My first dog is now an old man. When I got him it was after years of campaigning and convincing. My mom didn't like dogs and my dad didn't want to upset my mom. They were very clear that he was MY dog. I took care of him, paid for everything he needed (I was 13 when I got him) and always did all his training etc. He's a feisty little 25lb mutt. When I got ready to leave for college I had figured out a way to bring him with me when they said they wanted to keep him. Turns out my parents are soft-hearted after all!
He's been living with them on and off for almost six years. They travel often for long periods and during that time he either goes to board or comes to me. I'd say he spends about 40% of his time in my care now. My parents take excellent care of him, he gets my elderly father out for his twice-daily walks, and gives them something to care for. They love playing with him every evening and I believe they're good for each other.
Now he's 14. He's an endearingly grumpy old man. He's stone deaf, he sleeps under my bed most of the day, and he has a grade 6 heart murmur. His eyes are cloudy and he has cataracts but he appears to see fairly well. He has good days where he runs around and bad days where he just goes outside to potty and goes back to bed. He had surgery 1.5 yrs ago to clear out a bladder full of large stones. He has stones again, and a UTI (we're treating it). He's on Benazepril. He had a dental about 6 months ago and did very poorly under anesthesia, to the point of requiring epi after his heart stopped. Now he has a tumor in his anal gland that is starting to grow rapidly. At this point it doesn't affect his function, it's just annoying and is causing recurring impaction/infection. He also has two teeth that need to be removed.
My parents are scheduled to pick him up in March to take him for a few months, and when we spoke on the phone my mom said that they discussed it and wanted to have him euthanized at that time. I'm not sure how to feel about this; he's eating and drinking, can move around just fine, is active when he wants to be, and (to our knowledge) is not in pain. My mom is terrified that he'll be suffering and they won't know it because of the bladder stones that they didn't catch until it was pretty advanced. The office I work at will not euthanize a 'healthy' dog but even they admit that he is in a grey area. None of his systems are shutting down just yet, but he certainly does appear to be amassing a laundry list of elderly dog issues.
Obviously at his age the next few months may make the decision for us, but I'm not sure what to think. I've never had to make this choice. I've euthanized foster dogs that were so ill or injured that it was the only responsible choice, but not a dog that is just 'old' with no real particular ailment that necessitates it.
Is it kinder to let him go while he's still doing OK or is that cutting it short? Should we wait until he's starting to suffer or is that cruel? I know it's an individual choice that only my family can make, but I really just wanted to start a dialogue.