Otto is still here

A lot of old dogs have good days and bad days, and even good weeks and bad weeks.

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Last week, I was 100% sure I would be having Otto euthanized at today’s appointment with a veterinarian who provides hospice and home-euthanasia services. I won’t beat around the bush; he’s still with us.

There was one important difference between last week and this: The “heat dome” that has kept California roasting for over a week finally broke, and temperatures dropped all the way down into the 80s, a welcome relief from a week with daily highs over 110°F. As dawn broke this morning, we even got a little spotty rain – bizarre for this area and this time of year, but welcome just the same.

As I said in my last post, Otto has never liked heat, and as an old guy, set in his ways, he was super grumpy about not being able to lay in his damp, shady sandbox outside. He didn’t want to be kept indoors (protected from the heat); he wanted to be outside, but outside was just awful! So he was extra miserable.

The veterinarian who came to my home today was impressed by Otto’s insistence at joining the scrum of dogs to greet her at my home-office door, even as young Boone and middle-aged Woody were knocking into him in their effusive greetings. She also was impressed by his intense interest in the treats I gave her to introduce herself to him. He’s also completely continent, in contrast to many of her other patients. Apparently, a lot of the dogs she sees in this type of practice are much closer to the end before their owners call her in, to the point where they won’t get up to greet someone, aren’t eating much, and are in diapers.

That made me feel a little bad; was I being over-anxious, pulling the trigger too soon? Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been at the deathbed of loved ones – humans – who were in hospice care as well as those who were unable to receive hospice care for some reason; I just don’t want anyone I love to suffer before death. I’ve seen deathbed suffering; it’s ugly and unnecessary.

The doctor put some of my fears at ease. We discussed Otto’s panting, which I have interpreted as a symptom of pain and anxiety. She agreed that pain and anxiety could be a factor in his almost non-stop panting, but said something I’ve never heard before, that a lot of old dogs have enlarged livers (as I have been told Otto also has) and that as the liver enlarges, it pushes up against the diaphragm, and requires a little more forceful breathing.

She agreed that his front paws and elbows appear to be paining him quite a bit, and she could see how he has altered his posture to compensate, but thought that the amount of difficulty he shows in getting up from laying down is not too bad. As skinny as his thighs feel to me now, she thought his muscle tone was decent, given his age.

She also made me feel a bit better about the panic I was in last week. She said that a lot of old dogs have good days and bad days, and even good weeks and bad weeks, but that she often sees old dogs who look like they are death’s door bounce back when minor issues are addressed – and that the heat of last week was just pushing him past his ability to tolerate his chronic arthritic discomfort.

We reviewed his medications; he’s currently on omeprazole (for acid reflux), Galliprant (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory), and Tramadol (a synthetic opioid). She suggested I add gabapentin back into the mix. I have had him on gabapentin before, for many months while he was also being given the Galliprant, but I could not say I ever saw any difference in either his discomfort or sleeping patterns when he was on it. But she thought the third medication might complement the Galliprant and Tramadol together, so I’ll give that a try again.

dogs swimming in lake
Two big fires are burning in northern California, and though one is about 60 miles away and the other is about 150 miles from here, the air quality in the entire Sacramento Valley was awful at the end of last week. That’s the sun going down in the reddish-brown haze over our evening wading and swimming session. ©Nancy Kerns | The Whole Dog Journal

All in all, even though he seemed so much better today than he did last week, I’m so glad I brought this vet in for this examination and consultation. Given Otto’s lifelong aversion to slippery floors and most dogs’ apprehension to going to a vet’s office, it’s understandable that when I take him to see one of his regular vets, he always looks worse than he does as home, wide-eyed, trembling, and shaky. A month ago, I brought him to see his internal medicine doctor, and she seemed more dubious about his ability to go on than even I was last week. This morning, on his home turf, Otto seemed, for the most part, like a creaky, limpy, lumpy version of his usual unfailingly well-mannered and friendly self – if a little more unselfconscious about begging for treats than he ever used to be. Now this veterinarian will have an idea about his current baseline – where he is now, and what “too much” might look like. And I got some reassurance that I’m not doing to wrong thing by trying to keep him around at least a little longer.

A final note: Thank you all for your comments with support and advice. I read and appreciate every single one. I feel truly honored to be able to share my magnificent Otto with you, and I am grateful for your care and feeling for him more than I can possibly say.

114 COMMENTS

  1. So glad that the weather is giving Otto some more comfortable days and that you found the special vet to visit him at home.
    We have a special local vet that only visits for end of life decisions and service. She is wonderful and perfect for that particular job. We had to say good-bye to our sweet Madison over a year ago and Dr. Rebecca made it a better experience for all of us. A loved and loving pet should be able to cross the rainbow bridge from home with family if possible, rather than in a strange building, on a cold metal table.
    Lucky Otto to have you as his mama!

  2. Saying prayers for you both. I am so happy that Otto has made a bit of a comeback (as have we all) after that awful heat last week. You are a wonderful and caring pet parent and I so appreciate you sharing your story with us. It will give me strength to look at all the options when it’s our time. You have informed and helped so many with your diligence and care. Thank you for your posts.

  3. I love that you sharing this process with all of us. I know many of us have been where you are and your chronicling each week beautifully illustrates how patient we all need to be.

