My sweet Sappho, a husky/German Shepherd/Malmute mix will be 15 in two weeks. We rescued each other when she was 3 (she was troubled - I was her fourth home in 3 years and I vowed I would be her last) and she's been my daily joy and sunshine ever since.

About two years ago she started showing difficulty walking and despite every medical intervention I could think of (chiropractic, laser therapy, different meds and supplements) has gone downhill since. She has spinal stenosis and arthritis. The last 4 or 5 months have been especially hard. She can no longer get up on her own, and while she can usually walk around on her own to some extent, she falls all the time and needs help up, and she needs support while eating and drinking. I haven't been able to leave her alone since last summer, so she dayboards at a local animal hospital 3 days a week when I have to go into the office to work. I am able to work from home the other two days. I will say, without the staff at Arapahoe Animal Hospital, most of whom should be sainted, I don't think I could have made it this long. The laser therapist there even treats Sappho free of charge while she dayboards as it's the only therapy that makes noticeable difference and I couldn't afford the $200 bucks a week it would cost to do these treatments otherwise.

In addition to not being able to leave her alone at all, our nights are so hard. I have to give her Trazadone to get her to settle into a night's sleep (she's always been a very anxious little soul), but even at that, it can take 2+ hours after administering the meds for her to pace and pace before finally falling asleep, and then she frequently wakes from 1 to 4 times a night, crying to be helped up. Often it's just to do a couple of laps upstairs before going to sleep again, but sometimes it's to be carried outside to do her business. I don't mind doing this, but I am so tired after months of this, and don't remember the last time I had a full night of sleep. She's also become fairly incontinent over the last month. I always keep wee pads under her at night and when she eats now. 

People keep telling me I'll know when it's time, but I'm not sure I will. I'm really trying to honor my Sappho's will and her precious life. We only get one, even if the last stage of it is hard. She keeps wanting to get up and to eat and to go on walks (I have to assist both ends when we walk, but she still loves getting outside as she always has, and sniffing things and exploring) and these are the signs you're supposed to look for right?! As my friends at the vet clinic keep telling me, "She's a strong-willed little old lady." This is a terrible responsibility - I just want to do what's right by her.

A month ago, one of my closest friend here went off telling me I was being selfish and a martyr in keeping her alive, and that it was past time to say goodbye. She said I've never had to make this decision for a beloved pet before so I didn't know it was time. She said it in the kindest possible way, tempering it with kinder words, but that was the gist of her message, and it was a gut punch. I'm not angry anymore, but I also haven't been able to talk to her since, simply because I can't bear the silent judgment that I know is there. My mom also keeps telling me this, so I just don't talk to her about the subject. She's not much of a dog person so she has trouble understanding. The day following my friend's lecture, I didn't know which way was up, maybe she was right, so I talked to the laser therapist who takes care of Sappho when she dayboards. She said she still saw a lot of spark in Sappho and didn't think it was time. My partner, who lives with me, also didn't think it was time, and I know he's tired of the pee smell and the sleep loss and not being able to do things with me spontaneously as I can't leave her alone. She is 100% my dog and I'm 100% her person, but he also loves her. He tries to understand.

But even in the past month she has continued to go downhill, and I do think the time is probably nearing, but I don't know how I'll know when (or how) to say goodbye. It terrifies me! And I feel very lonely in this. I no longer have anyone other than my partner to say, "yeah, we had another bad night" or just to cry to because it feels like too much. And I can't keep doing that to him. And he's never had to make this decision before either. So I guess that's why I'm here, just wondering if anyone else has been through something similar? How did you know when it was time? Her blood work comes back flawless, it's just her body mechanics that aren't cooperating. It's robbed her of so much of her independence, though, and she's always been the most independent little dog (a true husky's spunk with a German Shepherd's loyal heart). We backpacked together summers, and hiked or cross-country skiied every weekend, with trail-runs most weekday mornings. I couldn't have asked for a better adventure buddy. It's hard to see such a free-spirited soul reduced to such dependence. But at the same time, it seems to bother me more than it does her. I'm so humbled by the adaptability and grace of dogs.

And I'm so tired of grieving. I really just want to enjoy every minute I have left with her without worrying when the last one will be, but that's so much easier said than done. I keep burying my nose in her fur because I don't ever want to forget that smell.

I'm trapped between not knowing how or when to let go, and seeing the unsustainability of the situation we're in. I'm sorry this post has been so long - guess I've been bottling it up for a while. I appreciate anyone who has stayed with me this far, and welcome any words of wisdom from those of you who have been through something like this before. The pic below if from our last backpacking trip together in 2014 - she was never happier than when outside on a trail!
backpacking 2014_sm.jpg
Quote 0 0

We are never really sure if the time is right or not. My precious Corgi, Titan was 12 1/2 when I had to put him down. He had been diabetic for 6 years. He was hypothyroid, blind and he had bad knees and was losing his hearing. He was my soul dog...the only dog I ever had and he was such a joy in my life. The last 6 years were all about home cooking his food, giving him his insulin injections twice daily, tramadol, thyroid meds and eye drops and many many visits to the vet. I sat on the floor next to him when he ate his meals. I was having trouble finding a good spot to inject his insulin because of the scar tissue that had built up. I was concerned that it was getting more painful each time. But he always greeted me at the door when I came home and ran to his toy box to get me a toy. Then one day he didn't even get up. Then he wouldn't eat his breakfast or his dinner. He started violently vomiting. He was making the decision for me. He had a terrible bout of pancreatitis and although the vet tried to get him through it, he was not able to this time. My beautiful Titan's kidney and organs were shutting down and he had internal bleeding that could not be helped. I had no choice but to let him go. I held him while he was put down and I did feel a strange kind of peace as he took his last breath. 

