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The question often comes up on our ABLEDOGS email list....

A well-meaning friend or relative will look at our animal companions and say, "Why do you keep [animal] alive?  Wouldn't it be kinder to put it out of its misery?" Or one might accuse us of selfishness or even cruelty.

This issue goes straight to the heart of ABLEDOGS.  Here are some responses and comments from the members of the ABLEDOGS list...

Virginia writes:

I HAVE A QUESTION.  I HAD A OLD FRIEND OF MINE COME AND VISIT YESTERDAY.  I HAS NOT SEEN HIM SINCE CHUNKY GOT HURT.  HE SAW MY BABY IN HIS CRIB AND ASKED ME WHY I KEEP HIM ALIVE.  I HAVE GOTTEN THIS REACTION FROM MANY PEOPLE.  I HAVE TOLD THEM THAT MY BABY SAYS HE WANTS TO LIVE, AND THEY THINK I AM CRAZY, OR PERHAPS SELFISH.  HAVE ANY OF YOU HAD TO DEAL WITH THIS AND IF SO HOW DO YOU HANDLE IT, BECAUSE I AM REALLY GETTING TIRED OF HAVING TO EXPLAIN MYSELF?

THANK YOU

VIRGINIA & CHUNKY

Denise's Response:

Yes Virginia this is very common with friends, and in some cases family get on our cases.  We just tell them it's not their decision and maybe we should just put every one who is disabled to sleep or in a home where us luck whole ones won't have to deal with the sadness of seeing something so ugly.  Most of these comments are made because they haven't found themselves in a position we are in with these dogs.  They don't know of the joy and love and specialness they bring into our lives.  Yes, it also involves laundry, lots of laundry and vet bills and time and commitment but oh so very worth while.

Also a lot of these people don't want any of the above.  It may be the right decision for them but I get very tire of them trying to foist their point of view on me.  Usually I find they are basically self centered and don't want any thing to overshadow their life styles.  I eventually lose these people for friends because the first thing I hear from them is if you didn't have those damn dogs to take care of you could go shopping, or lunch or away for a weekend.  Well it's my choice, not theirs and I find I really don't miss them at all.  But I do miss my special furkids.  They usually don't care if I leave them to go shopping or lunch they are just glad I come home a be with them to watch TV, play, and of course feed them, LOL!

Denise & Cinnamon & Avery

Cherie adds:

I have been asked this a lot too. I hear: "it's only an animal" and then I go ballistic.  I know it doesn't do any good to rant, but it's NOT just an animal. They have feelings, thoughts, they make decisions and they hurt when you poke them with a pin just like we do. I really have a tough time with those people.

Cherie

Liz2 says:

What a horrible question yr friend asked and poor you for being put in that situation.  Do these people think these things are done lightly? The point is there is hope for improvement and not just that there is EVIDENCE....look at all the other success stories on this list.

Before Peggy had back trouble I guess if the vet had said it would be more humane to put her to sleep , I may well have done, being that I was naive at that point.  But , boy, has this group been an eye opener.  Liz 1 and I are trying to get the fact recognised in the UK that this does not have to be..they can heal with TLC and exercises etc.They can also enjoy life with wheels too it seems...chasing squirrels I read on the list...how lovely.

So just remember, Virginia, it is THEIR problem, not yours.  Just tell them there is hope and evidence.

All the best to you both .  Liz 2

Lin puts it succinctly...

well,  if we werent prepared to take care of them no matter what I dont think any of us would have dogs to begin with.  the only time i have questioned myself is when quality of life becomes an issue and this is something only we can tell- are they happy? enjoying their life? in pain that is difficult to control without being semi conscious all the time?  does your precious friend seem to want to be here?

to anyone who questions MY comittment to the animals i have i usually just tell them  you are not in my shoes, you dont really know  how i feel  "just a dog" well honey that is "just part of my life" you dont like the way i am then there is the door- dont let it hit ya where the dog shoulda bit ya!!

Lin

Tonia , too, speaks from the heart:

My Lizzy is my baby. She is by my side day in and day out. I love her more than words can describe. I would do anything in my power to take care of her, just like most people do with human kids. I don't think anyone would "put down" a human kid just because it had a disability. I am closer to my Lizzy than I am most of my family because she is always by my side.

  Tonia
(you may post this)

Bob (lucky fella!) has never run into this kind of attitude.  He says:

Hi Virginia,

I would like to know where you live. Reason I ask is I have a disabled dog and I have never had anyone ask me why I didnt have my dog put to sleep not even family. We usually take CJ to our local Petsmart and everyone asks how he became disabled and gives us praise for keeping CJ as a member of the family even though he is disabled. We live in upstate New York between Albany and Saratoga area.