  4. I’m so happy for you and Otto to spend more time together. What a difficult decision to have to make on behalf of a beloved friend. I know you’ll do the right thing when the time is right, my heart goes out to you both♥️♥️

  5. Glad you will have more time with your old guy. I’m reading your posts about Otto regularly as I’m in the same situation with my Pyrenees/cattle dog mix, 14 1/2, with good and not so good days. Still more good than bad. Unfortunately, we don’t have a vet who will come to the house and she is traumatized by vet visits, so we’re mostly going it without that support.

    • I am very excited and happy that you have more time with your sweet dog Otto.that is very good news.prayers to you and Otto.I enjoy your posts.thank you.you are a loving dog mom.

  6. Nancy, it warms my heart to read your latest article about Otto. You see, I just lost my baby dog Dexter (Toy Manchester Terrier) quite unexpectedly even though he too was an older (a few months shy of 13) dog had several medical conditions that he has been battling for many years. I love that you will get to spend some more time with Otto. I hope you cherish every moment with him as you never know when it will be the last. I had hoped to have a few more years with Dexter and it breaks my heart that he had to go through that end of life agony in his last few moments of life. Now I just hope he is happy and healthy at the rainbow bridge waiting for the one day that we meet again, this time forever.

  7. Being able to see how you and Otto are working through these massive end of life questions is an amazing gift you are giving us. We rarely have the honor of seeing how someone else deals with such big and deeply personal decisions. Thank you. I’ve lost two of my beloved dogs and one I did well (focused on his needs) and one I didn’t do so well (focused on my loss). And both decisions were made alone. It’s hard alone. Bringing in the hospice vet is brilliant and I will do the same when the time comes. You and all of your dogs are in my thoughts as you move forward.

    • Well said! I was just thinking what a gift her writing is for those who have to go through this. It IS hard alone, and there will always be regrets and “if onlys”, but we always make our decisions out of love. Thanks, Nancy, and Sharon. Happy Days, Otto! Sending lots of love.

  8. We have a mobile vet who see’s Miss Sara at home where she is most happy and not stressed as she is afraid of everything. Miss Sara is a rescue so we have no info on her health but Dr M did a great job of working with us so Sara has a quality life. I would tell everyone about home health care for their animals when you think it is nearing their time. We are so very happy to hear about Otto and hope you have a long time to love on him. Treasure every day with him.

  9. Thank you so much for keeping us posted about your precious Otto. Your sharing the challenges of caring for aging dogs is very helpful.
    Carol

  10. Within the last five years, I had to put my two beloved Beardies down for different reasons: lupoid onchodystophy for my male and scabies for my female. In both cases, while they were otherwise healthy and both had bounced back from fairly serious medical conditions, independent of one another, I made the decision that their quality of life was not what they deserved. Brother and sister from different litters, they were my very best friends. “I” made a selfish decision to put them down (a year apart in their mid teens) based on my perception that 90 days of treatment by the vets was not helping. You are doing the right thing for you and your beloved Otto. While deeply painful for “me,” I know I my heart they are chasing sheep in some infinite meadow as they deserve. When the time is right, you will know. Best to you and Otto.

  11. I am in a similar situation w/Farfel my 15 year old cocker spaniel. He has good days and not so good days. Severe arthritis in his back legs and spine. Gets acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. Plus supplements. Has lost a tremendous amt of weight. I call him my bag of bones. Getting him to eat is a challenge. I make something different every day. He no longer wants to go to the dog park. Has some dementia at night. Sleeps till noon. Interesting point about the panting. I could go on will stop now. Thank u for posting about Otto.

  12. I am so happy Otto will be around and i pray to bring peace to all of you,it is always so hurting when we say good by, hang in there little Otto. love you

  13. My old dog Joey was also in misery because of that awful heat we were suffering through…and while we’re all incredibly grateful the heat has broken, the smoke from the big fires hasn’t. I have to wonder how much the smoke is affecting our dogs’ lungs: when the AQI gurus designate our air as “Unhealthy” or even “Hazardous,” they tell us humans to avoid going outside…but our dogs don’t have that choice.

    Many prayers for you and sweet Otto…I know you’ll cherish every second with him.

  14. Always love reading your articles. This one touches my heart! I am a long time dog owner and lover, Have experienced just what you are writing about more occasions than I wanted. I always find another beautiful friend or two to sit at my side because the rewards of their friendship are remarkable. Otto has a true companion and friend. He will be at peace knowing you were there for him. Bless both of you.

  15. I am so happy for more time for you and magnificent Otto. I appreciate you sharing details from your vets visit and observations. We all want to do right by our beloved pets and making this decision is highly unnatural and unbidden for us humans. Observation, assessment and anecdotes from others helps clarify so we can make a good decision for these souls we love so dearly. Thank you Karen.

