A Grave Decision


One of the best things about being single and living alone is I get to make all of the decisions. One of the worst things about being single and living alone is that I get to make all the hard decisions by myself.

Sparky, my Shih Tzu-poodle, is fifteen and a half years old. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He’s mostly blind due to cataracts, and he doesn’t hear much anymore, not even the crinkle of potato chip or dog treat bags. When I come home, he doesn’t get up from his bed or foam mat to meet me. He has Cushing’s Disease so his back is bowed and his back legs don’t work very well. And his front legs hurt. Sometimes he shakes. I’m giving him medication for the shakes but it doesn’t entirely go away and I know he’s in pain.

I’m an expert at ignoring what I don’t want to see. Last week I took Sparky to a dog physical therapist, a referral from my vet. I figured if I could just get those legs stronger, he’d be happier. He perked up for the assessment and the exercises. I bought an expensive harness to be able to pick him up and put him in my SUV. It will also allow me to attach his leash at his back end and lift his back legs when they’re too tired to walk.

He’s never recovered from his workout. I bought the two by two sticks to do some exercises at home, but never used them.

I’m dog sitting for my friend’s dog Lilah. She’s six and very peppy. She isn’t trained to use a doggie door, so I walk her three times a day. By Tuesday, Sparky was barely making it to the corner. After that, he preferred to stay at home.

I’ve been finding evidence of one of the dogs throwing up and peeing, but thought it was Louie, who had dental surgery a month ago. Today I saw that it was Sparky. He looks thin. Since the dogs are on “free feed,” I wondered if he was eating much at all.

Then I realized he hadn’t wagged his tail in at least a week. That was my sign. It was time to let him have a forever rest.

It would have been an easier decision if I lived with someone. I would have had another pair of eyes to prove or disprove my assumptions. And someone to help me make the ultimate decision.

This morning I called the vet and made the appointment for this afternoon. I had Sparky on my lap all morning, petting him as I read the newspaper.

He didn’t want to go for a walk at one when I took out Lilah. I realized he could no longer walk.

I had him on my lap as I read the novel Bel Canto this afternoon.

Finally, but too soon, it was time to go to the vet. He couldn’t walk to the car, so I carried him in my arms. That made my resolve stronger. He no longer had a decent quality of life.

When I got to the animal hospital, he wasn’t at all interested in the dog and puppies needing forever homes. He didn’t even look their way when the scrapped with each other.

When the vet tech weighed him, the scale showed he’d lost four pounds in two months.

I held him until it was time, crying softly. I laid him on the blanket on the examining table. It took but a minute to put him out of his pain. I cried when they left me alone with his body.

He was a great dog. I had fifteen happy years with him. He saw me through many crises: divorce, my mother’s death, my son’s estrangement. He listened without giving advice or telling me what I should do. He was crate-trained but I promoted him to sleep on my bed when my husband left. The last few years he mostly slept on the foam mat because he couldn’t get up or down from the bed on his own.

He accepted Louie when I took him in six years ago. Sparky was always a bit jealous, but didn’t take it out on Louie or me.

I know I made the right decision, but it would have been nice to have someone else confirm it.







2 Responses to “A Grave Decision”

  1. Judy Says:

    Annie…you made the right decision! He is running around now with no pain & his tail is wagging endlessly! It is so hard to say goodbye to our pets and their unconditional love. I’m thinking of you as you carry on with wonderful memories of sweet Sparky.❤ Judy

  2. Sharon Says:

    You did what was best for him. Love you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: