.