  16. So glad for you AND Otto, Woody & Boone! Having a vet they all now know who will make a house call is great. More time & less pain & stress is such a relief, I know

  17. I am from Minnesota and I certainly have been thinking about you… Very hard to loose a pet. One of your previous posts made me want to reach out and didn’t, but now I am. Years ago we had a Norwegian Elk Hound. She was very much a family dog and lived to the age of 12. But before we had to send her to puppy heaven, she would sit by the bed at night and pant right in my ear, continually. I would get up with her and take her outside, but that isn’t what she wanted. So I would sit at the kitchen counter and she would fall so sound asleep by my feet that she would snore away. Took me a bit of time but realized what the problem was, she couldn’t hear much anymore and it bothered her to not be able to protect us at night so she wanted me up so she could sleep. Her way of getting us to know that was to continually pant in our face so we would take over… When a dog cares they really care!! Thinking of you with Otto and look forward to your messages.

  18. Dear Nancy,
    I’ve been a subscriber to WDJ for a long time and have followed Otto from the start. He is just spectacular and always looks like he’s got a lot to say. I really appreciate your blog about his ups and downs – it’s been a few years since I’ve been on the rollercoaster, but it all comes back when I hear someone going through it w their beloveds. I know that the sharing of these experiences during this time is so very helpful to others who might be going through something similar and the support that you receive when you share is equally powerful. You are not only giving Otto the best care but looking beyond to make sure you haven’t missed anything. I can’t tell you how happy I am for hearing that Otto is not only still with us but that he still has some sass. Thank you for sharing with all of us who feel like we know you and him.

  19. You are a good Mom! He is a lucky boy.
    I had to put down my 15-year-old girl two years ago. I did not get to spend her last days with her on a daily basis, so it was brutal on me. Don’t know if I will ever have another dog but am hoping.

  20. As I read your journey with your precious Otto. It makes me try to look at my elderly Dalmatian/Aussie, Jersey. She turned 15 in May. Her subtle decline started after she lost her “life mate” a Jack Russell that she lived her whole life until a year and a half ago. It just seemed like her “spark” had dimmed. I didn’t realize Jersey was mostly deaf now, as the Sophie our Jack Russell was her beacon. I too have Jersey visiting our Canine Fitness Centre for therapy and laser, and this works when her neck and pelvis are out of alignment and causes her unstable movement. Stairs need assistance and Jersey won’t let me out of her sight. She has moments of that spark but her movements are slow and thought out. I too have seen the suffering in Hospice and I will never let any of my pups suffer but its a fine line. Jersey is on the Galliprant. I found that the Gabepentin made her very wobbly and seemed even more stressed. Every day that Jersey wants to walk and come with me and the new one year old Jack Russell, I am grateful. I can’t let my heart even comprehend the loss that I will experience as I am still mourning my late Sophie. Wishing you all the strength and heartfelt passion and commitment to love your Otto the very most when he needs it the most. I will try to do the same with my Jersey.

  21. This is so awesome. There is something so endearing about a senior dog, they just take my heart. Being able to do Rottweiler rescue is so rewarding, especially when you take in a senior dog. Most get that furever home even if it is for a short time. Those that don’t are unconditionally loved until their time comes breaking my heart. Better my heart than their soul in a cold unloving shelter environment.

  22. This just brought tears to my eyes. I know the internal struggle you are dealing with in this journey with Otto. I had the same emotions when facing the decision to euthanize my Buddy. I had the vet scheduled to come out thinking it was time, then he’d get his appetite back and I’d cancel. I’m glad you have more days together. Enjoy every single one of them. This is precious time. Thank you for the photos of him in his sandbox and in the lake. It is evident that he has a great life and is well loved.

  23. Can’t believe Otto is nearing the end of his run. I remember when you got him! I love him, he reminds me of my most favorite dog (I love them all of course) and even looks like him. Bless you for taking such wonderful care of him, he’s one very lucky boy. Good luck. This is a very hard time, I know. Love to you and Otto!

  24. So happy that the vet’s home visit went well. What she said about old dogs having good days and bad rings true from the experience I’m having with my 16 year old Havanese. It’s the dementia that plays a big factor in my opinion. I have been catering to her much more in the last few months and she seems cognitively more aware than she was 6 months ago. At least your boy is still aware of going potty in the appropriate places. That’s what we are finding so hard to live with.
    Good luck to both of you … I hope he has many more days to be with you.

  25. So happy to hear this. As probably many others I went through losing one of my old girls recently. It was peaceful and right, but so painful to me. Reading about Otto and his panting, seeking his cool sandbox, and still alert and happy to greet and always get treats sounds so familiar! Thank you for journaling, I’ve read your words since Rupert! I feel like I know Otto ❤️

  26. Big huge “heart” to you both. I feel like I know Otto so well from the day you brought him home. We are all losing Otto with you. Thank you for sharing this with the WDJ community.

  27. In March of last year I thought I’d have to say goodbye to my old, arthritic lab-mix girl after she ended up splayed in the gutter when trying to go up the curb in front of our house. She was already on Galliprant, Cosequin, gabapentin, Adequan, and DGP, plus Sam-e and milk thistle (for high liver enzymes the previous year). My vet added tramadol, and it was like a miracle. With the pain relieved, she built muscle and gained some of her balance again. We’ve had to increase the dose about every 6 months as she builds tolerance to it, but because the only concern is quality of life I don’t care how high the dose gets. I also didn’t think the gabapentin was helping her, but kept her on it. A few weeks ago, when a tramadol increase didn’t seem to help much, her gabapentin was increased from 2x/day to 3x/day, and she’s doing much better. A blood test done a couple of weeks ago shows that her liver is still ok. She, too, has a wide range of how good or bad her days seem, but today she’s pretty good. I understand exactly what you’re dealing with and also understand the emotional churn over making the right choice. I’m glad Otto’s new vet helped you both and wish you as many good days with him as you can possibly have. Making sure our loved ones have a good death isn’t for the feint of heart, but it’s one of the most meaningful things we can ever do. All the best to you both!

