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Old 06-13-2018, 11:47 AM   #1
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Default Saying goodbye to Bijou

Bijou passed away on Saturday. He was euthanized at the vet clinic because his quality of life just was not up to par anymore. I often referred to Bijou as being 18, but he was actually just a couple months away from his 18th birthday. Just to tell his story a bit, as I mentioned in some other threads, Bijou has been dealing with dementia. Bijou was first diagnosed with dementia during the beginning of fall of last year I believe, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to see him struggle with that. With everything that Iíve since learned about dementia in dogs, I believe he had first started showing mild symptoms of dementia previous to the fall. He had become withdrawn and also had started to sleep far more than usual during the day. I attributed this to him just getting old, but once he had started the pacing, barking, up all night and sleep all day, etc. thatís when I got him checked out and he got the diagnosis.

With dementia in dogs, it will progress and often does quite quickly. In just a number of months to a year it often becomes noticeably worse. I had Bijou on anipryl medication and I must say that it truly did help him. He improved greatly and it definitely helped his quality of life and I was thinking hey this ainít too bad heís acting like his old self. I was really hoping that his dementia wouldnít progress and that it would just keep at bay. Then all of a sudden a few weeks ago he declined rapidly. Basically all of the symptoms he showed before went from being muted to being quite extreme. And there was also some new behaviours that fall under the category of dementia, and it was severe enough that there really wasnít any doubts about him having quality of life. The list of his symptoms were basically everything you could read about dementia in dogs.

So I actually spoke to a couple different vets about it and was maybe thinking I could increase the dosage of medication or do something like that to help him, but apparently he was already at the max dosage and it was not to be increased. There really wasnít anything to do that could help him. As I listened to the vets talk about the brain and dementia it was just like I felt numb. When his decline happened, I first noticed he was struggling to find his water bowl and that the circling behaviour was increasing but not greatly just a bit I guess. In addition he went from drinking tons of water to only drinking a little bit, even if I was continually helping him find his water bowl. Just a couple odd things like that were starting to happen. Then Bijou was staying with my mom for a week while I was out of town (I wouldíve taken him with me but he doesnít like travelling in his old age) and she was telling me how bad he was in terms of his dementia behaviours (circling, staring at walls, barking, etc. etc.), and I was thinking maybe it was just because of the change of environment and I shouldíve told her to stay at my house with him. But I was certain once I got back heíll be in his usual environment and heíll do better, but that didnít happen. I was quite shocked at how bad his symptoms had gotten in just a short period of time and being home with me didnít seem to help at all. So the very difficult decision to euthanize Bijou was made. Not difficult to make because it was obvious that his quality of life wasnít there and he was struggling greatly with confusion and scared and anxiety and really quite horrible symptoms of dementia that were hard to see him display. So when I say difficult decision, I just mean difficult to actually go through with it. I had thought that maybe the stress of changing environments sped up his decline, but then again I did notice some increase in his symptom severity shortly before I left so maybe he was already going down that path. I donít know though. But maybe he was at a point of susceptibility to a speed up of decline. Itís hard to say. But it was shocking how quickly he declined considering that his symptoms, although still there, seemed to be fairly muted since he got on the anipryl drug.

I was 14 years old when Bijou entered my life. My mom was a single parent who was going to University and I believe she also had a part time job at the same time, and she didnít want me to be home alone all the time, so she got Bijou for me. And heís been with me ever since. The only time we were separated for any great length of time was when I went to University. I had to travel south to find a degree granting university because the one here doesnít, and I just simply couldnít afford a place that allows pets. But during that time every phone call and email I shared with my mom was just about asking how Bijou was doing and to send me pictures. Heís been such a huge part of my life. But I knew this day was coming. A number of years ago he really started to slow down and his old age became apparent. And I remember when I started an Instagram page for my dogs I didnít include Bijouís name on it because I knew he was so old and that he wasnít going to be here for many more years. But even knowing that he was a senior and wasnít going to live for many more years doesnít make it any easier to deal with. These past few days have been horrible. I have thousands of pictures of him on my phone, and hundreds more on my computer that were back when people didnít have cameras on their phone. And just all the memories I have of him. Weíve flown on airplanes together, and moved to different cities together, and had birthday parties for him, all the tricks I taught him, and our favorite trails for our walks, and just so many other memories and things that weíve done together. Thatís probably the hardest thing to deal with, just thinking about the memories.

