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Monday, March 17, 2008


Atlas, our 12-year-old Greater Swiss, had a bad couple days last week. He has spondylosis, which is a form of osteoarthritis of the spine. It doesn't cause him pain, but it does affect the strength and mobility of his hindquarters. Some days he can hardly hold his rear end up off the floor. That's how he was last week. I told everybody, "He's on his last legs. He may not be around next week."

Well, he's around. He's actually doing just fine now (relatively speaking). He's quite mobile, stands pretty tall and erect, and has plenty of vim and vigor. He apparently just gets a pinched nerve once in a while, and then his hindquarters don't function correctly. This puts more stress on his front end, which of course wears him down and makes him look like he's too exhausted to go on living. But then, quite spontaneously, he'll get "unpinched" and be able to walk quite well. Good thing we didn't bring him in to be euthanized.

It makes me wonder how many people give up on their dogs (or themselves) just a little too soon. In all departments. They say the best thing you can tell a suicidal person is to just put it off ONE MORE DAY, because so much can change within one day. People give in too easily to most of life's difficulties and challenges because we naturally seek the path of least resistance. "Oh well," we rationalize, "it's too hard." Or "It's not worth it." Or "We're all gonna die anyway." Or "It's never going to get any better." So we quit on ourselves and take the plunge off the diet, off the budget, or off the roof. What if we'd stuck with it for just ONE MORE DAY? Just think of all the positive possibilities!

Of course there's a time to "give up," or let's say "move on," with our dogs. When they are no longer able to eat, drink or sleep comfortably, despite your reasonable attempts to help them, then maybe it's time to let go. When you know there will absolutely be no improvement to a bad situation, and the dog is suffering, then it's time. But if an old or sick dog has a history of up-days and down-days, and he's not in horrible discomfort, then help him hang on until a sunnier day. There could still be many up-days ahead for both of you to share, and you will cherish each more than the last. Those days of "remission" are times when you can almost forget the tenous nature of your situation. They are bonus days...the priceless times for which you would bargain if you could.

Don't be a quitter...for your dog, or yourself!

1 comment:

Robin said...


We didn't (wouldn't) give up on our little Merry. She developed a limp at 18 months old we thought was hip dysplasia. She kept getting worse after exercise. We tried to manage it until it was time for surgery. We took her to WSU in late January. It turned out that she had a genetic disorder with her left cruciate ligament in her knee. She had knee surgery and after almost 8 weeks of rehab she's walking better than before the surgery and more like her puppy self. We had some close moments when she started feeling better, but she came through like a trooper!
Not wanting to leave her alone for too long, and since she was used to sleeping with us, one of us has slept with her in her enclosure every night. It's not so bad - your hips and back get used to it. She is definitely worth every minute of discomfort. The boys don't like to be left out and miss her too, so most nights we're all in the living room - even Merry's little buddy Sam the cat. It's quite the sight I'm sure - animals everywhere. We're looking forward to many many great years with all 3 of the dogs. Thanks for your great articles and thoughts. Have a wonderful spring.

Robin Perrotti