May 20, 2016

Dying at any age is hard

Piri didn't have a very good night last night. He got up multiple times and just coughed and walked around as if he was uncomfortable. I got up too, multiple times, throughout the night and slept next to him on the floor, gently petting him back to sleep. He had coughing issues in the past and we had it checked out with the cardiologist who said it wasn't anything too alarming. I'm not sure if last night's cough (and he's had bouts of coughing a couple of nights this past week) is something he's had already or if his cancer has now spread to his lymph nodes or lungs. His breathing is different now - the shallow sounding breathing - and so now I'm back to worrying again, looking things up on the Internet and silently freaking out. 

I'm so thankful that Piri is here but caring for a senior dog with cancer and kidney disease can, no is, a lot of work. I know we can't beat Piri's cancer. It's an un-winnable fight. What we're doing with his treatment is trying to slow the progression so we can buy some more time to be with him. But, because there have been so many other times where he beat the odds to come back, I thought deep inside that maybe we can win this. That he'll prove everybody wrong again. 

After last night, my hopes dashed just a bit. 

Taking in a dog means it's a promise to be with them until the end. I look back on how lucky we have been that things happened in our lives that complemented Piri's aging. We bought a house with a nice backyard just when it was getting slightly harder to go on walks all the time. I had quit my job and started DogVacay at home right when Piri needed someone to look after him more. I truly feel blessed that I can stay with him all the time to prepare his food, make sure he's not stressed being home alone and not have to worry about whether he's had an accident and is bewildered and confused. I know it's not that convenient for everyone and unfortunately in some cases many dogs are given up and abandoned during the years they need their human companions the most - when they are old and sick. But really, taking in a dog means it's a promise to be with them until the very end. Not just when they fit conveniently into our lives. 

And while I do find us in a fortunate situation, it's hard when people write it off as "you have it so easy" or "you have it so lucky." We do. But our dog still has cancer. He is also battling kidney disease. We are on borrowed time. My time is literally spent caring for him round the clock. I chose to do this, yes. But it's not something where I get to enjoy bon bons on the side. It's stressful. I lose sleep. I still have my work caring or guest pups who all have their needs. I still have things to take care of around the house. It feels like I'm working and taking care of things non-stop for 24 hours. Sometimes I don't shower or look put together for days. It's tiring. It's heartbreaking. But I'm not complaining. I chose to do this but it's definitely not easy.

But of all the things that is hardest to hear is "Piri is old - he's 17. You should feel lucky that he's lived until 17." I hear this all the time, even at the vet's office or at the oncologist's office. 

This doesn't make him dying any easier. 

I know we are lucky that he's lived until 17 and I hope everyone will get to enjoy being with their dogs well into their senior years. But just because he's lived this long doesn't make him dying less painful or ok. 

Dying at any age is just so heart wrenching to see. 

Well intentioned thoughts and condolences I am sure, but please remember this the next time you want to reach out to someone who's is spending their last moments with their beloved senior companion.

Dying at any age is hard. 

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