One of the most compassionate services we are able to offer our clients is our in-home euthanasia service for pets. One of our clients gave us permission to share their personal story…in the hope that a shared experience may make it easier for others to know when they have to make the hardest of decisions…in the best interest of their pet. This is Maverick’s story of his journey up to the rainbow bridge…
The hardest phone call I ever had to make…
Two weeks ago today, on Friday April 26, Ginnie and I had to make the hard decision to put our beloved Maverick to sleep. We knew it was coming – in maybe a few days or a couple of weeks, but picking up that phone to essentially be our baby’s executioner was the hardest call I’ve ever had to make. You see, from the front he was perfect. Mentally aware, eager to play, sharp as a tack…maybe his hearing was going a little as he slept a little deeper, but he was 11 years and 10 months old. Who wouldn’t sleep deeply with those miles on the clock?
But his back legs had got to a point where we had to help him up more often than not – especially on the tile. He wore boots most of the time around the house for traction. He would have good days and not-so-good days. But we didn’t want him to suffer any loss of dignity or be in pain, so we made the hard decision on his behalf while he was still mostly himself. Hard because he was still so playful, young at heart and mentally aware. He was always a puppy at heart, he’d just grown into an old puppy with legs that were failing him.
We knew this day was coming but…
Maverick was diagnosed with lumbosacral degeneration 18 months ago, and honestly neither we nor his vet thought he would be mobile much past a year from then. So he exceeded all our expectations. This was a train whose light we had seen coming down the tracks for a year or more, yet the pain when it finally hit us was not diminished. His descent was slow but steady. Gone were the daily two or three mile walks; at some point the daily walk became a mile, then a half mile, then recently not much further than the mailbox and back – with little rest stops on the way.
I had always said while he had joy in his life, we were all happy. My three measures were: being eager for his walk – however short; having control of his bowels, and enjoying a good appetite. His mental strength meant he was always keen to get out for a stroll and a sniff, doing “dog stuff”. Even if it was just around our neighbors’ front yards because he couldn’t get much further. Latterly, because his walks were shorter, he would insist on sitting on the driveway or in the garage when we got back surveying his ‘hood for a little while longer before we went back inside to start our work days.
I had noticed his appetite waning a little and it was clear in the past couple of weeks that while he still had some control of his bowels, when he had to go…he really had to go. There was little warning, or time to spare to get him outside. We had a few close calls. My wife and I work from home, so we were always there for him.
Then that Friday we had an incident which I won’t detail, but it was clear that he had reached a point where he would soon lose bowel control. Maybe the next day, or the next week/month…but it was coming. We didn’t want him to get to a point where he would soil himself without knowing. German Shepherds are such majestic creatures; Maverick did not deserve the indignity of that.
I don’t think he was in pain – he certainly didn’t show it. But then he was on a number of painkillers, anti-inflammatories, even CBD oil, so I’m sure they were masking it. But we couldn’t be sure. The wastage in his back legs was palpable, and it came down to quality of life. So that Friday, in tears I made the call to Compassionate Animal Care to schedule their in-home euthanasia service.
Why we chose in-home euthanasia…
Dr Schelle wasn’t Maverick’s vet throughout his life, but as our own vet is not licensed for in-home euthanasia, she had recommended us to her old veterinary school friend and colleague, Dr Schelle at Compassionate Animal Care. To be honest there were two reasons why we wanted this to happen at home. Like most dogs, Maverick never enjoyed a visit to the vets. He would shake and tremble when we got there – try to jump on the seat behind Ginnie or I. He was a big 90lb baby at times! We didn’t want him to be in that state of mind at the end.
Plus Mav’s regular vet was a 25/30 minute drive from our house. We couldn’t face the idea of that drive down there with him, knowing we’d be coming home alone. It was all too much. So we thought putting him to sleep in the comfort of his own home where he would be most relaxed would be best for all.
Maverick’s farewell tour…
Having drummed up the courage to make that call on the Friday, the earliest Dr. Schelle could come to the house was Tuesday April 30, so we decided to make the most of his last few days rather than wallow in sadness. We spent three/four days taking him everywhere with us – to all his favorite spots – Freestone Park, the Riparian Preserve, coffee shops, even the pub. Needless to say, try as we might not to, we were bawling our eyes out a lot of the time. From the moment we made the decision, he didn’t spend another minute alone.
Did we spend the weekend second-guessing our decision, contemplating sending a text to postpone…even not answering the door when they arrived? Of course we did. But we knew it was for the best. If it wasn’t then, it would be the next week, or a couple of weeks, or maybe a month down the line…but we wanted him to go out happy and dignified. So we resisted the temptation to postpone our own misery.
