Wrapping my head around it….
The last year on Bella has been pretty rough. We bought a house, so not only did she have a new floor plan (and two-level living) to get accustomed to, but she also had a new neighborhood to get used to as well. Anytime she got into the car it was either a 10 minute ride to Sean’s mom’s house or a 4.5 hour drive up to NY to visit my family. We’ve done everything we could to try to keep her as comfortable as possible, but lately things are taking a turn and I’m trying to keep myself together to figure out the best road possible.
For a little bit now Bella has been dealing with conjunctivitis. I’ve been doing everything possible to keep her eye clean and remove all the gunky discharge and any crust around her eyes on a daily basis. It’s been a battle, because she’s not exactly keen on having anything near her eyes but it’s something that needs to be done and that’s that. I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that she’s been having trouble getting around. Going up and down stairs has been rough on her, and she’s refusing to walk at night.
To help a little bit I purchased new pet steps for the bedroom, this has helped her for the getting on the bed aspect of her night, but it doesn’t help her with getting off the bed as she just stumbles down. I have two sets of stairs in the room, neither one is the right depth for her to manage them. When she goes down the stairs now (for the house itself) she pulls herself to one side and kind of zig-zags down each step. So she’ll pull towards the right with her front paws and swing her legs down, then pull towards the left and repeat the process. She isn’t able to do this with the bedroom stairs because they aren’t as wide, so the only thing I can think of is to just build a staircase in the room, but unfortunately the master is just not big enough to be able to pull that off.
Now, Sean and I have been hit with some serious deadlines over the past year so we’ve gotten ourselves on a schedule that is fairly chaotic but gives us the ability to get things done. While it’s only the two of us and there’s no distractions in the house we probably could get away with working at any time of the day but we choose to go with the overnight hours. Why? I honestly don’t know. But I know I’m more content with finishing up for the day at 6am instead of 6pm. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember and I think it’s based on the fact that up until a year ago we lived in homes with others so during the day it was harder to concentrate with all of the commotion. I think this trained us into thinking the overnight was better, and that’s just the way it is.
Having our schedule like this means that Bella’s had to adjust to ‘overnight’ life as well. So where most people would walk their dog at 9am, I’m walking her at 9pm. That’s really the only major ‘adjustment’ she’s ever had to make. She sleeps all day, and she’s done this since she was a puppy. She eats 3 times a day, it’s not like her diet / appetite has changed in her 11 years of life. The one thing she’s been doing a lot more of lately is drinking water, but I’ve assumed that has to do with the fact that for quite some time the humidifier on our furnace was broken and EVERYONE was drinking a lot more since the air was so dry. I think I was going through about a tube of chap-stick every two weeks just to keep my lips from bleeding. So her having a little more water hasn’t phased me..
She’s a normal dog, living a normal life. Recently though, in an effort to help make her life a little easier, I’ve begun walking her while it’s still light out. I figured the darkness for a dog who can really only see shadows at this point was just cruel and maybe it being brighter out during the day would help so she could at least take a proper walk without her eyes playing a factor. That’s not the case though…
I don’t know if there’s something outside that she just doesn’t like, or if she’s scared of something, or has less vision ability than I originally thought, but she downright refuses to walk. Daytime, nighttime, doesn’t matter. She won’t stray far from the end of the driveway and I feel cruel dragging her up the block when she’s planted all four paws on the ground and refuses to budge. She pulls herself back so hard that she wiggles out of her leash and then runs home as fast as she possibly can. Today I brought her out the front door and then instead of going to the street I decided to just try and take her around the house. There’s plenty of grass for her to relieve herself so she had ample opportunity to do whatever she needed to do. I got her to go #1 a few times, but #2 is where she seems to draw the line. Someone happened to close a car door while she was sniffing around so her attention went elsewhere. By the time she realized where she was running she just went right to the front door. She wasn’t scared of the car door, she was her usual “Where’d that come from?” determined investigator. I kind of dragged her towards the other side of the house and thankfully she finally went #2, but she just was not willing to be outside at all. I could finally get her towards the back door of the house and she ran in, laid down, and hasn’t moved since.
At this point I’m pretty much at my whits end. It’s not that I’m lacking the patience that is required when dealing with an older animal, that’s not the case at all. I’m lacking the ability to wrap my head around what I can do for her to make her life easier. If she was actually sick I would bring her to the vet and see what they recommend (meds / diet wise) to give her a better quality of life. Since the only thing physically wrong at this moment in time is the loss of eyesight and the anxiety, I’m not going to even bother wasting the money on going to the vet for them to tell me there’s nothing that can be done.
I’ve been through countless websites, I’ve put in all of her symptoms and everyone has something different. One site says she’s a diabetic (and requires medication), another says she’s got Cushings (which requires chemo). Then they have a whole list of things for anxiety that all require some kind of medication. I don’t like the idea of putting her on any meds, she’s gotten through life this long without them and I think that once you introduce medication her quality of life goes down (specifically if she does have Cushings and I introduce Chemotherapy). There is no quality of life for a dog undergoing chemo, if anything it shortens her life because chemo has a way of not only removing the bad cells in the body, but taking the good ones and burning them off too.
I just don’t know what to do and I’m at a complete loss. I know that smaller breed dogs live longer than larger breeds, and the oldest smaller breed dog I’ve been around was 17 when needing to be put down because she developed seizures later in life. Bella’s only 11, part of me wants to believe that I can have another 6 years with her, but at this point in time, with how dramatically she’s slowed down, the lack of eyesight and the possibility of her having cancer that requires chemo, (not like the cancer she had when she was younger where the tumor was completely removed from her stomach), the massive anxiety about ANYTHING going on, and the attachment issues of my not even being able to pee without her attached to my foot… it’s all just overwhelming.
I know that she’s not exactly having a field day either, I’m not trying to take anything away from her in that regard. The biggest difference between animals and humans is based heavily on the fact that they can’t communicate verbally when something is wrong. I know that when she pulls back she’s experiencing her bouts with anxiety, I know when she keeps bumping her head into things it’s because it’s not where it’s supposed to be and she wasn’t expecting it, this falls with her vision problems. I’m just so frustrated with the fact that I physically can’t do anything to help her and have absolutely no control over the situation.
I’m also downright heartbroken because she’s my baby. She’s been the only constant in my life for the past 11 years. I’ve lost so many people close to me that she was who I’d turn to for comfort and cuddles when I needed them the most.
After re-reading this post I realized it seems as though I’m considering putting her to sleep. Please know that is the absolute farthest thing from my mind, I want to keep her for as long as she’ll allow me too. I’ve always believed if an animal feels it’s their time to go (and there isn’t an outside factor involved) they will let you know. I know that at this point in time that’s not an option, and it’s just not the time. I’m just stumped over what the next step is, what I need to do in order to give her a good quality of life before her time is actually up.
It’s just a tough road ahead.