Bob of The Clifton Park Pack

Felicia shares about life with Elmer....

I haven't had anyone ask me why I didn't put Elmer to sleep.  He is paralyzed in the hind legs, and has no bathroom control, either.  But when people ask me what happened to him, I find myself explaining why I didn't put him to sleep (thinking that's what they're thinking).  I always say he is such a terrific dog--I couldn't put him to sleep because of inconvenience. They realize by the way I interact with him that I love him soooo much.  And I say I love him soooo much.   I also have a friend who tells people she knows, that I have a paralyzed dog and that I have to diaper him and that he has a wheelchair.  She says it in pride, probably showing off what a kind soul I am, I guess. I have another friend, after seeing Elmer and how well I care for him, tell her husband that she wants to come to my house in the event that anything ever happens to her, because I'll take such good care of her.

Another time we went to dinner with some friends.  Upon hearing the news about my dog, just about tease me for dealing with it.  One of the husbands (and they have dogs) joked with my husband that if it happened to my husband, he'd be the one I'd put to sleep--inferring I guess, that the dog would get more attention.  I  figured he was teasing us.  Who knows.   Another person told me I would go to doggie heaven.  I said that would be a good place to go to.

Once we had a party and Elmer was cruising aroung the whole afternoon visiting everyone.  People commented that he looked very happy and well-adjusted.  My brother thought I should put Elmer in the other room so that no one would trip over him.  I said I couldn't because he was happy just hanging out, and that he would cry and bark if I did.

 All in all, people are complimentary to me.  I think people realize it's not for them to place judgement.  But like everyone here has commented, if they don't have an animal to love so much, they'll really never know.

And that's my 2c worth.  You may post this if you like, with my name.

Love, Felicia, Elmer, and Robby

Lisa's viewpoint is short and sweet...

I don't get those comments as much as I used to, but at first, that's all I heard.......except from my mom and a couple of close friends.........and I, like you got tired of it really fast.

I don't have to explain to you why we kept our babies alive......they are happy and loved......a lot more than some perfectly intact dogs have!!!!

Just tell them it is a choice between you and Chunky and leave it at that.

Lisa and Emma

"Liz1" in the UK talks about what she has learned about what really matters:

For all the heartache of Poppy having two surgeries for her back, I wouldn't have missed one day with her.  To watch her courage & tenacity in the face of such adversity has not only humbled me, but taught me that I truly wish I was the sort of person my dog thinks I am, if only to match the love she has for me in spite of the trauma I have asked her to go through.

  I believe that *because* of her difficulties, we have become closer and the bond between us deeper than it ever would have been had she not have back troubles.

For those who dont understand - frankly I feel sorry for them.  That they think dogs are disposable when they dont function like they are supposed to tells me that where they are coming from is somewhere I dont want to go.

That my 2c worth

  Liz

Liisa does a wonderful job of making her point...

I too have had numerous comments from people who think I should dispose of my precious friend because she is a senior and is paralyzed in the back end.

  I have had Sheba since she was 4 weeks old. She was not even weaned when she came to me, and she was the runt and was too small to fight her way up to the milk bar!

  Coming from a family of dog lovers, I can tell you that she has been and still is the best friend anyone could have, even when compared to all the dogs we have had during my lifetime.  She does require alot of work in her old age but I would hope that someone will treat me in the same manner when I am a senior!  And work or not, it is still always worthwhile when we go for a walk and I see her smiling!

I may have posted this before, but I had a man in my neighbourhood come up to me this summer when Sheba and I were out for a walk, and comment on her cart.  He then went on to say that it must soon be time for the executioner.  At the time I did not know whether to smack him or burst into tears.  In hindsight, I should have told him that I could understand his point, because his wife was probably thinking it was about time to put his fat, balding, creaky old bones down too as he had outlived his usefulness!  Next time I will say exactly that!

I do feel sorry for these people on some level though because they will never in their lives be able to enjoy the pleasure of a wonderful pet who will give them unconditional love and make their lives as full as possible.  Too bad for them!!!

Liisa and Sheba (the senior citizen - 18 last week!)

And Peggy adds:

Very common for people to say, just put the dog down and get another one. OMG! I guess it is just human reaction to an animal, but I can't understand it.  I have had a lot of "static" from family and friends but in the end, it is my decision to make and I opted to take the best care I could of my best friend, after all, she is the one who is with me night and day and friends and family only when it is convenient for them or if they need something. Do I sound harsh?  Oh well.........Peggy W

Jen addresses the "Quality of Life" stuff......

