Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quality of Life

I'm not entirely certain why I'm posting a sequal to my blog 'Mostly Murphy'. Maybe it's such a visceral issue and one of severe importance that just deserves it.

I doubt I'll shed new light on it for you but some of the responses I've received have caused me to further contemplate.

So I went to the park to ask questions and seek answers I had shelved five years ago when I was first confronted with the issue of euthanization with my dog, Malcolm.

There are people much smarter than me who have tried to quantify quality of life - the Tripawds folks posted a link to an article in the comments section of the previous post that's probably worth looking into though I haven't read it yet.

The two times I came close to euthanizing him this past week were based on 'criteria' like significant debilitation in hind legs, reduction of appetite, and neuralgia from nerve damage. Taken together, it's no stretch I was ready to let him go.

But I didn't because on one of our daily outings - last Thursday - he led me into the woods at Overton Park on his own. And then Sunday he surprised me again.

You see, in a big way I was looking at his symptoms to dictate my decisions. We know even the most advanced diagnostics or keen clinical evaluations cannot communicate the will and desire to live.

Yes I pray for guidance daily and I listen to Murphy as best I think I can but even the generally accepted 'He'll tell you when he's ready' just isn't enough for a father like me.

Honestly can you really tell the distinction between when your dog has tummy upset and malaise from mismedication and infection versus cachexia from cancer? And before you answer that - would you bet their life on it? When you're dealing with cancer there is a complexity and cascade of symptoms that makes a definitive assessment next to impossible.

Throw in the maelstrom of emotions all of us go through and that further complicates decisions. So when I was able to finally reduce the question of quality of life down to two simple words, 'Mostly Murphy', trust me I wasn't trying to be cutesy or soundbitey.

So long as most of the personality traits I've come to know and love as his dad continue to shine through, I cannot take his life. That supposes of course he's able to eat, is ambulatory, and has normal body functions but that assumption can be made for most of the pet parents I know.

What I have reevaluated through all of this though is the conversation we're having which should be about euthanizing too early NOT about suffering. Pain doesn't go with you when you pass so holding on a couple of more days just to be sure is not unusually or unnecessarily cruel.

I'm grateful I didn't let Murphy go yet because he still has so much love in him and quite a lot of pep in his step. In fact, I am taking him to Kentucky this weekend to see some dear friends of ours and I think a road trip can do us some good.

To misquote the late great Davy Crockett, former Senator from Tennessee, "Cancer may go to hell... We're going to Bowling Green".


Nikki said...

Both of my goldens passed away on their own. I was lucky not to have to make the decision. They both acted like puppies the weeks before they died. We thought that they had recovered and were going to be ok. Abbey went swimming and was hopping through the waves in the ocean and then came up on the beach, laid down and went to sleep and didn't wake up. Indy went outside and played fetch having the time of his life. He came inside, laid down and closed his eyes and never woke up. I felt like they both knew what a tough decision it would be for us and decided to make the decision for us. They were ready to go and enjoyed their last moments of life with their owners and went peacefully. I hope and pray that you will be as lucky as me and not have to make the decision to have to euthanize.

Deborah Robson said...

Enjoy your trip. One day at a time!

Izze's Art said...

Luke, I totally agree with you on this. When my 2nd labrador had cancer I cancelled three appts to have her put down. She too had quality of life and had her ups and downs too. The days of the appointments she relentlessly would be bounding through the house and acting as though she wasn't sick at all. Then the morning came where she couldn't hardly walk, squat to go to pee and get back into the house. I knew it was time and so did she. So sad to see all these beautiful loving "buddies" leave prematurely. My best to you and Murphy and suck up all the love you can. He'll let you know.
Love to you all, Cathi

Shannon said...

The courage and determination that both you and Murphy have shown throughout this battle has been nothing short of amazing and I am inspiried daily by it.

Annie B. said...

Wonderful post, Luke! and though I very much enjoy your additional thoughts and musings as you state and clarify so many of our own thoughts and feelings, I do want to say that "Mostly Murphy" speaks volumes to me as well. I wish I had heard it 3 weeks ago when I was faced with this decision regarding my beloved retriever Toby. I might have made a different decision or at least asked different questions when at the vet. My heart would have had fewer doubts in the deep of the night when such things come, and though my final decision came from love it's just so final isn't it. We cannot go back and try another something. So, thank you Luke, for your honesty and clarity and those magic words I will always remember, "Mostly Murphy"! :-)

hiStories of Life said...

Amazing post and very very beautiful. Enjoy your road trip and the magnificent horse country of Kentucky. It's one of my favorite places :) xoxo

Anonymous said...

