Monday we had our wonderful, 14 year old Alaskan Malamute, Timber, euthanized. now, I am second guessing the decision. I realize it makes no difference now, but I would really like to know if I made the wrong choice.
On Saturday, Tim was exceptionally lively, playful, and did not seem bothered by his usual joint stiffness or arthritis. I attributed his renewed vigor to his expensive new grain-free diet.
Sunday afternoon, he came staggering across the yard towards the house, with his head nearly dragging against the ground. He was reluctant to come inside, and I had to lead him by the collar. Once inside, his legs were shaking badly and he half lay, half collapsed on the rug. Within a few minutes he seemed almost comatose. Very shallow breathing, completely unresponsive to us, no ear movement when we called his name, his eyes stayed closed and when we opened his eyelids, they stared straight ahead, with no signs of recognition. As Tim was so old, and seemingly minutes away from death, we did not call the vet- we felt it was just his time to leave us. But he didn't. Hours passed, a horrible ice storm started outside, and Tim remained in the same spot, occasionally opening his eyes and showing some reaction, but still unable to lift his head. his breathing alternated between shallow and barely there, and heavy, fast panting. We gave him water through a syringe and sometimes he lapped at it, other times it just dribbled out of his mouth. By now the weather was far too bad to call a vet out, or to try to take him in. So I sat up with him through the night. Around 1 am he began crying and whining loudly, frantically pawing his front legs but still unable to lift his head or stand. Feeling he was near the end and desperate to end his suffering, I googled what pain relievers I could give him. I gave him some rx hydrocodone, and this helped for about an hour. The pain kept returning though, and it was awful. He also lost his bowels. When the hydrocodone seemed to no longer work well, I gave him xanax which we kept for his thunderstorm anxiety. I knew the combination could be fatal, but since he was dying and in agony and I had no way to ease his pain, I decided it didnt matter. I continued heavy dosing of hydrocodone and tranquilizers through the night, every time his pain would return. He lapsed in and out of consciousness.
Morning came and he had been given the last dose of meds I had. he was still unable to stand or lift his head. Oddly what had changed was his alertness. He was now very alert and responsive, actively lapping water from the syringe. I was both grateful for the chance to have him know I was there for him, and sad that he was now fully aware of what was going on. He was clearly frightened and his breathing was very fast and heavy, as it had been every time his meds started to wear off. And so, the kids and I took him to the vet to be euthanized, feeling it was the kindest thing to do. The vet, seeing his bad shape, did not question it.
I have been crying for days. I killed my best friend. And now, having done extensive googling, I am worried that I didn't have to. I was certain that Tim had suffered a stroke. Now, I read about canine vestibular disease, and I wonder, what if that was what was wrong? What if he would have recovered? Was his regained alertness a sign that he was improving?
I just don't know. And I know that a giant breed dog that is nearly 15 was on borrowed time regardless. But it was his time, and I fear I stole it from him. He had a checkup and shots 4 months ago and had a strong healthy heart. His only issue was a slow growing tumor in his ear canal that had been there since he was 10, and that we didn't remove for fear that he wouldn't survive the anesthesia.
So please, if you know, be honest with me. Do his symptoms sound like a stroke? Or something else. I regret so much not taking him in to be examined first. In my head I had just accepted he was dying and the thought that he wasn't didn't seem plausible. I wanted his life to end as painlessly as possible, and after the horrific night we had I was terrified that he would suffer more.
Im so sorry to hear about poor Tim and his passing. You absolutely did the right thing for your pet!! He was suffering and the only humane thing to do was to have him euthanized. Your vet would have known if this was something he could recover from. As a nurse I can tell you that in humans when they are passing it is not uncommon for them to "rally" briefly prior to passing from a similar state Tim was in. Your grieving the loss of your buddy and its normal to now be second guessing yourself. Rest assured though that you did right by Tim!! You made the right decision.....
I am also so sorry to hear about Timber and about your suffering. I know the hollow sad feeling you are experiencing and while it will only happen in time, the suffering will stop. If you possibly can, try to believe in yourself and what you did to stop Tim's pain. Your instinct obviously was to relieve his pain, to give him peace, and to ease his suffering. You were thinking only about him, not yourself. What he went through was horrible and you absolutely, without reservation, did the right thing. He can't tell you but if he could he would thank you. YOU stopped the pain. I know about the questioning too and if you can, realize that all of your actions were unselfish, caring, loving and driven by a need to give him relief. Try to find some for yourself too you deserve it.
I also had a 17 year old English Setter who had a similar attack and we had her euthanized. I felt terrible and wondered if it was the right thing to do. All of us who love animals go through the same feelings. You did the right think for Tim. You cannot second guess what you did to relieve his pain. You were blessed as I was for having Tim longer than the breeds normal life span. He knows you loved him and you did everything to ease his pain. Let yourself grieve the loss of your best friend. In time, the pain will be replaced with the happy memories of him.
I don't think you made a mistake at all! He was getting to that age were he was more prone to things like this. I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss, and I understand why you feel like this. My advice for you is this: Don't blame yourself. This was the best you could do.
NO one can second guess you... you were his human mom and knew him better than anyone. You loved him, did the best you could under difficult circumstances,and are mourning him now. Don't go down that road of second guessing yourself, it doesn't lead anywhere positive. Celebrate the life he shared with you and go through your mourning process. When you are ready, honor his memory by bringing in a new fur family member and love the new one for the wonderful dog he will become as well.