The Day Colby Died

Having had some time to digest the happenings over the past few days, a few people have asked for the “what happened” with Colby. Here is a brief insight.

Over the weekend Colby had a couple of great days. He seemed very happy and nothing really out of the ordinary (for us). He still had issues with his legs, and we continued to help him up when the need was there (and adjust his legs given they sometimes had a mind of their own).

Sunday night Colby had some leftover steak and seemed to be very happy and settled down for the evening. Chris and I had a couple of friends over and were sitting outside just chatting away and solving the world’s problems as we sometimes do.

We came inside and heard a shuffling sound, and I realized that Colby was on the tile and appeared to be trying to get up, but couldn’t. When I went to assist him to get up, I found he had peed where he was laying and this had made the tile slippery. This had happened once before a few weeks back, so I tried to get him up and onto his bed or carpet area, but found that he was not able to stand up. He was panting excessively, trembling and appeared distressed, but did not seem to be in much pain.

We managed to carry/assist him outside in the front yard to try to cool him down, but he had very little coordination or control over his ability to stand. We figured this was most likely due to the attempts he had been making to get up and he may have strained something. We noticed that one of his front legs was not working correctly, and his paw was kind of doubled over. My first thought was he looked like he had a stroke. We got him outside, and gave him water to help him cool down. His panting never really subsided and while we were able to get him to stand from time to time, he had very little stability. As he didn’t seem to be in much pain, we tried to keep him exerting himself and to drink some water. He managed to drink water but the panting did not subside. He seemed to want to walk somewhere, but we’re not sure where and this was probably because he was uncomfortable or disoriented.

After about an hour (maybe less) we realized that his panting was not subsiding, and we decided to take him to the Emergency Vet. As a side note, over the past few months, when you try to lift Colby (what we called “elevator”) to get him into the car, or over a step he would often growl or try to nip at you (not in a bad way, but in a crotchety old-man kind of way). That night, Colby did not make any attempts to deter us from lifting him. It was like he knew he didn’t have a choice so why resist (at least that is how we thought of this). This was also an indication that something wasn’t quite right.

We got to the vet, and after an exam, she presented a number of possible causes, and most of them related to his age. The vet did explain that he was continuing to pant very heavily, and appeared disoriented. She advised that there was an issue with his pupils (one was much larger than the other), and that his leg was still not functioning like it should. She presented three possible causes:

  • reaction to something he had eaten or consumed (though she pretty much ruled this out after asking if he had been exposed to anything unusual),
  • the issue could be neurological, which would explain the pupils and the muscle issues,
  • or it could have been something impacting the brain, like a tumor.

While the vet did not say it was a tumor, she seemed to lean in that direction given the factors. She did advise that we could have had an MRI done, some extensive blood work, and some observations overnight. He was probably not in pain, but he was disoriented and distressed. Chris and I considered all of the options, scenarios and ultimately came to the decision that the best option for Colby was to say goodbye to Colby.  Our primary decision points were that we felt it was unlikely he would recover (heavy breathing continued even after more than 20 minutes after being sedated), and that even if by some miracle he could fully recover, he was already quite old for his size, feeble and likely had a very short time remaining in any event. We were also terrified that he might die overnight at the hospital, and that we would not be there with him.

As any of you who know me and Chris know, this decision was not made lightly and without a great deal of anxiety and tears. We always wanted what was best for our sweet boys. Bosley made this decision easier for us, but Colby was so different. Colby was old, and his body didn’t do what he wanted it to do, but that is what happens.

We were tearing out hearts apart with the decision that we made, and saying goodbye to Colby was one of the hardest things we have ever done. Colby was heavily sedated when we said our goodbyes, but he could hear us and we reminded him how much he was loved and how much he and his brother had changed our lives.

We stayed in the room with him, petting him while the doctor did what needed to be done, and we were with him until the very end, as we were with Bosley.  At around 3:45 AM on Monday morning, Colby died.

We are very proud that we were able to keep Colby healthy and happy and with little discomfort as his strength waned over the last year.  We know that we did everything that we could for him and we have no regrets.  It is a shame that dogs’ life spans are so much shorter than ours, but as one saying goes – they are such perfect and innocent creatures with nothing but love for people that they require less time to get their lives right than we humans do. For those who have never had to do it, the “final act of kindness” is very difficult for most people to decide, but a very important responsibility of a pet owner.