Hard Choices


Fifteen years ago when we first opened the doors of The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary, blind, deaf, disabled, disfigured, ill, and old dogs were not valued in our society.  More than once over the years we have been told that our special-needs and senior dogs would be better off if we had them put down. Their quality of life was not considered worthy of the efforts it took to care for them. Thankfully, that perception has changed and now special-needs and senior dogs are not only being adopted, but some of them have been elevated to a public persona that is adored. I run across people everyday that have dogs with some sort of disability, and those dogs hold a special place in the hearts and lives of their families.

What has not changed, however, is the point in all of our pets’ lives when we must consider the hardest choice any animal lover faces. As the care-giver at a sanctuary for senior and special-needs Dachshunds I have been asked many times over the years how we make the difficult decisions that must be faced when end of life issues arise. The answer to that question is very personal. Each dog lover must make those choices at some point, and that point varies for each individual.

At the sanctuary we face determinations of this nature more often than most people. For our own peace of mind we have set some standards that help us make those choices when our hearts are breaking. The first criteria we consider is pain. Managing pain in our dogs is much more sophisticated now than it was fifteen years ago. All of our dogs take pain meds after surgery and dental procedures. This is short term and the dogs benefit tremendously from proper pain management.

Last summer we cared for a four year old that suffered from bone cancer. He underwent three surgeries in seven weeks to remove aggressive tumors. His levels of pain were kept under the threshold until after the last surgery. The pain meds had been increased several times and his pain could still not be controlled. We made the hard choice to end his battle.

Patch is a fourteen year old that was born blind, but she has enjoyed an exceptional life. At six years of age she ruptured a disc in her back and had surgery to repair it. The recovery was long and at times painful, but Doc Jess did an excellent job of regulating Patch’s care and she recovered. Her pain was temporary. And her quality of life returned to a high level. Long-term outlook and short-term manageability were the deciding factors in both of these dogs lives.

The other criteria that we consider is nourishment. Many of our dogs eat special meals, or have to be fed in a special way. But they are getting what their body needs to thrive. I am not above trying lots of different ways to get calories in my dogs. The tell tail sign that we always dread, mostly in our seniors, is when we have tried and failed with our entire arsenal of special foods to get them to eat. When all medical possibilities are exhausted and they continue to refuse food, we make the hard choices.

Years ago I discussed these two standards with a well respected breeder of Dachshunds. She felt that we should add one more consideration to our policy. Her opinion was that when dogs can no longer do what makes them the happiest- digging in the yard, chasing a ball, wrestling with their friends, etc., that ending their lives is a service to them. I disagreed because our dogs derive great pleasure from their relationships with each other and with Rick and me. As humans we don’t give up on life when we can no longer run a marathon, or swim thirty laps in the pool. We teach others to do what we love, we watch others do what we love, and if we’re really determined we find new things to do that we love. I can no longer do cartwheels up and down the sidewalk, but I can enjoy watching my granddaughters doing cartwheels.

This morning after ten days of struggling with our fourteen year old Colton to get him to eat, we made the hard choice. We made the most important decision we have ever made for Colton, with the single exception of the decision we made to rescue him ten years ago. We nursed him through IVDD. We loved him through fear aggression. We taught him to love and respect the friends available to him here. We could not, and would not fail him this morning because our hearts were broken. RIP sweet Colton!


Author: thepromisedlanddachshundsanctuary

I rescue senior and special needs Dachshunds

17 thoughts on “Hard Choices”

  1. Faithful friends never leave us, they just run on ahead. . . .

    If there is one thing you have taught me,
    If there’s only one thing I’ve learned. . . .
    Unconditional love has a condition after all.
    I must be willing to let you go, when you speak to me
    I must be willing to help you go, if you cannot go alone.
    And I must accept my pain so you can be free of yours.