  28. Nancy, I am so happy to read your blog this morning with this glimmer of hope for Otto. I’ve been following you and Otto well before Boone’s addition to you pack.
    I live on the west coast of Florida so am aware of the affect the heat has on our loved ones. Your cooler temps seem to have given Otto a new lease on life and it’s gratifying to hear Otto is back in his sandbox enjoying life again.
    Prayers that he will continue to brighten your life with his presence. Such a personality your boy has and his love for you. ❤️

  29. Thank you for sharing your journey with Otto… it’s helpful to those of us with aging pups, and it’s just a lovely reminder of the power of our connections with them. I’m glad for your work on WDJ, and I’m glad that Otto is still with us….

  30. Old dogs are so very special but they do bring us extra concern. I am so happy to read Otto will have some more time with you. We never have enough time with them so more is good!

  31. Nancy, so happy to hear that you and Otto will have more time together. Your blog brings smiles and tears to my eyes. May God bless you both and just know that I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you so much for sharing.

  32. Yippee for Otto and you. So glad to read what the vet had to say about old dogs. It definitely will help me evaluate Dolce in the future.

  33. Much love and cheers to you and Otto. My Inca will be 16 next week (Sept 22) and your article helps me realize how spunky and active she still is, doing zoomies at the river, swimming a bit, etc. She does exhibit panting, joint pain, etc. Her senior wellness exam is in a couple weeks. I, too, noticed that when our weather cooled down (Bellingham, WA) , she got even happier and more active.

    Thank you for sharing!

  34. Nancy, thank you for sharing this tender process with us, your devoted readers. Your model of being a loving and responsible human companion to Otto is a model for all dog owners. I know you have been through the deaths of other beloved pups, but it seems that each one is unique and as if it’s never happened before. May you and Otto continue to enjoy your loving connection in this world as long as possible and then from the other world when it’s time to say goodbye.

  35. What a beautiful story….you truly wear your heart on your sleeve. Thank you for sharing It with your readers.
    End of life decisions are often difficult, for our loved ones and our 4-legged family members. Your openness about the humaneness of assisted death is refreshing.
    Sending support and love as you spend the time you still have with your dear Otto.

  36. Thank you for the update on both you and Otto…your heart and your wonderful boy will let you know when it is time..until then, cherish all the moments…Peace to you both…

  37. Thank you for the Otto update! If he’s having a lot of trouble on slippery floors, you might consider Dr Buzby’s Toe Grips. I used them for my old girl, Keene, and they helped her feel more confident and stable before she passed.

  38. Nancy,
    Consider yet another layer of medication for Otto—amantadine. This additional layer (Galliprant, tramadol, gabapentin plus amantadine) may provide Otto with additional relief. We successfully used a similar combination (carprofen, tramadol, gabapentin and amantadine) to keep our dogs, one who had degenerative myelopathy and one who had spinal neuropathy, comfortable and mobile. Good luck to Otto and you.

  39. Along with lots of other folks I want to send you my best wishes and love as I know what you’re going through. It’s hard times and heart aching. But what I really wanted to say is the awful heat last week put us thru a lot , I have an adopted a nine-year-old border collie who much prefers to lie at the front gate or pace the path he’s worn along the front fence, or when it gets warm he lays in the open garage door looking out at that same area. But during the heat the last couple of weeks he’s been reluctant to come inside, but at 1 or 2 PM I would go out and call him in with a treat or two and keep him in until it eases up until after their dinner at 5 PM. I have a pug cross also but he’s smart enough to come inside, Hank will not give up his duty and unless I ‘encourage’ him. That heat dome we had certainly put us dog owners through a lot, but thank all the gods that things are cooler. Best of luck to you Nancy ,
    Peggie

  40. Otto is so fortunate to be a part of your loving family! His recent “rally” makes my heart happy for all of you… That helps to soften the difficult times… Take care.

  41. It’s almost 2 years since we had our old boy (18 days short of 16 years old) euthanized but still this brings tears to my eyes. It’s the hardest part of owning a beloved pet.
    I’m glad the heat has improved so that Otto is more comfortable and still with you. You are doing your best for him and with help will know when the time has come to make that decision. It’s so hard but you will do the best for Otto, in the meantime enjoy him and the time you have left. My heart is aching for you but it’s obvious that Otto is in good hands. Hugs

  42. So glad that Otto is still around. Glad you found a vet to make a house call. You encourage me to keep up with my senior Great Labradane, Hope Joyful, who is 85 lbs, and about 9 1/2 years old. I too, have given him less than 1/8 cup of kibble to keep stool easy to pick up, otherwise it is all fresh whole food, and excellent supplements. She sleeps more and sometimes worries me but she is alert, looks to go for short works, drinks a lot more, before she did not drink enough, greats anyone who comes to door or visits no problems going to void herself. So I am keeping her as long as possible. Your review to us about Otto, encourages all of us with senior dogs. God bless you and your wonderful Otto, as well as the other adorable dogs.

