Monday, August 11, 2008

A Dose of Reality

I waited to bring this up because it just bothered me so much. I took Popeye to see a local vet on August 1. My intent was to get him x-rays. But the vet examined me and pretty much said that x-rays were pointless. She recommended euthanizing him. The medical reason was that since he didn't have control over his bladder, he would be prone to urinary tract infections, which could then potentially lead to kidney failure. Incontinence is certainly nothing a dog has to die for! It can be managed! I have a feeling the true reasons she recommended euthanizing Popeye were these:

1) Finding him an adoptive home would be difficult. No duh. She actually had the nerve to say to me that I couldn't just give him to the first person who wanted him just because he was such a cute puppy. REALLY?

She obviously did not know this about me, though she would have had she taken the time to ask, but the dogs I usually foster are the ones that ARE difficult to adopt. They are usually the ones that are overlooked, that nobody else wants, either because of a severe emotional trauma, lack of discipline, or medical need. This is why I take them.

People ask me all the time about my foster dogs, "Do you really think you'll really be able to find her a home?" By now, my answer is emphatically yes! It may not be easy, it may take a long time, but I firmly believe there is a perfect home for every dog, and I don't mind waiting to find it.

2) The 2nd major reason the vet recommended putting Popeye down was that she is apparently one of those people who think dogs that do not have 4 functioning legs cannot be happy and therefore should die. She questioned Popeye's quality of life with 2 legs. Uh, hello, have you MET Popeye? Popeye has no understanding that he is any different than any other dog. He is typical puppy--eager, playful, and full of spirit. If anything, it was his bout with starvation while living on the streets that has a more profound effect on him than his disability.

I know there are dogs who are put down all the time because their mobility becomes impaired. In many cases, I don't believe this is for the benefit of the dog. I believe it's for the benefit of the dog's people, because frankly, it's usually the easier thing for them to do.

I received an email about a week ago, just 2 days after I got Popeye:

"You actually believe this is a quality life for this dog? I feel sorry for him, but do not believe this is good for him. Poor baby."

My reply:

"My god, yes! Have you never heard of Faith or Sugar, both dogs with 2 legs who have extremely happy & fulfilled lives?

Sugar: h

Just look at all the dogs who live and move freely with the use of a cart:

And have you never heard of the neurological disease called Degenerative Myelopathy? Dogs with DM eventually lose the use of their hind end as well, and they become paraplegic like Popeye is. I had a german shepherd with DM. He never progressed to the point where he completely lost his mobility (cancer took him first), but my own neurologist had a paraplegic dog with DM himself and had guess what, an Eddie's Wheels cart for him. And one of the women in my DM group also had a paraplegic dog with an Eddie's Wheels and they went on 5-mile hikes every week!

All too often I hear people put down their dogs because the dogs' mobility is impaired. It requires a lot more commitment and a lot more work, but a handicapped dog can live as happily as a handicapped person can--even happier since they usually don't even realize their impairment.

I'm really sorry you feel that Popeye should be euthanized. I'm sure you won't be the only one. I feel sorry for him too, but that's because I'd feel sorry for myself if I were in his position. POPEYE doesn't feel sorry for himself. I took him on 3 walks today, 2 with his makeshift cart and the last with a bottoms-up leash, and you should have seen him go! I had to run to keep up with him. And he's always approaching strangers, waiting to be petted and cooed over. Popeye has a zest for life, and just because he doesn't have the use of all 4 legs doesn't mean he can't be happy. He can be as happy as we humans allow him to be.

I really do appreciate your opinion. We all have different opinions on what's best for our dogs--it's because we care so much about them. I just wanted to share my point of view so you know where I'm coming from.

Even though you may not agree with what I'M doing, I know you wish the best for Popeye. And for that, I thank you very much."

I have no doubt there are many others who feel the way the writer of that original email does. Come meet Popeye, spend a day with him, and then tell me you think he's better off dead. People sit back and judge because all too often they hold on to narrow minded views of what things should be. Well guess what, lots of things in life aren't how they "should" be. But the ones who are happiest aren't the ones who cry and complain and just give up. They're the ones who deal with it, who adjust and struggle to turn it into something positive.


Mark said...

You're not alone.
There is a whole community of thousands of handicapped pet caretakers at . You can get the advice and support you need there.

You may need to learn how to express the dogs bladder manually, and do a little extra work to maintain the dogs health, but the animal can have years of healthy, active, love-filled life.

We care for our families -- regardless of who or what species we choose to include.

Anonymous said...

Although I can understand your annoyance with the vet, please bear in mind she doesn't know you. If your local rescue scene is anything like that in North Texas, you're surrounded with people who say they know what they're doing, and are (you should pardon the expression) lying like a dog. We had a problem in Dallas recently where an excellent veterinarian with the best intentions did some amazing restorative work on dogs from different rescue groups, and was let down by foster owners who couldn't or didn't follow through on their promises. Some of the dogs couldn't be salvaged and the vet's reputation took an undeserved hit. You are different -- what you didn't know you learned, and the result is an amazing little dog. I think this is probably the reason your rescue group has the name it does. Over time the local vets will learn who and what you are.

As to people who think disabled dogs should be euthanized because of that whole quality of life excuse. A lot of people seem to think the same thing about certain humans, too. Hmph.

It all comes down to whether someone takes a look and pays attention enough to notice that spark of life within. Popeye is not defined by his injury, and you took the time to prove it. God forbid something happens to my dog, you will be hearing from me!

Or maybe you could write a book!