The Last Walk

October 25, 2012  

StubbyDog contributor Kirstyn Northrop Cobb reports on a special new book aimed at helping dog guardians with their aging canines


By Kirstyn Northrop Cobb

Seven years old. That’s the age that your dog is considered a senior citizen. Seven years. We all know that our beloved companions don’t live as long as we do and certainly not as long as we would like them to.

For Jessica Pierce, it was the aging of her Ody that brought this all home. Jessica has chronicled it all in her latest book, “The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jessica about Ody, her book and what she hoped to achieve by writing it.

The book is much more than just a tribute to Ody, it’s also an educational tool. In addition to learning a lot from Ody aging and showing signs of aging, it also brings awareness to the fact that not everyone understands that things like slowing down may actually be signs of arthritis, and the dog may actually be in pain. By writing about her journey into aging with Ody, she hopes that others can pick up on the little signs that their own aging dog may be showing, and work with them and their veterinarian to make the aging process more comfortable. Jessica takes you with her as she goes with Ody through the moral and ethical issues surrounding the aging of our canine companions. She discusses everything from the start of the little signs to the end of life euthanasia discussion.

Jessica also brings up the heart breaking fact that older dogs are often brought into shelters because of any number of things. One example that she gave is that older dogs can often have bladder problems that cause incontinence.

These dogs may be seen as “bad dogs” that have lost interest in house training, but in fact, they have a medical problem that could be easily fixed. Jessica also has concerns that some older dogs belong to older people who, for one reason or another, are no longer able to care for them, and these dogs are brought by family members into shelters. Her heart breaks for the elderly person who not only had to give up their companion, but for the poor, frightened older animal who is in a shelter and, because older animals are less likely to find homes, may not leave the shelter. Jessica hopes to bring attention to these older dogs in shelters as well.

The topics discussed in “The Last Walk” impact all families with dogs. Jessica Pierce is truly an individual with a heart and genuine friend to our senior animals.

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Comments

17 Responses to “The Last Walk”
  1. JudithShipstad says:

    Euthnasia is murder. Stop killing sick animals.

  2. JudithShipstad says:

    Euthanasia is obscene. Stop killing sick animals! What a betrayal of an old friend.

    • VictoriaLynn says:

      So what are you supposed to do instead? Let them suffer or dope them up on medication?

      • JudithShipstad says:

        We need to take the excusing word “suffering” out of our vocabulary–it would save a lot of lives. What you call “dope them up on medication” is what others might call “administering proper medication.” An individual’s body knows on its own when to give out.

    • LisaHarperShaffmaster says:

      When an elderly pet is in the process of dying, conditions such as pneumonia and kidney failure are common. Frequently, as a pet approaches death, they will cease to eat or drink. When this has persisted for a couple of days, there is the very real possibility of extreme suffering if natural death is delayed. Even if your pet seems to be resting comfortably, once they cease drinking, convulsions are a real possibility as death approaches. This is the time, when a veterinarian can ease your friend into death with no more discomfort. Properly administered, while in your arms, euthanasia can be the most loving thing you can do for your pet. Some vets will even come to your home.

      • JudithShipstad says:

        Yeah, and those pervert vets charge money for killing your pet, do they make a profit, don’t they? That someone would hold a pet in their arms while allowing him or her to be killed is chilling. It’s bad enough be be ill but having to fight off a killer at the same time is worse. Everything in creation dies a natural death and has for aeons; denying pets a natural death is yet another way we arrogantly exercise control over animals. When I get old and sick, don’t do me any favors, please!

        • LisaHarperShaffmaster says:

          You seem well intentioned Judith, but I suspect that you have never been present at a deathbed. When you become acquainted with the process of death up close (human or non human), I would hope that that your opinion will moderate. There was a time in my life when I might have spoken as you have, but time and the suffering of those I love have taught me wisdom. I hope that when I am at the very end of my life, and struggling with the inevitable passage out of this world, that someone who truly loves and values me will help me in any way I require. I do not wish to suffer at the end.

        • JudithShipstad says:

          Good intentions pave the road to Hell as they say… But really none of this has to do with me or my intentions. Even if I had never been born, it would still be wrong to take somebody’s life, especially a sickling fighting to hang on. Someday when you’re suffering there in your sickbed, and you ask me to do you in, I’m sorry but the answer will be_________.

      • PatriciaConnolly says:

        @LisaHarperShaffmaster
         I have chosen this for my beloved pets.  They will pass at home, in dignity, in my loving arms, as hard as it will be for me I will not let them die alone and unloved.

