This is our Spenser. He is 16.5 and to us he is still as sweet and lovable as when he was an 8 week old baby, soft as a plush stuffed animal. He is still a happy boy, begs for cheese bits when we make a sandwich, eats with gusto, poops just fine (more on that, anon), and barks to ask for a walk – or if I take the other dog out and not him; and his nose works just fine thank you, he can detect the faintest whiff of the remains of something the cat left strewn about, from 50′ downwind. This month he's enjoying the annual blackberry bounty, which he nibbles right off the canes.
Spenser has health issues like any elderly mammal, in his case: a ligament at the base of one fang sprang loose so he has a walnut-sized tumor-like thing on his jaw, doesn't seem to bother him but causes just awful bad breath; arthritis in all four corners; torn ACL on at least one hind leg; cataracts (can't hardly see) and can't hardly hear (==not afraid of thunderstorms anymore!) except when I clap; various squishy tumors, mostly fatty; some 3–4 days a week I wake up to “dog logs” around the house (see prev. ref. to “anon”), I think he doesn't notice them coming out lol; and laryngeal paralysis, which means his larynx can malfunction to either block his airway when he needs to breathe, or open it when he's eating or drinking. That last will take him eventually if nothing else does first.
As long as he is reasonably happy, comfortable, interested in food and life, we are happy to go on enjoying Spenser’s companionship. He has pain, and sometimes needs help getting up, so he is on pain meds that recently had to increase (per the vet), which is helping. Honestly, I hope to wake one morning and find he has passed peacefully in the night, sleeping in our room with us.
But I promise you we will not let him suffer. Our pets cannot understand *why* they are suffering. They can only endure it.
If a young animal is injured or ill but can recover and live out a full life, that's one thing. Dogs in particular live in the *now*, and tho they remember past events they usually can adapt and go on without angst and obsessive reflection.
But if it's all suffering and pain each day without reason or understanding or hope of recovery, well I think that's just torment for the dog. I won't do it.
That’s when we will let him go.
By Sara Riley