Knowing when it’s time

Back in November I posted…“I can’t keep her around longer for me.  I have to “man up” and do what’s best for her, and for her, that is giving her the best last months of her life.

Today I finished that.

I wanted a sign. I really did.
Kestrel and I were so connected I was sure there would be obvious indications. Sometimes its really clearcut, they stop eating (at least in Labradors that’s a big sign).  Sometimes they collapse and their gums are pale and the next steps are clear.  Some folks say there is “the look”, and wait for that look.  Some folks say “you’ll know”.

Sometimes its not clear cut at all.
The eating continues, fueled by the prednisone. They lie down on the floor because they are tired, more tired than usual.  But wag, wag, wag when they see you. They bark to demand breakfast.  They totter out and eat snow. They totter in and demand cookies.  They knock over the trash to eat bacon grease soaked tinfoil Where is my sign?

There are checklists on animal hospice sites.  An excellent one at Quality of Life Scale . But suppose the dog is taking nutrition, hydrating, happy, doesn’t seem to be in pain, has tumors which are cleaned and getting nursing care, the checklists don’t help.  The differences between a good day and a bad day are subtle.  Didn’t bark for breakfast.  Slept more. Didn’t move much.

Green goop in the eyes.
That was my sign.  The sign to look more deeply and consider Kestrel – what does she love most to do? What always made her happiest? I saw the green goop, and cleared it away, and petted her.  She dug up an old busted frisbee and tried to pick it up.  I picked it up for her, and could see she could no longer chase it.  So Kestrel stood and I ran it up to her and she grabbed it with delight. I knew I needed to think harder.

I thought.  I reached out on Facebook and got support and concern and positive energy and compassion and advice when I asked “how do you face the end game”?  And I started to find peace.  I dug around on some pet hospice sites, I reviewed prior CE’s on the Art of Euthanasia. Was I keeping her here just for me, even though she kept eating, kept wagging?  Maybe her end includes eating and wagging.  I pondered more deeply.  She didn’t love the cone, but the cone was essential to keep her from making the ulcerations worse.  Her leg had edema, and when it had surprisingly more the next day, maybe that was a sign as well. When petting her, I could feel that she was losing muscle mass. One morning she didn’t bark for breakfast, did that mean she was gone? was she done? No, she just didn’t bark for breakfast that day.

So what did we do? I thought and petted her, sent her Reiki.  Kestrel wagged and ate, and played 3 rounds of bring the frisbee.  She slept and I watched.  And somehow I knew.  Sometimes there are no checklists, there is no clearcut answer, you have think more deeply, sense more deeply, to know.  You may never be sure that you are right.  Sometimes you just have to go with “better one day too soon than one day too late”.

Today was that day. In typical Kestrel style, her last minutes included both eating and wagging – and that brought peace to me.

Kestrel Neroe Tourney 2013

9 Responses to this post.

  1. Jess's Gravatar

    Posted by Jess on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you, Barb and Kes, for always being teachers. Kestrel and her non-stop wag will be greatly missed.

  2. David Keller's Gravatar

    Posted by David Keller on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Beautifully written. Every Labrador lover and owner who has been down this path realizes that you have captured the essence of this unique moment in our journey with these astounding souls. Bravo, Barb … As always, you took the grandest care of your darling, Kestrel!

  3. Lynda's Gravatar

    Posted by Lynda on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you, Barb for sharing this with us. I know it will help so many people who are in your shoes, wondering “how will I know” and will comfort people who already made the decision and have been second guessing themselves. xoxox

  4. Cynthia Baumann's Gravatar

    Posted by Cynthia Baumann on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Dear Kes –

    Through your Mom…her love, sense, committment, empathy, defication and practicality, we learned in Boston what is important in loving a dog. Thank you Kes for lending us you, your beauty, your Labrador, and your fun.

    We love your Mom… her Kes, and thank you for showing me what matters.

    CB – Kody – Rubi and Angels Dealer, Casey and BF Boo

  5. Cathy Dragoni's Gravatar

    Posted by Cathy Dragoni on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Oh Barb. I am tearing as I am typing. I have made a similar journey twice before. The “knowing” was different each time. And each time seems harder, not easier. God bless and hugs.

  6. Dede's Gravatar

    Posted by Dede on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    A thoughtful blog, Barb and I know what you mean. I felt the same about my previous BC, Beau. I have learned that while sometimes it is obvious. But there are times when the signs are there but our breaking heart seems to hide them.

    What I try to remember through it all – is thier quality of life there or is it our love alone? It is by far the most unselfish act of love we can do for our fur-babies as they depend on us for this last act of everlasting love.

  7. Deborah Powell's Gravatar

    Posted by Deborah Powell on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you Barb! I am so sorry for your loss. Your posts are and will be so helpful to so many of us.

  8. Kathie Bystrek's Gravatar

    Posted by Kathie Bystrek on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    I have put my arms around more dogs over the past few years while the medication slipped into their veins and took them from my daily life. That was the final gift I gave them, holding them and looking into their eyes telling them how much mama loved them. The getting to that point has been made easier over the years by my resolving to look into their eyes and have them tell me when the time was done. Finnegan stopped chasing the other dogs and just laid in my arms sighing. Seamus went out with a great flair as he jumped up on the receptionist’s desk at the vet’s office. Murphy, my extremely smart Brittany told me by his confusion and not knowing where he was. Each dog was different and you’re right, the way they left this world did give me a sort of peace. Now, I remember each one of them with more smiles than tears and that is their greatest gift to me.

  9. Dawn's Gravatar

    Posted by Dawn on 14.01.16 at 7:28 pm

    Barb, Thank you for sharing your journey with Kestrel. Her heart lives on in yours. Always.
    Godspeed Kestrel, and peace in your memories and in your heart, Barb

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