I donít have any regrets though about euthanizing Bijou. It was clearly time because he was not happy and was clearly struggling with a lot of anxiety related to his symptoms. His symptoms had just become too severe. Dementia is a very horrible thing. I did everything I could to accommodate him. When he would start barking, I would bring cheese to him. Smelly aged cheese he really liked. And that would temporarily stop him from barking and he would be focused on the cheese for a bit. Or when he was doing the circling I would simply hold him. But I had to be standing. If I held him when sitting down, he would want to go and do circling. It was like he couldnít control it and had a huge desire to do tons of circling basically until his legs collapsed. I would block off the chairs in the house cause he would always go to them and get stuck. And just other things like that I could do to help him. I work from home so I could and did do everything possible to help him. But even doing that and always being at home with him, it was obvious that this was not a good life for him and that the quality of life just was not there anymore. It was so hard to see him staring at walls, and struggling with extreme circling, and shaking, and the confusion, and the barking at least to me communicated a lot of stress and that he was scared. Just the pitch of it and the way it sounded. And all the other symptoms too were difficult to see him struggle with. I never knew that dogs could get dementia. I just didnít consider it and it didnít click in my mind until his vet diagnosed him. And if Bijou hadnít shown anxiety related to his symptoms or if he didnít seem bothered by it, then I couldíve and wouldíve just simply accommodated him and helped him live with it as comfortably as possible. But that was not to be. I believe he was quite bothered by his symptoms and the constant confusion and everything about the dementia. For awhile I considered being selfish and telling myself that heís ok and he can live like this and itís no big deal. But I was just fantasizing because I will always do whatís best for my dogs. I had multiple consultations with different vets to get an unbiased opinion about quality of life and in my heart I had already known that he was past that point and it was best for him to be euthanized. And in a way that made it a bit easier. I take comfort in knowing that it was what was best for him.

Bijou was family. And more like family than some family is. Itís been really hard to lose him. Iím thankful that there was medication that did help him for a number of months, and I just wish that it worked for longer and that he didnít decline and I couldíve had more time with him. Itís tough thinking about how at least physically he was very healthy. His vet figured his heart would keep him going for probably a few more years. Prior to his dementia, heís never had any health issues or needed to be on medication or anything like that. All he had was a heart murmur that wasnít a concern and heís had that his whole life. His blood work was always perfect and I was very lucky that thereís never been any physical issues with Bijou. Throughout the years his vet has always commented about how he has such good genes because he was so healthy. Iím just completely heartbroken and Iíll miss him forever. Itís a cruel part of life that our pets donít live as long as we do.
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Old 06-13-2018, 12:45 PM   #2
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Hi airplane,

What a beautiful tribute of love and compassion to your guy, Bijou.

Tears in my eyes.

The thousands of photos and zillions of memories may seem painful now. I pray that sooner rather than later, you'll begin to find comfort in the mementos.

