I haven't been on this site long, and only found it when I was searching for some information on senior German Shepherds. Reading through all the topics and info is almost overwhelming, but it was obvious how knowledgeable and caring the members here are. Although I haven't posted much, the thoughts and messages I received regarding my questions were helpful.
The last posts I made here were regarding my girl, Maggie. She was "only" 15 when I found this site and was losing strength in her back end and having some bowel incontinence issues. I realized she was an old girl, and wasn't so much looking for solutions to her problems, but ways to help her be comfortable and maybe slow down the progression. She turned 16 in December and was still doing about the same. Through all of her aging over the last year and a half, the biggest question I had was how would I know when it was time to say goodbye. Most people I know had to put their dog down due to a terminal illness. The decision was all but made for them. Maggie, on the other hand, was healthy, but getting old. The inevitable decision seemed impossible to me. Yes, she was slowing down and slipping on the floors, but when was it going to be too much for her? I promised her I would clean up the accidents and take care of her in any way she needed, for as long as she was happy and still wanted to be here. Our routine, since the day we got her, was to go for a walk, or in the yard, first thing in the morning and come in to a Mikbone before breakfast. Even as her appetite lessened over the last several months, the Milkbones were always eaten. The second week in January I noticed she had left the cookies for a couple days in a row. That's when I knew we were getting close. After a week, I spoke with the vet and had to come to terms with the fact that we were very close to the end. I could now see that even in the last week or two, Maggie had lost a considerable amount of weight, lost most of her appetite (even for the treats) and just seemed tired. So, after taking a couple days to process everything, our decision was made. By Wednesday we realized it was her time, and made the decision to put her to sleep. I tried to schedule it for that Friday, but because of the vet's schedule decided to wait until Monday. Friday night was rough. She was having a hard time walking and even trying to lay down. I started to feel worse (if that was possible) - like I was forcing her to keep going for a few days when she was already trying to tell me she was ready. But, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning were different. I'm not sure why or how, but she only had one accident in the house all weekend (usually a couple a day), she was more steady on her feet and she seemed generally happy. After my initial conversation with the vet on Monday, the dog food pretty much got put to the side, and Maggie was eating whatever she liked. That didn't change over the weekend. We had waffles and eggs for breakfast, shared bacon cheesburgers and steak tips for dinner and had plenty of Carrots (her favorite) for snacks. My only goal for the weekend was to enjoy the time we had left together. Besides the feasts, we got in a nice last walk, spent a lot of time laying together on the floor and enjoyed the company of some of her favorite people who came to visit. Knowing what was going to happen for a week also gave us the opportunity to think of some things we wouldn't have been able to do if she needed to be put down immediately. One of those things was getting a paw impression as a keepsake. My wife called a local pottery shop and they were all too happy to help us out. They gave us a couple pieces of clay, and after our initial attempts, we were able to get a great impression (photo below). On Monday morning I couldn't make the time go by slow enough. We shared a plate of scrambled eggs for breakfast and then headed to the vet. Initially, I wanted to have her euthanized at home, so she would be as relaxed and comfortable as possible, and I didn't want my kids (11 and 8) to be there. Of course things rarely work out how you would like, and we had to go to the vets' office with both of my girls. And, in the end, I couldn't have been happier with how it all worked out. Maggie was completely comfortable, my girls got to say their goodbyes and the vet who took care of Maggie for the 13 1/2 years we had her, and cared deeply for her, was the one to help us through the process.
I've never dealt with anything as difficult as this. Maggie was our first baby, my best friend and the most loyal companion I could have ever asked for. She was one of the special ones and will always be missed. It has been a month, but I still expect to see her when I wake up or get home from work, and have to remind myself when I am out that I don't have to run home and let the dog out. But, I wouldn't trade the time we spent together for anything.