Old age comes to every dog, eventually. At first it may just manifest in a few white hairs, but as time goes by, stiffening joints and ailments tend to come to the fore. Shibas can maintain great health for years, but I can tell that Shassi is in the twilight of her life.
Here Shassi is with my aunt, who lives with my mother and takes care of Shassi. We visit often, but keep Tierce away from her, as she has shifted from LOUDLY telling him where to get off to just trembling and looking frightened. So we keep him and his exuberance away from her and she is much happier.
It is somewhat disturbing to watch Shassi now – she spends most of her time on the couch, but sometimes will pace around in circles or stare at a corner of the room for hours. She is also not too steady on her feet and this can be a little distressing as I watch her hind end becoming undecided as to whether it’s going to follow her front or not.
My aunt is very good to Shassi – she has taken her to the vet several times to make sure that her health is as good as can be expected for a 15 year old Shiba. She buys her special low-protein dog food to minimize any strain on her ailing kidneys. She takes her out for walks, ensuring that Shassi’s body remains as flexible as possible (I believe it’s the lack of exercise that shortens the lives of many old dogs, whose bodies succumb to the degeneration of muscle and bone). In short, Shassi has as good a life as possible, given her infirmities.
However, once it becomes clear that Shassi is in pain or is just not enjoying her food and her walks, we will have her euthanized. It sounds harsh and cruel to some people, but I believe it’s crueler to keep a dog who has outlived its enjoyment of life, alive.
I think that a lot of people don’t understand the real responsibilities of owning a dog. There is a lot written and said about the responsiblities you take on during a dog’s life, but many people don’t realize how responsible they are for their dog’s death. To be a truly responsible owner, I believe that you have to be prepared to take your dog’s life when there will be no surcease of pain or if the dog is broken in some way that can’t be fixed enough so the dog has a happy life.
With Shassi, it’s hard to tell. She is definitely not the dog I grew up with or even the dog I knew two-three years ago. She is nearly blind and deaf and she shows little interest in things that used to excite her. However, she still eats, she shows interest in her walks and she is not showing any of the signs of a dog in pain. We will watch and wait and, while she is here, give her the best life we can.