Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Our 14 years with Maddie and our Journey with Euthanasia

I remember so vividly almost 14 ½ years ago.  I had moved to Virginia from New York to be with Russ and although I was so happy, I was really missing my family and friends and I became a little depressed.

Russ was teaching me to drive stick on a sunny Feb day.  Somewhere around Valentine’s Day in 2002.  I was having a hard time driving stick and we pulled into the closest parking lot.  That just happened to be the SPCA of Winchester, VA.

We had talked a little about adopting a dog, to help me adjust.  We love to hike, camp and fish and we thought a dog would make it so much better.

I had it set in my mind to adopt an adult dog.  NO PUPPY!  I didn’t want to deal with potty training and crate training.  We immediately came upon a run filled with border collie/lab puppies.  The lady said that they had just come in that morning.  I covered my eyes and walked by.  I remember saying to Russ “Nope, not even going to look at them”.  I knew their puppy cuteness would just suck me in!

We walked around and there were little foo foo dogs, and then dogs not compatible with cats.  Nothing seemed to fit.

So I wandered towards the puppies.  I looked in, there were a lot of them!  Black/white spotted puppies of  fluff and cuteness.  I can’t remember exactly how many there were, but there were a lot of them.  Maybe 8 or 10.

I opened the door and went in.  All of the puppies cowered in the back.  I knelt down, and one came bouncing to me.  It was like a sunlight beam shined on her and she is all I noticed.  She ran to me, I picked her up and said this is the one.


We couldn’t decide on a name.  We thought about naming her Chloe, it just didn’t fit, so we decided on Maddie.

That’s where it all started.  When I became a dog person.  I love my cats, but since Maddie I’ve been more drawn to dogs.  She was our first born. 

Boy was she demanding.  Even as a puppy.  She needed constant entertaining.  Oh she yelped and cried while trying to crate train her. 

I can’t remember if she was easy or difficult to potty train. 

I remember when she was still a puppy.  We took her for a walk in the Old Town Mall section of Winchester.  We were so proud of our bouncing black and white puppy.  People were walking by giving us the weirdest looks.  I bent down and noticed something hanging out of her mouth.  I lifted her head up and all I saw was 2 bird legs sticking straight out!  She had picked up a dead bird and was carrying it in her mouth.  You should have seen us trying to pry open her mouth.

She was such a strong willed dog.  I remember when she was a puppy.  I was giving her a bath and training her to sit good for a nail trim.  She growled at me.  I put her on her back to show her I was dominate over her, she fought me.  I didn’t cave.  I trimmed her nails and ever since she never ever fought me again over a nail trim.

A few months after we had her we noticed she was having trouble walking, running and jumping.  We started seeing other puppies from her litter at the animal hospital with the same problems.  Most of them were born with severe hip dysplasia.  Some of them were put to sleep because it was so bad. 

When we had her spayed we xrayed her hips and saw how bad it was on both sides.  Her only hope was to have TPO surgery (triple pelvic osteotomy) on her right hip.  It’s where they break her hip, put it back the right way with pins and plates.  But we had to wait until she was 6 months old.

She recovered really well from it and she was able to lead a somewhat normal life.  She was always hiking and camping with us.  Swimming and playing fetch and traveling to New York with us.

This picture was taken last fall

In 2002 we adopted Woody to give her a play mate. 

They spent the next 14 years being inseparable. 

They are only 1 year apart in age.  An old man and an old lady in this picture.

Who would have thought that those 14 years would fly by at lightening speed.  We were just kids when we adopted her.  We were 23 years old and just starting our life together. 

She was with us through it all.  Our first home.  Marriage.  Kids.  Miscarriages.  Family deaths.  Family events.  Happiness and tears.  And then moving and starting our small farm.

And here we are.  Planning her death.  Her hips can’t take anymore.  She’s lost the sparkle in her eyes.  She can’t even make it outside in time to potty.  This is from the dog who NEVER had an accident in the house.  I remember one time she had diarrhea while we were at work.  She went into the bathroom and did it.

