Thursday, 18 December 2008


light snow, then cleared to blue skies, temps minus 2

I'm all better - no more cold or flu - but yesterday Michael crawled into bed and announced he was sick. I took his temperature. 101. Out with the hot water bottle, the Tylenol, the trashy magazines, and Sudoku. Poor guy.

But he crawled back out of bed to go with Maggie and me to the vets. Her leg is getting much worse and a decision has to be made.

Hope is a funny thing. It shifts, changes, adjust. It's alive. As we've gone through this with Maggie we first hoped her leg could be healed. Then we hoped it wouldn't get any worse. Then we hoped the steroids would work. Then we hoped amputation wouldn't be necessary. And when we took her to the vet yesterday we hoped it would. We hoped he wouldn't say there was no hope left, and her time had come.

At first he looked at her leg and said, if you tell me to put her down I won't stop you, I won't argue. I could feel the tears, and fought them down. I don't cry all that often, but when I do it's a mess. And I needed to think, not feel. Not yet.

So we asked about amputation. He hummed and hawed. What to us a month ago was unthinkable had suddenly become the thing we most hoped for. Please, say yes to amputation both Michael and I thought. The vet called a colleague, and reviewed Maggie's x-rays, then returned.

He examined her again and asked some questions...yes, she gets around fine limping on 3 legs (the rear left leg broke last winter and couldn't be fixed - it was actually the elbow's been getting worse since, though she didn't seem in pain until a couple months ago...but she hasn't put weight on it for 3 months or so). Yes, her appetite is great. Yes, she goes up and down stairs, with encouragement. She sleeps, wags her tails, goes to the dishwasher to lick the dishes. She still has a great quality of life. Except for the leg.

But she's a 10 year old golden.

I'm not saying this was an easy decision for us. Is it fair to put our beloved dog through an operation like this? Would it be more loving, more humane to let her go? Honestly? I don't know the answer. Are we being chickens by hoping for amputation? Just putting off the inevitable and forcing her to live with pain, longer?

I don't know.

We do believe she loves life still. Loves her walks to the pond, her treats, her food, her snuggles. And we honestly believe without that leg, her pain will be gone and her life will improve. And that she's in great shape, except...

The vet has agreed that amputation is a legitimate option - and the operation will be on Monday. Apparently it's more traumatic for the 'parents' than for the 'puppy' - I hope that's true.

But we love her - and while we'd hate to see her go, we'd really hate to put her down without trying every reasonable option. We'll see. And watch her closely. And if, after the operation, she's still in distress - well, then hope will shift one more time.

We hope we have the courage and decency to do what's right.

But for now, we have every reason to believe it will be a greart success, and three-legged Maggie will be in fine form!


cece said...

I read two authors' blogs. Yours, and Deanna Raybourn's. Two days ago she lost her beloved Emma. I am so glad that you have this chance to give Maggie some relief from her pain and yourselves a chance to enjoy her presence for longer. You and Maggie will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Wendy said...

I have always believed that you know what to do when you look into your beloved pet's eyes. If there is still a twinkling light, then they are happy, if the eyes are dull and lifeless, it is time to let them go. May you find peace with any decision you have to make.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Cece,

Ohh, poor Deanna. Thank you for telling me. And thank you for having us - especially Maggie - in your prayers. I'm very touched.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Wendy,

I believe you're right. When Bonnie and Seamus's times came (God, you'd think we were in the dog putting-down biz) it was clear. And it was peaceful, because of that. I think that's why while we struggle, we actually know deep down that we need to give her one more chance. Any dog that can go at dishes in the dishwasher with such ferocity is still finding joy in life, or at least in the dishwasher.

I'm very touched by your concerns. thank you.

Jovanna said...

Dear Louise,

I hope our experience can offer you and Michael hope for Maggie's prognosis. Two years ago, our 12 year old Austrailian Sheepdog Nanny was roughhousing with our other (very large) dog and tripped. The other dog couldn't stop in time and fell on top of her. Nanny must have fallen in an awkward position because when the smoke cleared, Nanny had a badly broken leg right hind leg. We rushed her to our vets, Dr. Louis and Troy Jones, Miracle Workers. Putting Nanny to sleep was never mentioned. What Dr. Jones did explain is that amuptation is sometimes a more responsible choice, especially in an older dog, when the alternative is a long and complicated surgical rebuilding process involving pins and a long rehabilitation spent crated. Our reaction was decidedly negative initially, but our faith in our vets is strong and we very much wanted to do the right thing. Nanny came home two days later, ready to get back to the business of supervising the other dogs. She required almost none of the pain meds, suffered no depression, and recovered exponentially more quickly than our young Rottweiller who had to have a shoulder joint rebuilt because of a congenital defect. Two years later, Nanny is still going strong. No pain and very little loss of mobility. Nanny still runs, plays, and easily jumps onto the bed at night. We are so grateful that we made the amputation decision. The adjustment process was far harder for us than for her. Nanny has had two more great years and we have hope for many more.

I'll be sending lots of healing thoughts Maggie's way.

Cheers, Jovanna

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Jovanna,

Oh, thank you. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate your message. it does help. And we're so happy for you, your family and especially Nanny -

And, to everyone who sent, and continues to send good wishes and energy - Michael and I are very grateful. I know it will help!

Lee Ann said...

Is this dishwasher thing genetic with golden retrievers? Our puppy Kolbe (5 1/2 months) heads right for the dishwasher whenever he hears us open the door. He licks the dishes, apparently just like Maggie. Being new to dogs, I worry occasionally when he naps like the dead, but as soon as I open that door, up he pops! and I have no more worries. Prayers and good wishes for Maggie on Monday!

Lee Ann

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Lee Ann,

I think it's bred into them. Weak hips but ears attuned to dishwashers. Must have been handy in the wild. I bet Kolbe is adorable!!! But wow, are golden puppies a lot of work. I suspect all puppies are. But so worth it.