Thursday, September 10, 2009

What Would You Do?

Regular readers (by God there are now over 200 a day! small potatoes but the Matron adores any attention in triple digits) know that instead of the regular human brain, the Matron has a special hypochondrial lobe, gray matter that routinely goes into over-drive and outruns the rest of the cells.

So yesterday's diagnosis of cellulitis (from a bug bite, how ignoble) spun her into an hour online uncovering the perils of flesh-eating bacteria. She went to bed with a black sharpie drawn around the parameters of her infection AND she took a picture. All so she could document her demise.

Not happening. Demise, that is. The redness has faded just a hair and stopped growing. Still, this is not dramatic improvement which is why she's composing with a low grade fever and game arm. She is THAT addicted to attention.

But today, the real story in the Matronly Universe is Jekyll, the 16 1/2 year old deaf, blind dog.

The Matron had a staggering realization: she is keeping him alive for the children.

About two weeks ago, Jekyll took one more downward spiral. Yes, he can walk, but it takes him a solid three to five minutes to move from laying to standing or visa versa. Actually, sometimes he just falls down when he's walking and goes to sleep right there.

This past year of blindness and deafness, Jekyll still loved his food and a snuggle. Ear stroking and treats warranted sigh of joy. But now? He appears confused by the tender touch -- sometimes snarls. He starts to eat his little bowl of chow but then loses track of where that bowl could possibly be hiding and falls over.

Worse. Ever. He spends all of his waking hours standing with his snout jutted into some corner, shaking. Then he drops over and sleeps.

The Matron isn't even bothered by the fact that he drips pee anymore. It's this pathetic pained existence that consumes her.

Two years ago, the Matron and her family put the regal Thurston 'to rest.' If she didn't have a LIFE THREATENING bacterial infection and a fever, she'd repost a heartbreaking picture. Instead, scroll down to the right and see 'best dog ever.'

The children went with them.

It went badly.

To watch their dog DIE -- to go from alive (yes, dying and in pain and unable to walk but ALIVE) to dead within a heartbeat, shook those youth to their core. They have not recovered.

Merrick: "Wemembew when we killed Thuwston?"

Yes, her children still speak with regret of the day they pulled the plug on their beloved. She just can't do it again.

They guard Jekyll, jealous and careful.

Stryker: "But Jekyll's doing okay, right Mom? I mean, he's not in any pain, so we just wait this out."


Scarlett just weeps when she watches him. The Matron refuses to even say the dog's name in her presence.


What about Jekyll?

Is it okay to be alive, standing in a corner and shaking - and nothing else? Even if you're not in visible pain? Or is this just old age -- get over it -- and deal?

She just imagines herself at 102 (because she is special) and her children debating, pulling that plug.

Help! What would you do?


Anonymous said...

Maybe Jekyll could be magically transformed into a puppy? A cute little puppy that snuggles and wags its tail all over its body?

Actually, I would start having serious talks with the children, one at a time, then together, about how J.'s end is coming. Maybe he will decide to drop over dead, maybe you will have to do it for him. Let's hope for the former.

smalltownmom said...

I hope my children will be able to pull the plug for me, when the time comes. I've had to do it for a cat...painful for us but far kinder for the cat.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I'm not sure how to handle this with the kids, but it seems that he's not enjoying life anymore. Standing in the corner shivering, not enjoying pets or food -- doesn't sound like a good life to me.

If this has been going on for a while, I'd have to put him down. He's had a long dog-life and he needs you to help him end it. Just breathing and having your heart beat isn't a good life, even for a dog...

Kelly said...

It will be hard, but it's time to let him go.

Just don't take the kids.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm delurking for the first time to comment but here it is - I would take a day or two to prepare the kids, but I would have compassion for the dog and make the decision in the dog's best interest. Not being there it's hard to say but from your description, it might be time to help him along.

It is upsetting for them, yes, but they are also learning that having hurt and even disturbed feelings is all right when the cause is just.

Anonymous said...

Ist's time to let him go.

Anonymous said...

It's very hard to watch your kids go through this, but it's no kindness to poor Jekyll. I agree with the others and start preparing the kids as best you can. Poor Jekyll sounds like he's lost the quality in his life.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I have to agree with your crew of commentors, say good bye, let poor Jekyll rest in peace, but perhaps not with the kids around this time.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar decision to make only too recently. Sometimes a dog needs our help with crossing. They will often cling to life with considerable pain and suffering because they are so in touch with our not wanting to lose them. In my mind, it is the greatest kindness to end suffering when all hope for any quality of life is lost.

SUEB0B said...

My mom used to take the animals on their last trip without a word to us and tell us about it later. It was a real kindness to us. We could mourn without a big drama beforehand.

FlourGirl said...

As a dog owner who made the heart-wrenching decision to put down our family's first dog 10 months ago, it's time to let Jekyll go. He is clearly suffering and it's time to let him be at peace.

I second what kmkat & others said about talking to the kids first. But leave them at home when to take him to the vet. (((HUGS)))

~annie said...

I don't mean to sound harsh, but how can you be sure Jekyll is not in pain? One thing is certain: His quality of life is barely existent. It may seem deceitful, but you might want to schedule an appointment for when the kids are in school.

jenn said...

I've had to do it, too, with a cat who was dying slowly and painfully. It's awful, and no one can really tell you when it's time. You'll know. I think because kids are by nature so egocentric, they are thinking more of the impact of his death on them rather than the quality of his life now. I wish I could think of a way to tell you to handle that, but it's one of life's crueler situations.

Anonymous said...

Lord, but I've had to make the same decision you'll have to make, but for other reasons.
Your dog should be allowed to finish his life in a dignified manner - before he soils himself - or falls to his death because he can't see where he is going.
I'm not about wagging fingers at you, but don't you think this has been going on for too long... J needs to get on to the big park in the heavens.

