Friday, September 6, 2019

Older dogs and tough decisions

TUCKER, OUR BELOVED Border-Aussie mix we rescued around eight years ago, is on the downhill side of his life. He is about 15 years old. He still runs like the wind and enjoys naps with his adopted dog and cat siblings.

But lately, Tucker has been having trouble breathing. He's always been a bit of a wheezer, and in the last few weeks it's gotten worse. It's to the point where he wakes us up many times during the night, and sometimes we wonder if he's going to draw another breath. Then he'll be fine for a few hours, especially after a walk.

Yesterday we had our veterinarian come to the store and give Tucker a checkup. She says Tucker basically has a bad heart murmur that is at a 4.5 on a scale of 6. It is bad. Mostly it causes fluid to build up in his lungs and eventually his abdomen. If he goes for a run or gets excited, the adrenaline kicks in and he feels better, but if he isn't active for a few hours it gets worse and he has issues breathing. In human terms Tucker has congestive heart failure.

Who knows how long he'll be around. Border collies tend to have strong hearts and he may be fine for a while. But we don't want him to suffer and we are watching him closely, balancing quality of life versus the final decision.

Nobody is immortal and the death of a pet in a part of life, something we have dealt with a lot. You never get used to it. We know it's coming.

You can prepare for it, but it's the hardest thing.

Kennedi tried to steal Tucker yesterday.
You can tell Tucker is scared and somewhat confused sometimes. He doesn't like having the coughing fits and struggling to breathe. Last night I took him for a long run in the cemetery by himself and he was his old self, running up and down hills and sniffing for moles and squirrels. Yet by the end of the walk he was tired and walking right beside me - he usually gets in last-minute sniffs or sprints for a squirrel one last time. But last night he was exhausted.

Sometimes I think Tucker is my best friend. He's loyal and smart and been through a lot in his long dog life, and he unconditionally loves me. He is certainly my buddy. We've had him in the store the past few days and he loves it when people pet him and pay attention to him.

Humans tend to claw and fight for every breath. With a dog you have a choice in how much they suffer - we don't coddle them but don't want them to leave us too soon. We will enjoy the time Tucker has left, no matter how long or short.

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