  43. I know the break in the weather had to make Otto far more comfortable (it certainly helps everyone in CA!). I’m so glad the vet came for an assessment, and I hope you have many more lovely times spent together. Healing slurps to Otto!
    Kathy, Tallulah, and Tucker

  44. I am so glad that Otto is still with you and with everyone else who reads your articles. The important factor in this article as well as in every other article you write is your love for Otto. I was in tears over Otto after reading your last article, today I am overjoyed that he is still there with you. Your great love for him speaks in every word you write, and there is no greater testament to your love than your regard for him and the care you devote to his well-being. It means that you are fully committed to him in every aspect. I wish that all animal owners were like you.

  45. Nancy, I could be the one that wrote this. After a horrific night with my 14+ cairn terrier (a rescue) with him having a second seizure and the aftermath, I was sure our vet was going to say it was time. I went in with no appointment before the doors even opened. He was wonderful in talking me off the cliff. Henri has pluminary hypertension Diagnosed January of this year with only a 6 to 9 months timeline by the cardiologist. My vet says he is in pretty good shape considering. On the line of mild to severe he would put him on the low end of moderate. I know we can not deal with the idea of our babies in pain or suffering. I too lost a love one who had Alzheimer’s. Totally set my feelings about pain and suffering, which should never be allowed to just go on.

    I am so happy that your worry was relieved. You are blessed to have such a vet in your area. Thank goodness the weather has given Otto a break.

    My prayers for Otto are added to my Henri’s. That we will have them with us now to live each day and we will know with help when the time is truly here.

  46. Nancy, I have loved Otto since you got him; you shared him with your readers. Many who wrote you
    recently concerning Otto have sadly lost their beloved dogs, and I received a poem I love, when I
    lost my beloved Josh last Jan. For all those who mourned losses:

    “Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears
    but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you . . .
    I loved you so , , ,’twas Heaven here with you.” by Ilsa Paschal Richardson

  47. Thank you for the update. I am happy/relieved the news is positive. My soul mutt has a mass growing on the lower portion of his leg, making it inoperable. We just moved to a new state and had the added stress of needing to find a new vet immediately. (Our last vet was amazing, making it even harder to say goodbye.) It took two tries, but we found the right one who will help us through the next phase. It is terrible knowing when to make the right decision and weighing whether or not you are making the decision for yourself or your dog. Reading your updates helps me not feel alone and will help me know I am making the right decision when the time does come. For now he is doing well and we are enjoying our time together.

    P.S. I am a Chico graduate and really enjoy when you talk about the area. I miss that part of the country and treasure the time I spent there.

  48. I am so happy Otto is still here and happy! I loved Otto from the time Nancy got him. She shared him with many readers, who have written her about Otto. I wanted to send readers a poem sent to me
    by his groomers when I lost my beloved Josh last Jan. 7 to bone cancer. Diana Adams

    “Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears,
    but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you . . .
    I loved you so. . . ’twas Heaven here with you. ” Ilsa Paschal Richardson

  49. Nancy – My heart hurts for you as you wait with Otto as he gets ready to leave this life. It’s no doubt been suggested, but CBD oil from a reputable source doesn’t interfere with any other medications and helps with pain, appetite and especially sleep. I use Cannanine as they are rigorous about lab testing – No THC and no heavy metals, and tons of education. They are affiliated with IHeartDogs and the charity “Greater Good.” I have no affiliation with them. As you know from watching loved ones go through hospice and depart, it’s so hard – yet we do them an important service by staying to the end and being their witness of all they go through. That quote from WWII still applies, “They also serve who wait and watch.” Please take my comment down if it feels inappropriate to mention CBD. I wish you calmness and peace wherever it can be had at this time. You are an amazing dog parent and advocate for all the right things, and I’m sure you have inspired thousands beyond just the readership of WDJ.

  50. Thank you for sharing this post with all of us who have tried our best to do the right thing as our animals age. You are a GREAT dog mom, balancing love, compassion and knowledge to give Otto the best care all members of our animal and human families deserve.

  51. Blessings to you and to Otto.
    I remember when you started The Dog Journal and have loved hearing about your journey with Otto. Thank you for sharing him with all of us and giving such truth about our journey with our fur babies thru their lives.
    I recently helped our Sweet Storygirl and her daughter, Casmere, (our golden girls)transition to heaven. They passed within 6 weeks of each other and we miss them so much bur are so grateful for the love we shared with them for 10 and 12 years. We are aging ourselves so will be giving back thru helping at a local SPCA and sharing The Whole Dog Journal with everyone we meet. Maybe an upcoming article on knowing when not to get a dog as we age would be a learning process.

  52. It’s wonderful that you and Otto have more time to share! And I so appreciate your frank and honest description of Otto’s condition and your handling of the situation. It’s not often that someone is so open and transparent about illness and end of life care. I read all of your blog posts and feel closely connected to what you and Otto are going through, as I have had to handle with similar situations with my own canine kids. It’s so difficult, but it helps to know how others are navigating the journey. Thanks you so much for all you give of yourself to help the rest of us with our beloved pups.

