Tuesday, April 28, 2009


It was July of 1999. I wanted a dog. It was a time when I didn't have a dog I could call my own. So I called this number in the paper and went to look at this puppy. When I got there, I found this little tiny ball of yellow fur, only 4 weeks old. Her momma had been hit by a car. She was confined in a tiny dog run and her coat was covered with mud, feces, and God knows what else. She wasn't what I was looking for, but I couldn't turn my back and walk away from her. She was so pitiful and scared. She would flinch every time I reached out to pet her. Within a few days, she was sleeping in my bed... nestled up against my chest.

The years have not been kind to her. At about 12 weeks, she was hit by a car. She wasn't hurt too bad. Mostly it just tumbled her, scared her, and left a few scrapes. About 6 months after that, she somehow sliced the pad completely off one of her paws. Another 6 months after that, she got her left front leg caught in a coyote trap (we think). It scraped the flesh clear down to the bone and left her with a permanent limp. She was accident free for about 5 years when I left her with my mom. Since she has a tendency to chase horses, she got kicked several times, breaking several teeth. At some point, she was either kicked by one of the horses or hit by a car (we really never figured it out) but it completely shattered her right front let. At that point we were faced with the options of amputation or surgical repair. Since she had already had a serious injury to her left leg, the vet didn't know if she would adjust to amputation or be able to support her weight on that one bad leg. So surgical repair it was. Two steel plates, numerous screws, and $600 later, she has a gimpy right front leg, but she had two legs. Shortly after that she came back to me.

Now we are creeping up on her 10 year birthday. Two years past the life expectancy for her breed. Her body is starting to fail her. She has a harder time controlling her bowels and bladder. The poor girl feels so badly when she has an accident. She will just hang her head and look at me, and I know if she could speak she would say, 'I'm so sorry.' She has a harder time getting up these days, and I can tell she is in a significant amount of pain when she walks. Not only in her previously injured limbs, but in all her joints. Sometimes just the pain of getting up is enough to make her yelp. She isn't as content as she used to be and she doesn't always meet me at the door anymore. Most days she would rather just hide in my bedroom... where she is safe from the accidental owies that happen with two toddlers in the house.

I have always thought that as long as an animal has a good quality of life, then I would not make the decision to put them down. But now after 10 years, I'm faced with trying to measure how good her quality of life is. Is she still happy? Is she still content? How much pain is she really in? The vet is coming tomorrow. I originally made the appointment with the intentions of updating her vaccinations and doing a yearly exam. But I guess at this point I need to have the quality of life versus quantity of life discussion with him. Hopefully he can just give her something to ease her discomfort. I'm not ready to let go of her. She has been my protector, my faithful companion, and a part of my family. No matter how timid and terrified of people she is, she will always put herself between me and any stranger. Do I let her suffer for my own personal benefit? Or do I look into the possibility of easing her discomfort on a permanent level. It's heartbreaking and I'm torn.

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