Just Do Your Best

All of your choices for your dog are consequential. This fact should guide your decisions, but not crush you.


When we make decisions that affect our health – our diet, supplements, exercise, how often we see our doctors – we rarely see the effects of our choices on a timetable that drastically demonstrates the wisdom or folly of those decisions. I mean, sure, if we take up motorcycle racing or some other extreme sport and we get seriously injured, folks may judge our choices. And if we suddenly make a big change in our diet and exercise routine, we can lose a lot of weight in a relatively short amount of time – but usually, it takes too long to determine whether even a very dramatic weight loss (or gain!) has significantly changed our lifespan.

But the decisions we make for our dogs feel much more fraught. Because their lifespans are just a fraction of ours, we may well see the direct results of the choices we’ve made for their health – and they may feel heavily, crushingly consequential. It is our responsibility to do all the things that will keep them well and long-lived, and when their lives are threatened or shortened by something as a result of the choices we made, or failed to make, the guilt can be devastating. Was it the topical pesticides you used to protect them from fleas and ticks that caused their cancer? Was it the leptospirosis vaccine you declined that led to their contracting the disease and dying of kidney or liver failure? The food you kept buying that turned out to contain heavy metals or melamine that poisoned them – that’s on your conscience!

Maybe this is why folks get so judgey and vehement on social media about every little thing we do with our dogs, from training tools to vaccinations, food to pesticides, neutering to rawhide chews. There are so many decisions to make for our dogs, and they really are consequential . . .

But, look: We can only do what we can do with what we know. The mere fact that you’ve subscribed to WDJ means you are already doing more than the average owner to educate yourself about the practices that can – we hope – enhance, preserve, and extend your dog’s life. No one can make perfect decisions about every aspect of their dogs’ lives; we’ve all made choices for our dogs that haunted us later. If only we had asked for an abdominal ultrasound after his first symptoms, if only we hadn’t let him off-leash that day, if only we hadn’t bought that particular chewie . . . No, stop. All we can do is keep learning and be kind to ourselves, our dogs, and each other. We are all at different stages of learning, and no one is perfect.


  1. well done, and may we all know we’ve made the right decisions. As I write this my 101 year old mom who has been in hospice with dementia for over a year, is as they say so tactfully, declining. She hasn’t been able to communicate for some time and in the past week or 10 days stopped eating or taking in adequate fluids. With her care as well there have been many many times I have had to make hard decisions and wonder if I have taken the right path. Mostly I remember the words of a dear friend who encouraged me to make decisions based on her comfort. Here too.