Relaxing with Woody nearby

Every single day he would clean her eyes and ears

I'm really going to miss those paws

She always loved giving her Daddy kisses

So today is her last day here on earth.  Tomorrow morning I will take her into my work and have her put to rest.  Today the kids and I took her to McDonalds, bought a bunch of food to go and went to the river.  We had a picnic with her.  She had 2 double cheeseburgers, French fries and part of a chicken sandwich.

I've loved getting 14 years older with you Maddie Dawg


I walked her down to the river for a last swim.  That was always her favorite thing to do.  Something told me to keep her on a leash.  She waded around and Jaylee found her a stick.  She fetched the stick a few times and played with it.  For a moment I saw the sparkle back in her eyes.  I thought that maybe it wasn’t her time yet.  Maybe she has a little more time with us.  But then she fell and she couldn’t get out of the water.  I’m so glad that I listened to myself and didn’t let her swim far out in the river.  She wanted to.

We had so much fun with her.
We laughed and splashed and smiled.
Watching over her kids

I had to use a blanket as a sling because she just couldn’t get up.  She couldn’t get into the truck.  And now 4 hours later she is still sleeping.
She’s ready.  I got the confirmation that I needed that the time was right.  I want her to have a little dignity left going into the euthanasia tomorrow.  She’s the alpha female.  All she has to do is look at the other dogs and they know better.  Even in her weakest moments she still controls the pack.


She has been on 3 different types of pain medications.  But it isn’t enough.  I sat down and thought about the things that she can still do that she loves.  Eating was the only thing.  She won’t catch a ball anymore.  She’s too painful to swim.    The kids tried to play with her with the hose the other day.  Normally she would snap and bite at the water.  She went to the door to go back inside.  Last summer even though she was painful she would still follow the kids around outside.  She would play in the hose and catch a ball.  She even went swimming a few times.  Not this summer.

Over the past few weeks we have noticed a steady decline.  She seems like she doesn’t hear us most of the time.  She will be laying there like she is sleeping, but her eyes are open.  Just staring off.  She rarely greets us or wags her tail anymore. 

Russ said that he cannot be there for her euthanasia.  I completely understand.  I on the other hand need to be with her.  I don’t care how hard it is.  She needs me.  She picked me as her human that day, so I will be there to help her slip away into her next life.  

This is our first big dog loss.  We’ve put down the family dog when I was a teenager, but not a dog of my own.  I sat the kids down last night and told them.  They were so upset, and had many questions. 

I think it was nice that we could prepare for this.  It gave us all time to let it sink in, to come to terms with it. 

Life will never be the same without having Maddie in our home.  She had become such a presence in our family.  But I consider it a gift to help her transition to the next life.  A life without pain.  


So this brings me to the next day.  Russ and the kids went off to a dentist appointment.  Maddie went outside to use the bathroom.  Usually she comes right back to the door barking to come in.  I found her laying in the grass.  She wasn’t interested in eating her breakfast and she refused her medicine.  I thought maybe she would like to eat outside; she just turned her nose. 

I clipped a small locket of fur and then I loaded her into the backseat of the car.  My stomach was in knots, I felt like I was going to throw up.  

Her euthanasia experience was extremely peaceful and fast.  I held her with my forehead pressed against her, while she fell asleep and then slipped away.  She didn’t whine or cry.  She didn’t fight it.  She was ready.

I felt such sadness and disbelief, but I also felt relief.  Relieved that she wasn’t in pain anymore.  Life on earth is temporary, but she had so much more waiting for her.   She touched our hearts; she really was such a sweet and really good dog.  

I wanted to share this experience so that others are not afraid to go thru this experience with their pets.  Even with young children, it’s important to be honest and open with them about what and why it needs to happen. 

It’s truly a gift to remove them of their pain and suffering.  

I want to thank my friends, family and coworkers at Inwood Animal Center.  Over the past week they have all given me advice and comfort making this decision.  When it came time they made Maddie and I comfortable during the process. 

As a Veterinary Technician I give others advice all of the time about how you know when it's time for euthanasia.  You know in your heart when it's time.  There is a different look in your pet's eyes that you can't describe.  

I hope that this post can help someone else struggling with this decision and bring them comfort.