Today is a very sad day for me and Barbara. Back in February, a large, very overweight, elderly Collie girl was found wandering around a parking lot near the Salt Lake County Humane Society (not associated with HSUS, of course) property, where people frequently dump their dogs. A veterinary exam and blood workup revealed severe hypothyroidism, a urinary tract infection, arthritis, and a few other things, so we put Nell onto appropriate medications and into a foster home with a wonderful woman, Sally, who has Collies of her own and frequently fosters Collies for us. This link will take you to an earlier post with more information about Nell.
Nell did OK for a few weeks, but we had to pick her up from Sally’s on one occasion for another trip to the vet’s office. Unfortunately, not too long ago, Nell began to pee inside the house very, very frequently; it was not clear at all whether she was truly incontinent, whether she wasn’t sure what she was doing (or perhaps where she was), or whether the UTI had come back. Because Sally lives in a very small house (with, don’t forget, two other Collies), the frequent indoor urination was not something she could overlook long. Unfortunately, we did not get involved until a couple of weeks after Sally moved Nell out onto her covered front porch.
Well, today, we got involved, after having received phone calls about Nell’s situation. We immediately went over to Sally’s house — sadly, Sally was not able to be there with us, as she works at a job where it is impossible for her to leave work during her shift and still remain employed. A neighbor of Sally’s, Heather, often helps Sally out with her dogs, and Heather came over as soon as we arrived to talk with us about the situation. She felt strongly that Nell’s situation had deteriorated so much that Nell was suffering. Of course, Barbara and I don’t jump to conclusions about this sort of thing, so we told Heather that we had to spend some time evaluating Nell before we could express an opinion about her status and future. Heather, having had weeks of observation up close and from the distance of across the street, told us a few things that she’d been seeing, particularly that Sally would go out into the yard to go potty, get confused, and get lost in the postage-stamp-sized yard, even to the point of getting caught in bushes, vines, and the fence.
It was fairly clear to us that Sally’s arthritis was giving her pain that wasn’t fully controlled by her meds, but at least she’d lost 10 or 12 pounds of her original 90. Still, going up and down the steps of the porch was very difficult for her, and she was so unstable that she had difficulty negotiating a ramp that Barbara had asked our handyman to build for her. As we talked, it became clear to all of us that Nell could not continue in her current situation because it was causing her to deteriorate and because it really wasn’t physically safe for her. She sometimes fell off the porch, she had difficulty getting to her water bowl and could be getting dehydrated, and the rain that we’ve been having lately really seemed to frighten her. Unfortunately, we know that Sally doesn’t have the resources — time, money, or space — to care for Nell in the way that was increasingly obviously necessary. And, worse, Barbara and I do not know of anybody who does have the resources (which is especially sad because the monetary issues are really minor). With our current load of 21 dogs in the house (and two more arriving tomorrow), there was no chance that we could accommodate her without moving several current Shelties out…and where would they go?
The bottom line is that we had to make the excruciating decision that Nell no longer had the quality of life that she deserved and that this loving, sweet baby needed to be released from her failing body and mind. While the three of us sat and laid on the floor near Nell, feeding her hotdogs and keeping her water bowl handy, she crossed gently to the Rainbow Bridge, knowing without question that she was — and is — dearly loved. She will certainly be missed by Sally, by Heather, and by us. And she’s now free of pain, fear, and confusion, running free with all the other Collies, Shelties, and other breeds there at the Bridge while she waits for us to join her.