Stop telling me to euthanize my dog

picture of Lexi

This is Lexi. She’s a 13-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and she’s been with me since she was six weeks old. We’ve done everything together, from climb mountains in Maine to just hanging out at coffee shops in Pittsburgh.

People keep telling me I should euthanize her, and this is not okay.

About a year ago Lexi was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a progressive spinal cord disease that works similarly to ALS in people. She no longer has any function of her hind legs, and her bladder and bowl control continue to weaken.

As you can imagine, this is a frustrating and upsetting prospect. Watching your best friend deteriorate from an active, mobile, sprightly 11 to being forced to drag herself around at 13 is not fun or pleasant in any way. These days I clean up a lot of messes, and have to wipe Lexi down frequently to avoid urine scald. She doesn’t always make it through the night without having to go outside anymore, and since D.J. is a lighter sleeper than I am, he’s usually the one to take her out at 2 a.m.

This, apparently, is enough of a reason to end a dog’s life. And in some cases, yes, it probably is. But if you are not there, if you do not see what goes on, if you’ve never even met my dog, it is not appropriate for you to suggest end of life decisions.

Her body is failing her, but she’s still my Lexi. She still chomps merrily on elk antlers, viciously attacks the Chuck-it, tries to sneakily eat All the Food, barks at everything that moves and many things that do not, and nudges me when she wants my attention. She can’t jump up on the couch anymore, but that’s okay because I can just put her up there until she wants to get down. She whines to let me know she needs to go out or to tell me she’s thirsty. Most importantly, she’s not in pain, at least not beyond the normal old lady aches.

I see her get frustrated often, but she knows that D.J. and I will be there to help her with whatever she needs. Storms and loud noises make her anxious now when they never used to, but calms down if I hold her or sit with her on the couch. We’ve all adapted to this new normal, as crappy as it may be. We’re under no delusions that Lexi will get better or that she at least won’t get worse. We know she will. We see it, day to day. It’s a gradual process, but its effects are undeniable and heartbreaking.

But what’s worse than dealing with Lexi’s DM is the constant comments about euthanizing her. “Why don’t you just…?” or “Well she’s lived a full life, maybe it’s time?” or “Have you ever thought about putting her out of her misery?”

Yes, watching her struggle is frustrating and upsetting. But she is not miserable. It’s true that DM has given us a count down: We’ve got roughly a year before she can no longer move her front legs. At that point we’ll start running into health complications like bed sores and pneumonia.

This isn’t a matter of convenience to me. This is my dog, my companion, my best friend. I’m not going to euthanize her because I have to clean pee up every day, or even twice a day. When her quality of life deteriorates, when she can no longer drag herself around or switch positions, when she is no longer happy a majority of the time–that’s when we’ll have to make that decision.

That knowledge, the inevitability of it, looms large in my mind every day. We know the end is coming. I reckon with it nightly as I’m drifting off to sleep. But the end isn’t here, not yet. This corgi still has joie de vivre, and I will treasure every day we have together from now until the day I do have to make that decision.

So please, stop telling me I should euthanize my dog. It’s not helpful. It’s exactly the opposite of helpful. D.J. and I are here with her, every day, making sure her final years are as happy and joyful as they can be. You aren’t. You don’t get to decide.


10 Responses

  1. Dee C says:

    This is what my dog is suffering from and personally I am finding it hard as he still eats and his mind is sharp, however, I personally would feel I was being selfish to allow it to progress to front limb paralysis/breathing issues and still hang on. This is what makes euthanasia so hard but I believe it is the right choice for my best friend.

    • Kelly Lynn Thomas says:

      Dee, I totally understand. We made the decision to say goodbye to Lexi in June 2018 for those same reasons–her front legs were getting too weak to hold her up, and we suspected she was staring to have a little bit of trouble breathing. She was herself until the very end, and it was difficult to make the decision. I do believe it was the right one, though. We had a mobile vet come to our house for an in-home euthanasia, and that made all the difference. Lexi was calm and comfortable and passed in my arms. I still miss her every day, and I know I always will.

