We have to make a tough decision about our dog. She's been with us 2-months shy of 14 years. She was our first "baby", our "trial child" - if it worked out to own a dog, then we'd have kids, too. She was the first in our family to have a Greek name, which inspired our naming trend. She has been a very sweet standard poodle, and an awesome companion.
Last year, we had a similar decision to make. She had 2 large tumors and needed surgery. Last year, we asked, "do we do surgery on an almost 13 year old dog?" We opted that route and bought her another year of life with us.
Shortly after those 2 tumors were removed, 2 more tumors sprouted. We ignored them as best as we could and just carried on. The one tumor continued to grow, and her licking became nipping and biting; which becomes very messy and in need of clean up. I put the "cone of shame" on her to keep her from getting to it, and now she licks wherever she can. Big patches of fur are missing, and she licks at everything (including furniture) to calm the frenzied urge to get at her side.
Now the tumor is infected. It has reached a point where she either needs surgery...or needs an end.
We had a good extra year with her, but a few other things happened along the way. Her hips became achy. She has trouble getting to her feet, and has trouble navigating the stairs. My upstairs bedroom is the only place she seems truly comfortable. She's fallen down the stairs a few times now. She has trouble standing for the grooming appointments. She isn't completely miserable; I do see her have a run outside, or jump up on countertops to snatch food, or bounce off of the door occasionally. That is what makes it so hard - she still has times where a bit of "puppy" comes back.
She is losing bowel control, and occasionally bladder control, as well. If we don't let her outside as soon as she reaches the door to go out, there will be an accident. I cleaned several pee accidents a few weeks ago when we spent so much time outdoors working, and she remained inside. Often, she leaves a trail of poo on her way to the door, with a look of confusion at what is going on behind her. Now, I don't even think she notices the trail she is leaving as she goes to the door. I have to watch her very closely for signs that she needs to go, in hopes I can usher her out in time.
I know older dogs take a special kind of work and attention. I get that. This isn't to complain about what I have to go through as an owner. I love my dog and want to care for her as best I can. Obviously, she's lived with us nearly 14 years - I think that says something.
If it were only one of these issues, we'd just continue on, and deal with it as it comes. If it were only the tumor, she'd have surgery. If it were only her bowels, I'd let it go on a bit longer, until she could no longer make it outside at all. However, I think because we have a mix of 3 issues like that; her tumors, her hips, and her bowels, it may be a sign that it is Time.
We gave her an extra special week, this week. We fed her pancakes (her favorite food to snatch from counter tops - many breakfasts have been stolen from the dog). We took her on very short walks. She had a bath, and then a romp outside to shake off all the water (she's always very frisky after a bath). We loved her and coddled her extra. I tried to give her some time with her cone off. The kids and I are saying our "good-byes". There have been times of tears, and lots of storytelling about our wonderful times with our pet. And there has been lots of prayer, for her and for us.