    • LeahDresser says:

      Our German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix, Kaya, was in extreme discomfort at the end of her life. She was 17 years old, and suffered from severe hip displaysia and arthritis. She had gone deaf, and was losing her eyesight as well. She cried during the night, because lying down hurt her sore joints. She had to be carried up and down the stairs to go outside. When she was no longer willing to stand up to eat her food, we knew it was time to let her go. What kind of life would it have been for her to live in so much pain? Her quality of life was gone. In her younger years, she was an extremely active dog. She had an incredible toy drive and would chase frisbees for hours. She was the matriarch of the family, always bossing our rottie/shepherd Kodie around and keeping the cats in check. She was an extremely intelligent animal who bored easily – activity was the foundation of her life. Choosing to euthanize her spared her from what could have been months of suffering, and allowed her to die with dignity, safe and secure with the people she loved. She went peacefully, not feeling any pain. If we had not chosen euthanasia, she could have died alone, or died in pain or fear. It was obvious that she was never going to “get better”. She lived a long, fulfilling, happy life, and euthanasia allowed her to leave this world in peace and security. Now, euthanizing a healthy animal with no severe behavioral issues, like shelters do every day by the thousands…THAT is obscene. And I hesitate to call it euthanasia…it’s murder.

      • JudithShipstad says:

        It’s all murder–it’s all obscene. In this human-infested world, neither pets nor strays seem to have the privilege of a natural death anymore.

        • LeahDresser says:

          Why is a natural death a privilege when an animal is in pain? Would you want your last moment to be in excruciating pain, or would you want it to be peaceful and painless, next to your loved ones? Animals don’t understand the concept of death – but they certainly understand pain and discomfort. I would never euthanize an animal unless it was clear that they had no more quality of life. If a dog is suffering from a debilitating disease, like cancer, it almost seems cruel to let them live in a state of pain and confusion. There are many humans who would opt for assisted suicide if it were available to them. It would be nice if everyone was guaranteed to pass away peacefully in their sleep – but unfortunately that’s just not how it is. I don’t want my pets last moments to be painful.

        • JudithShipstad says:

          Pain is part of life. A natural part, I might add. Unfortunately, coming into the physical world and going out of it both involve some degree of stress. If you’re worried about pain, try a morphine drip.

        • LisaHarperShaffmaster says:

          If you are fine with watching the panic in the eyes of a loved one gasping for breath, slowly asphyxiating as their lungs fill with fluid over the course of hours or days, or convulsive seizures that sometimes accompany kidney failure, then you are welcome to your “natural death”. Morphine drips are valuable components of palliative care for humans in hospice, but less discussed is the effect that morphine has of not just easing distress, but also slightly suppressing respiration, easing the path to death. When a pet is struggling in the process of dying, the veterinarian has two shots prepared. The first is an anesthetic which allows the pet to slip from consciousness. Often, in pets that are extremely close to death, it is this shot that results in cessation of life. The second injection will stop the heart while the pet is unconscious. Sometimes “natural death” is rapid, and with little trauma. Sometimes it is horrendous. You are right that both birth and death involve “some degree of stress”. I, was fortunate to give birth to my son in after eight hours of fairly standard labor in a pleasant birthing room. My niece however, labored for three days while the muscles of her lower abdomen ruptured, she hemorrhaged, and finally underwent a caesarean section. Deciding what is “natural”, ahead of time is naive. Insisting on it as a point of moral law can be needlessly cruel.

        • JudithShipstad says:

          @LisaHarperShaffmaster Please don’t walk me through the grisly details. Some people just shouldn’t have animals in their care if they’re going to play Dr. Kevorkian at the end. That shit the vet injects into a living body wreaks as much violence to the inner system as a fatal beating would on the outside. You just don’t see it happening, so you pass it off as “peacefull.” Do it to yourself if you find it appealing, but don’t force it on another individual, especially of another species. What a dirty trick.

  3. VictoriaLynn says:

    So are you just supposed to let them suffer? Or dope them up on medication?

  4. LeahDresser says:

    Our German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix, Kaya, was in extreme discomfort at the end of her life. She was 17 years old, and suffered from severe hip displaysia and arthritis. She had gone deaf, and was losing her eyesight as well. She cried during the night, because lying down hurt her sore joints. She had to be carried up and down the stairs to go outside. When she was no longer willing to stand up to eat her food, we knew it was time to let her go. What kind of life would it have been for her to live in so much pain? Her quality of life was gone. In her younger years, she was an extremely active dog. She had an incredible toy drive and would chase frisbees for hours. She was the matriarch of the family, always bossing our rottie/shepherd Kodie around and keeping the cats in check. She was an extremely intelligent animal who bored easily – activity was the foundation of her life. Choosing to euthanize her spared her from what could have been months of suffering, and allowed her to die with dignity, safe and secure with the people she loved. She went peacefully, not feeling any pain. If we had not chosen euthanasia, she could have died alone, or died in pain or fear. It was obvious that she was never going to “get better”. She lived a long, fulfilling, happy life, and euthanasia allowed her to leave this world in peace and security. Now, euthanizing a healthy animal with no severe behavioral issues, like shelters do every day by the thousands…THAT is obscene. And I hesitate to call it euthanasia…it’s murder.