      • Barbara LeMay says:

        I am so sorry to hear that you lost your girl Lexi. I am facing this with my oldest Boston Terrier girl, Mia — she is 12 and in the past 5-6 months has really started to lose control of her back legs. It is heart wrenching. You dealt with it exactly as you should — making your OWN decisions based on you & your dog. No one else should be involved in that. I applaud you!!

  2. Beth says:

    my boy is suffering from this as well, but if he’s in his chair snoring away, he is happy as he’s always been! He has always been a lazy boy so it isn’t much of a lifestyle change other than carrying him/accidents/etc.
    Everyone’s knee jerk reaction is to tell me to put him down. They don’t see what I see though, and only I can know when the time is right.
    Honestly, people don’t know what to say and it’s just a platitude. Forgive their ignorance and hope they never experience the slow loss of their dearest friend and family member.
    Good luck!

    • Kelly Lynn Thomas says:

      It’s true, a lot of people really don’t understand. We had a lot of luck using a sling for Lexi. And I was recently able to pass her wheelchair and sling on to another corgi with DM, which makes me feel better. DM sucks but it’s rewarding to be able to give our fur babies peace and comfort in their final years.

  3. Rebecca B says:

    Thanks for this post, and I’m sorry for the loss of your fur babylaat year. We have a corgi with DM who is happily snoring away in his bed. He was diagnosed about a year ago and does well in his cart. His 12th birthday is in August. We have the occasional mess, but his quality of life is good, and I truly believe we aren’t there yet.

  4. Michelle Fischer says:

    Thank you for writing this – I just ordered a wheelchair for our corgi Rex. I plan to make his life the best it can be til the end.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I so appreciate your post. We are dealing with this right now with our 11 year old Boxer Roxy. She is such a love and I am just not ready to say goodbye. But everyone who sees her thinks it is their job to tell me that they feel sorry for her, and their stories about letting their dog go. I appreciate that they are trying to be helpful, but I really wish they would stop. I know the time is getting close, and that I am going to have to say goodbye soon. I don’t need to be reminded. I am just trying to enjoy every day we have with her and I truly hope that when the time comes I make the right decision.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  6. Bobbie says:

    We are having our German Shepherd/Huskey put to rest at our home tomorrow. We first noticed signs of DM a little over a year ago. It progressed quite slow for us. About 4 months ago she started getting nippy if we tried to hold her collar or assist her in any way (she never in all her years attempted to bite anyone). She became nervous all the time and would whine (not a pain whine) with anxiety all day. The worst was how quickly it progressed in the last 2 weeks. It was as though she went from having partial feeling in hind legs to no feeling overnight. She can’t stand without us wrapping a towel around her back and holding her up. Legs are crossed and feet turned under. She now requires round the clock care which we cannot provide her. We can’t stand the thought of her soiling herself and having to lay in it all day. This is a difficult decision for any pet owner. I saw this quote and loved it.
    “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
    (A.A. Milne)

  7. Breanne says:

    Thanks for this post. We are putting our dog, Mina, to sleep this evening 2.5 years after showing symptoms of DM (official diagnosis was confirmed via test 2 years ago). She is a mix, but we know she is part cavalier spaniel. She would be 13 in March and is actually the youngest dog we have (we have a dog who will be 15 in June and another who will be 14 in May, so we are like a Senior Living Community for dogs and take amazing care of them). We feel like we were so lucky that she has been relatively healthy and happy over these past 2.5 years. Now she is completely immobile and struggles to use the bathroom outdoors. We have to carry her everywhere. We can tell she is stressed when she soils herself. Her bark has also turned to a raspy, whisper and she commonly barks in the middle of the night and we can’t do anything to make her feel better. Her appetite has waned, even when we give her the wet food that she used to gobble down. I think if we didn’t have 2 other old dogs and 2 kids under 3 we might let her go longer, but I know she is stressed especially since we can’t have her out with us all of the time because of our toddlers. Ugh, this is so hard because I don’t think she is in pain and her mind is totally fine. But, I am so worried about her not being able to breath soon and her quality of life isn’t good… But again thanks for this post and providing an opportunity for us to share our experiences.

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