The Best of Intentions
Warning, this may be a controversial post. It’s not meant to judge or upset anyone, just food for thought about quality of life. Of course before doing any of the things detailed below, consult with your veterinarian.
We all try to do the best for our dogs and want them to be with us for as long as possible. Sometimes this means we bubblewrap them. What do I mean? We are so afraid of their disease that we don’t let them do things because we think they might die. For example some dogs have breathing issues so their caregivers limit their exertions, stop taking them for walks or letting them play with other dogs and only take them outside to relieve themselves. This is done with the best of intentions. To keep their precious friend safe from breathing crises, but what kind of quality of life is that? Although she is alive, she isn’t doing the things she loves. I think she would rather not be around if that was her quality of life.
A Better Way
I think there is a better way. Manage the symptoms and protect your dog from crises, but still let them do the things they love with adjustments and modifications. And when that is no longer possible consider saying goodbye. This is the most selfless thing we can do.
Karlie had geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy (GOLPP) which can cause breathing, eating, and mobility issues. For Karlie the biggest issue was her mobility, but she also tired more easily and panted more with exertion. She also had acid reflux and periods of eating fussiness. I decided these things weren’t going to keep us from doing what she loved – going on adventures, taking walks, playing ball, kayaking, going to the beach, and sleeping on our bed. We made adjustments to allow her to keep doing these things until she couldn’t and then we said goodbye. Believe me I wanted her to live forever and to always be with me. I also wanted her to be happy and if she couldn’t do the things she loved she wouldn’t be happy.
Making Adjustments for Quality of Life
The adjustments we made included taking walks early in the morning and later in the evening when it was cool. Sometimes we used a cooling vest and I brought water. We cut the walk short if she was getting too warm. At least once a day we played ball inside and when it was cool, outside. We did not play with the same intensity or duration as when she was younger. We only went kayaking when it was cool. But the biggest thing I did was give her something to look forward to every day – a special treat, playing ball, an outing to some place, sitting outside, etc. I truly believe this is what allowed her to overcome some of her mobility issues. She had a strong will to live and adapt to the changes because she had fun things to look forward to doing.
Other than playing with a ball one of Karlie’s favorite things to do was to be with us on an adventure. Our adventures were everything from going on a hike in the canyons or woods to getting ice cream at Plant Power to checking out plants at the garden center to shopping at the outlet mall to walking to a store and waiting outside while my husband purchased something. We did all of these and more and I believe this kept her happy and willing to keep pushing herself.
As I said mobility was Karlie’s biggest issue. When she started to have great difficulty getting around we spent time lounging on the porch and monitoring the neighborhood, but that didn’t stop our adventures. We purchased a rear-wheel wheelchair and stroller to help her get around. And then she didn’t need them any more because she worked so hard using the wheels that she strengthened her legs and was able to walk on her own again.
Karlie may be unusual with how she overcame whatever was thrown at her. I think it’s worth trying with any older dog or one who has limitations due to an illness. Instead of thinking she can’t do things, try to figure out ways to adapt to the new situation and give your dog something to look forward to. Do fun things, which is whatever is fun for your dog. You may be surprised with the things she can do. Karlie’s resilience and willingness to try anything, amazed me. She always had a smile on her face and I tried to make sure I gave her a reason every day to smile. I hope you will consider doing that for your dog.
Check out this post that details some ideas to keep your dog moving – Keep Moving