Knowing when the time is right…an impossibility?

Nothing is harder than watching a pet die of cancer, or of any other serious ailment. I’m convinced of this. The only thing possibly more difficult would be the prospect of knowing when its time. What an unfathomable decision to make.
No one wants to watch their pet suffer but at the same time, they don’t want to say goodbye before the time is right. But, when is the time right?

My 12-year-old Schipperke, Sheba, (picture a miniature tail-less wolf or a black Pomeranian on steroids) was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. There’s blood in her urine nearly every time she goes out. We know this because she uses pee pads when we aren’t home…but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway if we hadn’t found out until later… When these symptoms appear, it’s too late for viable treatment. 

Like any good journalist, I immediately consulted the Internet to find out as much as I could about the poor pup’s situation. 

I wish I’d never looked.

Evidently, bladder cancer is terminal and has a high percentage of spreading through the rest of the body. There are no cures, as the vet explained to us. We could put her through surgery but the likelihood that they would remove the whole tumor is small. And even in the cases were the whole tumor is removed, 40 percent of the animals had cancer reappeared elsewhere within six months. We could also give her chemo, but we’d face spending thousands of dollars…on a geriatric dog. And she hates the vet, so why would we torture her when it probably wouldn’t work anyway.

There isn’t much online regarding life expectancy either. That sucks. The vet says, “you’ll know. Watch for behavioral changes.” Seriously? I’ve never been on edge like this. Every weird noise she makes has me concerned. What if she dies alone in the middle of the night? 

How do you deal with these odds? How do you know when it’s time? It’s heartbreaking to watch your beloved pet in pain but if she’s still got enough spunk to bark every time the cats meow, it can’t be the end, right?

The important thing is to remain strong for your pet. I haven’t cried yet–which is a feat in and of itself. But why cry while she’s still alive? All we can do now is make her comfortable until that day arrives. She gets extra treats and table scraps. She’ll enjoy the rest of her days. 

I hope that those who read this who are dealing with similar grief find comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. Nothing hurts like this–except for the loss of a parent or a child; but at the same time, it’s different with animals. They don’t understand what’s going on so how do you explain that they’re going to just get worse, and they can’t tell you when it’s time. From what I’ve researched though, they’re ready to go a long time before we’re ready to let them go.

One response to “Knowing when the time is right…an impossibility?

  1. We just put our 16-year-old schipperke, Bromley, to sleep. As my wife is a veterinarian she deals with it every day. Yet one of your own is still different. They are family. We got nearly as many sympathy calls and emails as when my father died. It is amazing…

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