I tell you all this because I can see from your post how you love your Sappho to the depths of your soul. YOU WILL know when the time is right. If he still likes going outside and is eating and you are ok with caring for him, you just keep on doing it no matter what anybody says. Once he is gone you won't be the same. You'll have to learn new routines and you'll second guess all of the decisions that you made. For a time you will feel as if you lost your purpose but you will have to find a new normal. And if you are like most of us on this site, you will never be quite the same. So enjoy the time you have left with your precious friend. It is not selfish to try and make his last days filled with love. Some dogs never get to know this special love. He is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have the love of such a gentle soul.

Quote 0 0
Went through the exact same thing with my dog who died just shy of 17.  I wish I had some magic insight for you.  I probably kept my dog around longer than I should of.  But she was still interested in eating so I figured once that went I knew it would be time.  I also asked my vet. 

I also came up with some solutions to make life easier because there was a serious bathroom issue since her mobility was compromised (she tore both her acl's in her wild younger years).  I used a diaper for pee (I made my own throw away inserts from tena pads worked fantastic) and I would make her poo myself.  I know it's gross but there were no accidents this way.  I couldn't have her pooing and her not being able to get up fast enough out of it.  Plus obviously it was a major mess everywhere so it worked beautifully and it gave us another year together without any bathroom issues.  I was even able to take her out for sleepovers and I had no fears of peeing/ pooing in others home.  I have the diaper thing down pat. 

Her mind was also failing though.  I got her a wheelchair (had harnesses before that which were awesome) which she got at first but then would kinda just forget what to do in it as the months progressed.  The wheelchair was a great purchase allowed her to eat while standing and gave her some independence.  In the beginning we went on walk, even took her to a nature trail...our last one.   =(     I like you - went everywhere with my best buddy....hiking galore.  She never complained when I took a wrong turn and girl have I taken a wrong turn or five.

The sundowning at night is doggy dementia no doubt.  My dog went through this too and it can be very very frustrating.  There is no consoling them....and if you do it doesn't last long.  Thankfully it was not every night and thankfully it was only towards the very end that this got bad.  Have you talked to the vet about this?  My vet game me valium for her (and the tram) .  To be honest...nothing settled her down.  I was pretty shocked that the valium had zero effect. 

