Thursday, August 22, 2013

Paying the Price for Love: Aging Pets

Sir Darby will be eight years old in September. It's hard to believe that my precious boy is a senior citizen.  2013 has been a rough year for Darby. He has suffered from three bouts of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, nearly died in the doggy ER from pancreatitis, and now he's recovering from damage to two discs which have been pressing on his spinal cord.

As the veterinarian showed me the X-ray, he said something that stunned me.

"Some people just choose not to treat these things."

I was horrified! Little Darby was in so much pain from his damaged discs, he was roaching his back and couldn't control his hind legs. The vet said his condition is called ataxia.  I couldn't believe that some people would choose not to treat such a thing. Then I realized, sadly, that what he probably meant was that they put their pets down when such problems arose. 

No one can judge another when they have to make the hardest decision regarding their pets. I've been in that position, and I know that each person must decide whether continued treatment is in the best interest of the dog or not. The pet's age is often a factor. Even though Darby is nearly eight, toy breeds can live much longer lives than larger breeds.  In Darby's case, we're treating his condition as if it were a sports injury.

Papillons think they can fly. They have those huge ears, and they zoom through the house, bounce off the furniture, leap straight up in the air to see what's on the kitchen counter, and sail off the arm of the couch just for the joy of flying. That's why I call it a sports injury. After nearly eight years of such activity, my little guy has hurt himself. And now it's up to me to keep him safe and quiet and, yes, medicated until his spine recovers.

He's doing very well after the first five days of treatment. He's supposed to remain in his crate unless it's time for a potty break. But I let him out after he promised me he would lie quietly at my feet. And that's what he has done.

Darby was a rescue. He came to live with me when he was eleven months old. He had no hair, weighed five pounds at ten inches tall, and was being eaten alive by parasites. My vets saved him, and he has shown amazing gratitude and love for the chance at a happy life. Considering all that he has given me over the years, I'm happy to provide the care he needs because he can get well and enjoy life again. I know that someday I'll have to make the hard decision on Darby's behalf. But for now, my littlest rescue is resting quietly, eating with gusto, and walking almost normally.  I don't know how long we'll have together, but I will be grateful for every day I get to spend with Sir Darby.

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