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Pets, grief, questions...

Gigazombie CybermageGigazombie Cybermage Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
edited February 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
This has been bothering me for a long time, and I'm not sure I should tell it, but I've been holding this in too long... A couple of years ago, shortly after my mother suddenly died, my disabled father (PTSD, hand/nerve injury, bad back, rhuematoid arthritis) and me found ourselves basically homeless, since we were barely making ends meet with my mother's income and my Dad's 800-something a month SSD check. (Veteran's Benefits? Hah! VA told us that even though SS doctors diagnosed him with PTSD, we couldn't prove it was the Vietnam War that caused it. Yeah, I'm sure that coma he went into for several weeks, almost getting killed by a kid with a blade, and watching his buddies die didn't affect him at all. To this day he refuses to step into a VA hospital.) I had been unemployed for about a year, and no one in the boonies where we lived would hire me.

Anyways, a few months later, while we were staying at his brother and sister's place, we notice our dog had worms and was losing a lot weight. I assume he caught the parasite from eating excrement. (Unusual behavior, from him. He never did it before.) He also had a lot of ticks we removed (We lived in the backwoods) Although he didn't react well to the medicine (vomiting) it got rid of most of the worms. A few nights later is when things went sour. He started... hmmm... how to describe it. Like there was incredible pain in his chest. He stretched his neck out and puffed his chest, and made a weird noise. I can't explain it articulately, but it was definitely cries of pain. These attacks came and went. Me and my dad were actually considering giving him up since we could no longer afford to take care of him like he deserved, despite how close he was to us. (Really, we relied on him a lot to comfort us after Mom died...)

One night, it all culminated. He got this look in his eyes, like he didn't know where he was, and started walking back and forth, tripping over things and walking into the table. I think he suddenly went blind. Then the seizures started. They came and went, with only a few moments of rest between. But even then, he couldn't stand up, seemed like only one side of his body worked right. He lost control of his bowels and the pained cries from before turned into cacophony.

You have to understand, his brother lived in the hills surrounding a podunk small town. Even if they did have an emergency animal clinic, and it wasn't 3 AM on a Sunday, they wouldn't do anything because we had no money to give. There was nothing for us to do but to endure. I thought that the seizures would pass, I tried to hold and comfort him, but they didn't. We endured this nightmare for hours. Finally, there was no other alternative. I knew what I had to do. My father couldn't or wouldn't (He was there with us too, suffering alongside us) I balled up some blankets and covered his face. It was over almost immediately. There was one final yelp, then nothing. You have no idea what I felt after the deed had been done, and I can't articulate the horror, the pure horror, I felt. I remember holding it on his head to make sure he was gone. I didn't want him coming back half-dead and suffer further. Not sure I would have been able to handle that. Despite the coldness and rain, I took his remains into the back yard and buried him, taking care to dig deep and wrapped him a plastic bag so he hopefully wouldn't be dug up by the local strays and other animals of the woods.

I know he was just a stupid animal. I know that he doesn't think like we do. Logically, I know that. But even now I'm tortured by the thought that he felt betrayed at the end. I was suppose to protect him, to help him. I can't help thinking that he was calling to me for help, wondering why we weren't doing anything for him. We were very close, as much as a dog and his master could be. He trusted me to protect and look after him, and I rewarded that trust with death. Damn it, if he were a person he could have at least communicated what he wanted.

So I moved on, mostly by not thinking about it, but it keeps coming up, and the grief is intolerable. I dunno why I posted this here, maybe I want my guilt assuaged, to be told I "did the right thing." Maybe I want to know what killed him, to this day I still don't know. Me and Pops guessed heartworm or strokes brought on by something, perhaps the parasites. Here I am, a stocky, shaven head grown man with tears in his eyes. The pain is still that raw. I mean, this doesn't make sense. I didn't react like this when other family members died, or even when my Mom died. Why is this still so intolerably painful? He was just a pet.



