Quality of life…

…time to let go.  Last night we laid Shadow to rest, she was 3 months shy of her 14th birthday.  As the story goes, Shadow chose Jene at the animal rescue.   Dogs are brought out to see if you bond.  Shadow sat on Jene’s foot and it was the last time she would see the inside of a cage.  Yes he named her aptly because she followed him each and every step, careful not to lose sight of him on a crowded sidewalk or another room in the tiny apt. It was a good life: they drove cross country twice, camping along the way and shared so many fun moments playing, romping, walks in the park becoming more than a man and his dog.  They became a family unit.

For those of you who knew Shadow, you know how gentle and loving she was.

I met Shadow as I stepped off the elevator at his apt. – she was monitoring the hall and waiting for my arrival.  I’ll admit, a tad menacing, with her pointy bat ears, pit terrier brindle coat and shepherd blend.  She dashed back into the apt and brought me her drooping stuffed puppy as a welcome gesture.    That was 6 years ago,  she easily won my heart.

Every dog breed and mix is known to have specific maladies and with shepherds there is hip dysplasia.  Having been hit by a taxi as a pup caused pain in her shoulders too.  Signs of her age were becoming apparent.  Fatty tumors were removed, supplements and medications added to her diet.   Jene and his vet decided to try stem cell treatments which seemed to help for a while.  Along with the stem cells she had acupuncture to relieve some pain.  And it did.  Time moves forward, her activity level and playfulness declined but she certainly enjoyed eating, rolling in the grass, walks, eating, basking in the sun, eating, sitting on the front porch in the warm weather, eating… did I say she enjoyed eating.  She would stay with me while I cooked and gladly pick up anything that hit the floor, carrots, mushrooms… and after dinner she licked the plates clean – couldn’t ask for a better pre-rinse cycle.

This past year her condition worsened.  Her walks were shorter, her steps more painful but she endured without a whimper.  Upon waking, Jene would massage her aching bones and muscles, give her some meds and their day would begin.  More meds were added and a shot every 5 days was injected under her skin.  She started losing weight 6 months ago dropping 5 pounds since the previous vet visit.  The last month, she cut down the amount of food she would ingest.  Becoming more finicking.  Her food always consisted of dry dog food mixed with human food.  Last week, she ate even less and finally on Wednesday, didn’t eat any of the home-made turkey stew that Jene prepared.  Thursday, she merely picked at her food.

Friday: Shadow was quivering, which had Jene & I driving to the vet.  Dr. K took blood, found her heart rate to be elevated to 150, and said to give her a second dose of Tramadol. in the evening too.  I thought that the quivering was from not eating.  They discussed euthanasia and how to determine when it was time.   That night she barely touched her chicken livers.  Jene took the bus back into the city leaving her care in my able-hands.

Saturday: Jene cancelled the scheduled photoshoot and took the bus back.  Shadow had to be coaxed to take her meds even with the peanut butter.  She drank water and had no interest in dinner whatsoever.

Fast and furious….  not what we expected.

Sunday:  I took her for her morning walk,  later she got off her bed and peed on the floor.  It was tinged with blood and after that she couldn’t control her bladder at all.  Poor thing, she knew that she wasn’t supposed to pee or poop in the house and there was embarrassment and shame in her eyes.  Shadow became visibly agitated in the afternoon.  She couldn’t get comfortable and followed us from room to room.  Dinner plans were cancelled and we headed to the animal hospital in the city. The prescribed treatment –  leave her there for a few days so they can flush her kidneys.  Maybe that would help, maybe not and if so for how long – a few days, and there is still the issue of arthritis and PAIN.   Jene was torn, but couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her alone, caged for days.  (She had not been caged since Jene rescued her). Physical therapy is an option the attendee said.  She is nearly 14  (@ 99 in human years)  how would that help.  (My thoughts turned to putting my mother on a stationary bike so her leg muscles wouldn’t atrophy – she was dying WTF!  –  the doctor should have given her pain killers instead of leg exercises.)   Putting Shadow down was the only humane thing to do, we left.  Dr K. at Riverside would administer the lethal injection.

Monday:  Jene waited until the vets office opened at 10, called and found that Dr. K had a personal emergency and wouldn’t be in until 3, Jene made a tentative 6:45 appt to have Shadow euthanized.   What a long, sad, tearful day that was.  I went for walks to clear my head,  Jene took mental walks down memory lane.  Reliving her younger days, filled with vim and vigor, the times they had together.  The love they shared.  Shadow guarded Jene and now handed that baton to me, I am to watch over Jene.  It was time for her to rest, her job was done.   She knew that and Jene knew that.

Shadow was more comfortable allowing the Tramadol to ease her suffering.  She was not agitated like the day before.  We think she sensed that the right decision was made.  We took some final photos.

no words needed...

I gave her a second Tramadol with peanut butter of course and Jene gave her butter pecan ice cream before lifting her into the car.  He hopped in the back with her and held her.  Soon she would be released.  We would be at her side. She would leave her body as we stroked her.  It was quick and painless for her, tears ran down our cheeks as we let her go.   RIP Shadow, you are missed already…

I hope when my time comes, the laws will have changed and I can leave my body with dignity when I ‘ve lost the quality of life.



Filed under photography

2 responses to “Quality of life…

  1. Kathy

    Oh, Mary, I am so sorry for your loss. I was crying as I read this. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. Jamie

    thank you for such a heart felt account……and understanding of the relationship between jene and shadow…..the intimate bond they had….14 years and so many journeys….jamie

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