Over the past year, Handsome’s hip issues began taking a toll on him. He just wasn’t the same dog anymore. He would have these random electrical shocks of pain that made him yelp. When he would yelp, he would run into our master bedroom and hide between the wall and Mack’s side of the bed. The first few times it happened he recovered quickly, and it would be months before the next episode.
The vet added a few pain meds that didn’t seem to help much. As the year progressed, the pain episodes became more frequent and intense handsome was isolating himself from us more and more. He wouldn’t greet us at the door and didn’t want us to pat him.
We knew he had hip dysplasia and had been treating it but, over the past six months, it rapidly progressed. We discussed PT, surgeries, acupuncture, but Handsome was in so much pain he didn’t trust anyone even to examine him. We had to sedate him for every vet visit, and even that was difficult. He was a very smart and strong dog, At 90 lbs and in pain, he was able to dodge and escape out of the grips of 2-3 vet techs on meds.
We changed his medicines, and this seemed to help for a few months, I also watched youtube videos on dog massage and PT. He allowed me to do a decent amount, sadly we saw very little improvement and, each pain episode was getting worse, and it was taking a significant toll on him.
Handsome’s personality changed he started growling at anyone who entered the house. He never would lunge at anyone he would just growl and hide. We tried training, but the trainers wouldn’t work with him because they felt his behavior was all based on his pain level, and I agreed.
When things took a significant turn for the worse, I came home one morning, and he was laying on the couch Handsome started to aggressively growl at me. It was as if he had no idea who I was. I closed the door and talked to him through the screen door for a few minutes allowing him time to process the situation.
He eventually relaxed and was able to get himself off from the couch he then went into the bedroom where I closed my door to keep him away from the kids. I was able to toss in a few of the heavier pain meds, but he wouldn’t allow me to enter the bedroom for a few hours. After that episode, he spent most of his days alone in our room.
Feeling defeated and guilty for not being able to help Handsome the way I wanted. I realized I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to help relieve his pain. It was then that I made the extremely emotional call to the vet telling them we needed to discuss putting him down. (The poor receptionist who took my message…)
Mack and I met with the vet for a quality of life appointment where we once again discussed surgery, PT, etc. We all agreed he wouldn’t tolerate any of those things at all. They gave me another medicine, but the behaviors kept increasing. The vet also thought he may have had some sort of brain tumor which was greatly altering his behavior.
We decided it wasn’t worth the stress of sedating him to determine if he did because she had treated him with the meds that would have helped him and the meds didn’t help at all. After days of agonizing over what to do, we decided it was time to stop his suffering and put him to sleep.
It was an incredibly emotional decision to make. I am not sure I will ever feel right about the decision we made. I know we needed to stop handsome from suffering, and I absolutely didn’t want Handsome to hurt anyone. I knew he didn’t want to hurt anyone, the growl was a warning to let him be, but how long would that warning growl last?
I knew we couldn’t wait for it to progress to a more dangerous level. It wasn’t fair to Handsome or to us. I wanted the kids and us to remember him the way he used to be. I didn’t want us to remember him as a dangerous dog who may hurt someone because, despite the last few months, that was not him.
We made an end of life appointment for a week or so after our decision. I’m glad we waited and didn’t take the earlier visit. The days leading up to the end gave us time to process everything and say goodbye. I also selfishly needed the time to feel more justified in our decision. He had a few horribly severe pain and aggressive episodes the days leading up to the appointment which made me feel I was doing the right thing for him.
However, The day of the appointment he was not like that. He was happy playful; he let the kids love him and spoil him. He even played fetch with Tyler, and he hadn’t done this in a while. Handsome didn’t growl at my sister, and he had been growling at her for months.
When the pain episodes started to become more frequent, my sister tried to help him during an especially bad one, ever since he associated her with pain and didn’t want her to touch him. His last day with us he laid on her lap licked her face and said his goodbyes.
We did tell the kids the night before because we wanted them to be able to say goodbye to him. Bree made him his last meal, which consisted of all his favorite things to eat. Crayons, paper towels, chips, and other snacks. He ate every last bite on the plate, and he was happy. It was such a nice day that I almost backed out of the appointment.
(Handsome eating his last meal that Bree made him)
When we arrived at the Vet, I told them about his great day and that I had considered canceling. The vet was relieved we had a good day with him, and said Handsome knew today was the day for him to pass on and that’s why he gave the kids and me one last happy day with him. The vet reassured me that despite the last few hours we were making the right decision.
Mack was by far Handsome’s favorite person in our house. Which was ironic because Mack was never a big dog person and wasn’t always thrilled with having a dog, but they bonded, and despite my best efforts Mack was the clear favorite. Even sedated Handsome wanted Mack. Mack left the vet’s room for a moment we all thought handsome was fully sedated, but when Mack left the room Handsome immediately got up and cried until he returned. Once Mack returned Handsome relaxed with us on the floor and they administered the end of life medicine. We were able to get a paw print mold, and then he passed on.
It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I know we made the right choice, but I will always second guess it. I’m very grateful we had those last few happy hours with Handsome; as a result, we will all remember him the way he wanted us to remember him. Happy and eating crayons and paper towels 🙂
I’m also grateful Mack can stay level headed in emotional situations because once he knew that I agreed that to put Handsome to sleep was the right decision he didn’t let me change my mind when I would get emotional.
He would gently remind me when I was crying why we made the decision we did. Without Mack, I don’t think I could have gone through with our choice. I do believe it was the right time and the right thing to do for Handsome.
We will always love you Handsome, we miss you every day. You will always be a part of our family, you loved and protected us; we are all the better for having you as our family pet. RIP
(full disclosure I wrote this in Sept when he passed. I have been missing Handsome the last few weeks, and I decided since I am back to writing on the stressed nest I would share the sad update with everyone.)