Our much loved dog, Max, who we had for 11 years (he was going to be 12.5 in another month) was put down yesterday. He was suffering from oral melanoma since May, and given 3 to 6 months to live.
The cancer had spread upward into his eye socket, causing the eye to bulge, and fluid was building up in the cheek. We could tell he was experiencing discomfort as at times he would pace, or rub his face into the carpet, and paw at the cancer side of his face. Many nights he would be agitated, unable to go to sleep as he would pace around the bedroom, again rubbing his face. Eventually though he would settle down and go to sleep. When we took him to the vet at the time we noticed the eye bulging, the vet said he probably would not last a month...that was 2 weeks ago.
A couple days ago he actually spat out a tooth, as the cancer had eaten away so much bone and tissue that the tooth popped out.
Yesterday my wife told me that she felt it was time for him to be put to sleep. This somewhat surprised me as Max was still eating, and doing his walks...with excitement beforehand. However, as she spends the entire day with him at home since she works out of the house, she said that Max would just look at her, as if asking her to do something to be put at peace. This is something I would see also at night after letting him out to go potty, as instead of just going straight to bed as usual, he would instead linger, and approach me as I walked away. However, he would only follow me so far, stopping midway in the hallway, and just looking at me, as if he wanted something. It was all very "out of the ordinary". I would always hug him, and ask "what do you want?". I suspect now that the look I was getting was the look that my wife was getting from him during the day.
So she makes the appointment yesterday at 4:45 for him to be put down. When I arrived at home, and went to take him to the car, he assumed that we were going for his usual walk, and did his dance of excitement. It really broke me down, and I began to cry, and think "oh my god, no Max, we're are not going for a walk", as I knew what the intention was.
When I got to the vet, I again broke down crying as I just didn't think it was time. The vet was terrific, and said she could talk to my wife, who had stayed home, if I wanted her to. I said no, and then we talked for about an hour as I tried to come to grips with the whole situation. I told her how I felt it may not be time as Max still liked to go for his walks, and was still eating, and enjoyed his treats. However, I could also see the discomfort in Max with all the face rubbing, and agitation at night. I was also thinking that my wife, who loves Max dearly with all her heart, was seeing this anguish in Max.
The vet explained that dogs will many times do things to just please their owner, and will temporarily put aside their pain to do so. So even when they are in pain, or discomfort, they can pull through long enough to do an activity. This did make sense to me as after the walks, or the potty breaks, he would go back to showing signs of discomfort. The vet also ended up agreeing with my wife, saying that it was time, especially as the cancer had spread so quickly. It would only be a matter of a week or so until the cancer would cause so much pain that he'd stop eating.
So, I decided to go thru with the process of putting him down, and stayed with him to the end.
But now I wonder if I did the right thing...was it too soon? I know it's useless at this point to wonder about it, as it cannot be undone. But with all the emotional pain, I just can't shake this question of "was it too soon?".
I could hardly sleep last night, as I cried and anguished about Max. It's bad enough to have to deal with the loss, but I just couldn't let go of that one burning question "was it too soon?".
The image of him being excited about going for his walk, only to be led to the vet to be put down is just burned into my mind, and it saddens me beyond belief. I think Max probably was ready, and I certainly felt it was time during the moments I saw the look of despair many times at night.
I feel that waiting longer would have made it easier on us, but then it would have been at Max's expense. But then again, I guess it really wouldn't have been easier on us as looking at him in his despair would be very draining emotionally, with the feeling that we are putting him thru the discomfort because we just couldn't see him go.
I suspect there is no magical answer here. But during this time of such intense, deep sadness, I feel I am grasping at straws for something to resolve this for me. I've never felt such a deep emotional pain before, and I'm 57 tears old, so am no stranger to death, having dealt with that years ago when my parents passed away.
I know Max is now at peace, which is the one positive I can hold on to. But how do I stop beating myself up with the imagery of that last fateful day, with poor Max thinking he's going for a walk, and he ends up...well...you know.
Love you always Max.