Both dogs have been outside early today (around 0300), and are now in the living room with me: Moses on the other end of the sofa, Zoe lying in front of me on the floor.
The question I ask, and wrestle with: Should I take Zoe to Dr. Micki today to have her life ended by an injection? Why, and why not?
Because our vet gave her no chance of recovery, diagnosing terminal cancer, Zoe’s health continues to slide away. I keep asking myself: Am I prolonging her dying for no purpose? And yet, since the diagnosis on 14 January, nearly two weeks ago, we have had some good adventures—running, chasing deer, photographing, taking walks together, rides in the car, quiet hours on the sofa, and so on. Then again, over the weeks, her health has clearly declined, with several most visible signs: her appetite has waned; her energy has decreased; her desire to lie down for long times in the cold outside has increased; she has been drinking vast quantities of water until the past 24 hours or so; her muscles have languished; and at the same time, her abdomen has become engorged with fluid produced by the tumors. Now she seems sleepy.
What is gained by prolonging her dying? That is the question. It is not for me to cling to her as she exists tin he world. On the contrary, my duty is to let her die in peace, surrendering her back to our Creator. Yes, I love her, and yes, her face and coat remain beautiful. But why make her endure her own wasting away? What good could come to Zoe, to Moses, to me? She looks tired, fatigued, and without a viable chance of recovery, why not have her “put to sleep”?
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…” That Zoe is dying is evident. Will I ask our vet to speed up the final stage, and let Zoe die peacefully? And if so, when? What alternative, if any, do we have? I will consult Dr. Micki today, and trust her judgment. If one does not trust the medical opinions of his or her physician or veterinarian, then one should find another health care professional. I trust Dr. Micki, and we shall consult in a couple of hours via text messaging. And then I have early Mass, and a meeting with a parishioner.
Note on 27 January at 0700
I have texted Dr. Micki about timing for euthanasia, and asking about death from carcinoma in her abdomen, with the fluid build-up. If we let “nature run its course,” what is to be expected? Would it be painful to Zoe? One vet told me that such cancer is not painful, and so far, I have not heard groans or seen signs that Zoe is in real pain. Surely she is uncomfortable from the fluid build-up, but she experienced much discomfort in her life with arthritis, especially in a front leg, preferring to run on it rather than to miss her daily run with Moses.
As I have been considering euthanasia today—despite my reservations about “mercy killing” unless one is truly in unbearable pain—Zoe utterly surprised me. She has been weak in the night, although she has remained continent, and still climbs up and down the long stair cases in the rectory. From 0300 to 0600 or so, she lay on the floor in front of me in the living room, and then climbed up onto the sofa. Then came the surprise. I entered the shower, and felt a cold breeze, finding the bathroom door pushed open. There was Zoe, laying next to the shower, as she has done since she was a pup when I would take a shower. That she takes such initiative, regardless of how she may feel (weak, fatigued, uncomfortable), speaks of her indomitable spirit, and makes me question hastening her death.
As noted, I texted my vet to ask about timing for euthanasia. Her response will be my standard for deciding:
“The cancer will cause a slow and steady fade as we are seeing. My feeling is that intervention should take place:
2. Refuses or is unable to engage in normal activities with you for more than 24 hours;
3. Unable to hold bowels/bladder (obviously for cleanliness and dignity’s sake).
“The cancer that kills our Goldens most frequently is often a swift and unexpected killer….I am not sure which would be worse. I can appreciate your and Zoe’s anguish. Yours the worse for capacity to understand. Awful.”
Finally, my anguish is not nearly as bad as it would be when I keep surrendering her back to the Creator, thanking God for the eight, delightful years we have had together. My desire is to do what is best for Zoe, for whom I have been a care-taker in this world.