Goodbye Best Friend

Tomorrow I say goodbye to my best friend. The decision is never easy, but this time is especially hard.

When the time came for my other dogs, there was no decision. I was sitting in an examination room at the after hours vet, hearing the poor prognosis, the no chance for recovery or a quality life. There was only one right choice for them.

This time it’s different. For the first time, the timing is up to me. For the first time, I have booked an appointment. For the first time, I’ll be driving to the vet knowing I’ll be driving home alone.

Is it too soon? Did I wait too long? Did I do enough?

These are questions that will eat at me for years to come.

Chelsea will be exactly 9yrs 9months old tomorrow, only the last 3yrs spent with me. For her breed, which typically only live 8-10yrs, that’s a long life. She’s been through a lot in those years. She’s had 5 major surgeries, the last a splenectomy which took everyone by surprise. She’s endured months of physical rehab after knee surgeries for ruptured ACLs (both knees), including twice weekly sessions on the underwater treadmill, which she hated but did anyway. Through all of these, she’s been a champ.

Now, Chelsea has a disease called degenerative myelopathy (DM). While not exactly the same, the closest human condition to DM is Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. Like the human disease, there is no treatment and no cure. The only good thing to say about it is that it’s painless.

Over the last several months, Chelsea has been losing the use of her back legs, causing her to walk like she’s had a few too many at the doggy bar. She moves very slowly, leans against the walls and falls down a lot. When she does fall, she’s usually unable to get herself up again. But she doesn’t quit. She tries to power herself up with her front paws, or patiently waits for me to put her back on her feet, which I do many times a day.

This condition only gets worse, never better.

Last week, Chelsea was outside a little longer then usual. She never was an outdoor dog, preferring to be wherever I was. I went outside to check on her, and found her dragging her backend across the grass, back legs flat out to the side, trying to get to the ramp that leads up to the deck and the backdoor to come in. It was the saddest I ever saw her. As soon as she saw me, she started to wag her tail, but continued to drag herself until I was behind her, once again, to pick her up. It was at this moment that the decision was made.

I think I’ve made the right decision for her. I hope I’ve made the right decision for her. But those three questions above will always be with me.

I already miss taking her for walks, which I haven’t been able to do for the the last 4 months. I’m going to miss her snoring under my desk while I work (where she is right now). I’m going to miss her greeting me at the door when I get home. I’m even going to miss the dog hair in the butter. I’m going to miss everything about her.

Goodbye Chelsea.

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