We had to put our dog Mystery to sleep yesterday. He was a long haired black & white Shih Tzu-Terrier mix about 14 years old. We never knew exactly how old he was. My wife got him from a rescue foundation. They estimated him to be about 3 years old. He had two speeds on or off. There was no middle ground for him which was hard for his last year of life. Being a relatively active dog, we’d often say he suffered from Restless Dog Syndrome. Since he’d had bad nutrition as a pup he was prone to back injuries and in his last two years of life we put in on a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) which seemed to help. He became progressively unsteady and had to pee squatting like a puppy, no longer able to raise his leg. And he slowed way down. I used to take him for 30 and 40 minute walks around the neighborhood near the end it was 5 to 10 minute walks in the front yard and neighbor’s yard.
He was always jumping up and down off the couch, not good for a small dog. We had stairs for him to go up and down, but he didn’t always use them to go down. At our old house in Tulsa, he’d sit on the back patio watching squirrels bold enough to get a sip of water from our koi pond then he’d take off after them chasing them up the pecan tree. He harassed a neighborhood cat who liked to sleep under the bridge over the koi pond. It was shaped like a bent dumbbell, the Japanese style bridge over the bar. One time he caught the cat unawares, In it’s mad scramble to escape it managed to fall partway into the pond before climbing the fence.
The only time Mystery would bark was at cats, although he was good at making other sounds. When I walked him around our new neighborhood and saw a cat, he’d bark and try to take off after it. As he got older, his sight and his hearing went. Now a cat could be six feet away and he wouldn’t notice. Sometimes in the winter a cat would be on a chair pushed up under our patio table. It had a tarp over the table and seats were cushioned, so a logical spot to get out of the wind and stay warm, but when I let Mystery out back to go do his business, he’d harass the cat and it would take off. Until that moment I hadn’t know there was a cat under the table.
Mystery was the dog of a thousand nicknames, El Pesto, Pookie, Pookalie-Bookalie, El Pupito, Mr. Snarkly-Barkley, Dumbass, Mr. Drama King (and he was a drama queen at times), to name a few, but we mostly called him Pookie. He knew how to charm people. There were numerous times I’d be walking him down the street and people would stop their cars to say what a cute dog he was. And cute he was. We couldn’t let him near small children or men in baseball caps; he’d preemptively attack them. He’d been abused as a pup and my wife had rehabilitated him over all his phobias except children. Although this past Christmas with his sight and hearing mostly gone, I was able to hold him and let one of my nephews and niece pet on him. He didn’t get too upset.
After he injured his back 15 months ago coming down the stairs, we had to confine him to a pen and not let him try to jump up on the furniture anymore. Then last November, he developed an ulcer and glaucoma in his left eye. Surgery was out of the question. He was too old. So a vet ophthalmologist prescribed an aggressive eye drop treatment (5 different meds twice a day, one of his last nicknames was Overly Medicated Dog). For a few weeks he even had to put the dreaded dog cone on his neck. Although the ulcer healed, we could not get the pressure down to acceptable levels. His right eye had a calcium deposit and we feared it would slough off to creating another ulcer.
There are more stories I could tell, about the time he got a tomato seed in the eye, stole a bite of steak off of my wife’s plate sitting on the couch beside her, but I’ll save those for later. He was a good dog, a frustrating dog at times. Our goal was always to make sure he had a decent quality of life remaining but with the back, the hearing, the sight, and sense of smell and taste going, we knew it was time. I stopped all but two of his meds. He never liked receiving the eye drops.
On his last day, I fed him some pieces of grilled chicken. He’d actually stopped eating dog food two days earlier. Early in the afternoon, I took him for a final walk, I brushed his fur and took a short nap with him. When it was time we got in the car, I picked up the wife at work and we went to the vet. It was over quick, but not before one last bit of drama. He never liked having his feet touched, so they had to put a catheter in to be able to administer the drug. He did whine and cry in drama king fashion, but when they were done with the catheter, he was back to his self. We petted him as the drug was injected. The life left him as if a switch were turned off. We’d said our goodbyes and left.