I do remember saying to myself :  "we can't go on like this"....but what's the alternative?  OMG do I have to put Bridie to sleep  soon...not some far off time, like soon, like what like tomorrow?"...and I shut that out of my head and went with well she's still eating soooo.  But I knew it wasn't long no matter how much I tried to shut it out and it wasn't.   If I were you I would just take it moment by moment and be "prepared". 
Quote 0 0
First, Sappho is real beauty! Second, I know exactly what you are going through. I had to euthanize my 12 1/2 year old Doberman, Paris, on 10/29/17. She had degenerative myelopathy, but we didn't realize what I t was until about a week or so prior to saying goodbye to her. We went through several months of thinking it was arthritis and taking Rimadyl, then adding Tramadol. She went downhill so fast it was shocking. Like, from still able bodied and playing to unable to go to the bathroom without collapsing. I knew I had to prepare to lose her, but thought I had months, maybe. I was hoping she would be here for the birth of our son (12/6), but within the week I knew. I was lucky that she made it very clear that she was tired and done. She got up on her last day, ate, then when we went outside, she didn't go potty, and she tried to just walk off down the driveway. We went inside and she layed down with her head On my lap and I could just tell. We had a vet come to our house two hours later. She never even picked her head up again, just slept on me. No matter what anyone would have said to me, I knew what we needed to do. I knew any more time and she would be suffering. So if you know your girl is not suffering or just hiding it really well to protect you, then keep doing what you are doing. Only you know her well enough to make this decision for her. And no matter what you decide to do, you WILL second guess yourself, thinking you made a mistake. It's hard, but the less you let her see you worry, the better. I saw Paris react to my sadness, so I did my best to conceal and be strong for her, since she did that for me her whole life. Just love her and spend as much time as possible together and trust that either she will let you know when she is ready, or that you will just know. Don't think about the future, I believe that now is all that matters to them. 15 is a wonderfully long life, and it sounds like you gave her an amazing one. Be proud of that. I also lost my 81/2 year old rescued Doberman, Dobie, on 7/10/17 to a heart arrhythmia. (It was a rough year.) But knowing that he had the happy life he did after coming to me (8 years!) does makes me feel better. We only get so much time with them, and it's never enough for us, but it's everything to them!
Quote 0 0
I have just had to make the hard decision with my baby girl, Berrie B. 14 months ago berrie developed pancreatitis and gastroenteritis, she was in terrible pain, thankfully the vets turned how around. Then over the next 11 months, the pancreatitis kept rearing its ugly head and back in berrie would have to go for intravenous treatment.  Each time berrie came back more anxious and nervous of things. She found be parted from me and being in the vets extremely stressful and it broke my heart. Ive slept on my kitchen floor some nights when berrie had the upset tummy (the easiest place to clean up if she had an accident), I would rub her belly until she fell asleep. Then on the 17th October 2017, ill never forget it, at 0330 berrie woke me up and was violently sick, but the sick was blood! Called the emergency vet, after checking her over, he saw that she had red dots on her gums, after a blood test, it showed she had no platelets! she was bleeding, rushed her to the specialist hospital and my little girl was diagnosed with severe thrombocytopenia, an auto immune disease, basically her immune system was attacking her blood. She had 5 days there, which involved chemotherapy and put on a immune suppressants (super high dose of steroids) and the plan was every 3 weeks drop down by 5mg of steroids (she was on 30mg a day!) and a blood test 10 days later to make sure her platelet levels were maintaining. When berrie came home from the specialist hospital, she was so traumatised being away from me and her home, her behaviour and personality changed. I wasn't allowed to walk her, for fear of her just bruising herself, her little life was at home (after all the treatment she didn't want to leave the boundaries of her safe area either(home). Between October and last Sunday berrie had been rushed in a few times with the pancreatitis flaring up.  I knew I was losing my baby.  Then early hours this Sunday the diahhrea started again, then turned to blood after a few hours, but this time was different, she was shaking, laying in her bed and just going to the toilet, not drinking and just wanted her rock hard stomach rubbing.  The months on the high dose steroid had done its damage and they believe an undetected ulcer had ruptured.  I knew then I lost my world.  I lost her brother only a year ago, so it was always just me and berrie. I absoubtley love her, miss her and finding it really hard to come to terms, that my berrie b peacefully passed away Sunday. Im now at home, with two empty dog beds on my own, unable to sleep, eat and cope.  When I lost Alfie, I set up a Charity and that helped me feel like he is still alive and I know I will come to feel like that with Berrie B, but at the moment I can not stop crying, even as I write this, tears are running down my face. Berrie loved coming out on my Trike with me so every year on the anniversary of her passing, I will be going on a Trike ride honouring my Berrie B. You know in your heart when its the right time, nature finds a way of giving you that gut feeling. Only you and with the guidance of the vet can make that decision. I have a facebook page called Alfies Legacy Fund, you'll see my Berrie and Alfie (my worlds). My berrie was only 4 and half, a little sprocker spaniel. We had this unbreakable bond and our time together is imprinted in time. I had the best 4 and half years with berrie and the best 12 years with Alfie and no other way of living those years would of come close to what I have been honoured to experience with my babies.
Quote 0 0
The advice you've been given by others is pretty good, but I'll share my experiences with you too in hopes it helps.  I just put down my dog at 14, and am still questioning my judgment.  Almost nobody is ever convinced they get the timing right.  The best advice I can share is listen to your heart.  I asked my vet for advice and she said, "Evaluate the quality of her life.  What are her days like?  Can she eat and drink?  Are there parts of the day she enjoys?  When you reach the point where there is more bad than good, your heart will tell you it's time."  I also think you should ask God for help to know what's right.  What other people say doesn't matter as much as you listening to your dog and your heart.  I believe if you listen to your heart, assess what your dog's quality of life is like, ask for God's guidance, it'll all come out right at the end, though it may not feel like that for a long while.  What matters is you know you did the best you could for a dog you love

Connie C
Quote 0 0
Thank you for sharing such important thoughts and feelings...  Sappho is beautiful, and it was a most fortunate day when the two of you found each other.  I had my loving and wonderful dog Tink put to sleep only eight days ago, and I believe this has been the saddest and most difficult time I've ever experienced.  I hope you've found some of the words above to be of comfort.  Knowing when the time has come really is confounding and is such a mystery to me.  From what I have experienced personally and from what I have read here, it seems that each situation is unique with so many different circumstances and variables with pets and their humans.  We also have differing thresholds for things like levels of acceptance and tolerance to pain.

But at the same time, there is a common thread we all share, or most of us do, which is that we fear and are deeply saddened at the prospect of being separated from something we love so much.  I wish I had wisdom to impart to people in difficult times like these.  All I can tell you is what I felt regarding a decision to let Tink go when I did.  I just knew in my heart when it was time.  It was as if the hope of her recovery receded. I was overcome by finding her diminished quality of life to be more unbearable than the thought of losing her.  I just knew in my heart it was time.  Despite the astounding grief over her not being with me anymore, I haven't had any regrets in making that decision. 

The love and happiness you and Sappho have shared is so very apparent in your words, and fortunately that is something about which you will never have doubts or regrets.  Thanks again for sharing such personal thoughts, and know what you said has helped me as well.  
James L Trippe
Quote 0 0