Every Dog Has Their Day

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In the fall of 2001, as a 20-year-old at the University of Texas I decided it was time to adopt a scared and skinny red and white husky from the local animal shelter.  Seriously, I have no clue how a college student thought adopting a dog (eventually two) was smart, but I did it anyway.  And those two crazy huskies were my companions in college, through boyfriends, through moves, through my first job, through meeting my husband and starting a family, and everything in-between.  Eventually we were down to just one dog, the first one, my little husky girl.

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Likely because of whatever she went through before I got her, she never grew to love everyone and everything, but she loved me, and I loved her.

Pets add a whole new layer to travel, as you can’t just head out the door without planning for them.  This isn’t the same level of planning you have with children, but there are some similar logistics you have to account for.  Our husky used to go to doggie daycare and cage free boarding when we traveled.  That was sort of expensive, but pretty simple and straight-forward.  Then she started staying with my parents, or even coming with us on a few car trips as she was getting a bit too old to keep up with the other dogs at boarding.  Then last year we eventually had to get some in-home care for her when we were out of town.  I have a post on tips for traveling with older dogs here.

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Every pet owner knows that one day will be the day, and our furry friends will no longer be with us.  Pet parents of elderly animals are even more acutely aware of that reality.  As the mom of a 15+ year old dog, I am very aware of that reality.

Leaving her behind while we go out of town has gotten very challenging.  She can’t “hold it” through the night, has accidents sometimes, and consequently needs more care and patience than just a walk and a fresh bowl of food each day.  In fact, even transporting her has gotten basically impossible.  But, she’s my girl, she has good days, gets excited about certain things, and we have made it work.  If all this sounds sort of terrible, remember that every feisty young dog that’s lucky will grow to be an old dog, and their owners will face these challenges with them.

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She checked out a few hotels in her older years

Today we are again on the eve of a trip, and the dog is not doing well.  Whether from an acute injury from running when she shouldn’t have, or a sign that her body is giving out, she’s suddenly having a hard time using her back legs very well.  There will be out-of-town grandparents here in the house while we are gone, but her needs are now probably a little above what can be realistically expected of those not as enamored and devoted to her as I am.

A vet will come to the house today, and we’ll see if some meds are worth a shot in the event she has tweaked something.  I’m not overly optimistic, but as long as she seems to still be trying, I’m trying with her.  When she is done, I’ll be done, too.  Having a flight looming in the morning makes it all the more difficult to make the best decision for your elderly dog in need.  If you have pets and travel with some regularity, there is a decent chance that a situation like this can occur at some point for your family.

It’s not easy.  It’s not fun.  It sucks.  I don’t have the answers for what to do when a pet is ill on the eve of a trip that you can’t really change, but I am here to share our story so you know you’re not the first to make hard decisions for your furry friend knowing you will be away for a few days.

Those not quite as dog enamored as I am could easily say put the darn old dog to sleep and relieve the burden she’s putting on everyone.  Then, just hop on your flight and relax on the beach.  We may not be far off from that ultimate decision, but certainly not for those reasons.

Pets are members of our family, and we don’t take their ailments lightly.  The timing of a pet’s illness or injury with an out-of-town trip that will take the owners away for a few days is a real challenge.  We are lucky that we do have a couple of options for her, but none of them will be perfect, and she will certainly be on my mind while we are gone.

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She tolerates the kiddo…in exchange for treats

 

Has your family ever been traveling when a pet was sick?

Comments

  1. We didn’t have the travel issue, but definitely faced this with our 15 year old, much loved, dog. She went from slightly sick to very sick so very fast. Eventually had to make the hard decision, and boy was it hard. I feel for you!

  2. Not a dog owner, but I feel for you. Tough situation, and no decision will be the wrong decision. When you leave tomorrow I hope you remember that since your dog is close to the end of his/her life it’s a very sad time but cancelling a trip won’t bring the dog back or stop nature from doing it’s thing. You’ve given your dog tons of love and good times. How about toasting your dog at every opportunity starting on the plane?