Will keep you in my thoughts. --KatysMom
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Old 06-13-2018, 03:03 PM   #3
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Having lost Lil Bit in July and Beamer on Monday I know how heartbroken you are. I am so sorry for your lost. Our furbabies are definitely family. Much love and hugs you.
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Old 06-13-2018, 10:57 PM   #4
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Thank you guys for the kind words. I've been dealing with all the feelings and emotions about losing Bijou, and its been incredibly tough. It's nice that there are people who understand and can empathize in a way I guess. I so badly didn't want to go through with it and I didn't want myself to think I was giving up on him, but I had to be realistic at the same time. It really hurts me that the progression of it, when he was first showing noticeable signs and was soon after diagnosed, to how he was near the end, it was much quicker than I could ever be ready for. I was thinking years not months before it got really bad, especially cause I had him on medication. But in the back of my head I knew that that was possible just with all the research I've been reading on it. I read tons and in a way it gave me comfort just to understand it a bit better, and it also explained the excessive water drinking he was doing. I saw 3 vets and none of them tied it to dementia, and in Bijou's case they probably should've. Oh well. In his case it wouldn't have lead to an earlier diagnosis so it doesn't matter. That was happening at the same time as other stuff.

If there's one thing I want people reading this to consider and learn is to really pay attention to small changes that can happen with senior dogs. In Bijou's case it was becoming withdrawn socially and also far more sleeping during the day than usual. For years he was already sleeping lots, and then it became even more. I wish I didn't just assume its old age that was causing the excessive sleeping and the social withdrawing. I should've taken him to the clinic right away and quizzed the vet about dementia and really had the vet consider that possibility at that time. Maybe then I could've started treatment, be it medication or what have you at that time. Cause, in Bijou's case, that's what happened first before the barking, pacing, excessive water drinking, etc. It just makes sense to me that treatment at an early point will likely lead to the best outcomes. And obviously preventative measures are quite important too. It seems it's always in hindsight that we feel we can understand a situation a bit better.
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Old 06-14-2018, 12:01 AM   #5
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Your post both breaks my heart and gives me strength. I'm going through a possible end-of-life process with my 14-year-old. I share your love for a Yorkie. I hope I only have your wisdom to know when it's time.

I, too, second-guess my decisions and wish things could have turned out differently. What I don't second-guess in reading your post is that Bijou was loved throughout his life. When all is said and done, a dog can't ask for much better treatment than that.

Thanks for sharing your grief and your wisdom. Bijou has made you a better dog owner. Someday I hope you find another dog to fill the hole in your heart.
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Old 06-14-2018, 07:26 AM   #6
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So sorry for your loss . I know it’s hard especially since she grew up with you . Hang in there .
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Old 06-14-2018, 11:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alaskayorkie View Post
Your post both breaks my heart and gives me strength. I'm going through a possible end-of-life process with my 14-year-old. I share your love for a Yorkie. I hope I only have your wisdom to know when it's time.

I, too, second-guess my decisions and wish things could have turned out differently. What I don't second-guess in reading your post is that Bijou was loved throughout his life. When all is said and done, a dog can't ask for much better treatment than that.

Thanks for sharing your grief and your wisdom. Bijou has made you a better dog owner. Someday I hope you find another dog to fill the hole in your heart.
Thank you so much! And I will say you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned strength. It takes a huge amount of strength to do it. It was for Bijou. And I wouldnít have been able to do it unless it was for him. Even though I knew it was the best and right thing to do for him, and I believe I got the timing right, even with that itís still incredibly traumatic. Itís the hardest thing Iíve ever done in my life. I feel traumatized. I havenít been able to eat. I donít sleep well. And Iím bursting into tears all day long for the last number of days. Itís been so hard.

I think euthanasia for dementia is a bit different than in other cases such as untreatable horrible cancers or whatever other things where thereís no doubt that the humane thing to do is euthanize. In dementia the suffering and the pain isnít really physical, itís more emotional and mental. With dementia I think some dogs can cope with it better and itís just an inconvenience but they still have lots of joy and quality of life. And Bijou was like that until his symptom severity intensified. And then there was lots of whimpering, shaking, and the barking really increased, and just lots of anxiety. And he lost his presence - his mental presence. If that makes any sense. He wasnít enjoying life anymore. He was struggling to cope with the dementia.