  53. Thank you so much for the update…you have no idea how much your candidness and detailed descriptions help those of us also on this difficult path. It fills up my heart with joy to hear Otto is still having good days. ..and able to enjoy a cool shady nap in his sandbox. 🙂

  54. I’m so happy to hear Otto’s doing better since your heatwave let up. We had a yellow lab who we thought we were going to have to put her down several times, but then she would just snap out of it! And that would make it so difficult because we always wondered if we were going to take her in too soon, in case she might get better again. I understand why now after I read this article! Like the lady said, sometimes they have a bad week! Our dog made it to the ripe old age of 16, her vet said that’s really good for her breed. It’s a hard decision and we can only to the best we can do! Wishing you the best, and the wisdom to know what to do. Please give Otto some love from his adoring fans. 😉

  55. My heart goes out to you and your beloved Otto. I’m going through the same thing with my 13 year old Aussie. She was diagnosed with liver cancer a few months ago. Your comment about the panting cleared up the question I’ve had about her excessive panting–now I know why. I’m just waiting for her to let me know when it’s “time”. I also will employ the services of a vet who comes to the home. She’s so anxious when going to the vet. I don’t want to put her through that again. She’s on gabapentin and that seems to help. Also I give her rimadyl at night for extra support. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It really helps.

  56. I introduced a hospice vet practice with a traveling hospice vet tech into my black Lab, True’s, life before there was even a hint of her slowing down. She was 14 at the time, but continued with all of her normal daily activities plus scent work. I wanted him to be able to see, when the time came, whatever drastic differences there would be. Just before she turned 15, she began having fainting spells. They became progressively more numerous. She had some tests done and they diagnosed pulmonary hypertension. The vet tech led me through a series of “lines in the sand” for True. What things would jump at me that would mean she was getting ready. Appetite for sure was one, but there were others. As I struggled in her waning days to make a decision he asked me, “What would True miss?” At first that confused me because she was missing so much already. I then went OH! She wouldn’t miss walks because I was afraid to take her, plus she was becoming ataxic. She wouldn’t miss swimming because she couldn’t do that anymore. She wouldn’t miss eating because she was already refusing food (a LABRADOR that won’t eat is a BIG red flag. As she began having numerous syncope episodes in a day, I knew I had to make the decision. I was so fortunate that the veterinarian and the vet tech came to my home on a SUNDAY morning and treated us all with dignity and respect. One of my Maine Coons lay beside True until she was gone.

  57. Dear Nancy, Oh my how your Otto posts grip my heart. We have had two “old” dogs in our home, both over the Rainbow Bridge now, but I do so relate to where you are at. I commend you for your diligent care of your heart dog and the obvious great love you have for Otto. At some point, would you please elaborate on how you found a Hospice vet…or more to the point, how I could find one. Our current boys are 7 and 5, so God willing, we have a lot of time before we need one but what a wonderful idea. When our first corgi girl was put to sleep, our veterinarian came to our home…it was so much more pleasant for Katie…she did not like slippery floors and cold tables. The same was true with our old man Owen. It would be wonderful to have ongoing support from a vet dedicated to animal hospice. I am a subscriber so if you write about how to find a hospice vet, I will know. Or feel free to email me. Praying for you and for dear Otto…cherish the time and the boy, I know you are.

  58. Nancy, we are in the same spot with our 14.75 year old golden. Some days he seems puppy-ish (ISH), and others, I’m wondering if he’s actively leaving us. As a retired oncology nurse I have a clear-eyed approach to aging and death, and firm beliefs about what’s most important (comfort, quality of life). But unlike my human patients, our dogs can’t verbally give us their take, and at times, the honor of walking my best, years-long companion along this journey feels like an aching burden to shoulder.

    We’ve had really good success with gabapentin for arthritic hips and spine, as well as Dasuquin Advanced (the kind that is not OTC). I’m all for comfort, so like you, I won’t hesitate to add more meds as needed. Side effects are weighed appropriately against benefit. I care less about long-term risk of liver problems from meds, for instance, than I do his comfort today.

    Thinking of you with solidarity and fondness, and empathizing about the heat. I grew up in Chico, and gaaaawd. Summers are brutal.

    Lucky Otto, to have found his best friend in you.

  59. So happy Otto is hanging in there & ya’ll have more time. my prayers are with you both🙏 He’s blessed 2 have a caring Mom🐾🐾💙 I hope the additional med. helps with a little extra relief!

  60. Happy for all of us that love him too! We get nervous and antsy towards the end in light of such a heavy decision. Wonderful that you have a great partner in the doctor to guide and accompany you.

  61. I am adding you and Otto to my prayers along with Mocha, my cousins Lab, whose scenario is just like yours. Her vet came to the house today and told her, after Mocha’s complete examination, to enjoy him during the fall and with the next call from her, he will help Mocha transition before winter. My heart is so heavy for her, Mocha, you and Otto. We just love our 4 legged “kids” so much.
    I’m forwarding your article to her. I know it will give her the hope that she is not alone in making that decision. Thank you again for sharing with us about Otto and your love for him.

