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The Dog Lady Blog

Sunday, February 12, 2012 :


"...i'm back, baby!..."

A snippet of one of my many collages

For some weird technical reason, I have not been able to access and my blog therein for quite some time.  But now I'm back.  If this has been your only resource for news about my Sanctuary and our ceaseless efforts to remain afloat in a very murky financial pool, I apologize for the snafu--yet we're still floating, so that's good news, right?  I've been working on all kinds of new projects, one of which is offering help with behavioral issues humans are having.  For instance:

"Hello Katherine,

I'm devastated ....and saddened by the fact that it seems I've reach the end of the road with my fur boy. His name is Chai and he is a soon to be 3 years young Shih Tzu who is a fear aggressive biter. I got Chai @ 8 wks of age from a breeder who deemed him "pet quality. " He seemed and friendly. I noticed from the beginning as did his vet that he was a bit skittish upon exam especially when having his face and ears touched. I tried to nip this in the bud by touching him even more in those areas hoping he'd acclimate.

Well, long story short he hasn't and it's spiraled out of control. He tries hard to bite and snaps at anyone trying to touch his face or ears. This has evolved into other forms of aggression towards my cat and even at times, towards me! It also means general anesthesia for vet exams...and its gotten to the point where I cannot properly care for him because he won't allow it. He's gotten chronic ear infections and swollen eyes from hair in his face because he won't allow a grooming. I have to literally cut away at mats...its unfair to him to be this way. My vet prescribed prozac a week ago but so far I don't see any changes and the vet wasn't too encouraging. Is there any hope?" 
Below is my response regarding Chai.  If you know anyone struggling with the inevitability of euthanasia, this is for you to share with them:

"Dear J,

Unfortunately it sounds like Chai might have something beyond behavioral issues--neurological at best, dangerous aggression at worst. He may have a vision issue, maybe peripheral, that makes him anxious. The worst part about diagnosing the voiceless is they can't say, "It's blurry", or "I see three people, not one", or "I get headaches". We just don't know, especially with behavioral health.

I am a big believer in "quality of life" and it sounds like Chai is struggling on a daily basis with his problems, which in turn are compromising his health and a life of normal caregiving by you. As I'm sure your vet told you, using heavy duty drugs to knock Chai out is dangerous. Yet I believe he suffers more than the obvious ways, too. We say things like, "Oh, I CAN'T do THAT to my BABY! I love him/her too much!"

That's not love. That's part fear, part selfishness and part transference (also known as anthropomorphism) and we act like our animal knows what is about to happen BUT THEY DON'T! We're the only species that knows it's going to die. I hate to see people bawling all over their poor animal in anticipation of the end. Your animal doesn't understand why you're crying, only that you ARE crying and that is EXTREMELY upsetting to them. STOP. Take a step back and remember: it's NOT about you. You really want the emphasis to remain on your animal's well being, not on your anxiety. I have been there more than I care to remember but I also learned some incredible lessons along the way. As a result, I have a solution, one I have honed over a lifetime of experience dealing with every kind of issue animals have.

I had a dog like Chai, a cocker spaniel named Natty, pretty much a verbatim example of Chai. After two years of trying to retrain her, Nat ripped apart one of my little dogs, who survived but only after extensive surgery, and I decided that Natty needed to be "let go". My desire to "fix" her overtook the reality of her dangerous behavior. If Natty had been my only dog I might have been able to work through it, or at least isolate her from potential disasters but even that is extreme, and very human "solution". As someone who takes daily medication, I knowthat it is a slippery slope because it takes a lot of trial and error with various meds to find the one that works for the individual. Like humans, many animals have chemical imbalances. I can tell you that Prozac made my condition much worse, as did Paxil and animals can't tell us that they too are feeling worse on certain meds. Prozac is an old, old drug and in my opinion, vets should be looking at the newer and more effective drugs like Cymbalta. It's a safer, broader spectrum with virtually NO side effects but again doesn't work for all.

Back to Natty, I finally stopped trying to change something that could not be changed (hard wiring). I decided that it was more cruel to keep experimenting on her and even dangerous. Soon thereafter I called my vet and made an appointment to bring Natty in...since Nat loved going on errands we loaded up, and went to the local market where I got 8 pieces of fried chicken, a slice of chocolate cake (with chocolate icing) and a few other "forbidden fruits" for Nat. As we drove to the vet with the food smelling like HEAVEN in the truck cab to Natty--she was sniffing and slobbering, anticipating the chicken with a wagging tail and yipping with excitement! She even begged by pawing at my arm as I drove and staring deeply into my eyes at stops. It was sweet, sweet, sweet.

When we arrived at the vet office, Natty followed me with as I carried the chicken dinner to the clinic courtyard and boy, was she dancing, prancing and wiggling her little nubby tail. The vet came out and as she prepared to give an IM injection of sedation in Natty's back leg, I hand Nat her first piece of chicken, a breast. She began devouring it (FINALLY! Natty thought...) and was completely distracted from the pinch of the shot. Two minutes later, the sedation kicked in, most of the chicken was gone and Natty was laying like a platypus with chocolate icing on her lips. I smiled because I knew she felt GREAT. The vet and her technician thought this was the BEST euthanasia experience one could create! All I know is that if I could choose a way to die, without knowing I was going to die, it would be on a magic carpet ride with chocolate icing on my lips...

As I held the buzzed, sated Natty in my lap and talked to her in a cooing tone, the vet administered the euthanasia solution and I realized I wasn't even crying--until it was over and to me, at that point, it was okay to cry. I cry every time I put an animal down but at the same time I'm grateful that we have such a humane way of doing so (as opposed to the "Old Days"). The adage, "If you love something, set it free..." is indeed true. It was for Natty.

Sure, I wish I could've "fixed" Nat but knowing when to cede to reality is essential in animal rescue. There are so many animals that DO NOT have issues and are homeless or in shelters who need us NOW. Letting go of one allows us to help two more. Approach your situation with the same philosophy and you become more enlightened and less burdened. Guilt isn't applicable when you are doing the right thing.

Good luck and feel free to contact me if you need moral support. I am nothing if not compassionate and empathetic.

The Dog Lady

ps--if your dog or cat HATES riding in the car or going to the vet, ask your vet to make a "house call".


Why don't we ever hear about Dezzie?
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