  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    I had to put an animal down myself when my cat managed to snare my overly friendly and curious guinea pig under a door and break his back. It was 'just' a guinea pig, but that's the thing about pets. Pets aren't humans, but they're still creatures we love that love us back. I felt awful about doing it for a long long time, and I had the option to use a gun and know the animal died instantly while I was petting it.

    Didn't make me feel better to hear it, and I still feel awful whenever I think about it now. Guilty at what I did, guilty that my guinea pig didn't have a gate blocking him from getting that close to the door.

    You did do the right thing, even if that sounds like a worthless platitude. Unfortunately, doing the right thing is often terrible.

    Take care.

    Ego on
  • lolwuthalplolwuthalp Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    I was in the somewhat of the position a year ago. what I failed to see and I think what you are also not seeing is that he wasn't just a pet, your dog was your best mate.
    you did do the right thing, better you than someone else, some amount of hours later.

    Ego wrote:
    Unfortunately, doing the right thing is often terrible.
    summed up perfectly.

    chin up.

    lolwuthalp on
  • Lizz the BlizzLizz the Blizz Registered User regular
    I'm not really looking to completely compare our situations, but I want to share mine, to show I can understand how you feel. At 2.5 years old, he went from being perfectly healthy to dead on the operating table in less than a week. All because we didn't know what was going on. If we'd operated immediately, he probably would have lived (he had a perforated intestine due to something sharp he probably ate while playing). Instead, being a naturally fearful cat, he spent his last 3 days completely freaked out and alone at the vet's, being forcefed into a blocked and heavily infected digestive system. When they finally did decide to operate, he was so weakened, he simply died from the sedation.

    We weren't even there, because we had to work, and the vet told us she expected everything would go fine. He went to sleep terrified and alone and he just never woke up, just because we had no idea it was as bad as it was.

    That guilt is still killing me as well, even though I know he isn't there anymore, or afraid. But I knew Charles inside and out, we spent a year gaining his trust, and he really fucking loved us to death, as we did him. He deserved so much better than that pointless end after a week of indecisiveness.

    I have to keep telling myself that my guilt is my own, though. He is no longer there to blame me for anything, and he didn't blame me for getting sick either. I just have to treat it as it is and let the normal mourning process take over. A beloved family member died a sudden and unexpected death. There's always going to be a bunch of "maybes" and "if only's", but focusing on those keep you from dealing with your grief as you should.

  • Dongs GaloreDongs Galore Call these nuts the Sword of Damocles 'cause they're hanging over your headRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    The fact that you had the courage to take direct responsibility and carry out the act yourself speaks very well of you. Leaving the animal in pain would have been cowardly, and since there was no way to euthanize him medically, you did the right thing.

    Even when there's a vet handy to do the job, too many people just drop their animals off and leave them to be put down alone in a strange, cold room, whether because they can't bear to watch or because they just don't care. It sounds like you did your duty by the dog as best as anyone could.

    As far as the Dog's feelings - he may not have understood what was happening, but that's exactly why we, as pet owners, are obligated to shoulder the burden of making hard choices on the animals behalf. He trusted you to do the right thing, and you did.

    Dongs Galore on
    Enc wrote: »
    Everything written by Dongs is read in Michael Palin's voice from the Romans skit.
    New forum rule, let it be known.
  • Gigazombie CybermageGigazombie Cybermage Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    Thanks guys. I appreciate it, I really do. I know that he didn't "really" blame me. It's just my own guilt being projected. I still catch myself thinking about it like that from time to time. I think the trauma about how horrible it all went really did something to me. I can usually handle death. It's inevitable, a part of life. I'm an athiest, so when it's over, it really is "over" for me. Even stars and planets die. But I've never killed anything bigger than a roach. Heh, one time I caught one of the house mice that for some reason was stupidly brave and wandered into the middle of the room when I beckoned it. I couldn't kill it so I let it go in the woods nearby. I've always been an empathetic person, even to strangers, and I remember thinking after the deed had been done "Is this what it's like to kill something or someone?"

