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Author Topic: Why is it always my decision to make?  (Read 3494 times)

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Offline leatherman

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Why is it always my decision to make?
« on: December 04, 2007, 04:44:28 PM »
Why is it always my decision to make?

Mine is  a sad "tail" to "tell". So be warned. If you don't handle sadness or grief well, I suggest you move on to another thread. There isn't any happy ending here; it's just my rant against the unfairness of death.

If you've decided to hear my tale, as with many of my stories, first you'll need some background to know where I'm coming from; but never fear, my story will get back around to the "tail".

As Christmas approaches, I think back to the holiday of 1993. My partner, Randy, spent the first 9 days of December in the hospital for a pentamidine drip and a blood transfusion. To ease the guilt of how he had treated his son (who was now dying), Randy's father had paid for us to vacation at Disney for 5 days the week before Christmas. Without the treatments in the hospital, Randy would have never been healthy enough to make the journey. After leaving the hospital and before our trip, Randy made me promise to never leave him in the hospital again, no matter how bad he was.  Our vacation was perfect - you could even say truly magical (the memories of that trip would carry me through many dark days half a year later).

Spending good quality time together on the trip, Randy and I talked of many things - one being a new puppy. We had owned a pet shop for several years, and had bred a line of cocker spaniels for several generations. I was reluctant to take on a new responsibility. Not only was I sick on AZT while caring for Randy; but we already had 5 spaniels in the house (a full pack of dogs including our first spaniel [Appollonia], three of her daughters [Elektra, LBB, and Eightball] and one grandkid [Hershey]). I didn't know when it would happen; but I already knew that Randy was so ill that if we got "his" dog, it would soon be "my" dog. How was I supposed to care for that many dogs, alone and sick myself? But how was I supposed to say no to the dying man that I loved?

Five months later, now with six cockers in the house (I just couldn't say no to a new puppy), Randy was back at the hospital where he was getting another IV drip as an outpatient. When I came back later in the day to pick him up, the nurse at the desk told me that the doctor wanted to talk to me. She dialed the number and put me on the phone with the doctor. "There's nothing more we can do for your partner. Do you want to admit him to the hospital to die, or take him home? I can call hospice care if you wanna to do that." the doctor blurted out. After that bit of helpful "counseling", I told him that I would handle things myself, hung up the phone and we left.

I was floored. Why was this my decision to make? Who gave me the right to choose life or death over someone? With no guidance or help, I called hospice care. Although they were very helpful, they couldn't understand why I didn't want to pay attention to their schedules and arrangements for the next three months of care. No one, his parents, his family, our friends, the hospice nurses, no one would believe me as I sounded the alarm at how ill Randy was and how very near the end of his life he was. Just nine days later, he passed away in our living room surrounded by me, a few friends, his mom (an LPN who actually pronounced him dead), and our cockers.

Two years later, exactly when I figured I would follow in Randy's steps, I was hospitalized with PCP. Although I hadn't understood the promise I had made to Randy when I made it, I now understood how scared Randy had been back then. I was scared enough by how sick I had become, that I made the decision for myself this time. I checked out of the hospital AMA (against medical advice) and went home to die. Fortunately, that's not what happened. Although I was very sick for a long time, it was not my "time" yet.

Another year went by and I was faced by the decision again. Only this time it was doubled! On the same day as my first spaniel (14) had a paralyzing stroke, one of her daughters (12) had a grand mal seizure. How can I quantify which is worse? Deciding on no further treatments for your partner, or having two of your dogs euthanised on the same day? There is no comparison. Quite simply, they were two of the worst days of my life.

Sadly just a year later, the decision was unexpected, but easy, to make for my boy dog. Within a short 36 hrs, he had gone from well and playful to jaundiced and deadly ill. Rushed lab results from the state capital showed that he had an autoimmune disease (good grief, even my dog haa aids!). By this time of my life, I was becoming a pro at making the decision. I never enjoyed it; but I could make it. That's what I got for being the responsible one.

One by one over the next few years, I had to make this decision about each of my dogs. I got lucky when I chose cancer removal surgeries and gained 3 extra years each for two of my spaniels. Although they too, eventually required me to make the decision, leaving me to return from the veterinarian's empty-handed. I often wonder why I always have to make this decision. Why can't any of my pets just pass away in the night, peacefully in their sleep? Why do I keep living while my family keeps dying?