    Go easily now, go quickly now,
    Do not linger here, it is time for you to leave.
    Go find your strength, go find your youth.
    Go find the ones who’ve gone before you.
    You are free to leave me now, free to let your spirit soar
    Rest easy now, your pain will soon be gone.
    I pray I will find comfort in my memories . . .
    In the dark and lonely days ahead.
    I cannot say I will not miss you, I cannot say I will not cry.
    For only my tears can heal my broken heart.
    But, I promise you this: as long as I live,
    You will live, alive in my mind, forever in my heart.
    So I give you this last gift, all I have left to give,
    And this will be my greatest gift . . . sending you away.
    It is the measure of my unconditional love . . .
    For only the greatest love can say,
    “Good-bye, go find the bridge, we’ll meet again,
    Loving you has been the greatest gift of all.”


    1. So beautiful as I read this with tears in my eyes. We have had to make the decision on four of our little friends. Very diffucult. I still get tears thinking about them.


  2. Sometimes the last thing you can do for them , is the hardest thing you have to do. God bless, run free Colton, you little body no longer can hold you down.


  3. I wish that I have been able to do for my Oscar what you did for Colton. I will feel guilty for the rest of my life. I came home one evening and I knew he was sick and I should have taken him to the emergency vet. Because I had an impending surgery coming up I was worried about money I did not. during the night he woke me up twice and there was nothing I could do for him. I called work and told them I had to take him to the vet. When I got up in the morning he was pretty much comatose. Took him to the vet and instead of having him put down asked them to do what they cool. I left and instead of going to work I went home and I ended up in the hospital that day. I drove right by the vets office and thought about going in but didn’t and went straight To the ER. That is where they called me later that day so me and told me what Angel had died. They told me it was Renalfailure and that even if I had taking him to the emergency vet it probably would have only bought him a couple days. I should have had him put down that morning so I could be with him but the thought of losing him was more than I could bare. Consequently he suffered more hours than you needed to do it without the one person who should’ve been there for him he’ll he’ll do y

    Consequently he suffered more hours than you needed to do it without the one person who should’ve been there for him. I will take that guilt to b I will take that guilt to my grave.


    1. Mary, one thing that I have learned over the years is that no matter what the circumstances are when I lose one of my babies, I always beat myself up for not doing more. The reality is that guilt is part of grief. Obviously you loved your little guy, and he knew it. Try not to be so hard on yourself.


  4. Struggling now with the oldest of my four doxies. She is 15. Still eating but pain is an issue and a horrible skin condition I have been fighting for 6 months that makes her so itchy. I watch her decline a little more each day but as long as she eats good and enjoys it, and we can control the other issues with meds I keep her close to my heart. Bless you for what you do, I’m so sorry about Colton. 💔😢


  5. I have my 14 year old doxie, Sugar, she is so sweet, but can’t do as much as she used to, but she eats well, seems to get energy at different times, even though it doesn’t last long. Only a few times when she has seemed to hurt herself (yelping a little) then drags one paw just for a few seconds, otherwise she is fine. I love my Sugar, when I picked her out of the litter, my eyes went straight to her & that was it. I dread the day I loose her & God knows I will do anything I can to keep her longer, as long as she isn’t in pain. RIP Colton & run with the rest.


  6. I’m so sorry to hear about sweet Colton. I just received and finished reading your book this weekend and am so in awe of all that you and your amazing family do for these sweet babies. They all have the most important thing in common – no matter how long they get to be with you, they know what it is to be truly loved. Thank you for everything you do. 🙏🏼💖🐾


    1. Patti your post brought tears to my eyes. How very kind of you to say those things. I’m thrilled that you liked my book. The words poured out of my heart so quickly and smoothly that it was a joy to write. I would like to ask your permission to use your post to promote my book. I think word of mouth from fellow dog lovers is the best way to make this the best possible perpetual fund-raiser the sanctuary could ask for.


  7. You gave Colton the last precious gift you could give him, peace for his weary little body. We cant keep them going just to ease our pain, that’s so unfair. He has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.


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