I rescued a semi-feral border collie named Lance that showed no signs of slowing down until late in his 16th year. The downhill slide for him started almost imperceptibly but then picked up speed after he entered his 17th year.
This was a dog that had been indefatigable on hikes and now came back home exhausted after much shorter walks. My wife got on me for over-exercising Lance and, in hindsight, maybe I was because I didn’t want to face the fact that the end was near. He also began having trouble getting up from a lying position.
After rescuing Lance, we had found Dr. McKinley Gordon, a traveling vet who handled Lance better than any of the more sophisticated veterinary operations we’d taken him to. One day we came home and found Lance lying in his own pee. I called Dr. Gordon and remember to this day how I choked up asking him, “How will I know when it’s time?” Dr. Gordon said, “Lance will let you know.” Only a few days later, Lance fell down when coming out to visit us on the porch. He had let us know.
When a dog’s time on this planet is running down, the question for the owner becomes “Am I helping or hurting my dog by not letting him go?” Ultimately, it’s the owner’s call and the dog can only hope that, under the circumstances, his owner makes the best decision—or should I say the better of two agonizing choices? .
I don’t envy anyone going through those final days with a loved one, two-legged or four-legged. In the case of losing a dog, it’s the price paid for loving a man’s—or a woman’s—best friend.
Can you relate?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).