This is the name of a new book by a veterinarian from Tufts University. It’s intended to be an overview of how best to care for your older dog, and it covers topics from diet to cognitive decline to end of life decisions. I know about it because the editor/author was interviewed on NPR on Tuesday. How else? I would never hear about a new book otherwise.
I only heard a few minutes of the interview, so I missed the end-of-life part of the discussion. I considered buying the book, and looked for it on Amazon, and the very first review of it by a reader pretty much trashed it, particularly where it concerned the end-of-life decision part.
I have very strong feelings about that topic. Some years ago I joined a Yahoo newsgroup called “Cancer in Rottweilers”. My own Rottweiler died suddenly of what was possibly pancreatic cancer, and I had hoped to get more information about it–to see if anyone else had that experience. But this group is primarily devoted to Rottweilers with osteosarcoma, which seems to be alarmingly prevalent. (And only one person ever attempted to answer my questions.) So the group discusses what the best diets are, and the pros and cons of amputation, chemo, and radiation (which is a rare option). And frequently, there are agonizing posts about when to “let go”. I don’t say so, but my answer is always, “Right now!” If you are already asking that question, then it’s past time.
In any case the Amazon reviewer perhaps misread the editor/author’s intent in the book. Here is a quote from him from the NPR interview:
“If, for example, you had a relatively noninvasive procedure that wasn’t going to cause your dog a lot of pain, and it was going to buy him an extra six months and you could afford that treatment — and those six months were quality life — then why not, if you can afford it?” he says. “But, on the other hand, just to drag out an existence. … Some people, I have known in the past … have done that. Owners, with cooperating vets, have just gone step after step after step, when really, you’re on a highway to nowhere. If the dog is in chronic pain and doesn’t have long to go, sometimes I question the wisdom of that approach.”
Notice all the ifs in there. And I completely agree with it. The hard part is when all the “if” parts can be answered positively, except for the money. But that is the reality. And it’s the reality with people too.
I’m now down to two dogs, Troughton the 11 year-old Doberman and Pippin the 9 year-old Basenji mix. Age-wise, the book editor/author says the seven years for dogs v. one year for humans doesn’t hold up for large dogs or very small dogs. Small dogs are more like 6 years for every human year and large dogs are more like 8 years. Both my dogs still qualify as medium, so that still makes the Doberman 77 and the Basenji 63.
Both of them seem healthier than me, to me, probably because I have to spend my time taking care of them rather than the other way around 🙂 But the Doberman has a skin infection. The antibiotics he’s been on for 10 days haven’t helped. The Science Diet food for sensitive skin I bought him hasn’t helped. The Tea Tree oil spray hasn’t helped. He’s very itchy and has lost a lot of hair…but even so…this won’t kill him.
Pippin the Basenji mix has nothing wrong with him at all. If there were a nuclear holocaust, he and the cockroaches would be the only beings to survive.
Last night, Pippin and Troughton escaped because I left the gate open. I was able to recapture Troughton pretty quickly, because he has a sort of obedience gene. But trying to capture Pippin is hopeless. He comes back only when and if he wants to. Lucky for me…he does want to, but “when” is up in the air.
I could hear the neighbors’ dogs barking all up and down the street as he visited and taunted them. After an hour, I decided to go look for him in the car, in spite of how fruitless it would be, and when I went out to the driveway, he was standing in the front yard. “Come here,” I said. “Not yet”, he replied.
An hour later when it was thoroughly dark, when he might have been hit by a car in the dark, when he might have bitten someone, when he might have been taken in by a neighbor and confined so he couldn’t come home, when someone might have shot him, when he might have been picked up by the Sheriff’s department, when a bigger loose dog or a coyote or a rabid raccoon or a fox or a bat could have bitten him, he barked at the door.
Good dog 🙂