My beloved girl...
I put my beloved girl to sleep this weekend. Her heart stopped working properly, and she was in pain, and I was faced with a choice of a lot of surgeries with very little hope of improvement, or the worst decision I've ever had to make.
She was almost nine years old. Earlier this month, she had surgery to remove a super-scary lump on her femur that turned out to be a not-scary lipoma, and Friday was the first day she went without the Cone of Happiness (as I call it, because she always thought that the Cone of Shame was a hilarious tool with which to run into people).
During the lipoma removal surgery, my vet ran some cardio diagnostics because he detected an extreme heart murmur, but it was a "wait-and-see" sort of heart thing, because the heartbeat apparently normalized. The shape of her heart was apparently a bit off, as well--a little too large, a little too flat in places where it should've been round, a little too asymmetrical. I was told to keep an eye out in the future for typical doggy heart problems, i.e. the coughing, lethargy, and fainting that manifests when the heart isn't working right.
Some might jump in here and say that the vet should have done something about it right away, but I'll say now that he's been her vet since she was little, and I've always had immense respect for him and her decisions. He got her through some scary surgeries in the past, and is very much of the old-school "wait and see" type rather than the over-medicate and over-analyze type. We discussed the potential for heart medication in the future should she ever manifest symptoms, but as she's been full of her usual energy and joy, it didn't seem necessary at the time.
On Saturday, on my way home from work, my friend (well, ex-boyfriend, with whom we've been staying while my doggie recovered from her surgery, as there are lots of dogs where I usually live) called to say that something was definitely wrong with my dear girl. He's her dog-dad, and he knows her well enough to recognize when she's not right. I guess he'd let her outside, and she sprinted after some feral cats, and got pretty excited/agitated. She came inside normally, and suddenly went into this trance-like state, and then just laid down.
I was rounding the corner to the house when he called, and she was almost non-responsive when I walked in the door. Her pupils were fully dilated, and her breathing was shallow, and her heartbeat was faint and irregular. She didn't wag her tail at all. She didn't want carrots (her favorite thing). She responded a little bit to cuddles, nuzzling into my hands as usual, albeit faintly.
And so we went to the emergency clinic. They had to take her out of the car on a stretcher. They put her on oxygen and did ultrasounds and tried to keep her heart going.
The emergency vet came in and told me she could spend the night sticking needles into the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart) to drain it, and then send her to a different hospital for more scans and surgery in the morning. She suspected that there was a tumor of some sort on the heart. She didn't know if the beautiful beast who's been my best friend for nine years would make it through the night, but she knew that there would likely be a lot of surgeries to go through to rectify what she saw in her scans, and she didn't know if my girl would make it through them.
The options were few, and none of them were good, and none of them seemed to lead to a path that would lead to a healthy dog. I had to make a decision far too quickly. I didn't want her last days or weeks or months to be filled with doctors and needles and being alone in cages and on operating tables.
So I picked the worst possible option for me, and what seemed like the kindest option for her, and I hugged her and gave her all my love as she was put to sleep. She was the best dog ever. She was my very best friend in the whole world, and quite honestly the best thing in my life.
Right now I wish I'd opted for all of the surgeries because she might still be here, but another part of me says I made the right choice. And another part of me screams that I killed my dog. I've killed four animals in my life: a squirrel, a chipmunk, and a kangaroo rat with my car, and my best friend, my little big-foot, my baby, my good good girl. And I'm heartbroken and raw and it hurts so very much. I haven't slept without her by my side since I brought her home from the pound when she was eight months old.
Her last day was good. She woke up and got cuddles from two of her favorite people. She got to go for a ride in the car with the windows down. We went for a walk. She ate carrots and dog-snacks. She wasn't alone at all, and she wasn't alone at the end, and I managed not to sob while I was saying goodbye, because I didn't want to worry her. The vet agreed with my choice, but I have a feeling that they agree with whatever choice you pick.
How do you deal with this? How do you not go crazy with the "what-ifs"?