Putting Nip to sleep would be like killing a human child that has gotten hurt. Until someone has been around a furkid that needs a wheelchair to get around I don't think they can tell us what to do. Nippie is as happy as her walking brother, she "tells" us when she wants up on a chair or the couch just like her brother does, she lets us know when she wants outside like he does in fact if either of us has a problem with her condition it would be more me then her, she thinks this is normal.

Jen

Robin, too, has learned more about love:

Yes I too have had people say why did you not have that "dog" put down and I said would you do that to your "kid"! certainly not well my dog is like a kid maybe she doesn't walk real good and can't do things other dogs do but she is the love of my life and i for one would feel as tho a part of me had died! I am so glad that I didn't listen to anyone and followed my heart!  Look at what Ginger has given me. besides four more pups she has shown me that even tho she couldn't walk right she had to change her life a little and she is going strong! Man I wish I had just one ounce of her spunk and spirit!  She is the best!  I beleive I tend to go for the underdog in most cases anyway.  They have a right to be loved and spoiled too!

If anyone thinks they can put a dog down they need to walk a mile in our shoes and see the love that they bring nobody is perfect!!!!  There are just so many who can't handle a little imperfection I am not one of them.  I enjoy my little one with the funny gait and the tipping over so much and she knows it. I think  the others are kinda jealous cause she gets to be carried.  I could go on and on but better not.

Robin and Ginger

And Janet adds:

I went through the same thing Virginia, and we lost some friends over it for a few months, however they since have become more understanding to our feelings.  I wouldn't have done anything differently with our Boomer.  She was a big part of our family then and still is today.

I don't get it with some people.  Just because an animal has an injury, they jump to putting it down right away.  I say give the dog every chance and you will know in your heart if you've made the right decision.

They'll get over it Virginia, or they will lose your friendship.

Hugs,
Janet    Boomer & Peanut

Helen reflects on what matters........

I know exactly what you are talking about.  Many people around me have asked how I could put Nub through the pain of surgery, twice and I also wondered if I was being selfish.  But I look at Nub and ask myself "Is he happy?"  and the answer is yes!  If I thought he was not enjoying life I might feel different but despite his disability he is a happy dog who enjoys living and that makes it all worth while.  There is no one who can judge your baby better then you and you have to decide for yourself if Chunky is happy.  If Chunky is happy then you don't have to explain to anyone because you and Chunky know the truth!  Hope this helps a little.

Helen and Nub

Shell talks of her TWO AbleDogs.......

I have had so many people ask me the same thing, "Why do you keep her alive?", or "Oh, that is so sad"   I thank God every day for giving Sadie back her legs, it was hard work and it took alot of patience and love, but she is my "child" and there was no way I would have put her down.  It was just not an option for me. Now, all those people are eating their words! When I tell people her story, I am so proud! Now I can say, that is why.

Look at Maddie, she is blind and still re-learning how to walk, but she is doing great! She has adjusted to her blindness and is still a happy little dog.  Yeah, it is extra work, but worth it when she comes running over to the door when you come in (little bumping along the way), but she is still loving and happy.

It is worth it, no matter what anyone says, look at them and say, "What if it happened to your child or your dog?"

Shell, Sadie, and Maddie Jean

Anne and Eliot shared and bonded together...

As a fur-kid mommy who's pup has recently gone down there have been a few people who have asked me why we would subject Eliot to this.  We have four teenagers, two cats and two dachshunds.  My husband and I feel that we have so much love in our family, that no matter what the obstacle, we can overcome it.  Having the vet tell us our options, we knew that we could keep Eliot as happy as he has been the last six years, even if he never regains the use of his back legs.  And since this has happened, we have been right, he plays with us, he chases after bugs and toads just like he always has, and he cuddles and loves us just as much.  I had to undergo some surgery at nearly the same time that Eliot went down.  We both spent two whole days in the bed commiserating, then both of us got up and got on with our lives as though nothing had changed.  He helped me to realize that feeling sorry for myself was not the way to go.  Within a week, I found out that I did not have cancer, and my scars will heal.  Eliot was not as fortunate, he will live with his disability forever.  As long as I live though, he will not be "disabled".  My legs are there for him.  My parents were the first people to congratulate us on this decision.  They live 2000 miles from me, and actually offered to come down to help with Eliot!!  Not me, mind you, Eliot!  I feel fortunate that I have such a large support group not only here on this great list but from my immediate family too.  Never has the option of putting Eliot down even been considered.

Anne & Eliot

Lisa has had to put up with clueless people too.