The longest day…
When the Tuesday came we were wrecks; trying to be strong for him but failing miserably. While love is expansive, when you only have one focal point you tend to go overboard! You see, Mav was never ‘just a dog’ to us – he has left a big hole in our lives and in our hearts; being 5,000+ miles away from our families and old friends in the UK, Argentina and Australia/New Zealand, we had emotionally invested heavily in him over the past 11+ years – it was always just the three of us.
We moved here from the UK in October 2006, bought our own house in January 2008, and adopted Maverick (then called Moon) just three weeks later on February 20 2008, when he was a little over eight months old. We run our own business and work from home; he was always with us since the day we rescued him. So we have reminders of him all day, every day. He was our baby – plain and simple.
The easiest way to do the hardest thing…
Maverick went to sleep peacefully here at home a little after 11.30am on April 30th 2019 with a belly full of bacon and grilled chicken (his celebration breakfast)…after happily playing with his lil’ buddy toy…and enjoying all the treats he wanted…he was munching treats right up until the very end. Because why not? He left us six weeks shy of his 12th birthday – a day we will celebrate in his honor.
Dr Schelle and her vet tech Valerie were awesome. I know they run a business but I didn’t want this to be a “transaction”, a situation where they had to hurry to the next mobile vet appointment. That couldn’t have been further from what happened. They arrived at 11am and we all spent 20 minutes on the floor with Mav, playing with him, giving him treats, getting him relaxed after the excitement of people arriving at his door. He always loved visitors, and always assumed they were there to see him – which with our friends was often true! Unfortunately, this time it really was true.
But once he was calm, Dr Schelle inserted the catheter into his back leg; he was so fixated on the new bacon flavor treats they had brought him that he didn’t even notice the needle going in. What we had been informed to be the only possible painful (as much as a needle prick can be) part of the procedure had not even been noticed.
Then we had a few minutes cuddling him and saying our goodbyes; my wife Ginnie holding his head and loving on him, with me laying on the floor to her side with one hand on his paw/leg, tickling his ears with my other hand while the sedative kicked in. Tears flowing freely. Once the sedative took full effect, Ginnie laid his head down gently and he was asleep – dreaming of chasing bunny rabbits at the riparian we like to think! Following the docs advice we continued to love on him for a couple more minutes to make sure the sedative was completely through his system, then after a nod to the doctor that we were all ready, Dr Schelle administered the second shot which would finally send him off forever while he was in our arms.
With my hand on his leg, under his shoulder, I could feel his pulse in his armpit slowly weaken and stop. Heartbreaking – and this comes from a man who had previously held the hand of both parents as they took their last breath after succumbing to cancer. It was certainly the hardest day of Ginnie and my 20 years together. But, without doubt, in-home euthanasia was the easiest way to do the hardest thing.
Ten days on…
It will get easier in time, but now – 10 days on – it isn’t…I’m writing this in tears. We are grateful for the time we had with Mav, and we are grateful for the love and support we’ve had from friends and family around the world. We are also grateful to Dr. Schelle, and Valerie at Compassionate Animal Care for making what was still a traumatic event, as compassionate as possible. All four of us were crying around Maverick at the end, which shows the empathy they bring to their jobs. We sent Maverick on his way with his favorite toy; lil’ buddy accompanied Mav on the final part of his journey that we couldn’t join him for. We didn’t want him to be alone.
I collected Maverick’s (and lil’ buddy’s) ashes yesterday; he is now back home where he belongs. We have his paw print, his ashes in a lovely cedar box, and 11 years and two months of wonderful memories. We think he had a good life filled with vacations, road trips, and all the love a dog needs. We were lucky to get him, and to be honest I think he was lucky to get us too! Who said spoiled?
Thank you to Southwest German Shepherd Rescue for entrusting his life to us for the 4,087 days we had with him, and or posting this tribute (scroll down to reach Mav’s tribute – past Tank, his rescue puppy training buddy, who passed just the day before).
And thanks to you for reading this; I wrote this because no matter how hard it may be, you should ALWAYS do what’s in your pet’s best interest. Be their grown-up. It’s up to you to make the hardest phone call…because they can’t. And be there for them at their end because NO-ONE deserves to die alone, no matter how hard it is for those of us left behind. Maverick enriched our lives and we miss him terribly.
Final thought: Be the person your dog thinks you are.
06/15/07 – 04/30/19
Truly This Man & Woman’s Best Friend
David and Ginnie. xx
If you would like to talk to us about making the best choice for your pet’s well-being, please don’t hesitate to contact us to talk about our in-home euthanasia service. As David wrote, it is a hard call to make, but often it is the right call. Please note that we will NEVER perform a “convenience” in-home euthanasia service, where the choice is not in the best interest of the animal.