After all those years, even though I have 4 of the great grandchildren of my first spaniel (the second pack of dogs [Gabrielle, Joxer, Aries, and Zeus]), the only members of the original "pack" were me and Randy's cat, Sheagra. I had always thought she outlived all the dogs out of spite to be the only pet, and that, at 19 yrs old, she just might outlive me too. However, while news of the Katrina disaster played on my television one weekend, I spent two days watching as my cat succumbed to old age wondering if it would end in another trip to the vet. For once I was spared making the decision - although that sure didn't make me feel any better - as my cat peacefully fell into that everlasting sleep.

I hope you understand now how my "tale" is about so many "tails", because there's one more sad part to "tell" before my "tale" is told.

It's nearly 16 years now after finding out I was poz (12/26/92 - the lovely Christmas gift I got that year from the city health dpt), I've got a new partner (although I've known him for 15 yrs. Dec 18 is not only our 4-yr anniversary but it marks our first year living together) who has adapted well to my spaniels living in his house (Since I couldn't afford my house anymore on disability, it just made sense to finally live together).

But now the eldest of my second pack, my little girl Gabrielle, isn't doing well at all. I was already carrying her up and down the stairs since before we moved into Jim's house. Not that she was sick then; just infirm. She's a 3-legged dog and after 10 yrs of hopping around, I was happy to help her out and lug her up to the bedroom every night. (What happened to her missing leg is a whole other story- what you need to know though is that even with this problem, Gabby has been the most active and happiest spaniel out of ALL my spaniels) But after nearly 11 yrs, I did think that I might not have her around for many more years. This past year at the new house passed well enough though, and although she has lost some of her eyesight, Gabby has enjoyed living in Jim's house. (She even went swimming in the pool this Summer. Of course, she needs help out of the water along with a little bit of "steering" as she tends to swim in circles because of missing one front paw.)

Then last Monday (11/29), her condition suddenly worsened. Although she was already losing hair and weight from just getting older, she suddenly looked very bad. Rail thin showing ribs, she was very lethargic all day; and by the evening, she could barely stand. Of course, I had known this day was coming, but can you ever be truly prepared for this? Rather than rush to the vet, since she was only breathing heavily (not labored), and not in any pain, we stayed home to spend what time we could with her. I wasn't certain whether she'd make it through the night or a few more days.

Now several restless days (7), and many sleepless nights, have gone by as I have waited and watched. Gabby has only eaten a few bits of food in the last few days, and only a few sips of water each day. She has a few moments when she's more alert; but mostly she is just sleeping on a comforter I keep nearby me. She still doesn't seem to be in any pain; but I'm becoming more uncertain of what I should do. If I have to take her to the vet, I will; but this is just passing from old age and I'm sure she'll be happier here, than being scared going to the vet just before the end. I have been left to, once again, hope that one of my pets will pass away, peacefully, in the middle of the night. Since I stayed by Randy's side those last nine days, I sure don't begrudge giving my little girl some extra time before she leaves me.

But I don't want to have to make THAT decision again.

Of course, I've heard all the platitudes and comforting words before. (Sometimes I feel like Jack Skellington in the Nightmare Before Christmas when he sings: "I've read the Christmas books so many times. I know the stories and I know the rhymes. I know the Christmas carols all by heart. My skull's so full, it's tearing me apart.") I know that someday (soon perhaps) I'll be able to say how much I've loved having every one of my dogs. No matter what sorrow I've had in losing them; I gained so much more joy in all those years that they were in my life. You don't need to tell me that they lived happy lives - I know they did because I made sure my pups were always loved and cared for. I fed them on nights, I went hungry. It's the one way I've dared to compare myself to a real "parent" - I have loved my dogs, these animals, more than I've seen some parents love and care for their own flesh and blood children. That's a sad commentary about the state of society.

But today, faced with having to make this decision again, I'm just as sad as a boy can be losing his canine best friend. Perhaps I'm even sadder as my dog is more than just a pet, and more like a surrogate child. There ain't no tails wagging here.

