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Farewell to Foxy.

Saying good-bye to the family pet can be a heartrending decision.

Foxy, our beloved dachshund, was dying. No one in the family could bear to say it, but we knew it was true.

He was no longer the pet who greeted each of us with wild enthusiasm, or the pet who patiently listened to the children's whispered confidences. He was no longer impatient and eager for his walks. He no longer watched television with the children (it had always seemed he understood every word).

Foxy's body was riddled with cancer. He was skin and bones. What little he ate, he vomited. He couldn't control his bladder or bowel movements. His large brown eyes -normally so full of sparkle and fun-were filled with pain and fatigue.

Despite our agony in watching Foxy's deteriorating condition, neither my husband nor children-and certainly not I-could bring themselves to call our veterinarian and say, "We want you to put Foxy to sleep."

Only when we were going on a long-planned vacation, leaving the house and Foxy in the care of a young man from my husband's office, did we make this painful decision. I was willing to make the effort to care for Foxy, but I couldn't ask a housesitter to do that. But, the truth was, we were all coming to the conclusion we were keeping Foxy alive for us, not for him. For him, death would surely be a welcome relief.

With heavy hearts, we gently put Foxy into the car and carried him to the vet's office. He looked up at us with complete trust. Our veterinarian greeted us with compassion. Several minutes after our arrival, Foxy breathed his last. On the way home, none of us spoke. Weeks passed before we could even mention his name.

The decision to end a pet's life is heartrending. Many people don't know when the appropriate moment has arrived. Dr. Ann Stohlman, a veterinarian in Washington, D.C., is sympathetic. "Many people ask me, 'Ann, what would you do?' But I can't answer that. Each pet, each owner, each situation is different."

For example, a young mother with three small children may be less willing to care for a sick pet than an elderly woman who lives alone.

Illnesses of pets differ. Some suffer from terminal sicknesses that make the pet slowly deteriorate.But other pets may become ill quickly and unexpectedly. A pet may be hit by a car or have a sudden physical problem. A dachshund who was a friend of Foxy's developed a severe back problem overnight. The dog was paralyzed from the waist down. In such cases, the pet is usually younger, and the decisions to put the pet to sleep are even more difficult.

After years of veterinary practice, Dr. Stohlman suggests a pet owner should ask himself or herself the following questions:

1. Is your pet still a "happy" pet? Is it comfortable or in pain? Does the pet still eat or purr or wag its tail or greet you at the door in the way it always has? If not, this may be indicative of its physical situation.

2. Are you still happy with your pet?

3 . How much tolerance do you have for the extra care required by your pet?

4. Is your pet a burden or a joy?

Dr. Stohlman urges owners to answer these questions truthfully. She stresses the owner must understand there is no right or wrong decision.

Once a pet has been put to sleep, the owner may feel guilty. Most people can't talk to their friends about such matters. It seems silly to confess deep emotional attachment to an animal, although many people feel such a bond.

Dr. Stohlman says professional help for owners is increasingly available. Many veterinary schools provide classes on death and dying. Many mental-health centers have counselors skilled in helping those grieving the death of a pet.

An excellent resource is a book called Pet Loss, by Herbert A. Nicburg and Arlene Fisher, published by Harper & Row. This book deals with all aspects of pet loss, including how to handle children's grief.

Even with this kind of help, the decision is never easy. "My best advice," says Dr. Stohlman, "is to let the animal die with dignity." Which is, after all, the best one could ask for a human being.

Questions for the Vet

A letter from Angela Rader of Detroit, Michigan, concerning her dog, Maggie, appeared in the September '88 issue of the Post. Maggie suffers from flaky and scabby skin; she rolls in dirt and leaves to relieve the itching. Angela's budget for veterinary care is limited.

Angela, the following readers have written with helpful suggestions.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I have a dog with what sounds like the same problem Maggie has with scabbed sores. I have found success with Ammens medicated powder for diaper rash, costing less than $3. The dog must be completely dry before allowing it to get in the dirt and leaves. Dogs do that to dry off, so towel dry the dog and put some sheets or even dirty laundry on the floor for it to roll in after bathing. When the dog is thoroughly dry, sprinkle the medicated powder all over its body, concentrating on the infected places. This treatment has really helped my dog. I hate to think what it would feel like to roll in the dirt and leaves after my bath. Dogs itch for the same reasons that people itch.

Mrs. H. Alexander Granite Shoals, Texas

Dear Mrs. Alexander,

Thanks for your suggestions. Medicated powder acts as an astringent or drying agent, which is beneficial in some moist skin conditions. Powders also protect those areas of the body subject to friction.

H. Ellen Whiteley, D. V.M.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I am writing in response to Angela Rader's letter about her dog, Maggie. Perhaps the Humane Society in Detroit, Michigan, has a plan to help senior citizens on limited incomes by absorbing all or part of the vet bills. I am 67 years old, and Social Security is my only source of income. I was approved by the Humane Society to have free vet care for my dog, Penny, who suffers from skin allergies. She also has her yearly vaccinations given free of charge. The Purina Dog Food people also have a program for senior citizens with animals.

I have found that adding a tablespoon of corn oil to Penny's diet helps to alleviate dry, itchy skin.

Doris M. Schafer Rochester, New York

Dear Doris,

Great advice! Many nonprofit organizations such as the Humane Society, S.P.C.A., and the Animal Rights Association have low-cost programs for qualifying senior citizens.

The Purina Pets for People is an excellent program. This program matches persons 60 years of age or older with homeless shelter pets. For every adoption made, the Ralston Purina Co. donates $100 to the participating animal shelter to cover adoption costs. More than 100 fulltime shelters in more than 100 cities across the country participate in the Pets for People program on a yearround basis. Call your local animal shelter to find if it offers this program to senior citizens.

Dogs with scaly skin due to seborrhea often benefit from the addition of fat to their diets. Safflower oil is the richest source of essential fatty acids, followed by corn oil and soybean oil. One teaspoon of fat for each cup of dry food or 1 teaspoon per can of moist food can be added.

H. E. W.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

In the September 1988 issue, Karen Green and her Pet Finders company in Amarillo, Texas, are mentioned. I was particularly interested in the Pet Finders Reward Packet.

May I have an address or phone number to obtain additional information? Southwestern Bell has no listing fo "Pet Finders."

Thank you.

Suzan Nelson Austin, Texas

Dear Suzan,

The Pet Finder Reward Packet includes a typeset poster, as well as a booklet and cassette tape with stepby-step instructions for pet detecfives. The packet sells for $12.95 and can be obtained by writing Karen Green of Pet Finders, 5105 Farmers Ave., Amarillo, TX 79110. Telephone: 806-358-2123.

H. E. W.
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Title Annotation:pet loss
Author:Zentay, Diana D.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Words:1362
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