19 January 2017

Senior Dogs

Our expat dogs have been with us a few weeks now and have settled back into family life very well indeed.  Our house is finally a proper home again. Given the rigour of their journey one of the first things we did was register them with a local vet and arrange for them to have a once over.



Finding a good vet abroad can be difficult.  I had spoken with a local animal shelter and some friends with dogs and they all recommended the same man.  We went with him; luckily given the state of Bessie's health, he does house calls.  We were a little worried when, on observing Bessie, he told us she did not have long left.  We knew this, we explained, and we wanted to make sure that she knew him and vice versa so that she was not put to sleep by a stranger when the time came.  Not to worry, we were told, she could have up to a year longer.  This cheered us up no end.


One of the things I have noticed is that, in many countries, vets and those who care for animals are much more reluctant to advise on euthanasia than those in the UK or Europe.  Probably because they see animals often treated as a commodity, more akin to a convenience or a working animal as opposed to a cherished pet and family member.  We have found it very hard to get good guidance on how to assess when the time will be right to make that very hard decision ie when it is best for Bess and not out of convenience for us.  It is not something that we want to do, nor is it a decision that we want to rush but we do want some guidance on what aspects to consider when making it.  It does not help that neither Mr EE nor I have been at home when parents' dogs have had to be put to sleep so we have not observed the 'tipping point'. Friends and family in Europe and Hong Kong who have had to make these sad decisions have advised us on what changed in their pet to make them decide that the time was right.  Memorably and kindly a vet friend of a friend took the time to write and reassure me.


As the days have gone by we have become more and more confident of our decision which we are basing on a combination of gut instinct and the following points:
  • She is not in pain;
  • She takes pleasure from her environment;
  • She takes pleasure from her food;
  • She takes pleasure from her family;
  • She is not passive in those pleasures, she seeks them out.

In her first week home Bessie gave us a lot of scares.  She was getting stronger and then, suddenly, one day she became incontinent, unable to move at all  on her feet and crawled into a corner. With tears streaming down our faces we decided that, should we not see any improvement the following day, we would call the vet in.  The next day she was better.  This week she is better still, she can't get up on her own and needs support to walk on the tiled floor but once up she can manage a wander around the carpet and choose where to curl up.  She needs support to get out to the garden but once there the support straps (improvised from wide, soft leather belts of mine) are a back up only.  Her bedsores have also healed enough for me to allow her to spend some time asleep in the garden without worrying about her getting bothered by flies.


She is still very much a key family member.  A few days ago Miss EE had a bad argument with her brother while they were out playing and stomped home, tearful and upset.  She went to sit with Bess, stroked her for a while then told me she was in the wrong and was going to apologise.  Master EE spends a lot of time sat with her, just talking and petting her head.  As Bess can no longer come upstairs to bed she sleeps in the hallway.  The first thing everyone does when they come down is to greet her and pet her.  During the daytime and evening we lift her onto a sofa in the living room so she can be with us all, there is enough space for Perdie or some humans to join her, or for her to be on her own and snooze if that is what she prefers.


Bessie's co-ordination has improved enough to allow her to wag her tail and she actively nuzzles for attention now as opposed to just looking doleful when a hand is removed from her head.  The other pets still defer to her as 'top dog' and Perdie is returning the care and love she was given as a puppy by grooming Bess from time to time, even, on occasion, trying to entice her to play.



We are facing the joyful reality that she may be with us for a while.  As we had resigned ourselves to a few bittersweet weeks only this is a great relief and very much worth the back pain we have both developed from having to help her move around. We will have to make a few adjustments to our daily lives. It may mean that we will not be able to travel abroad as a whole family for the moment, we certainly could not kennel her, it would be too cruel and I would worry about getting someone in to look after her, firstly she is hard work.  We have to lift her and walk her outside four times a day and she is a heavy dog.  She is less coordinated than usual so she has to be cleaned every day to catch the stuff she misses, her medication is extensive and confusing.  I know how I would feel if someone's pet died while they were in my care and I had to dispose of the body (there are limited options here in Jeddah), I would feel awful.  No matter how much we would reassure someone it was ok and expected my guess is they would feel terrible and we could not do that.  We will have to see what happens and how things go but we remain so grateful that we have the chance to make these decisions.

Click below for more posts on Expat Pets and how to care for them

The Ersatz Guide To Expat Pets


Posted to the wonderful Animal Tales
ANIMALTALES

6 comments:

  1. glad to hear Bessie is making small improvements and like you say as long as she's not in pain and is seeking out encounters then all is good. We looked after a friends 2 dogs for a week, one had cancer and on medication, sadly, it was the other dog that died in the middle of the week, we still have no idea why and when I phoned my friend to say her dog had died, she thought the one with cancer died and not the one she assumed was healthy

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    1. Oh no how horrible for you. I used to be the emergency contact for my father's dog when he went into boarding kennels (lived close by but could not take his two dogs along with my one and two toddlers, visited the dogs in kennels though) and I dreaded getting call from them to authorise a dog being PTS

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  2. I am happy to hear that Bessie will get to spend her last few months with her family. In the last two years we have had to say goodbye to two older dogs, and both times our brilliant vet has said that we will know when the time is right and she was right. As hard as saying goodbye to both those dogs was, we knew the time had come and we had done everything we possibly could to give them better lives, right up until the end.

    The vet came to the house and it was a peaceful way to go, on both occasions I commented that I would like to go like that, in my peacefully, in my home surrounded by the people I love.

    Enjoy the time you have left with Bessie, I am sure she is loving every moment. In that old dog kind of way.

    xx

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    1. Debbie I am so sorry about your lovely pets. It is hard to say goodbye but it does sound very peaceful and loving.

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  3. I am so glad you finally have Bessie with you, both for you & the family and for her. Making the decision of when to have a pet put down is so hard. Henry, our elderly cat, has kidney failure but with a special diet and horribly expensive medicine he trundles on. But we know he is getting more ill and we know "that day" will come at some point. I suppose in our hearts we all wish that one day we just get up to find our pet has slipped away peacefully in the night although experience tells me that that rarely happens. #AnimalTales

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    1. Henry sounds as though he is in a similar place to Bessie who is on all sorts of tablets. I hope he keeps going as long as is right for both you and him, I am sure he enjoys all the love you give him.

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