I took BT to the vet on Saturday after reading everyone’s suggestions in my last post about her. The receptionist wrote down “Urinary Infection” as the reason for my visit, but when my vet entered the room I spewed out the long list of abnormal behavior I’ve been seeing in her.
- Strange urinary accidents
- Stress panting
- Unexplained crying
- Compulsive licking
- Decreased interest in playing with Pascale
- No longer interested in toys
- Unable to focus long enough to chew
- Doesn’t seem out affection from me
He patiently listened to me talk without interrupting, and when I finished he said that everything I told him could have written a pamphlet for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CDS in dogs.
CDS is a neurodegenerative disorder of senior dogs which is characterized by both cognitive changes and neurophysiological pathologies.5,6,7 Memory impairment, poor problem solving skills, social disconnect, confusion and day-night reversal may occur and increase as the condition progresses. (Source)
In plain english, it’s Alzheimer’s for dogs. There is no cure, and it will only get worse. While I have suspected for a while that there was something seriously wrong with my dog and thought I was prepared for the news, I still started to cry in the examination room for the first time in my life. My vet handed me a tissue, and told me about his personal dog who had the same disease.
He said that he held on to her too long, and let the disease progress too far before euthanasia. When he would come home from work, his dog greeted him at the door happy & spinning in circles to see him just like she had in her youth. However he soon realized that his beloved dog gave the best of her sanity to him, and that during the day with his wife & kids it was a different story. When he told me about his dog giving her best for my vet, it made me think that BT had been giving her best self for Tim. Now that her simple brain has realized he’s gone, she’s not doing nearly as well.
We talked about quality of life. If BT pees in her bedding or has accidents in the house, she doesn’t really care. That’s aggravating for me, but for her… not so much. The bigger concern is her semi-constant state of stress. When she’s having a bad episode or day, she will just pace and stress pant and only settle when she’s exhausted herself. I told my vet that she doesn’t come to me for petting or cuddling any more, but will instead compulsively lick my leg when she happens to wander nearby. He asked me if the only thing she had left was compulsive licking used as a pacifier, was that much to hang on to? I knew the answer – it’s not.
There is a medication that can help with this (Anipryl), but he warned me that he doesn’t like to give it out much. It doesn’t work in all dogs, and only will work for a short period of time. At best, it can get the dog back somewhat to their previous level of cognitive ability. Even if that improvement is great, the improvement might only last a few weeks or months before the dog inevitably goes downhill again. I asked for some of the medication anyway, but only so I could try to give her a few good weeks while I prepared myself.
I’m traveling to North Carolina in mid-October, and both my vet and I agreed that it wouldn’t be fair to her at all to kennel her like this. So while I kept dabbing my eyes, I took BT and the medication home with me and told my vet I would call back to make a euthanasia appointment sometime before October.
When I got in my car, I fell apart. BT happily napped in the back seat, and I cried the entire way home.. and then most of the day. I cried because despite joking about smothering her with a pillow, I love my BT. She has always tolerated me at best (Tim was her true love in life), but she’s the first small dog I’ve ever owned. The first dog I could hold in my arms like a baby, and the dog that snored at night between me and my husband for many, many years. I cried because I have never taken a dog to the vet to be euthanized before, and I know it’ll be hard.
Mostly I cried because I know that the last thing I’ll ever say to her is, “Tell your Dad I love him.” Because now I’ll have an apartment filled with framed wedding photos and Boston Terrier trinkets, but no husband and no Boston Terrier. Just like it was before I met Tim, it’ll be me and Eliot (plus a Pascale). The family united I loved for so long is permanently broken. If I send his beloved little dog to the afterlife, it’ll mean he’s never coming back to us.
I cried about all of these things, and walked my puffy red eyes into the barn to hack Simon. He needed his walk/trot ride to build that suspensory strength back up, so I rode. After I rode I washed his face, tended to his little bouts of skin fungus and stuffed him full of his favorite treats. One day I’ll need to make the same decision for Simon and for Eliot and for Pascale and any other animal I ever have, but not today.