One of our clients came in to our office with one of his “kids” last week because it was ADR (ain’t doin right). His dogs are very much his “kids” and live a wonderful life. We see many dogs and cats every day that ADR. Oftentimes, our clients just can’t put their finger on what is wrong, as in this instance with this 11-year-old female Cocker... We kept her for the morning to check her over and just a few blood tests later, we knew we were in trouble. Her liver enzymes were elevated, her liver size had decreased and the texture on ultrasound was not normal. A specific liver function test proved that her liver was in advanced stages of failing.

During the phone call to the client to explain the serious nature of what was happening, he blurted out “that’s it, no more dogs, I can’t take this anymore!”  The pain was evident in his voice and I knew what he meant. He was also dealing with a 15-year-old Lhasa that wasn’t doing well either. I was only hoping he didn’t mean it. Any dog that he cares for, we refer to as having “won the lottery.”

There are times, almost inevitably, when no amount of money, no board certification, no state of the art equipment can “fix it”. What is amazing is how different everyone reacts to their pet’s situation when this realization hits.  Anger, disbelief, sorrow, guilt, denial are just a few of the ways our clients will express themselves. Some swear to never get another pet because they don’t live long enough or that they cannot bear the loss. In actuality, I think that the very nature of this thinking in fact predicts the opposite. That is, if it is that painful, then you are a true pet lover and will want to find that love again.

What is variable is how a true fan of wet noses, whiskers, and drool, will go about starting over. We have clients that get a puppy when the first dog is getting older so the older dog can “train” the pup in the ways of the house and world. A real “changing of the guard”. This really seems to work, too. I repeatedly get reports of how the new kid has picked up the older dogs behaviors even years after he has passed. Some get a new puppy the next day, next month, or next year. Then there is the question of should you get the same breed, size or type of dog. Again, some clients love particular breeds and swear by them, others are afraid that they will compare them to their last pet and go a different direction. We are seeing many more adoption rescues also.  

A couple months ago, a boxer lover in our practice, had to euthanize her 10-year female boxer. She had been through this before with her other dogs, but it is always horrible, especially when they are your true companion. What followed was extraordinary. The next thing I know she is back in our office with an eight year old female boxer from a rescue that she has just adopted (saved from euthanasia) that is one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. This dog really “won the lottery,” especially considering that 8 years old in boxer years is OLD, which means (and she knows this) that she will be going through the pain of loss sooner than later. Boxers’ average life span is 9 years. Rarely do they reach traditional dog average of 12. (They have far more cancer issues than any other breed. In fact, in oncology, they always said, “all boxers have cancer unless proven otherwise”). 

The comment I hear most often, is that the house was just too quiet or it just didn’t seem right without the pitter patter of paws. Sometimes children are involved and what is interesting is that a parent will say that they did not think they were ready, but they did it for the kids. Yet, as I peek across the table at the smiles on the parents, it makes me wonder. Everyone has a different length of time to grieve; sometimes it is just out of respect for their lost friend. I remember coming home from work one day and called out for Jake, my yellow lab. He had been gone for months.

I filled up our Mr. Turtle pool with water yesterday for the dogs to play in. Our English Bulldog Remi got so excited he ran around the yard like a greyhound (water buffalo) and jumped into the middle of Mr. Turtle and just stood there looking at me like a pig in mud. I truly believe he was smiling (hard for a bulldog to do with his jowls). Right then I got it. He really made me laugh. I don’t think about losing Remi now, though I know a day will come. Our 17-year-old cat Jag is another story. He is doing ok, though stiff, slow, has dementia moments, but still enjoys life. In fact, my wife started a tradition a long time ago called “Tuna Tuesday” where our cats get to share a can of tuna. Now I find out, there is “Fish Friday”, “Salmon Saturday”, “Mackerel Monday”  because Jag is old and it is OK to get spoiled now. You know what, I am good with that, though I think Thursday may present a problem to her agenda. Will we adopt anther kitty when he is gone? Hell noooooooooo.