  62. Your blog last week about Otto hit me hard. I went through similar stressors during the heat with my old Aussie. Our air conditioning went out on Monday night and we spent the hottest week of the year worrying about our 13 year old Aussie, who despite our watchful care came close to heat stroke. I returned from a run to the store with a hubby in panic mode. I quickly misted my boy down, put him in front of a fan under a wet towel and fed him ice chips. I also groomed a huge amount of undercoat out of him. His temp and panting came down and he rallied but it kept me awake despite the heat. We had been sleeping on the deck, not the most comfortable of places. All this made me realize that I am totally unprepared for losing my Bear. I have since put in call to my vet and will probably be making the switch to a truck based dog vet. Each trip sends Bear into a panic mode though he appears comfortable with our regular vet when we are there. I wonder at how accurate tests are due to his anxiety. I know for certain I do not want his final journey made in that state of mind. So now, on to finding help to make his life and mine, just a bit more peaceful. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront of my mind.

  63. Thank you for sharing what we must be aware and prepared for….yes. EVERY moment we get to let our best friend know our gratitude for their unconditional love, the joy we were privileged to share is meaningful to the core –

  64. I remember when you first got Otto and have been with you all along. My husband and I put our fur baby Harley to sleep in our living room during covid February 3rd 2021. My Father in law died at home in hospice that June and my Mum that December at home. The pain of losing Harley is STILL with us. We rescued him around age 6 and only had 6 years with him before his pulmonary and cardiac issues taxed him too much. We thought with our home cooking and over the top love and care that we’d have him for 14 years at least (he was a beagle-chihuahua mix). The hourly struggle I endured trying to do best by him and not have him suffer (and he was PETRIFIED of the vet hospital) still upsets me. My husband was working and not around as much to see all that Harley endured. Harley would seem to beseech me with his beautiful brown eyes…. I’d say “I know Luv, Daddy’s not ready, but soon”. I knew he suffered but then he’d have his good moments and I’d feel guilty for having such thoughts…. The day the vet was coming to our home to euthanize, Harley finally figured out how to tip the bathroom trash can for my femine product. I heard it happening and thought “you go, Bud!” . I sobbed the next day retrieving it from under the bed (he guarded, of course). Long live Harley! Long live Otto! God bless you and good luck.

  65. You and Otto are the best! I’ve loved the stories you’ve shared over the years about your life together. It’s almost as if I KNOW Otto! And I guess I kinda do 😉 It’s not an easy time, nor should it be. I put my beloved Airedale Rose down 4 months ago after hand feeding her for almost 5 months. A few weeks before she passed from advanced kidney disease, she was cavorting in the back yard. She was just SO strong and beat all the odds. Holding those memories warms my heart, though I still miss her terribly. Holding the best of good thoughts to both you and Otto.

  66. Many of my feelings about your beloved Otto have already been commented above. My Border Collie cross named Gabby lived to 17! She was blind and deaf, but she could still make it to a chicken just before it flew out of her dog yard. So thankful she had a very rapid decline of just 3 days and a hospice vet was able to come out to our home. I mostly wanted to say…I love the photo of Otto in his sandbox. So glad autumn is upon us and Otto can spend more time in his favorite place. Maybe they should offer dog beds filled with sand!

  67. In my last comment, I said you’d know…and now you do. Not yet. It has been an honor that you shared Otto’s life with us. He has been a wonderfully delightful constant all these years.

  68. For those of us who have ever loved a dog, and gotten to know you and Otto over the years, we know these are tough and bittersweet times. So glad you are together a while longer. Sending love, licks and wags.

  69. Enjoy every minute you can spare with Otto. When it gets to feel like it’s too much, just remember all the heartwarming greetings Otto gave you. Uncountable special times you shared. Now is time to pay it forward, simply give him whatever he wants. Everything will fall into place. Just love him.

  70. Our animals keep teaching us things right up to the end, don’t they? We had a wonderful dog with inoperable cancer who relished every possible moment to the very end. Through an animal communicator, she made it clear that was what she wanted to do. She spent her final hours in the shade of her favorite “squirrel tree” in our backyard. Those last few hours were an absolute lovefest among the people who knew her and came by to wish her well on her journey. Let Otto lead the dance he’ll be clear about his wishes. Thank you for putting all the effort I know you do into Whole Dog Journal. I wrote for Cindy Foley at The Chronicle of the Horse and Horse Journal and am so glad for the deep dive journalism without ties to any advertising. Keep it up! Have long wondered why the dogs in my youth lived such long and healthy lives while cancer and other issues are so prevalent today. So your article about copper levels really caught my attention. I interviewed a number of AFFCO officials “in the day” and now wonder if some of their recommendations followed by animal food manufacturers are in need of rethinking. Enjoy the time you have left with Otto.

  71. Both Ramses and Candy were on a combination of Galiprant, Tramadol and Gabapentin. The trick if finding the right combo and then then right dosage. I think Gabapentin is the one that alone doesn’t really do much, but when you combine it with one of the other two at the right dosage, there is a difference. You just have to find the sweet spot.

    So glad when the weather broke Otto bounced back. Now you know. No need to hurry the inevitable because of a weather report.

    Have you considered installing misters over Otto’s favorite sand box, like they have in Palm Springs? There are misters all over out doors to keep people cool. Not sure if it would work for dogs but something could be rigged up easily with domestic irrigation systems available from big box stores.

