When The Tail Stops Wagging…Tough Decisions Must Be Made

“I hope your day improves.”   Those were the words meant to comfort me as I left my veterinarian’s office yesterday morning.   When I had arrived a half hour earlier my heart was still filled with hope that my nearly 10–year old black lab, “Duchess” would snap out of her recent medical funk.   Didn’t happen that way.   Nope!   Instead, the prognosis was so grave I decided to end her misery by signing the paperwork for euthanasia (which is a word almost as scary as the process itself).

Of course my mind knew this day was coming, but my heart just didn’t want to let go quite yet.   You know, canine hunting partners teach us so much during their life.   They’re with us during some of our most glorious outdoor moments.   They’re never critical of our sometimes lacking abilities…they just want to be part of the action and please their master in the best way they know how.

Yet, even in death a canine companion teaches us so much.   As most sportsmen, I’ve been through this before…and most certainly I will go through it again someday with another dog.   Saying goodbye is just never easy.   I look at it this way.   Each of the dogs I’ve known in my life are like chapters of my life.   The storyline might be slightly different with every dog, yet their main purpose adding fulfillment to your life always seems to be a constant.

Duchess was certainly no exception.   Admittedly she wasn’t my best hunting dog ever.   In fact, our days afield during most of her life have been somewhat limited because of her early health issues tearing an ACL.   She just never had the stamina for long days afield because of these previous joint injuries.   Still, she fulfilled my need for a canine partner in every other way possible.

Yes, there’s a strong bond that develops between a hunter and his dog.   It’s sort of hard to explain, in fact.   The dog doesn’t have to possess the best nose in the world or even be sharp as a tack with its retrieving and recovery skills.   Nope, when you enter the field with your canine hunting partner all you really hope for is to act in concert with one another to have a little hunting fun.   Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?   Man and dog working as a team while sharing quality time together in the outdoors.

Like it or not, eventually we must all face reality.   Compared to our lives, the life-cycle of a pet is fairly short, yet it sends a strong reminder to each of us to think about our own mortality.   Let’s face it…we only get the pleasure of hunting with a certain number of dogs in our lifetime and for me, at least, the final words have just been written on yet another chapter of my life.

When your canine partner approaches the twilight of their life it can really tear at your heart-strings to see them lose their quality of living.   At first thought you want to prolong the inevitable decline by offering them medication to ward off the medical signs and symptoms.   Eventually, however, you just look into their eyes and you know it’s about to come to an end.

Friday and Saturday morning I looked into Duchess’ eyes and I realized we were about to part ways in our physical presence, but certainly not in our shared spirit.   The tail had stopped wagging and the sad eyes indicated she was losing her will to battle on with life.

Now comes the hard part.   As sportsmen we make decisions dealing with the life and death of animals all the time.   Some folks even accuse us of being cruel and heartless as we kill animals for our pleasure.   To hell with those folks.   They have no clue as to the agony I have faced over the past several days making tough decisions about a life other than my own.

Indeed, sometimes the hard part really isn’t knowing what action must be taken when you choose to end the life of your dog.   Nope, the tough part is carrying out the process of that decision.   You strive to do it in a dignified and respectful manner…but the reality and utter difficulty of the process can truly rip the most stoic man into emotional pieces.

I’m happy to report that my vet was right.   He hoped my day would improve, and it most certainly did.   I spent some “happy time” thinking about all the great moments Duchess and I got to share together.   In the process, I realized that although our time together seemed way too short…we shared a great life creating many fond memories together.   After all, isn’t that the real reason a sportsman even owns a dog?

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Sportsman’s Blog Podcast Episode #4-2007

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PeteFischerJoin me as I interview Pete Fischer of Fischer’s Kennels on the timely topic of picking out a new hunting dog and doing it the correct way.   Pete offers some great advice you’ll want to consider no matter what breed of hunting companion you might be in the market to purchase.

There’s a lot of careful decisions to make before you make that all-important commitment to bring a new dog home.   Are you ready to spend the time necessary to properly care for and train the dog?   How can you be sure you’re getting a healthy dog from a reputable breeder?   What are some playtime activities you absolutely do not want to do with that new retriever or risk the possibility of creating a more difficult dog to train.

We cover the topic quite thoroughly and provide a good primer for those considering a new puppy purchase this spring.

2007 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission

More On Diamond Dog Food

Two weeks ago I first reported on the Diamond Dog Food recall and how sportsmen should be aware of this toxic situation that has killed many dogs, mostly in the Southeast.   During the two weeks since that post, I must say I have received numerous e-mails of encouragement from both dog owners personally effected by the toxin as well as those who are just plain concerned as dog food-buying consumers.

Thanks to one loyal blog reader he passed along this important information to me today.   I found the article quite interesting and it should serve as a great follow-up to what has been learned since that recall notice first hit the news.   Link HERE.

Even though I live in a state that is not directly affected the Diamond recall area…I purchased my first bag of dog food this past weekend manufactured by a company other than Diamond.   Indeed, for the past six years I have been a loyal Diamond customer…but no more.   At least not until I see how Diamond is going to stand up and be accountable for the deaths of 100s of dogs.

The best advice I can say at this point is if you’ve fed Diamond Dog Food suspected of containing the aflatoxin fungus get your dog into the vet immediately for an examination.   If you are one of the unfortunate sportsmen who have lost a dog because of the poisoning, get your dog tested even it it means doing a post-mortem examination.   Now is a time you will want to strengthen your claim so you need all the credible evidence you can possible assemble.

Also, be very careful about carelessly involving yourself in any upcoming legal action.   No doubt about it there will likely be many individual lawsuits against Diamond seeking legal redress for their alleged negligence.   I also wouldn’t be surprised if down the road those lawsuits combine into a single class action lawsuit against Diamond.   Keep in mind, however, that typically class action lawsuits are rarely in the best interests of the party affected (or class member).   Generally the class action best serves the company (who pays a token amount for a signed waiver against future legal claims) and the various law firms who administer the court action on behalf of the entire class.   As a sportsmen and dog owner, if Diamond has caused you to spend hundreds or possibly even thousands of dollars in vet bills OR if you have lost a dog because of the toxin…you need to consult and be represented by your own attorney.

Thanks again to all those concerned blog readers who have taken the time to e-mail me or to post comments on this matter.   As I hear things develop on this story I will try to report on it in the future.   I also appreciate all the information and news tips that are sent my way…keep them coming!!

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.