As I write this, I look over at my beloved P.
, a female Chihuahua who I watched come out of her mother on a hot August night almost 16 years ago.
She now lays around and sleeps most of the time.
She doesn't get around too good anymore and has developed an incontinence problem to go along with her congestive heart failure and dental issues.
She and her three brothers were born within a four hour span on that August night and they were a special quartet of siblings - so special that we kept the whole litter.
We are down to just two littermates, as we lost two of P.
's brothers in 2007.
Although that was over two years ago, the pain still lingers.
It's just P.
J and brother Oliver now.
Many times, as I walk through the laundry room where many of the memorable pet photos are framed and displayed, I feel the lump in my throat and the mist to the eyes returns.
I know there will be very difficult decisions to make for P.
in the near future.
Dental work is badly needed, but the risk of complications from anesthesia on a canine geriatric heart patient is high-yet dental neglect can result in just as serious health complications if infection and abscess occur.
Then there is the heart issue.
A congestive heart condition can be somewhat controlled with medications-but only for so long.
Do I try the additional new medication that the vet recommends, with a disclaimer that it is a new medication that comes with risk? If I don't elect to try the new additional medication and P.
dies soon, did I make the wrong decision? Naturally, there is the financial aspect of it all.
Do you put a price limit on how much you are going to spend on your beloved pet when they are near the end of their life? If substantial veterinary care is now required, what do you do? Let the mortgage go so you can spend a couple of thousand on vet bills and your pet passes anyway? If you are like my household, your pets are family members and your "kids.
" You are more than likely subject to ridicule from friends and family who tell you that you are an absolute idiot for spending thousands of dollars on pet care.
"C'mon, it's only a dog," is one of the standard mantras.
And ultimately, no matter how hard you try to keep your beloved pet alive, the inevitable day comes.
Maybe the money has run out.
There is no room left on the charge card and the next series of tests to find out what's causing your pet's new symptoms is going to cost $900.
Do you know how damaging it is to the psyche to have to put your pet to sleep because you can no longer afford the vet bills? If it were a human child, they would not be denied life sustaining health care.
If the parents could not afford the bill, the proper medical care would be administered and the bills would sit around for years accruing late fees and interest, or eventually be written off.
Not so in the animal world-if you can't handle the cost of your pet's medical needs, there is no one to help you.
The tough decision has to be made.
The final decision may not be financially motivated.
Your veterinarian may tell you-your baby is suffering now.
It's not going to get any better.
To keep him or her alive is soon going to be inhumane.
You hope they will lay down for a nap and just never wake up.
That's the less agonizing way for it to end.
But it doesn't happen that way very often.
More than likely, you will have to put on your Dr.
Kevorkian hat and tell your vet to euthanize your companion.
You actually feel like you have taken your pet's life away from them.
But you try your best to reason that it was for the best and they are no longer suffering.
You feel sick to your stomach and so empty.
People tell you to "Get over it.
" It's just an animal.
I wish they could understand how bad it hurts to go through this.
If I have done my job in this short article, you have felt some of the emotions of what it is like to deal with pet aging and loss.
It is difficult, it is painful, and never gets any easier.
My faithful companion P.
stayed by my side the whole time I wrote this article.
Her breathing is more rapid and audible, and she is doing a bit more coughing.
I look into her big brown eyes and it seems like she is telling me "I want to live!" I think I'll get her a doggie treat and fix her special food for her.
I don't know how much longer we will have each other-every moment until that dreaded day is a bonus.
Only God knows which day will be her last.