    I'll never, ever forget what it was like to take another's life, even if it was merciful. It was the most horrible thing I've ever felt in my life. Again, I know he was a pet, and sometimes they have to be euthanized, but to do it yourself under those conditions. It really was a nightmare.

    Tch, I always considered myself a logical person, and yet, all this sentimentality. ;P

  • badger2dbadger2d Registered User regular

    Your story brought the tears to my eyes. It's hard to type this even, I'm looking at the screen through a blur. I've never been in your situation. I hope I never am. The one time I had a pet that had to be put down (cancer...it was terrible, she had a tumor in her gut that perversely made her stomach gradually look fatter and fatter as her whole body was getting thinner and thinner), a) I was still a kid, not having to make the hard decisions myself, and b) my family could afford vet care and to have her painlessly put down, by a stranger's hand but with family present to hold her, at just before the point when her life would have become dominated by terminal suffering. I think there's no question that you did the only thing that a loving and empathetic person could have done in your situation. And I think your feelings of guilt persist because you are a good person, and you did the right thing, and it being the right thing still can't change the fact that it was brutal and awful and why the hell did everything have to happen that way.

    Logical is not mutually exclusive with sentimentality. If you didn't feel these feelings I'd worry that you were a psychopath. We need both our reason and our feelings to be complete people.

    You did the right thing in a terrible situation. You can't forget and nor should you, but let the certainty that there was no better choice be a balm for your pain.

  • ReginaldReginald Registered User regular
    From what you said, you are a good man Giga. I lived on a horse ranch for several years, and had 2 horses die from lower nerve problems that were congenital. Very similar symptoms, and completely uncurable. We had the money for a vet. I don't know if I could have been the man that you were in that situation, but you did the right thing.

  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    When my cat Mollie died, something that a friend told me as I was grieving was that "Pets are sometimes better than members of your human family. When it comes to pets, they always have your back, and they will always love you." Heavily paraphrased, but it was very comforting to me. When you love a pet, it's not "just a dog" or "just a cat". He didn't die alone. He had you right there with him until the end.

    I couldn't possibly imagine what you are going through, and the closest thing I can think of was when we brought Mollie to the vet emergency station be put to sleep. She had been slowly deteriorating due to cancer, which was blocking her common bile duct. I'm not a vet, but I have medical training, and I knew exactly how bad it was going to be. I tried so hard to keep her alive for a whole month. I would feed her chicken baby food from my finger, a mouthful at a time, every hour on the hour through the night. That was the only thing she would eat. She missed the litter box all the time, and she would try to hide from me constantly. I'd beg for her to stay with us, if only a little longer. I tried so hard.

    On the last day, we knew it was time, and I look back at that day with regret and wonder if we had waited too long, if she had suffered needlessly. We put her to sleep on Sunday, and the Friday night before, she had one evening of lucidity, where she was almost to where she was before the cancer, as if she was allowed just one more day of happiness. I'm glad I kept her alive for that day. It was a chance to say goodbye to our little Mollie.

    It's been six months since then. I still think about it. I still cry. She was a wonderful cat. Another dozen years wouldn't have been enough time with her.

    Hahnsoo1 on
    Steam ID: Hahnsoo, Steam Name currently: Hahnsopolis | PSN: Hahnsoo | Monster Hunter Tri: Hahnsoo, E8HJCA
  • Aoi TsukiAoi Tsuki Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    In addition to the fact that pets are as much a member of the family as the people in it, and grieving once you've lost them is perfectly natural, it's not too surprising that this has affected you so much. You'd just lost your mother, you and your dad were in a horrible situation, and you said yourself that you two were relying on the dog for comfort (again, completely understandable). Putting the poor thing out of its misery was the right thing to do, but it'd be traumatic for anyone to go through that, much less someone living in such shitty, helpless circumstances. You are not weak, and you did do the right thing; it may not feel like it, but that's the truth.