  3. Ooo, I feel for you. A few years ago we were in Alaska on a trip and called home. The dog was supposed to be with my mom as our 2 daughters are adults, the dog was 13 and we figured my mom’s house would be a calmer, more relaxing atmosphere. After we left our youngest daughter went to my mom’s and took the dog back to our house thinking the dog was too stressed out. She got more stressed and did something to her back. The rest of the time we were gone the dog had to be lifted up and down the stairs, on the bed, couch, etc. and given medication. Whatever happens, know that your dog has had a wonderful life with you and she knows that any decision you need to make will be the best for her.

  4. So sorry to hear your “little Husky girl” isn’t feeling well. Hopefully the vet will be able to provide some meds that will make her feel better. We lost our “little Lab boy” while on a trip and so I understand how difficult what you are going through can be. Best of luck to you and your family.

  5. My partner and I got our first pet a couple of weeks after I graduated college and when we were moving for grad school in the summer of 2000. I just had him put down maybe two hours ago. We are sad today, too.

  6. I’m sorry for your predicament. As a dog lover, I feel your pain, and trust that you’ll act in the best interest of your pet/family member. Sometimes, that can mean a painful and difficult decision, I know, but I’m sure that your vet will give you proper guidance.

  7. I’m sorry about your beautiful husky girl- the situation just plain sucks. My senior dog had some scary health issues recently so your post hits close to home. I just make sure to give him the best life possible with lots of love, treats and attention while I’m still fortunate enough to have him. As today is National Love Your Pet Day, I’ve smothered him with so much extra love I think he wants me to back off. I hope your girl feels better soon- she is lucky to have a family so devoted to her.

  8. Hi Summer,
    Pets are definitely part of our families and hard to leave behind on our travels. We have a dog, 2 cats (and 5 chickens in the yard), so generally need someone to stay at our place when we leave (which has it’s good and bad points, but is kinder to the animals). It sounds as though your canine girl has had a fantastic life with you, and you will know when it is time to let her go. I agree with your thought that as long as she has those good days it is worth providing her with the extra care she needs from you. When you are gone, though, it is asking a lot of others to do the same (unless you “hire” them for the job in question). Maybe the vet can board her for you?
    Not an easy decision…..

  9. CJ, so sorry to hear about your day. Big hugs to you!

    The vet came by and thinks it is worth a round of meds to see since she is still eating, trying to walk, etc. So, we’ll see. She will either get a bit better while we are gone with the meds or she won’t, but we are giving her every chance.

  10. I have before the despite the fact that this blog isn’t always the most helpful or interesting to me since I don’t have kids, I have a few times enjoyed the message/stories put forth. Now, with this article, you are permanently on my “thumbs up” list. Good for you for loving your animal like you should. Also, anyone who says you should just put them down and leave are worthless, heartless savages who should be put down themselves.

  11. I had an older dog that went through the occasional seizure for several of her older years. There was constantly a concern for her well being because you just never knew when one could hit. It made going away for an extended period of time difficult, particularly in her last year as her health went downhill. I can definitely sympathize with what you are going through and hope things work out for the best.

  12. I can definitely relate to this post. My husband and I had to cancel our much-anticipated 25th anniversary trip because our 13-year-old Bearded Collie became ill right beforehand. He ended up passing away in our arms a few days before our anniversary. We’d been lucky up to that point and both of our dogs had been very healthy and a joy for our in-home dog sitters.

    We missed the pups when we traveled but we didn’t worry about them because they got to stay in their home with other people who loved them too. They got pampered (can you say omelets for breakfast and pork chops for dinner?) and it was sort of like their vacation.

    We’re down to one dog now (a 12 year old) and I find we’re going away less for all the reasons you mentioned in your post. I want to treasure every last minute with her. The world’s cities will be waiting for us when we once again have time in our schedule.

    I’m hoping your precious husky feels better soon and you’ll both know when the time is right to say, “until we meet again.”

