She started off like many of the posts I see every day in Facebook groups. “Why do I read these?” I said to myself. I read them because I love animals and I like to help them. Sometimes this is a gift, and sometimes it seems like a punishment.
The photo was of a little chihuahua. Her little grey muzzle indicated her age. Her right eye was blue and cloudy, likely from cataracts. Her left eye was completely swollen shut and bulging with inflammation. The streams of tears were visible in the photo. I was already upset. I started to read…
She needs $2000 and fast for vet care for this dog and some other ones. She can’t qualify for care credit. She opened a new credit card but the limit is $300 and it’s already maxed out. She has a GoFundMe but she can’t post it here. What should she do? How can she get a loan with low interest? Her vet retired and no new vet will do a payment plan. These are rescue dogs and she’s doing her best. No rude comments and no judging!
My heart sunk and I felt the warm spread of anger in my neck. Either she’s trying to scam people for money or she is legitimately in over her head with all these dogs (there are SEVEN in her profile pic) and they are suffering without the proper care. I looked at the picture again and remembered what it felt like to have a simple corneal abrasion. The pain, the tearing, the light sensitivity. I commented, “What is the diagnosis on your chihuahua’s eyes?”, wondering why she knew she needed $2000. A minute later a response, “I don’t know that’s why I need a vet appointment. She has diabetes, cushings, and chronic pancreatitis. I have some ointment but it’s something else- poor old girl.”
I went from trying to think of a way to help this dog, to just plain sadness. This woman could win the powerball drawing and spend every cent of it on this dog and the dog would still be in pain, still ill, unwell, miserable as her little body just slowly gives out. Her eyes most likely hurt constantly from the pressure of glaucoma, cataracts and some kind of current infection/uveitis. Her body doesn’t metabolize food well and she battles nausea and recurrent diarrhea from pancreatitis. She shivers and feels tired and can’t regulate her body temperature well. She has to get injections every day. What kind of life is that for a little dog that doesn’t understand why she hurts? Why her sight is fading? Why she is tired, hungry, cold or in pain?
Then I said the stupidest thing you can say on the internet to strangers. I said, “I know you are heartbroken about your sweet girl, but maybe with all that’s going on with her and the amount of care and expensive treatments she requires, and the lack of funds, it would be kindest to euthanize her. Please don’t let her suffer.”
“That is the rudest thing you could ever say!”
“Are you serious?”
“She just needs some eye ointment and she will be fine! Don’t KILL her for no reason!”
…it goes on…
The owner replies,
“She has a great quality of life except for the eye thing! I would never let an animal suffer. EUTHANASIA IS NOT AN OPTION”
Ok, I get it. This is where we are and who we are dealing with. It’s too late. I’ve done some judging based on her replies to me and others and she’s the “save them no matter what” type. To some, this seems valiant, honorable, the right thing to do. Life trumps all else. To me, it’s basically abusive. Euthanasia should ALWAYS be an option. Many will not agree with my sentiments or my opinions, because everyone has different life experiences. That’s ok.
Loving animals is my first memory. My entire childhood I wanted to be Snow White and have wild creatures come to me from the woods. I feel alone in a room full of people, never, in a room full of animals. I live and work with them every day, personally and professionally. My belief is that when and if we choose to have pets, or even livestock for that matter, we take on the burden/responsibility of deciding when and how they will die. Unless they fade gently away in their sleep, and most do not, we see them through their entire lifespan. We are their stewards. We feed them and love them and pet them and teach them and give them shelter, and they give us innumerable gifts in return. Gifts that mold our souls and change our hearts in ways that we can never repay them for.
The last, final, and best gift we can give them, is a swift, peaceful, and dignified death if the need arises. Unfortunately for us, it usually does. It’s the hardest decision ever and it never gets any easier, but it’s entirely our responsibility to make the decision based on the best interests of the animal- NOT based on our feelings of loss, or unrealized selfishness, or plain old sadness and loneliness. I vehemently disagree with the ones that say, “they will tell you when it’s time”. Bullshit. Animals are instinctively programmed to survive, not look or act weak, to remain stoic for as long as possible. Let me assure you that we are too dumb to read their tiny signals, the subtle changes in their routine and body language, before they are often completely chronically miserable. I am as guilty as anyone of letting a dog go on too long because she was still “eating and wagging her tail”. I cringe at the thought of the pain she bore because I was unable, and perhaps unwilling, to come to terms with her dying.
Regardless of the amount of money she gets or the number of specialists she sees, that dog isn’t going to improve to a quality of life that she deserves. She deserves to be happy, pain free, and unencumbered by constant digestive issues and volatile blood glucose levels. She has THREE chronic and basically terminal illnesses at her advanced age- even discounting the eye issues.
An old guy who worked years on a racetrack once told me, “honey, dead don’t hurt”, and as callous as I thought he was being at the moment, it was just the opposite. They shouldn’t hurt, not a minute longer than they have to. Animals don’t make plans for the next day, so much of the beauty and attraction we have to them is that they live purely in the moment and they love in the moment too. It’s the curse of the human race to know that we are going to die and spend our lives fearing death.
That little dog just knows that she hurts, all over, and that she can’t see well. She definitely deserves the apparent love of her owner/rescuer. I just wish that lady knew that the best way to show that love, is to let her go. If you ever catch yourself saying, “Euthanasia is not an option”, it’s time to reevaluate your intentions.