I originally wrote this post in January 2012:

We said goodbye to our sweet Zeke the other day. Nearly 15, he was. His kidneys failed him and he just wore out. His loss leaves cannonball size holes in our hearts. He was such an easy-going, sunny-spirited guy. A friend to everyone he met: human, canine, feline. His passing has changed our home, in ways that are still playing out. We see subtle changes in our surviving dogs’ behavior. And the house just feels emptier. We have lost six other pets, so we know we’ll get through this. Yet, it’s one of the most painful things we have ever experienced.

We would love to avoid this painful part of the bargain we have with our pets. But our love and respect binds us together through both life and death. It’s human nature to put off painful things. Yet you find yourself, at some point, asking what is the “right thing to do” for my pet: what is really in his best interests, not mine?

Over the past three years, a natural progression of health issues started to occur and we made the minor modifications to our home and routine to accommodate Zeke’s needs. Giving a glucosamine supplement for arthritis and building extra time into everything so Zeke could get up and out to enjoy the wonderfully simple life of being a dog. Then the Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome hit one Saturday morning, looking for all the world, like a doggie stroke. We thought we’d lost him that day. But he recovered so spectacularly from that—just a slight head tilt as his “tell” that he suffered such a scary condition. He just needed some time and a few temporary accommodations around the house. He developed an eye condition that eventually took his sight, so we administered drops a couple times a day in each eye and a little “seeing eye human” help. Through all these medical developments, our Zeke accepted his aches and pains and limitations with his typical sunny attitude. I hope I age with as much dignity and grace as Zeke did.

What the future really held emerged last fall when he started having “accidents” in the house. We went to the vet for tests that told us kidney function was weakening and could lead to a future problem. Of course, Zeke accepted a new incontinence medication and wearing a belly band around the house in his characteristic easy-going way.

A week ago, some ominous signs cropped up and our sunny boy was acting more lethargic and getting sick at night—a first for the dog with the cast iron stomach. We took him to the vet for some fluids and blood work. Although we intuitively knew Zeke’s time was limited, it didn’t make hearing “kidney failure” any easier. Kidney failure is a terminal condition for a dog, but each dog experiences it differently, making the answer to our many questions, “well, that depends.” We agonized over what was the right thing to do, also hoping that Zeke would give us some kind of sign when he was ready. In the end, we opted to give him fluids one more time to see if it made him more comfortable. It didn’t. That night, Zeke gave us what we needed—that sign that says he’s done. The next morning, our vet accommodated us with an early appointment and we made “the drive” to their office.

As Zeke slipped away with our love and thanks in his ears and kisses on his head, he became so peaceful. For us, it was the hardest thing to do. For Zeke, it was the right thing to do. We love you, buddy.

Resources at your fingertips

Grieving pet owners:  www.petloss.com, www.rainbowbridge.com

Carol Peter is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Cold Nose Companions, LLC Dog Training. She offers private in-home training for people and their dogs throughout Geauga County. Carol focuses on resolving problem behaviors and teaching good household manners using positive reinforcement training and behavior modification methods. She can be reached at carol@coldnosecompanions.com.

©2012, Carol Peter, Cold Nose Companions, LLC