  13. Summer,

    Our “puppy” that we rescued is now the ripe old age of 12 (13? I’m bad with ages) and has had similar issues. Her back legs stopped working last year and we thought it was old age. We struggled through a number of solutions that didn’t work and had lost almost all hope. Even though she tested negative for Lyme disease, they tried treating her for that and she ultimately gained a lot of the mobility she lost. She’s not completely back to her old self, but she’s made a lot of progress. It’s changed how we plan travel and we’ll ultimately have to make the same decision you will, we’re just hoping it’s further down the road. I’ve told my wife I’m not sure how to discuss it with the kids when the day comes as I’ll likely be crying just as much as they will be. I sincerely hope your husky girl sees better days ahead.

  14. Wishing you the best of luck with your girl. I’ve been there more than once, and it breaks your heart. But she’s had a wonderful life with you and hopefully that will comfort you when the time comes. In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing and just love her.

  15. Believe it or not, this situation can also be a gift for the out of town grandparents that are providing the sitting services while your are away.
    I haven’t personally had a dog for well over 30 years but ‘my dogs’ have lived at the neighbors house. My wife and I have provided doggie day care service during many of the neighbor’s vacations and those brief times when they couldn’t get home to in time feed, water, etc the dog.
    I am sure that you have apprehension in leaving but I am sure your furry friend will be way more at ease having a family member staying with and caring for her.
    I thoughts are with all of you!

  16. Big hugs to you, it is soooo sad, been there 🙁 We were on Kauai when our senior Golden got very sick while staying with Grandma. I almost flew home that night but the emergency vet was able to help her and she responded quickly to medication so I held off. Grandma brought her back to our house for the last few days of our trip and we were able to finish our vacation. It was very stressful for sure and I hated that we were so far away. Our sweet girl had been a rescue we adopted at age 10, she had been through a lot and I was scared to death she would pass without me there. It all worked out but my heart goes out to you this weekend, Summer. HUGS

  17. We had one of our friends stay at our apartment when we left our 14+ year old poodle for our first big overseas trip to Japan. We had our doubts if she would make it while we were away. She did, and made it all through her 18th birthday, partially blind, memory impaired and incontinent. Eventually the inevitable became the present. We still miss the times when she got herself stuck in the place between the couch and chair and didn’t know how to get out. It sucks. But as a loving furry parent, you’ll know when…. Our vet (whom we love) told us that every dog wishes they have a loving person like you as part of their pack. After reading the post today, I am sure the same for you.

  18. I miss my doggie; she’s been gone for 25 years. I understand every word that you wrote. You keep fighting until she’s ready to say goodbye. There’s a unconditional love between owner and pet where the pet is no longer an ‘animal’ but rather a member of the family. When she’s gone, it will not be easy- just something that one gets used to, but never easy. Cherish every moment. *hug*

  19. Summer and Community,

    Reading this post and comments this evening after traveling all day today really tugged at my heartstrings and then made me smile. You see, last year I was traveling 3000 miles away and my beloved Porty (Portuguese Water Dog) Lilly was with my parents. I had had her since I was 16 and at 15 y/o she was the dog that kept on ticking. She was there for me through highschool and college graduation, good and bad times, relationships, moves, and my first home purchase. While I was gone she became very ill and my Mom called saying that they took her to the vet and that she had to be put down, that cancer had spread. I was devastated! It’s still hard sometimes a year later when I think about her, but all the memories make me smile. Reading everyone’s comments on here, makes me smile to know that our fury family members really are special.

  20. Thank you so much Mommy Points for posting such an article. My Samoyed puppy is also very old and it was nice to know you are not the only one that cares about our furry friends and the challenges with traveling. If I could he would always travel with us and even as gone as far as feeling like the only item that didn’t make Hawaii paradise was our puppy back home. We have a sweet little son now but the puppy will always have a special place as man’s best friend in our hearts. We know his day will be here sooner than later but in the meantime we will hold on to him till he is not happy anymore.

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