I too have the same problem of lack of understanding from most of my friends. Randy (my 13-year-old dog) isn't paralyzed but he does take a lot of meds, and he has to go to the vet at least once a month, and he costs a lot of money (the vet procedures are very expensive).  And when my dad got sick, I took in his two cats who are both seniors to live with me and they are somewhat expensive also.  Most of my friends think it's strange that I had to take on a second job in order to pay my bills, yet I keep "that dog" alive and took in two cats who should have been "taken to the pound."  But I don't see it that way.  Randy has been my baby, and Ginger and Kitty were my dad's babies, and I couldn't forgive myself if I brought them harm.  Yet, I would like to NOT alienate my friends with my response so I don't want to say anything nasty to them.  They don't understand why I would keep three expensive pets when it means working two jobs, why I would rather spend money on animals than on fancy clothing and possessions, and why I would willingly give up weekend trips to be here to adminster meds.  They just don't understand.  I wish they would.  

Lisa of
Lisa, Randy, Kitty, Ginger

Jeanie wisely advises ignoring the "advice" of some people:

Virginia,

If someone said something so heartless like what they said about Chunky-I would realize that the live of a living, breathing being doesn't mean a hoot in hell to them.  They can't possibly be animal lovers and just would need to get out of my face.  Someone once told me that if a person couldn't treat a pet as if it were a family member-DON'T TRUST THEM!  I try to make that a rule of thumb-these people aren't worth wasting time on.  Keep Chunky-you know Chunky better than they do.

Jeanie

Kylene and Jasper remind us to "NEVER say never"...

Well, we have been lucky since Jasper went down that everyone we knew was supportive of whatever choice we made. My husband was not willing to keep him forever due to many things but was willing to give it a shot. Our vet told us after one week that there was no chance of improvement but I decided to hang on after finding this group. I am so glad I did cuz within one month, our Jasper was walking again. It is a clumsy walk and he stumbles a bit at times but he is walking and HAPPY!!!! Any doubts about that are erased at times like this morning. We got about 6 inches of snow and he was so excited to be out there playing in it again. He and the other dog were having a blast together. Giving Jasper a chance at life was the only choice we felt we had and he has told us thank you in many ways.

Kylene and Jasper (a Corgi mix)

The bottom line?  LOVE, says Sandy!

Hi just wanted to say Im very much against any one who would have the nerve to say to me you should put her down because she can't walk or have any control. How could some one even suggest such a terrible and disgusting thing. Well this so called very best friend did just that to George and me Sandy when Teddy went down. More then once she said we should put her down. I would never ever think of doing such a deplorable thing to any creature dog or cat as they all have a right to live. It didn't matter to us if Teddy couldn't walk on her own or do her business. We loved her and it didn't matter to us. We were here for her no matter what. She did get back her hind legs and in time she started to walk with the help of a cart that her daddy George made for her out of love and carrying. There is still aways to go with her bath rm and her walking but we know in time she will get back to the way she was more or less. It takes a tremendous amount of time and a lot of patience and mostly TLC. Thanks for listening to me.

Sincerly Sandy and George and Teddy

And Carol's response "seconds that emotion"!

None of The Wrecking Crew are "physically challenged," but I joined this list in case the unthinkable *does* happen; one of them go down for the count.  Twisty and/or Spartacus would be the most likely.  Twisty worries me because she has a sway back, and Spartacus is a source of worry because of his weight which I can't seem to get off of him.  (I might add that Twisty runs a close second in the weight department.)  If one, both, or any of my babies should ever go down I have much experience, advice, and support on this list.

And should anyone ever ask me, "Why do you keep that poor animal alive?" my reply would be a simple, "For the love I give and receive."

Carol and The Wrecking Crew  (TWC = Spartacus, Mandy, Heineken, Little Julz, and Twisty in pecking order)

Your Humble Webmaster/mistress/whatever person adds:

...Actually, there isn't much I can add to the above.  My Gracie has helped ME as much as, if not more, than I have helped her.  She rules our other dogs, even though she only has two good legs and is half their size.  She loves unconditionally always keeps trying!  When I get to feeling down, all I have to do is think of her... and I realize, "If SHE doesn't give up, well, how can I?"

Just in time for the Holidays, Lisa reminds us of blessings! 

I received many of the negative comments on this page when Shankie had her surgeries.  The one though that stands out now years later is when I called my sister-in-law to pray for Shankie & her responce was just What can I do?  What do you need? What does Shankie need?.  Well at the time I didn't have the funds to pay for her surgery.  She sent me a check that day when the vet wouldn't take her credit card over the phone because she lives 2000 miles away.  In times of trouble you really weed out the wheat from the chaff as far as who loves us & our pets unconditionally.  I am truly grateful to God for giving me a sister-in-law such as mine.  I am truly blessed.  Lisa

Webmaster/mistress/whatever person comment: Thank you, Lisa!  I will post this on the page!  Give your sister-in-law a BIG ol' hug from ME and, I'm sure, many others once they read it!  ~Julz

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