December 4, 2007

Quality of Life

Exactly what determines having a good quality of life?
I am asking myself this question on a fairly regular basis lately. For one, I stay at home with three kids. Basically, my life isn't the epitome of excitement in the eyes of most people. Unless, that is, you consider having your foot peed on by a toddler exciting. Another reason I often think about quality of life is because of my dog, Hogan. He's nearing 13 years of age now. Yes, those are human years I'm counting. Most Boxers are expected to live 11-14 years, from what I gather. However, many Boxers are extremely susceptible to cancer and bone diseases and all sorts of other health issues. Boxers with those afflictions aren't expected to surpass 5-7 years of age. Hogan has a condition called gingival hyperplasia as well as skin tags and bumps all over his body. Since he is already the ripe old age of 12 or so, a part of me feels that he is already livng on borrowed time.
I called a vet out the first time I noticed his gum condition. The vet gave him some medication that could possibly shrink his gums. At the time, Hogan was about 7 or 8 years old. Even at that age, the vet thought it might make him suffer more to try to remove the excess gum tissue growing over his teeth. Since it didn't seem to affect him in any other way besides looking really nasty, he thought it best we just leave it alone if the medication didn't work. The course of medication made no difference in the condition of his gums, but so long as he had a good appetite and his weight appeared to stay the same it was best to leave well enough alone. We have never fed Hogan anything but dry dog food, with the excetion of the occasional table scraps or hot dogs. Sliced hot dogs are the best way to give him pills, as he sits and catches them in his mouth and gobbles them down before he even has the chance to chew them.
Recently, Hogan has started to get thinner. His eyes remain as clear as day, but his left eyelid has began to sag a little. I think he may have had a little stroke or something. He still gets around just fine and follows me everywhere. He is still patient with the kids (or as patient as any animal can be with my children!) and his appetite is still good. We still only feed him dry food and his very large gums still appear to be pink and healthy. He continues have control over his bladder and bowels...during the day. I used to complain that he was waking me up every hour or two all night long to let him outside. Now, he rarely wakes me. Instead, his blanket he sleeps on begins to smell of urine after a day or two and gets laundered quite often. His body stinks and bathing doesn't seem to help. Plus, the weather is cooling down now and I don't want to get completely wet for fear of him getting chilled. He's an inside dog now, but I put him outside during the day when I leave the house.
For Hogan, I'm afraid the end is near.
The last time we were at the vet, they felt the same way I did. He most likely has cancer somewhere on his body, if not everywhere. He's so old that there's no real point in trying to treat something that doesn't actually bother him. He still seems to be comfortable. He isn't grouchy and doesn't whimper or anything. He still eats his dry food just fine and circles the table looking for fallen food when the kids are eating. He follows 1YO around a lot because most toddlers leave a trail of Goldfish Crackers or something wherever they go and mine is no exception. Hogan looooooves Goldfish Crackers.
It's hard to see his health decline this way. It's a slow process and I find myself making little lists of 'pros and cons' every single day, trying to look at it from his perspective. But, I'm still not sure I'll know where to draw the line. How bad do I let him get before I take him to be put down? I don't want to have to 'play God' and make that decision. But, I don't want him to suffer, either. What I want is for him to go to sleep and just die peacefully, before he gets any worse. I want God and his body to decide when he's had enough. I don't like the picture I have in my head of me taking him into the vet to be put down. He always gets nervous and shaky at the vet, and I don't necessarily want him to have to be scared his last moments of life.
I hate this.
I guess real 'quality of life' is a matter of perspective. I consider my own life to be a pretty good one, while I know that others may be miserable in my current living situation. Some have it worse, some have it better.
Have you seen that credit card commercial singing My Favorite Things while living out her life's dreams. She's fencing, diving off cliffs, and obviously doing a lot of traveling in order to 'make the most of her life' or some crap like that. That's not what I consider to be living life the the fullest. Personally, my life is full in its own way right now. Others may need to jump out of a plane or do something extreme do feel like they're really living.
I only need to look around my own life to know what my version of living is:

These are a few my my favorite things....


REENblack said...

Now that I've wiped away my tears...

That is such a hard decision to make, especially with an animal that is as loved as Hogan seems to be!!! I don't have any great words of advice...only enjoy the time you have with him and maybe just seek the advice of the vet on the issue if you haven't already.

wildtomato said...

I don't envy your decision. Having four animals around the same age makes me think that I'll have to deal with this issue in succession when the time comes. Ugh.

Hogan has had a wonderful life, especially this past year. At least there is comfort in that.

Mrs. Flinger said...

I'm so sorry about Hogan. But it looks like you have such a full and wonderful life. He obvoiusly did, too. :-)