Sunday, May 31, 2009

Morbid Thoughts on Death

I have spent the better part of today on a “goldfish death watch.” I volunteered to adopt the goldfish that had been in Ella’s class when school ended for the summer. We have had them for two weeks and one is not long for this world. I can’t tell if it is Orange or Carrot who is going to be dead within the next few hours since they are impossible to tell apart. The poor fish is lethargically floating along the bottom of the bowl while the other races around like a maniac. When I was a kid and had fish, they would die overnight. A lot of times, I found them on the floor because they had jumped out of the bowl. I would take a spatula, pry them off the floor, walk to the toilet and send them packing. I’ve been out of sorts all day because I don’t know what the proper protocol is for a fish that is sure to die, but isn’t dead yet.

I probably wouldn’t be so sad if it weren’t for the fact that both of our dogs are starting to have some worrisome medical problems. Bosco had a malignant tumor removed from the top of his head a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, the surgeon didn’t remove the entire tumor when he operated. To get it all would involve removing his entire ear. At this point, the vet said that the tumor is a slow-growing one, so it may be awhile before we have to do something drastic like remove his ear. He also mentioned that if it gets worse that we should consider radiation therapy.

While the tumor stuff was happening with Bosco, Linus started to slightly drag his back legs. I mentioned it to the vet when I took him on his wellness visit. Of course, Linus didn’t drag his legs that day, so the vet wasn’t too concerned at the time and said that Linus was in excellent health for a 10-year-old Boxer. Most Boxers don’t live past 10, so every day one lives past that is a great thing. We have watched Linus get a little worse each day. Last week, he fell over while he was in the middle of doing in business in the backyard. I called the vet and got him in that afternoon. This time, the vet could see that Linus was in distress. He kept him overnight to do some tests. The diagnosis is that he has a herniated disc. Initially, I didn’t think that sounded so bad. I thought there might be a pill. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

The vet put Linus on an intravenous steroid and sent him home. Even though I kept him sedentary, he was worse than when I had taken him to the vet. At this point, the vet said that the only thing that will cure Linus is surgery. The cost of the surgery would be close to $3000. Corey and I talked about it and we have decided that we will not have it done. It would be different if he was young. However, there is no guarantee that this wouldn’t happen again. So what this means is that Linus is eventually going to lose mobility in the back of his legs. We don’t know how long that will be, but it is eminent. I asked the vet if Linus was in pain right now. He said it is difficult to tell because Boxers are stoic and have such a high pain tolerance, that it may be quite awhile before it becomes evident that he is in pain. For now, he is having a lot of trouble on our wood floors, and occasionally doing the splits. He is confused and it upsets him. I try to calm him down while I pick him up to get his legs upright again. I am hoping that purchasing some runners to put down in the hallways will help him out for the time being. However, my heart is broken.

I know that it is not practical to spend this kind of money on two dogs who are entering their twilight years. However, I feel as though I am turning my back on them. These two dogs have brought me so much happiness and comfort, that it doesn’t seem right that I am not doing everything I can to keep them whole. It was so much easier to decide what to do when our first dog was sick. McBain had developed seizures suddenly when he turned four. We eventually found out that he had an inoperable brain tumor. Corey and I had always felt strongly about not letting a dog suffer, so we had him put to sleep on December 20, 2000. Every December 20, I cry like a baby because I miss him so. We still have his ashes because I have been too afraid to scatter them for fear that we will move again. It’s a good thing, since we have moved about 6 times since he died. But at the end of the day, I know we did the right thing because we knew he was suffering. Had there been a chance that surgery would have helped, we would have done it in a heartbeat. He was young. Young.

So now, I am crying over the goldfish bowl, thinking that I have brought these poor fish into this home of certain death. I literally don’t know what to do with the fish. It is sort of lying on the sea glass and it’s clear that he’s having trouble breathing. If I flush him now, I’m a murderer, right? Frankly, I am already feeling like one where my dogs are concerned. It is a horrible, horrible feeling.


'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why! said...

It's a very difficult situation with the fish. I have come up against that one numerous times lately.
We had our cat Angel put to sleep some months back. It was heartbreaking and we questioned ourselves for days before and after if it was the right thing to do. I know she was suffering, I just don't know what from.
If Linus loses the function in his back legs but still otherwise good health and no problematic pain, maybe look into a cart for him - it would let him get around and might take some of the strain off of his spine. Check out
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

How is Linus 10 already? I am so sorry to hear this about him. I remember how agonizing it was with McBain....the cart is a good idea. I'm here all day if you want to talk.

As far as the fish goes, I know it's probably gone by now, but in my opinion, flushing wouldn't be a bad idea--- I would think the chlorine will kill it quicker than letting it go on it's own in the bowl. You wouldn't be a murderer. We were told by a woman at the aquarium store that the best thing to do is to kill our fish when it had dropsy, and Chris did, but it was really hard to stomach for him. Maybe in this case, let it go naturally? I don't know. I wish I did.

red pen mama said...

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this, especially with the dogs! They are so a part of who you & Corey are. I will just keep you all in my prayers, and no matter what you decide, you are doing the right thing.


L. said...

I realize this is a very old post, and the fish has probably gone to that great big fishbowl in the sky by now --- but next time, when fish euthenasia is called for, think FREEZER. Freezing to death is supposed to be a peaceful way to go -- you just go to sleep. Put fishie in a paper cup full of water in the freezer.....a few hours later, thaw and flush the contents down the toilet for a proper "burial at sea."

When I was pregnant and overdue with my oldest kid, I had a pet beta that grew a hideous tumor...and just wouldn't die. He stopped eating and spent a lot of time just floating on the top of the water, but was still moving one of his fins. Somehow I got it into my head that the baby couldn't be born until the fish died. So I froze the poor thing....but baby wasn't born for another week.

Ugh....awful. "Every death diminishes us all," and that goes for pets, too.