Today I had to say goodbye to one of my favorite patients for the past 10 years. His owners called yesterday afternoon to say that it was time.
I would like to say that I like all clients and patients equally. But that isn't always the case. There are some patients that hate having their toenails trimmed (Lily) and I don't like having to do them anymore than she likes having them trimmed (Lily), and we just come to agree about that, and get done what we have to get done. (Me and Lily). (Seriously, Girl doesn't like those toenails trimmed. Otherwise, she's a sweetie. From a distance.)
And then there are patients like Barney.
If you watch my video for Jerry's Artarama, the link to the left, you saw Barney. I shot his segment around Thanksgiving I think. The photos are from last summer.
Barney first came in as a patient about 10 years ago. His owners found him living at the trash dumpster as a puppy. Lab mix? something 'nuther? He was probably between 6 months and a year old at the time. He's been mostly healthy- had demodectic mange as a puppy that took a little while to clear up. Sometimes had a lick granuloma on his toe that he wouldn't leave alone.
Got snake bit on the nose one year. Still has a scar from that. That just made him more popular with the ladies.
Barney came in about once a month for his bath and his heartworm prevention. Jethro loved Barney. Loved him. He had a Bromance. Barney didn't know he was a dog though, and paid Jethro little attention for 6-7 years.
Often, on his bath day, Barney would get to the office before Jethro. And Jethro would dance around in the kennel when he realized that Barney was here. Much like Snoopy dancing around with his food bowl in the Peanuts comic strip. Even Jethro's bark was different as he barked at Barney from outside of his door.
After awhile Jethro wore him down. Barney would play with him when he boarded here while his owners were out of town. Barney lived out on the way to Lake Russell and the state park. A few times, if I was headed out there with to meet my Brother, SIL, and nephews with their boat, Jethro would get dropped off on the way and have a play date in Barney's large fenced in back yard. Barney wasn't a house dog, but he had his own room in a closed in patio. Had a platform bed out there with a heater in the winter. A fan in the summer. Barney could come and go out the doggie door. Jethro would have no part of that doggie door though. Someone had to actually open the door for him. Sort of a big chicken- that Jethro was. He had no snake bite scar to impress the ladies with.
For the past year or so, Barney had slowly gotten a little more confused it seemed. I noticed it when he boarded. His personality had changed. Didnt seem to be his old self. He started to have a few seizures now and then. His bloodwork (liver, kidney, and blood sugar) all seemed to be fine. So he started taking phenobarbital for the seizures. Barney seemed to get lost in his yard, not recognize people sometimes, displayed anxiety at times, and obscessive-compulsive tendencies at other times. Like pacing around the well house in the backyard for hours at a time, and yet, he quit wanting to go for a walk with his owner.
It was almost like he was developing alzheimer's. And for his age you might expect that a little. Barney was close to 11 years old. For an 80 lb. dog, that puts him at about the equivalent of a human between the ages of 72 and 77 years old. We tried him a month or two on a medication called Anipryl without much improvement. . It's made for canine cognitive dysfunction disorder.
For the past 2 months, his owners have debated about having to have him put to sleep. Not so much that he was painful, but more about his quality of life. Just not a happy dog. Depressed, tired, and lost is how I would describe him. Even today, he wasn't happy to come into the office. The old Barney would have bounced right in- overjoyed to see me.
Deciding when it was time was a difficult decision to make, I'm sure. It's only in hindsight do you seen Barney's mental decline. During the 2 months, one can't see it- one day he's better, one day he's worse. When you look back, is when one sees more bad days than good days.
It's never easy to put one's pet to sleep, but I do think it's sometimes easier when the decision is partially made for you- like knowing that the pet has cancer, or is in kidney or heart failure. Behavior or mental issues are more of a grey area and not so black and white.
I would have loved to have seen a Cat Scan or MRI of Barney's head. It wouldn't change anything in the end, as one would still have an older dog with a mental declining status. Scientifically, it would have been interesting if there was possibly a brain tumor there, causing his seizures and mental issues. But not necessary. Cat Scans and MRIs can cost around $500, and $1500 respectively. So I understand not wanting to pursue that, or put Barney through that, if it isn't going to help him in the long run.
Thanks for the memories, Barney. I'll miss you.