  72. O ver the hill yet youthful in spirit
    T ime honored pup who does things his way
    T ried and true your everlasting friend
    O pen hearted soul whose love has no bounds

    Many blessings to you and Otto,
    Amy Beth

  73. Thanks so much for sharing Otto’ s story. My husband and I have a very senior dog, and we struggle to make sure we are keeping him comfortable and his quality of life is still good!

  74. This was written YEARS ago to a L-Server List on Bernese Mt. Dogs … still on of the best I’ve ever read.
    Blessings and Bright Lights to Guide and Comfort each of you during this Time of Transition

    Transitions©

    These are factors I considered long ago when I knew that at
    some point I would be making that decision. I did a lot of reading and
    spoke with folks who had been through it themselves. These are listed
    randomly.
    1) Decide in advance what defines a good quality of life for your dog.
    2) Don’t call the vet after one “bad” day. Instead look over a week
    and when the bad days outnumber the good, it may be time to help them
    along.
    3) Realize that often the dog is ready to let go before we are. Look
    for signs of withdrawal from you and others in the household.
    4) I read this and it made a big impression on me: A “natural” death
    is not always a compassionate one. When my Nellie was close to the
    end from osteosarcoma, I asked my vet what could happen before I
    intervened. I was taking time off from work so that she wouldn’t be
    alone as long as when I worked a full day. But I dreaded coming home
    & finding that she had died alone & in distress. He told me that she
    could develop a severe bleed in her liver and gradually lose
    consciousness; OR she could start bleeding from a mass in her lungs
    and that was a horrible way to go. So after a few bad days in a row,
    no tail wags, no appetite for pizza or oatmeal cookies, and seeing
    her opt to be outside by herself instead of with me, we made the
    final trip to the vet.
    5) This is an excerpt from a tribute Eugene O’Neill wrote to his
    Dalmatian, Carlotta; (written as her last will & testament)
    “It is time I said goodbye, before I become too sick a burden on
    myself and on those who love me. It will be sorrow to leave them, but
    not sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as
    part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys
    life. What may come after death, who knows? … But peace, at least
    is certain.”

    It’s never easy, no matter the circumstances nor how old the dog may
    be. It’s part of our responsibility when we decide to share our
    hearts with a being whose life-span is far too short.

    Lisa Seretto
    Littleton, MA
    Transitions©

    “The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can
    ever be.”
    (Konrad Lorenz)

  75. Nancy, Even though I write this with tears as I remember my precious pups that I have lost over the years, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Otto. As a long time subscriber, I remember when you got him. It is so very difficult going this as it never gets any easier, does it? It sounds like you have an amazing vet who helped guide you and that is so fortunate. I will keep Otto in my thoughts. Take care.

  76. Oh Nancy! I just read your blog and with tears in eyes for both you and Otto I send you hope and care and even a hug ( even though we’ve never met). Our time with our dogs is such an incredibly bittersweet gift. I know that you cherish each moment with Otto and Woody and Boone. Please know that there are many of us who understand the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with caring for our dear older friends, and the indescribably devastating sense of loss when we finally have to let them go. We are here, we know your pain and want to to know there are others who care.

  77. Thank you for writing this. I needed to see and read this. My Gunner will be 14 in November and it’s an emotional roller coaster between thinking he will be here for a lot longer or gone tomorrow.

  78. Senior dogs sometimes don’t metabolize gabapentin as well as younger dogs and they may need a lower dose. I have two seniors, one is on 100mg twice a day and the other is on 150mg twice a day. With higher doses you might see mobility problems, lowering the dose will usually resolve that. Best wishes.

  79. I’m so happy to hear that Otto is still here with you. I really enjoy reading about him and his “brothers/sisters”. Keep us up to date.

  80. Nancy, I have always loved to read about Otto. I am so sorry you are going through this. It is hard. We had this same conversation with my vet last Wednesday. You do not want him to be in pain. It is better to do it too early as opposed to too late. Our dog, Louie, has a raging tumor on his tongue. We tried to treat it for a year but it just wasn’t working so we stopped treatment. We are putting him to sleep in 2 days. I used to say euthanize but I now prefer saying putting to sleep. We will be heartbroken but Louie won’t be. I know we are doing the right thing. My thoughts are with you.

    • Aw, and my thoughts are with you, and all of our readers who are going through this currently.

      Otto is both *frisking* like he hasn’t done for many months – as much as a dignified old dog does, going down in a senior-dog play bow, snarking at the young’uns (with a high-waving tail), and cantering a bit more than he was a couple weeks ago – AND ALSO wobbling on those skinny back legs, particularly on turns. I think the re-introduction of gabapentin to the mix is making him feel better, but he has decidedly less strength to enjoy.

      All we can do is try to stay tuned into their apparent pain and anxiety and prognosis for a worsening condition (as in your dog’s case) and do our best to protect them from a truly painful and scary death. I would imagine that not being able to eat or drink or even breathe easily with a tongue tumor is pretty awful. I wish you strength and love.

  81. Every time I see Otto’s name in the headline I immediately click to read, and I share with my mom or read out loud to her. I have loved every story you’ve told of him. And now reading your struggles brings such precious, sad memories of the end with my sweet Pearl. Thank you for sharing your journey with him! I feel like I have gotten to know his personality, and I can feel all the love for your amazing Mr. Otto.
    Hugs and prayers as you struggle through this with him. xoxo

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