My heart is absolutely breaking.
I came home yesterday from running errands to find Freddy laying on the landing and unable to get up. My heart broke instantly.
Kraig and I got Freddy in late February of 2002. He was 8 weeks old and weighed 15lbs. Here we are almost 9 years later and he weighs 130lbs. He should have been bigger. He's a Great Dane/Golden Retriever mix. It was the first time I had ever had a dog of my own. Anyone that says you can't buy love has never bought a puppy. He gained a pound a day for the first month and then about a pound a week after that. You do the math. For nine years Freddy and I have been more than best friends. When I left Kraig in January 2006 it was just as hard for me to leave Freddy with him as it was for me to leave the girls. When Doug and I discussed moving in together 18 months later I had to have my dog with me. Just like the girls, Freddy was part of the package.
If anyone asks, I wouldn't call him a "big" dog. I know he's a big dog but to me he's still that fuzzy little puppy that went ass over elbows down the stairs because he wasn't coordinated enough. I'm used to him. The normal response when people first meet Fred is "holy shit he's HUGE!". Yeah, well I guess he is. He's still my lap dog. He only takes up most of the couch. A big dog would take up all of the couch. I don't realize how big he is until I take him out of the house. Which, these days, is not that often.
I got home yesterday and he couldn't get up. After picking up the million pieces of my heart I called Bill. Fred lived with Bill for almost a year when I was in an apartment and couldn't afford the $500 deposit that was needed to have him with me. Bill is Freddy's "Foster Dad" and as much of a part of Freddy's family as anyone. Without hesitation he headed over. I don't want to know what kind of traffic laws he broke getting here as fast as he did. I'm just glad he did. It took Bill and a neighbor (thank you, too) to get him into the van. I did have to take the seats out so he would fit.
After an exam and X rays the vet came in and gave us the news. There wasn't really good news/bad news. It all pretty much sucked ass.
She had no real idea what was going on with him. The x-rays showed us what it isn't. It's not a fracture. It's not cancer. It doesn't look like a bulging disc. Based on the manual exam of his leg and the fact that he wasn't bearing any weight and that he wasn't "righting" it when she tucked it under she's guessing an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament - stabilizing ligament of the knee) tear. He can have surgery to repair it. Even surgery will not make him 100% better. He's 9 years old. He's a BIG dog. Life expectancy for him is 9, maybe 10 years - do the math. He has bad hip dysplasia on his right side (at this time that's the "good" leg). He has arthritis. He's as healthy as a dog his age/size can be expected to be. But he's old. And he's big. Surgery will change his pain. He will never be pain free. To not do surgery means that the bones will create arthritic type fibers that will help to stabilize the knee. He will end up bearing more weight on the right side with the dysplastic hip. It's a matter of time before either the hip gives out or the ACL in the other knee gives out from the strain.
We could do an MRI to find out if it was something else - nerve damage maybe. The x-rays cost me $350 - what the hell is an MRI supposed to cost? And really, even if we called in Dr House, what real difference would it make? He's an old dog. How long and what quality of life are we going to give him?
When the vet left I did the translation. We're managing his pain. We're putting him on "comfort measures". At this point it's just a matter of trying to make him as comfortable and happy as possible for as long as possible. It could be another week before we have to realize that he's just not going to get better. It could be a month or two before we have to acknowledge that he's getting worse.
I've watched him lately get slower. I've watched him stumble when he gets on the couch or tries to go up the stairs too fast. I've seen him not be able to get his balance when trying to go from lying to standing. I know that he can no longer get up on my bed. He struggled the last time I tried to get him in the van. When Allie wanted to take him for a walk he only went a block before he sat down and wanted to go home. I've filed this all away to the place where we know things but don't want to acknowledge them. I know that he's old. I know that he's not going to live forever. I know that he's starting to falter. This is the first time I've been forced to face it. Not only face it but face the possibility that I am going to have to soon make the decision whether or not we need to put him to sleep.
I look at him now and you can't tell that he's old. While he's outside sitting in the sun with his nose and ears perked up to what's going on around him you can see the light in his eyes. When he rolls over for a belly rub and speaks his "Freddy Speak" and grumbles, you can see how happy he is.
When he whimpers and whines because he can't stand up and he has to go potty your heart just breaks.
There is a part of me that just wants to call the vet and take him in. While he is in pain, he's happy. He's loved. He loves. He's hurt but he's not suffering. Why should I wait until he's suffering?
There is the rest of me that has loved this dog for 9 years. That has held him and cried because I was upset. He has laid in my bed when I don't feel good. He puts his head in my lap when I just need something. He's goofy and just dumb as a dog can be sometimes. He's convinced that a 12" board will keep him out of any room. Hell, a well placed chair will keep him out of any room. He lays under the kitchen table when we eat. He sits at Fiona's feet in her high chair - just in case. And she frequently rewards him. How can I make the decision to take his life away, no matter how little is left?
How do I explain to the girls. This will be their first brush with anything like it. How do I tell my girls that their dog is going to die? And probably soon? And that I have to be the one to make the decision? HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THIS???
I can't stop crying. I can't remember the last time that I cried like this. I can't remember the last time I cried this hard. I can't breathe. I can't hardly see. My face is swollen and I look like Eric Stoltz in Mask. Maybe not that bad, but close.
He's a good dog. He's a happy dog. He's a very, very loved dog. He's MY dog.
I love you Freddy. No matter what. I love you.