There is a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately. No one likes to talk about it but eventually, the time will come in a pet’s life when we must make that impossible decision. I have a 12-year-old Labrador mix named Sula. I adopted her about ten years ago, and in that time, she has been a trial and a blessing and has taught me so much. She has kidney disease, bad knees, the usual muscle wasting in the back end, her sight is not what it used to be, and while her hearing may be going, I’m not convinced she isn’t being just a stubborn old goat most of the time. She is still pretty ecstatic about life so I know I don’t have to make that decision yet but the question is always there. When is it time to say goodbye?
The Ohio State University has a Quality of Life Scale that outlines a pet’s general wellbeing and has you rate them on a scale of 1-5 for each component. These include: does not want to play, is sleeping more than usual, seems dull and depressed, is trembling or shaking, is not eating well, is losing weight, is not urinating well, is not moving normally etc. Out of curiosity, I filled it out to see where Sula fit on the scale. She hit at about a 4. 5 being the best and 1 being the worst. I breathed a sigh of relief as it seems my visual observations were not far off. Working in this industry we see people hold on too long all the time and while I try to be objective, it seems the older she gets the tighter I hold.
So, what are some things to do when you are unsure about your pets’ quality of life? Talk to your vet. They cannot make the decision for you, no one can, but they see it all the time and know the process and can help you recognize the signs. Look at pictures and videos of your pet in their younger years or before an illness. There will be apparent changes but look for more subtle ones that you may not notice every day. I looked at pictures of Sula even three years ago, and the difference is quite significant. Mark the good and bad days on a calendar. Sometimes it is easier to see if we document it and it is right in front of us. When the bad outweighs the good, it may be time to consider euthanasia.
Thankfully we are still having many more good days than bad, but I know the day will come when she doesn’t go berserk when I pick up the leash or look like she just landed in heaven when she runs into the lake. Someday I’ll have to say goodbye to the one who kept me warm on cold nights in my first apartment and shared my McNuggets on weekend road trips. For now, I treasure the days I have left to watch her goofy face as she runs into the water or hears the grunts or pure contentment when someone rubs her ears.
Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole. – Roger Caras
Written By: Meredith Maffet