Madeline’s first nights with us share something in common with her recent nights: there wasn’t a lot of sleeping going on. Madeline was our second dog, joining Bosco, an aging but young at heart cairn terrier mix who could be a little too rambunctious for his own good. This combination of aging and energy meant that unsupervised, he could get into plenty of trouble; it was equally likely to be due to inquisitiveness or incontinence. At night Bosco slept in a crate, and seemed to treat it like a den. You’d tell him “go get in your box”, and he’d trot to his crate, tail up, circle inside it a few times, and plop down to sleep. We assumed Madeline would be similar.
Before Madeline came home, we bought her a crate and set it up downstairs near Bosco’s. When she came home and started exploring her environment, we practiced getting in and out of it, rewarding her for getting in. She seemed to be content to lay down in it, so we thought we were good to go for bedtime.
We put Bosco and Madeline in their crates and headed upstairs to bed. Within minutes the howling began: Madeline was not happy about being left alone, and was going to let everyone in the house know it. We had this idea that we shouldn’t “reward” her bad behavior, so we brushed our teeth and went to bed, telling each other, “she has to stop soon, right?” That was our first introduction to Maddie’s stubborn streak: she did stop, but then she’d start right back up again, as soon as she’d caught her breath. And she kept it up all night long.
The next night we started out the same way, the howling starting as soon as I walked upstairs. I decided that I would move her crate up into our bedroom, thinking maybe it had to do with being in an unfamiliar space. As soon as I brought her crate upstairs, in sight of where I was sleeping, she calmed down and went to sleep. Every night after that, until I moved to San Francisco, I’d carry her crate upstairs before brushing my teeth and going to bed.
After staying up with Maddie Wednesday night, trying to comfort her, Richard and I had a difficult conversation about Madeline’s prognosis and what we could do for her. It’s true, we’re able to keep her from respiratory distress most of the time with hydrocodone. But the effective dose continues to go up: on Wednesday we were at about 300% of the initial prescribed does; we’re at 400% now. And even though her hip dysplasia is much better with daily Deramaxx, she’s been walking much slower in recent weeks, and is unable to climb the stairs to our apartment. She still likes to spend hours with us, curled in a ball on the sofa, but in the last week has begun to shift, fidget, and grunt while resting, like she’s having trouble being comfortable. And most concerning for a dog who loves to eat, we’re having to coax her with things normally reserved as special treats: pumpkin, wet food, freeze dried chicken.
After consulting with her vet on Thursday, we made the difficult decision that it’s time to say goodbye to Madeline. Her condition is continuing to deteriorate, and we’ve exhausted our treatment options. And while we can mostly keep her comfortable, there’s a real risk she’ll once again wind up in the ER in respiratory distress. We want to say goodbye to her in a relaxed, comfortable environment, not when she’s gasping for breath.
Dr. Morris is going to come to our apartment on Wednesday, and we’re going to say goodbye one last time.
Waves of emotion have been crashing over us in the days since we made this decision. Sadness, doubt, joy, grief, gratitude, and fear; I’m having my own separation anxiety. Madeline has been with me for 12 years, a constant through many changes in my life. For such a small animal, she has filled our home and our lives.
I don’t know how I’ll – we’ll – live without her.