It wouldíve been more cruel of me to let him live like that. And I saw that it wasnít just a few bad days in a row or a week. This was something that wasnít gonna get better. He was now on a different level of dementia. From when he was awake to when he went to sleep, all he did was struggle with his symptoms. So it makes it easier knowing that I feel like I got the timing right. I wouldíve had incredible guilt if I thought I was early or late with euthanizing him. Arguably I could say that the only bit of joy he showed near the end was that when he was hungry heíd show a preference for certain foods over others. He liked it when I bought him the baby burger from A&W. lol. So his taste buds were still working good. But I wasnít gonna wait until he stops eating completely. It didnít make sense to give that huge weight in my calculation of his quality of life. I can say with certainty that Iím very comfortable with my timing of euthanasia for Bijou.

When people say itís a gift of love for your dog, thatís completely true. I know a groomer who was telling me about a 20 yr old dog a woman brings in, and the poor dog has no quality of life and is clearly suffering terribly, but the owner doesnít believe in it or doesnít have the strength to euthanize her dog. Many vets have stories like that too. And thatís just not right to me. As hard as it is, it really is a final gift of love for your pet. You just simply have to do whatís best for your dog, even if itíll hurt worse than anything. I had 18 amazing beautiful healthy years with Bijou. I was lucky that he lived a healthy life for as long as he did. 18 is pretty old for a dog! Well, almost 18. His birthdate is Aug. 31.
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Old 06-15-2018, 07:29 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airplane View Post
Thank you so much! And I will say you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned strength. It takes a huge amount of strength to do it. It was for Bijou. And I wouldnít have been able to do it unless it was for him. Even though I knew it was the best and right thing to do for him, and I believe I got the timing right, even with that itís still incredibly traumatic. Itís the hardest thing Iíve ever done in my life. I feel traumatized. I havenít been able to eat. I donít sleep well. And Iím bursting into tears all day long for the last number of days. Itís been so hard.

I think euthanasia for dementia is a bit different than in other cases such as untreatable horrible cancers or whatever other things where thereís no doubt that the humane thing to do is euthanize. In dementia the suffering and the pain isnít really physical, itís more emotional and mental. With dementia I think some dogs can cope with it better and itís just an inconvenience but they still have lots of joy and quality of life. And Bijou was like that until his symptom severity intensified. And then there was lots of whimpering, shaking, and the barking really increased, and just lots of anxiety. And he lost his presence - his mental presence. If that makes any sense. He wasnít enjoying life anymore. He was struggling to cope with the dementia.

It wouldíve been more cruel of me to let him live like that. And I saw that it wasnít just a few bad days in a row or a week. This was something that wasnít gonna get better. He was now on a different level of dementia. From when he was awake to when he went to sleep, all he did was struggle with his symptoms. So it makes it easier knowing that I feel like I got the timing right. I wouldíve had incredible guilt if I thought I was early or late with euthanizing him. Arguably I could say that the only bit of joy he showed near the end was that when he was hungry heíd show a preference for certain foods over others. He liked it when I bought him the baby burger from A&W. lol. So his taste buds were still working good. But I wasnít gonna wait until he stops eating completely. It didnít make sense to give that huge weight in my calculation of his quality of life. I can say with certainty that Iím very comfortable with my timing of euthanasia for Bijou.

When people say itís a gift of love for your dog, thatís completely true. I know a groomer who was telling me about a 20 yr old dog a woman brings in, and the poor dog has no quality of life and is clearly suffering terribly, but the owner doesnít believe in it or doesnít have the strength to euthanize her dog. Many vets have stories like that too. And thatís just not right to me. As hard as it is, it really is a final gift of love for your pet. You just simply have to do whatís best for your dog, even if itíll hurt worse than anything. I had 18 amazing beautiful healthy years with Bijou. I was lucky that he lived a healthy life for as long as he did. 18 is pretty old for a dog! Well, almost 18. His birthdate is Aug. 31.
Again, thank you for sharing. You have no idea how much your words ring true to me.
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