a maude update

(First, a job update. I continue to apply for jobs and go on interviews, and in my spare time I’m working on starting my own business. No details for now in case it doesn’t pan out, but I figure one of three things will happen first:

  1. I will get a full-time job.
  2. My business will become profitable and support me.
  3. I will go broke, get evicted and live on the mean streets of Austin.)

this blanket came from a bluishorange reader a long time ago

So Maude isn’t doing very well. Her arthritis and kidney failure have combined forces to render her back legs tricky and unreliable. One minute she’ll be standing up, the next she’ll have sort of rolled over into a sitting/laying down position. She has trouble going up our front steps after we’ve taken her outside. We built a little ramp for her to use, and she uses it when she remembers it’s there, but otherwise she does this sort of clumsy scramble up each step. Sometimes when she drinks water, she falls into the bowl a little and gets water on her face.

I can’t imagine any of this is much fun for her, but for me to watch it is terrifying. I’m reminded of a time several years ago when I was holding her in my lap on the sofa. I was scratching her ears and I felt something fall and hit me in the arm. I picked it up and saw that it was one of her teeth. I was horrified, and of course I freaked out. “OH MY GOD, MAUDE, ARE YOU OKAY?” I cried. She wagged her tail and looked at me like, hey, when can we get back to you scratching my ears?

But that was 2005. Now it’s 2013 and she’s 13 years old, at least, and I don’t know how much time she has left. There is still tail wagging, thankfully. She gets excited about food and treats and going outside. She likes to explore the yard, albeit very, very slowly. She likes to sit next to me in bed and lick my forehead. She likes when I give her little pieces of vegetables I’m chopping. She can’t go on neighborhood walks anymore, but we put her in a little secondhand stroller and wheel her around, and she likes being out and about with us. Of course I don’t know this for absolutely sure, but she seems like she isn’t in any pain.


best $5 I ever spent at the Texas state surplus property store

But sometimes there is no tail wagging. Sometimes I put her down on the bed, and instead of moving around and getting comfortable like she usually does, she lets herself sort of fall down wherever I’ve placed her. Sometimes I tell her it’s time to go outside, and instead of standing up and moving towards the door, she just lies there and stares up at me.

The decision of when it’s time to let your dog go is one I’ve never made by myself before. We had to put our childhood dog to sleep when she was 11 and the vet discovered that she was positively riddled with cancer. My sister and my dad were driving to St. Louis to take my sis to college at the time, and since this was before cell phones, my mom and I couldn’t call to consult them. But that decision was an obvious one for my mom and me to make, and we did the right thing. The hard part was later that day, when we flew to St. Louis to meet my dad and sister, and we had to tell them that the dog they’d said “see you soon” to that morning was dead.

This decision is different. First of all, it’s mine and Brendan’s to make. We are not 20 years old, and there is no medically-trained mother here to tell us what she thinks we should do. We’re 34 and 35, and she’s our dog, and second of all there is no obvious, hard-line evidence telling us what to do. Some days I see her lying there listlessly and think, it’s time. Other days I get ready to give her treats and she jumps up and down on those tricky hind legs like she’s 4 years old again, and I think, how could I ever have thought it was time?

Maude is my best friend. I know she’s just a dog, and I know I have another dog, too, but that’s just how it is. No disrespect to her sister Moki, but Maude and I are close in a way I’ve never been with another dog, not even my childhood dog. Maude and I lived alone together for years, with no boyfriends or housemates or other dogs. Just us. For a while in my mid-twenties, Maude was the only reason I could think of to get out of bed. If I didn’t get out of bed, Maude wouldn’t be able to eat or go outside, and I loved Maude, so I got out of bed. I don’t know if I’d say she literally and definitively saved my life, as I was hardly suicidal at the time, but she definitely saved my living. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to feel Maude’s breath on my ear, her face buried in my hair, and think, I may not have much going for me, but how could I ever not do right by this dog?

Also, Maude is not just a dog. If you’ve ever met her, you know she’s got a certain gravitas about her, a seriousness that to me indicates a bit of depth. I’m sure I’m projecting some of that onto her, but not all of it. My friend Sarah says that Maude has the je ne sais quoi, and I think that’s the best way to describe it.

I have plans for what to do with her after she’s gone. I’m going to have her cremated by herself. It’s a more expensive option than having her cremated with other dogs, and before I researched this I didn’t know they even did that. I guess they have that option for people who don’t want the ashes back. But I want her ashes back. I’m going to save most of them in an urn, and put a little bit in a brass screw-top canister that I will hang on a chain along with the tag from her collar. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll wear around my neck forever, but I’ll definitely need it for a little while.

I wish that deciding when it’s time to let her go was as easy as deciding what to do after. Obviously if she seems like she’s in pain or she takes a definitive turn for the worse, it’ll be a less difficult decision, but right now I’m really struggling. The thing I’ve heard people say the most is that they’ve regretted waiting until it was too late, but they’ve never regretted maybe doing it too soon. I can understand the first part, but the second part escapes me. What if I did put her down too soon? What if she had some good months left and I took them away from her?

I still wake up in the night and feel her there next to me, but now I check to see if she’s still breathing. How could I ever not do right by this dog?

15 thoughts on “a maude update

  1. I’d love it if you all would share stories with me, but I’m not looking for advice on whether or not to put her down now. Thanks.

    • This is the worst thing about taking in a pet: unless something unexpected occurs you know you will one day need to say goodbye. We recently lost both of our cats that my wife and I adopted just a couple of months after we first moved in together, and the decision of when it was time was truly heartbreaking.