Rudee said...

First, you're so wise to measure your wound. Even if you don't have flesh eating bacteria, you could have a resistant infection and no progress, or worsening enlargement of the wound would be a good indicator of a resistant germ.

Second, I'm am the absolute worst person to ask about the dog. I miss my Dukealicious Dog more than anything. We put him to rest in March after some major event. I can tell you, after watching his decline, we absolutely knew when the time was right. I'm still heartbroken.

Minnesota Matron said...

Annie -- That's my concern, that Jekyll IS in pain and we just don't know it. Yesterday, he fell down the basement stairs, got stuck in a flower bed outside, and was unable to find the treat I was holding right in front of his nose. I had to open his mouth and put the treat in, which promptly fell out and then he tried to eat my hand. This is SO hard. I can't tell you how much your words mean, everyone!

cndymkr / jean said...

Send the kids to school and then take the dog to the vet. When the kids come home let them know that their dog has died. It will be very hard on you but it should be easier on the kids. The decision will not rest with them. Just be prepared for lots of tears, no matter how you handle it. Hugs.

Ree said...

Hug him. REALLY hard and tell him it's okay to go. That you will love him forever. But it's okay to go. Maybe he'll hear you and close his eyes for the final time.

Otherwise, I'm with everyone else - it sounds painful for ALL of you as well as Jekyll.

Karen ~ said...


Daisy said...

We've had to make that decision, too. It's tough, but necessary.

Heather said...

I have to agree that it's time to let him go. I think I would do it without telling the kids, and break it to them afterward. I think.

Of course your kids are older, but if you think you told them and they would try to talk you out of it then I'd take him in first then tell the kids after he was already gone.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Take him to the vet while they are in school. You can't let that poor creature suffer anymore. Some things are more important than the children's feelings.

We had to do this for my childhood dog. He was 18 and whimpering in pain all the time, but my mother refused to let him go. Luckily, she was in the hospital for a week; we told her the dog passed on in his sleep.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think the consensus is clear. I am seeing the day coming when I have to do the same thing with our older dog and I feel sad already.

The lesson for the kids will be (though not necessarily put in words) that we do not make someone else suffer in order that we do not have to.

Michele Renee said...

I am late to your post but I wanted to share that we had to do this 4 years ago and feel your pain. He was a great dog and we still miss him. We had the dog before we had kids so I think it was hardest on Hubs and I. We found a mobile vet to come to the house and my hubs had dug a grave in the yard. The kids were 8.5 years old, 7 and 4. We then planted a dogwood tree.
I have a sis-in;-law who took their dog to the vet and told her kids that he died when they got there after having a seizure. I just asked my oldest who is now 13 for advice. he says that putting him down is the kind thing to do. It is the adult's decision.
Maybe you could talk to Jekyll about letting go?

Anonymous said...

We were in a similar situation and after talking w/ the children, I opted to take Ziggy in while the boys were in school. It was very difficult but sometimes life is hard. Two and a half weeks later, we adopted 2 puppies and I was finally able to stop crying. Nothing helps a hurting heart like a puppy, two puppies are twice the fun.

thefirecat said...

I hate to have to say this, honey. It's time for Jekyll to go home. Animals do not necessarily understand suffering the same way we do. And you can't know that he's not in physical pain, but it sounds to me like he's in whatever sort of emotional pain or soul pain that dogs have. I've been thinking this to myself, quietly, for some time, wondering when you would let yourself ask this question (though I suspect you've been asking it silently for longer than this.)

I would cry. Hard. But I would take him to the vet. And I'm not sure I would let any of the kids be there. (but then, I don't have kids.)

I've worked at vet's offices, Mary. They tell us when it's time to go. He's telling you.

Soft heart. Big love. You know how to contact me if you need to talk.

Anonymous said...

Responsibility for your pet when it cannot make decisions for itself is important for you to model for your children. It appears (I could be wrong) that there is no longer quality of life in which case it is unkind to make it continue when it is in your power to do otherwise. Explain why to your kids, and then take care of it. Don't have them present though.
Chris in NY

Jamie R said...

My 2 cents for wehat it's worth. Have a family goodbye with the dog one evening, then just you or dear hubby take him in to euthanize him. It's easier when they're not in the room. When I was Scarlett's age my family did exactly that and I think it was the most humane thing to do. The poor dog is no longer happy to be alive. I'm not about to tell you my way is the right way, or even the best way, but that's what I'd do if I were you. (And only because you asked) PS, first time commenter, long time RSS subscriber and I love what you do. Good luck with this horrible decision.

Jennifer said...

I know you have your Buddhist faith to help with this, but I've been really impressed with some of the Waldorf schooling things I've read about people and animals "traveling the rainbow bridge" when they are born and again when they die. It's certainly very comforting. You might see what you can find on this; I am planning to use it with my kids when death becomes more personal for them.

Wishing you the best of luck with this. It is so hard to be the parent sometimes, isn't it?

Kizz said...

As you know my dog (my first one ever) has just been diagnosed with undetermined but terminal neurological problems. She could go today, she could go in months because we don't know exactly what's wrong. She has always been a physically very strong dog so I worry that figuring out when to help her out will be hard to pinpoint. She's a German Shepherd, she's made of steel, she would walk through walls to sit on my lap. I have to believe, though, that knowing when to help her go will be like porn, I'll know it when I see it. As long as I keep my eyes open, at least.

Regarding the kids, couldn't you let them know he needs to go but give them a choice about whether to attend? As a kid I think I would have appreciated the choice. I certainly would have been mad as hell if I hadn't known in advance and been able to say goodbye.