    Aoi Tsuki on
    Some people already have said stupid things, but I'm ignoring them because I just found a potato in my fridge that looks like it's smiling.
  • SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    Giga, it can't be emphasized enough. You did the right thing. Heartworms, and it sounds a hell of a lot like them, can cause a lot of bad things; with my dog a couple years ago, it manifested as breathing issues, chills, him hacking up a lot of snot. I wouldn't be surprised if it could lead to brain issues if the circulation is getting bad. Putting down a pet at a vet, with someone else doing the deed, is hard enough, nevermind doing it with your own hands.

    People bond with pets differently than with other family members, it seems like (and anyone who won't call a pet family is either a liar or an idiot). Maybe it's the complete lack of drama, the total simplicity of that relationship. I'm not ashamed to say that I get closer to my pets than I do to a lot of my relatives, you shouldn't be either. It's going to hurt when you lose one, there's no way around it. Knowing that you did the right thing to end his suffering though, that should help you come to terms with your grief sooner than you otherwise would. I wouldn't recommend dwelling on it, but if you think about it, don't try to distract yourself. You can shed a few tears for such a close member of your family as often as you like.

    mts wrote: »
    heres how i see it being a total win situation for you
    1. stay with your wife while she dog sits. this wins husband points since she knows its out of your comfort zone
    2. have sex all over her friends house so that the next time you see her friend look at you condescendingly, you can wink back knowing you did the freaky deaky where she eats her cheerios.
  • QliphothQliphoth Registered User
    You saved him from hours of nightmarish pain. You couldn't have done any better. It's a pity more pet owners aren't as selfless as you.

  • KurneaKurnea Registered User
    You did the right thing by ending it's pain. If you want this to mean something, maybe you can go to a shelter and find a dog that has a lower chance of being adopted?

  • Gigazombie CybermageGigazombie Cybermage Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    Ah, I'd love to get a dog, but we simply can't afford to take care of one right now. Not just the cost of food, but the trips to the vet and the vaccinations too. I do plan to eventually get another one though. I probably will adopt one from a shelter when I do.

  • KurneaKurnea Registered User
    Ah, I'd love to get a dog, but we simply can't afford to take care of one right now. Not just the cost of food, but the trips to the vet and the vaccinations too. I do plan to eventually get another one though. I probably will adopt one from a shelter when I do.

    By all means, if expenses are a problem then I'd wait. But if you eventually do get a dog, then yes please adopt one from the shelter.

  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    This is just general advice to everyone, don't give pet medicine to dogs/cats you pick up at wal-mart or elsewhere. They tend to massacre pets. Seizures, death, and blindness usually follow. Especially flea/tick medicine.

    Go to your vet.

  • DhalphirDhalphir don't you open that trapdoor you're a fool if you dareRegistered User regular

    I can't really help with the medical side of things, but I can tell you why harm being caused or endured by animals make a lot of people (myself included) more upset than the same harm being done to a human.

    The reason is comprehension. Humans can usually either comprehend or be made to comprehend why something is happening to them. For exmaple, lets say one has a family member with a terminal painful illness. Its awful, its horrible, but they know they have the illness and they know what it is, why its causing them pain, and why it is happening.

    An animal has no such comprehension. They're in pain and as far as we can know, they don't know why, which makes it worse. You can't comfort an animal with anything but holding them gently because you can't communicate properly with them. This makes it hard to endure anything bad happening to them.

    Tube-san wrote:
    I apologise for my rudeness desu.
  • CasualCasual flap flap flap wiggle wiggle wiggle Registered User regular
    Honestly, if it makes you feel any better, any vet you took that dog to would have put him down on the spot. There was nothing you could do to save him, you did the only thing anyone with a heart would have done, ended his suffering.

    I get how you feel, I'm not really given to crying, but fuck me I cried when I put my dog down. The only thing I can tell you is that time heals all wounds, you'll feel like hell for a while but it'll pass eventually.

    i write amazing erotic fiction

    its all about anthropomorphic dicks doing everyday things like buying shoes for their scrotum-feet
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