My wife and I have always liked big dogs, mostly German shepherds. But the dog who may be our last is a tough, snarling miniature Schnauzer named Max, tipping the Toledos at 23 pounds, and he’s having a tough time of it. We don’t know if what he’s going through now is the run-up to the end for the little guy.
This is the first of what I hope will be occasional entries that are intended to chronicle the life of an aging dog, one we got temporarily a decade ago but ended up keeping and, obviously, loving. They will probably be tough for me to write if in fact this is the beginning of the end of Max. But with luck, Max’s story may help other families with older dogs.
Of the nine dogs we’ve had, my wife, Julie, and I were with every one of them when they died except two, who died at the veterinarian’s. The last big dog we had was Oscar, a 90-pound shepherd, who gave us unconditional love and protection. Having him put down took so much out of us that we wondered whether we would be able to have another dog after Max died.
As Max perhaps approaches his end of life, we still don’t know. And Julie and I are dreading the inevitable. The car trip to the vets’. The final minutes we’ll have alone with him. Then the shot that will quietly kill him. “The last act of kindness,” one veterinarian told us.
Max has tumor on his right front leg. He licks it most of the time, which means that wherever he is – on his favorite chair, in front of the living room window – we find that the carpet or chair or towel is wet from doggie saliva. We’re too sympathetic to get angry at him. He can’t help it.
Max is 13, 14, or 15 – we’re not sure – and has clearly slowed down more than a step. He no longer barks for 20 minutes when space aliens invade our front yard, cleverly disguised as rabbits and birds, or when Osama Bin Laden, sneaking into our country as an elementary school student, should walk by.
His latest illness has virtually stopped him. He needs help getting off his throne (a recliner), and his legs give out occasionally. He lies or sits – to me, he does either forlornly – in the backyard. He has licked the fur and skin off part of his leg, and so we can see the bright red tumor. The doctor gave him some pain pills to see whether they would make him more comfortable. The answer seems to be: not much.
The next step is surgery. Do we want to subject an ailing and older little dog to that kind of distress?
– Craig Klugman