I did talk to my partner when he came home from work last night, and he helped me feel, at least, ok about how I've handled the situation up to now. I also sensed how he's a little more leery about making this kind of hard decision than I am. (Matter of fact, I predict now, that as I lay sick and dying sometime in the future, I'm going to have to fight to make him let go of me. Gosh I love him; but that's why I took so long to commit to this relationship. Having lost a partner myself, I just don't feel that it's right for me to put him into the position I was in. I wouldn't wish that much grief onto an enemy. I understand that he would love me regardless and feel the loss at my death regardless; but I don't feel that eases the responsibility off of me.)

Of course, my "tail" isn't completely told yet. After this situation with Gabby has passed, I still have 3 more spaniels. One is a year younger than Gabby and although he's pretty healthy, he's going blind. The twins brothers from the next litter just turned 8; and one has seizures and the other has developed a small lump on his side. Heck, even though my partner is negative, he's five years older (51), his father died of a heart attack, and he's been hospitalized twice with arrhythmia. At this rate, I might just have to make the decision about all of them one day or another. LOL Thankfully I don't have to worry about those decisions right now.

Right now though, I only have Gabby on my mind and pondering that big decision.

If you read this far, let me say that I'm sorry for troubling you with my woes. I'm not looking for sympathy or pity. I just needed to voice these thoughts. I tried with my partner; but he's too solicitous of my feelings. I tried to talk to my moms (I'm lucky enough to have three moms - my real mom, my late partner's mom (my mom-in-law), and my Ohio mom (a best friend and "surrogate" mom for over 20 yrs)); but they could only offer their sympathies before quickly changing the subject. (I think their concern about me and my health is so overpowering for them, that worrying about my pets is something they just can't handle.) Although some of my friends did stop by to check on Gabby, they have shied away from me since then. (Who can blame them? No one really likes to think about death).

I know there's nothing magical to make all of this better. It's just the way life is - death comes at the end. (One of the reasons I actually DO have a good outlook on my life with aids, is that I've seen that life can be too short, so it needs to be enjoyed as much as possible while you've got it!) I know I did the best I could for Randy and my pets. I made the right decisions for them and I will for Gabby too. I'm just so tired of being the one to make this decision.

Thank you for your time and the shoulder to cry on,
mikie  :'(

« Last Edit: December 04, 2007, 04:56:32 PM by leatherman »
leatherman (aka mIkIE)

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Online Andy Velez

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2007, 05:16:10 PM »
I did read your whole story, Mikie. Whew!

A lot of hearbreak and a lot of joy there.

By coincidence I was just talking with some friends last night about mortality and my thoughts about accepting partings. Which sometimes reminds me of that song, "The Hard Part About Hello is Goodbye." I've lived through the passing of many friends and family. As you know, it never gets easier, just even more familiar.

These are the things I have come to: The intimacy of sharing the death of loved ones is part of the high price I pay for having had a loving relationship. And I have to trust that those who care about me will get through my passing just I have with others -- with all the mix of feelings that brings. And in the meantime I am just living each day as fully and as best I can, letting the future take care of itself when I get there and whatever it brings.

Wishing you and Gabby well,
Andy Velez

Offline David_CA

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2007, 05:28:05 PM »
Mikie,  I think Andy summed up what I was going to say here:
These are the things I have come to: The intimacy of sharing the death of loved ones is part of the high price I pay for having had a loving relationship. And I have to trust that those who care about me will get through my passing just I have with others -- with all the mix of feelings that brings. And in the meantime I am just living each day as fully and as best I can, letting the future take care of itself when I get there and whatever it brings.

You, your partner, and your four-legged 'children' are in my thoughts.

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Offline dgr20002

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2007, 06:10:09 PM »

Thanks so much for sharing. Your story gave me some clarity in something I have going on here. I am sending hugs your way.


Offline anniebc

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2007, 06:22:12 PM »
Why is it always my decision to make?

I believe it's because no-one else will ever love them as much as you do.

Over the years they have relied on you to love them and to care for them as no-one else can, and as much as you hate having to make these decisions, towards the end they will  rely on you again to do what's best for them..to end their suffering as pain free and as peacful as possible..and with you, and only you by their side.