      I think Khoi Vinh said it best when he eulogized his dog Mister President, that his dog was the one that taught him how to truly love another being and how to exist outside of his own head. It’s true for many pet owners.

      I know whenever that sad time comes that you will have made the right decision. This is one of the most selfless things one can do for a friend that we know is suffering.

  2. As you know we had to put Mickey down in February and it was a challenge. Like you we had never had to make the decision on our own. The day before we did so, I took him to the vet because I wasn’t sure. He wasn’t himself, and I was afraid that if he turned south over the weekend it would be an on-call vet Mickey didn’t know, and Sarah was at work. Once at the vet Mickey seemed much better, and we decided he wasn’t ready. The very next day Mickey jumped from the couch and then couldn’t stand. His blood pressure had dropped due to the tumor around his aorta. His gums were white, and we made the hard decision and took him in. Thankfully his (and our) favorite vet tech was there and she stayed with us while the on call vet explained the process. We were grateful that the sedative alone was enough, and he slowly drifted away from us. It is hard, Alison, but Maude loves you and knows you will do what is right. I keep Mickey’s collar around my rearview mirror. We had him cremated alone, and I have plans to bury at least some of his ashes on our property, but right now he is on the china cabinet and I can’t bear to let him leave me. Ok, bawling now, and must get back to the radio show. *HUGS*

  3. My heart goes out to you. It’s such a hard decision to make for the ones we love so much. I could tell stories about Tiger and Bentley, but I’m already sitting here crying about Maude. I’d likely lose the whole day away crying because I still miss them a lot.

    My only advice Be confident in yourself and your love for Maude. You know her best and you’ll be able to do right by her.

  4. I’ve been through this three times in my life. the first I was young, 7 or 8, and I’m still not really sure what happened other than Lady had a heart murmur that had gotten worse.
    in high school was the only time it was really up to me. my parents told me I needed to start thinking about my cat’s quality of life and if it would be best to let her go. Empress had sustained an injury that affected her bladder control and, while a challenge to tend to hygienically, the real problem was it made her prone to infections. nature took it’s course before I got a chance to make the vet appointment, but shortly after I realized it was time. while I was not happy it happened, I was relieved I didn’t have to make the determination.
    a few years ago, our family dog Goldie was 18 and had begun a quick decline. our vet was very good in working with us to keep her as pain free as long as possible, but also was compassionate in advising my family when it was time.
    it’s never an easy decision. my heart is with you.

  5. I’m honored I got to meet her. It was just once, but I can certainly attest to her having a je ne sais quoi about her. I’m sorry you are facing this tough decision in the future, but it’s obvious you care so much, that I know you’ll just know when it’s time. I hope until then you have plenty of exploring and tail wagging.

  6. I don’t have a story yet, except to say that I’m going thru this myself. Not sure what to do or when to do it. Caring for my little girl is getting more challenging and even though she doesn’t seem to be in pain, she’s not able to get around well anymore. I’ve been thinking about it all but cannot come to a clear, right decision.

  7. I’m truly sorry to hear that Maude’s health is declining. She is an amazing pup. She, and she alone, made me realize that I can like small dogs. That personality has nothing to do with size. I knew that in people, but it took her googly, loving eyes to let me know that it didn’t matter in dogs and I’m forever grateful for that. And so very glad that I’ve gotten to pet, snuggle, and even give her sneaky forehead kisses.

    I’ve made this decision for 3 different cats as an adult. All 3 decisions were different. All 3 had very different reasons why I knew it was time. There is no easy way to say when you and they are ready to face the inevitable. The most honest thing a vet has ever told me about “when”, was: “You will never be ready, but eventually you will.”

    Hugsabunches, hon. Give Maude a skritch for me. If nothing else, unemployment has given you more time to take her on walkies. Or do you call them pushies?

  8. The fact that you’re struggling with this decision is how you know you’re doing right by her. She will always be your Maude, no matter what happens.

  9. About ten years ago our old cat finally was in too much pain and we put her down, at the vet. My wife wrote a blog post about it. The post was spread through animal-rights message boards and we were bombarded, for weeks, with email from around the world containing death threats, wishes for our children’s death or injury, and other such lovely stuff. Because we’d chosen to end our pet’s suffering. If you act in love it will be good. But be careful writing about it online.

  10. I know how you feel about Maude, because Sophie was that dog for me. While I’m pretty sure she had doggie dementia (she had started getting lost around the house) & was just skin and bones, I feel so guilty about choosing to put her down even now 2 years on. God, I loved that dog – it is STILL so painful to think about.

    I love the necklace idea & I love that you wheel her around for walks. I know you’ll do right by Maude.

    I also hope you don’t end up broke & on the streets.

  11. Oh man you made me cry! Maude and my dog Ren are the same age (he’s also a rescue, so 13 at a minimum!). He has lost many teeth, his breath is terrible, some mornings he doesn’t get up until i wake him, and his food has to soak in hot water so he can eat it. But he’s my family! I don’t know how bad it will have to get for me to you know…that. He’ll have a slow day and I’ll think “it’s time”, but then he’ll see my other dogs having treats and starts pouncing around and i know he’s still gonna be around for a little bit. I’m sorry, man. It’s so tough loving someone/somedog.

  12. How are things? Been checking back now and then to see how it’s going. Please hang in there.

  13. i lost my cat chuck – my maude – three months ago, to lymphoma, a few months shy of his thirteenth birthday. i didn’t think i could do right by him, but he helped me figure out how to let him go just as gracefully as he helped me figure out the rest of my life. alison, i am so sorry.

Comments are closed.