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by Cherie T. Buisson, DVM, CHPV
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian
Originally published on DrAndyRoark.com

“Sometimes I really hate you!” I said to the writhing Dachshund in my arms.  He didn’t care. He kept wiggling madly as is his habit when I catch him trying to take off from the yard. Because of his cognitive dysfunction, he sometimes refuses to pee outside. He gets all jittery, tries to run past me into the house only to pee on the carpet.

Sometimes if I put him back in the grass, he’ll go. Sometimes he takes off. If I put a leash on him, it’s better for me but worse for him (he hates it).

Courtesy of Joseph Photography

My husband offered to go after him for me, but he wasn’t moving fast enough. I had lost sight of the little guy in the dark. I took off in my bare feet through the wet grass, cursing all the way. I scooped him up, and that’s when it happened. Those hateful words came out of my mouth, and I hated myself for saying them.

I’m ready to put him down. It hurts me in ways I have trouble talking about to see him like this. He doesn’t love me anymore. He hates to be held and cuddled. He paces and has accidents in the house. He’s anxious. He sleeps all the time. I’m ready for him to go, not because I feel like he’s suffering, but because I am. I don’t want to lose him, but I lost him a long time ago.

My husband still sees his buddy in there, which is easier for him, he isn’t in charge of his medical care. As his veterinarian, I’m looking for everything that’s wrong while he looks for everything that’s right.  He sees the dog who still runs around like crazy after a bath, can find a food puzzle no matter where I hide it (hell, sometimes I forget where I put it myself), and begs at the table. In those moments, I want to believe he’s back, too. Then he’ll run headlong into the counter because he can’t see. I shouldn’t worry about my words because he can’t hear me either.

Dr. B’s cat, Pirate, giving her some purr therapy.

Tomorrow he’ll act like nothing’s wrong, and the wound on my heart will be a little deeper for another day. I put him in his crate to give myself a break. I watched a movie that always makes me cry, so I’d have an excuse to release some of the hurt.

What I really needed was someone to love me, so I grabbed my healthy cat. I took him out on the back porch for a love session. I’ve been putting off his demands for attention because he doesn’t need me as badly as my baby and his broken brain.  He purred and kneaded and soothed my pain. His fluffy white hairs stuck to my cheeks, and it felt good for him to just love me without needing something from me. I smooched my cat and cried for my dog.  It helped.

I came inside for the final purge – to write it all down. I can admit how I feel in my head all I want. Until I put it down on paper, it isn’t real.  As I wrote and cried, I came to a realization. There’s no rush to let go of my boy, only the panic that comes with knowing I’ll have to eventually. In the meantime, he’s got excellent hospice care until we’re all ready. And when that time comes, I’ll give him the sendoff that all my patients receive.  I’ll give him this last gift that breaks my heart. And I’ll do it because, despite all the angry thoughts and words, I love him so much.

Dr. B’s dog, Muggle, forgetting to get all the way in bed before falling asleep. This was a symptom of his Cognitive Dysfunction.

Dr. B and her husband said goodbye to Muggle on February 5, 2016. Three weeks later, he sent them TWO Dachshunds, both of whom have some of his traits.