I know the pain it causes, I have been there, it's not an easy decision to make, but I take comfort in the fact that I did the right thing in the end and they left me knowing I did it because I loved them.

My heart, although filled with sadness is with you today.

Jan :'(
Never knock on deaths door..ring the bell and run..he really hates that.

Offline AlanBama

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2007, 08:03:28 PM »

My hope is that little Gabby's transition is a peaceful one.   I feel your pain, and wish I had some magic words to say to make it all better.

How about a cyber hug?  (((Mikie)))

You're in my prayers today.


Alan   :'(
"Remember my sentimental friend that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." - The Wizard of Oz

Offline Robert

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2007, 02:04:40 AM »

There is realy not much we can say.  We celebrate life and just think how lucky we've been to share it with so many wonderful people and dogs.  I love dogs.  Even to the end they show their dignity.  I waited and waited for my dog Soapy to die in his last days.   But every morning he was always awake, to go for one more walk.  I finally realized Soapy was waitng for me.  He needed to know that it was OK for him to leave before me. 

I called the vet and she came out to the house to give him a shot.  It made it a little bit more palatable.  But still the agony was deep.

My thoughts are with you.


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Offline BT65

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2007, 07:33:13 AM »
Dearest Mikie:

I read the whole story.  I am so, so sorry you're going through this again.  As you know, this will be my first holiday without my mum and even though I really didn't have to make "the decision" about what she would do in her final days, I was at her bedside when she passed.  I know how agonizing this can be.  I wish for you peace and I'm keeping you and your "children" in my thoughts today.  {{{HUGS TO YOU ALL}}}
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Offline bear60

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2007, 10:16:44 AM »
There is no point in asking why.....because you just have to.  Thats the way it is .  We all face life issues and have to make decisions.  I had to get my former partner off life support so he could die in peace.  We just have to do whats right and what has to be done.
I wish you peace.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2007, 10:19:25 AM by bear60 »
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Offline Iggy

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2007, 10:27:01 AM »

Though you have filled me in on pieces on this, the full story truly is something that makes you stop. 

This sucks.  It just does and there is no way (nor reason) to cushion that fact. 

I agree with Bear when he says that sometimes there is no point in asking why, because I think that makes us spend too much time and effort trying to rationalize what is happening. 

You are in my thoughts and I'm around if you need to talk.

Offline leatherman

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Now I know I have a heart, because it's breaking.
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2007, 03:53:14 PM »
Thank you all (along with several who PMed me) for your very kind words and thoughts. I'm just heart-broken to tell you that Gabby has passed away.

I still can't believe that she hung on as long as she did. She had been so thin and weak since this crisis started that I had expected to find her gone every time I glanced over to check on her. She never seemed to be in any pain or discomfort though, and as each day went by, I just couldn't justify taking her out in the cold and snow, to be scared by going to the vet.

However, last night was a very rough night for my little girl. I still didn't understand how she was hanging on; but as dawn broke and she laid there moaning and groaning, I knew what decision I had to make. Jim made arrangements with a nearby vet, and Gabby went to be with Randy and the rest of the family just after 230pm.

Always the responsible one, several days before the temps went below freezing and before 2 inches of snow fell, I had already prepared a site where we laid Gabby to rest out in our backyard.

http://reigningpages.com/leatherman (new update about the snow and Gabby)

http://reigningpages.com/puppies (new updated with pictures from 2006-2007)

Thank you all for you interest, support, and words of comfort,
mikie & jim

(Alanbama, even though I dressed up like a lion for the college production of Midsummers Nights Dream, I identify more with the tin man, "Now I know I have a heart, because it's breaking.")
leatherman (aka mIkIE)

All the stars are flashing high above the sea
and the party is on fire around you and me
We're gonna burn this disco down before the morning comes
- Pet Shop Boys

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Offline bear60

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Re: Why is it always my decision to make?
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2007, 04:16:13 PM »
I'm sorry for your loss.  Be well. You are in my thoughts.
 modified to add: I know you had many great times together and your memories will be beautiful. 
« Last Edit: December 06, 2007, 04:18:27 PM by bear60 »
Poz Bear Type in Philadelphia


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