I am right there with you, when my big beautiful pyr Jenna, who made it to 14 years old and was with me from 8 weeks old, started to show her age, family kept telling me that I would have to put her down soon, I knew time was coming but we (her & I) were not ready yet. She still had days of spunk that came out of the blue and the look in her eyes was still so alert that i knew not yet. Everyone thought I was holding on for too long but I knew I wasn't going to let anyone influence my feelings, the two of us had spent so much time together that we would make that decision. I knew she would let me know and I would than be ready, also. I would also pray to give me faith in believing my bond with her was as close as I thought and felt it was as her parent, she came to me and I found her and she was the most beautiful gift I ever got. We came togehter for a reason and God trusted ME, " just plain old me" to watch over her, such a special job, so we stuck it out together, the good days and the bad, always a spark in her eyes told me not yet. Then the day came we went for the usual a.m. walk, and got back in and she was fine, then all of a sudden she started to stumble around and i went to her and laid her down. I saw a different look in her eyes and we knew... I called my husband and ask him to come home that now was the time. We took her in and spent a few minutes alone with her and shared our love with her one more time. my heart was breaking, just as it is now as I'm writing this, tears are rolling down my face. We felt her leave us, this I know for certain, because she took my heart and I missed her like crazy and still do. I will tell you that my heart was sent back and then someone must of thought we did a great job watching over Jenna, because we have had three more special pyr. babies since her. TOGETHER YOU WILL KNOW WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT...Always be greatful for the times you have with them, time is so short being a dog parent....THANK YOU JENNA!!! All our love to you- Luke, Murphy, & Hudson Your friends from Douglas MA, Dawn, John, Goliath, & Zeus

lcjp2007 said...

Saying goodbye is never easy whether it be "on their own" or if you have to be a part of the decision. Either way takes courage on both parts, but having to make the decision is beyond is heart wrenching. Get as much info as you can, then get some more, then a little more. Afterwards, sit with you dog. Talk with your dog. Listen. Hard. Watch. Intently and intensely. Then do what you know for yourself and him to be right...not necessarily the best. Doing the right thing sometimes outweighs the best thing. That does not mean that either choice is better than the other. It is your choice and it is a life altering choice either way. Quality of life is immeasureable. Bond between a dog and owner can never be broken. Put these two together and you may be able to have some insight...until then, love your dog. Time spent worrying is time lost.
Just Ramblin'

Jo said...

When I was 22-years-old, I asked my older, married friend, "How do you know someone is 'the one'? How did you know that your husband would be the one you ended up with?" She said to me simply, "You just know." I couldn't accept that at the time - there had to be parameters, signs, benchmarks. A look, a stroke of insight, a certain kind of heartbeat. When it was finally my turn, I found she was right: you just know. You understand fully that even the slightest bit of doubt doesn't dare to enter into your thoughts. You just know.

And it's been this way in almost every fated decision I've ever made. I've come to trust that quality of knowing. And I trust that you will experience it too. Blessings, Luke.

Solitude.Peace said...

I am always impressed how you put it out there. You say it with feeling, with just say it. To read what you write keeps me wanting to read more so I am looking forward to reading your book because I am captivated by the way you write.

Murphy is Murphy and he is your Murphy. Through you he has become my Murphy too.

There is no reason to euthanize him. I support you completely and admire that you are such a fighter. Murphy is so very fortunate to have a man, a dad that loves him and will go the distance for him. Be the blessed daddy that God made you and follow the path before you. This path will hold many, many great days and some that are not so great. Regardless of how they are labeled, they are days and they belong to you, Murphy and Hudson.

karen said...

I can understand , what did , what is now and what will pass through your head, but honestly as in tune with him as you are , Dude, you will know when it is time. I wont bore you with the details , but my Sarge ran with the best of them at night kept coyotes away from the `hood. He got sick and I made the decision more than once and made the appointment more than once. I swear that Dog would hear me on the phone and just to prove me wrong he would run his ass around all over the yard and the hollow we live in. So I would call and cancel the appt. day after that he would be miserable again .
He finally stopped eating in early Aug. Again I made the choice and the freakin appt at the end of Aug( after three weeks of steak that he would not eat, or hamburger and rice.
To this day I will never forget what happened in that room, or hell even forgive myself.

I also know what I did was right. Hell Sarge knew it all along and was waiting for that one thing he needed me to do.
You see I figured it out one day , he was not hearing me make the appt. and showing signs of life, running around the place.
He was saying his goodbyes. To his places, his things ,to his humans.

Diana said...

So many of these comments shared along side of yours, Luke, say much about love and quality of life. I thought of Christopher Reeves, how many would have discounted his life after he became paralyzed. But oh how much he showed us how to live better lives because he was so public. Thank you for sharing publicly in your many journeys these past 4
years. We are better for them, I am stronger and wiser in many ways for knowing you.
You all continue to be in my prayers. Have a great trip. BTW The photo today shows Murphy enjoying the trip so far :-)