I wanted to share my experience of trying to decide whether to have my Maggie put to sleep. She was my baby, a yellow lab I raised from 6 weeks old and loved like my own daughter. She was my best friend and we did everything together. She went to college with me and came to work with me at the bar some days. Everyone knew her and loved her. Maggie was a humanoid, the smartest dog I have ever met and full of personality. She meant everything to me and I know I made it through my darkest days because of her. This may sound melodramatic, but it is the truth: there were times when I had nothing to live for and the only thing that kept me here was worrying about who would take care of my Maggie if I was gone. I couldn't leave her. Things eventually got better and my life stabilized, and she was still there for me, as always.
When she was 13, she started to show signs of hip dysplasia. By the time she was 14, her back legs stopped working. For a short while, she scooted, dragging her back legs straight out behind her. She behaved like nothing was wrong and it didn't bother her. She still played frisbee, I just had to throw the disc directly to her. She was happy, healthy and acting like herself. We went to the vet, of course, and they said as long as I was willing to take care of her, what we were doing was fine. She was cheerful and she was not in any obvious pain. On cold, rainy days, she would get a prescription pain killer because she would get a little stiff. Otherwise, her hips didn't bother her an she was the same dog she always was, she just couldn't walk. Eventually, as her hip joints became more misshapen, her back legs turned forwards, so she was sitting flat on her bum with her legs in front of her. She couldn't scoot anymore. I couldn't afford a doggie wheelchair, so I carried her. She enjoyed doing the 'wheelbarrow,' when I picked up her back end and she walked on her front legs. We took a walk like this everyday so she could sniff and check out the perimeter of her yard.
We continued like this for a year. Then she started to go downhill and I refused to see it. Hindsight is 20/20. Because of her posture, she could not void her bladder properly and constantly got bladder infections. She was on antibiotics the whole last year of her life. I had to help her pee by placing gentle pressure on her abdomen. My husband started talking about her quality of life at this point, but I denied that the bladder issues were a big deal. She was still thrilled to see me when I got home from work and loved to snuggle. I still carried her outside to lay in the grass and watch the bugs. Then she couldn't sit up anymore without help. I won't go into more details because now I am crying, but it had been about a year and a half since she stopped being able to walk. Once she couldn't sit up, she started to die, but it took about 8 months.
By the time we got to the end, her life was crap. I didn't, or wouldn't, see it at the time. She laid in bed and that was her life. She ate because I fed her and she snuggled because I snuggled her, but she was not living a true life. Now I can see that I was being selfish and refusing to let her go- for me, not for her. I loved her so much, I couldn't stand to think of life without her. Not having the courage to have her put to sleep and die with dignity is one of the biggest mistakes of my life (and I have made some whoppers). She was just a shell of her former self, but her heart kept beating, so she was alive. I really feel like I dishonored my baby with my selfishness. She gave me love on top of love and would have done anything for me, no questions asked, but I didn't do right by her. I regret it so much. She passed away almost 5 years ago and she is still the first thing I think of every morning when I wake up. And then my second thought is crushing guilt about the decision I refused to make in time. It shouldn't be this way.
One night, I came home from work and she was unresponsive. Her body had started to slowly shut down and she most likely had a stroke. She was comatose, in that twilight area between life and death. My sister in law is a mobile vet, so we called her to come over to put her to sleep. While we waited for her to arrive, I really looked at Maggie and reality hit me. She was so thin and frail. I looked at her wasted body and cried. She should have had a better end. I could clearly see all her ribs, her spine, and the contours of her skull. She gave me so much, she gave me everything she had and I let her linger and waste away for weeks, if not months. She must have been so miserable and depressed. There is no way she wasn't in pain, and she had been in pain for months at this point, I had been in complete denial and refused to see it. I held her and cried and apologized and told her I loved her while Krisi gave her the shot. Then she was gone.
If I could go back in time and redo one thing, it wouldn't be doing better in school or not dating the guy who introduced me to hard drugs or any of the other stupid, ruinous things I have done. The one thing I would change is having Maggie put to sleep when her life quality of life turned bad. She deserved better than to waste away on a bed for weeks and months until her body gave out. My selfish actions destroyed what should be beautiful memories of the best friend I will ever have. I am so sorry.
So, yes, I think it is inhumane to let a pet (or human) suffer when their life can end peacefully and with dignity. Selfishly keeping my dog alive for me and not doing what was best for her is the most unintentionally cruel thing I have ever done and I am ashamed.
Healthy Maggie, a few months before her legs stopped working:
In the scooting phase:
About 8 months before she died. This is the last photo of her, I didn't take any more. After I saw this photo, I cropped most of her body out and continued with my denial. She lost about half of her body weight in this photo over the next 8 months.