Musicians, their pets (dogs) and euthanasia…

November 9, 2006 at 04:09 AM · Musicians, their pets (dogs) and euthanasia…

This is not a topic directly related to the violin or music, but one that does affect us all one way or another, in my opinion even more if you are an artist or musician…

Yesterday, November 7, 2006 was a dreadful day as I had to make a final decision regarding my 14 years old long time friend… my beautiful and faithful Dalmatian dog. This last year and a half, has been marked by a very fast decline in his life style and health as all the “scars” of past accidents and health problems caught-up with him. Now an old 14 year old dog suffering from severe hip problems and arthritis he was almost unable to walk and hold is bowels.

“a decision” How can I? What right do I have? I did not create this life, who gives me the right to order or “pay” to terminate it???? Am I playing GOD???

This has been a debate in my house for the last few months has we hopped that our pup would just pass away of old age on his own and without our “assistance”. Anyway, we had to make the decision which finally fell on my shoulders.

Euthanasia…

After many months of thinking about the best solution, I went to the Vet and had him put my "best friend" to sleep… I have no words to tell you how difficult it was and how painful it has been to me since! I have canceled classes, rehearsal with the pianist was horrible although he did get a few smiles from me with is impersonations has he tried to cheer me up; and forget about practicing! I just can’t concentrate and can’t stop thinking of my friend…

Even though the Vet told me this was the right thing to do… Did I do the right thing?

What would my dog think of me? What does my other dog friend think of me??

When I returned home from the Vet, the look in my kids eyes was merciful and our other dog friend, a 4 year old Viszla stared at me… and I could read his mind… What did you do? Where is Ajax?

As a Christian, It also weighs very hard on my heart and mind… What does GOD think of me now??

I have found that non-dog owners think you are a bit barmy for reacting with a lot of emotion to a dog's death. They tend to forget that the Dog was a member of your family for 14 years.

If dogs could talk what stories they could tell.

I am reminded of a beautiful prayer called "A Dog's Prayer" by Beth Norman Harris.

_________________________________________________

"Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps fall upon my waiting ear.

When it is cold and wet, please take me inside, for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements. And I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth.

Though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper."

I know with time and the company of our other dog Rusty it will get better and I will be able to resume to the playing, practicing and life will continue. I hope!!! But as a violinist, musician, artist and admirer of all beautiful things that surround us I must confess it has made a big “mark” in my life as a person but also has a musician. It feels like a 14 year old chapter has closed. After all, I start thinking when we adopted Ajax… I had just gotten married and our first son was just born. I could say Ajax’s age (14) also represented our 14 years as a family with my wife and 2 boys. Interesting… He was with us during my last years in college, the start of my music career and all the ups and downs of life in a “new family” and as a musician.

Ajax was and always will be a great inspiration, a great companion and a missed friend. I must also had that he was the best music critic… as he curled up, enjoying the sun coming in thru the window, comfortably in his pillow and listened quietly to my daily practice every day for the last 14 years.

You will be missed dearly my friend… but you will be an inspiration every single day as I practice and remember you there by my feet, listening…

To you all with dogs (pets)… enjoy them and the unconditional love and support the give us!

Peter Ferreira

Replies (28)

November 9, 2006 at 05:03 AM · Thank you, Peter for reminding me how important my little schnauzer, Henry is to me. I'm sorry for your loss, but I believe you did the right thing.

November 9, 2006 at 05:29 AM · I think maybe you need some other perspectives. I knew a woman who accidently poisoned her dog by mixing a wrong concentration of flea dip. I knew a guy whose dog was shot by his neighbor (probably); even after he'd spent thousands for a huge, ugly, chain link fence around his property to try keep him away from the neighbor's property.

November 9, 2006 at 05:13 AM · Peter, *hug* gosh it's hard saying goodbye to such a friend. Back in the spring I had to say goodbye to my dog of 11 years. I met her at 1 week old, she came home with me at 4 weeks old and yes, she had some major issues having been rejected by her mother that early but she was still the joy of my day. Somehow a dog knows when you just need someone to listen and be supportive and they know how to be playful and drive you mad but I would never trade any of those feelings in the whole wide world. I now have to crash my friend, Rebecca's place regularly or have her come here so that I can get my canine fix but somehow it's still not quite the same. I miss my dog more than anything. (I'm actually teary writing this!) Hang in there and know you're not alone and that you're dog is happier now that he's no longer in pain. It's the hardest, and most crushing thing to see your pet in pain and I can remember those pleading eyes from my dog for the two months leading up to her death, she only wanted the pain to stop and didn't want to be a burden for her family to work around and I know it made her feel worse to see me upset around her. You did the right thing!

Hang in there, Peter and all the best!

November 9, 2006 at 05:24 AM · Peter I'm sorry for you loss. I think it was Charles Dickinson who wrote: "Upon the walls of memory's room, lovely pictures still shall bloom".

This powerful saying incorporates the grieving process you are experiencing with a goal in sight. Loss is filled with memories, but it will take some time to get there.

And having a loyal friend like Ajax for 14 years, means that you had from Ajax's experience a friend for 98 years. You even tended him in his suffering, though it's created a little turmoil for you. I think you did the right thing.

al

November 9, 2006 at 05:52 AM · You brought a tear to my eye, Peter. I think I would also have done the same thing, as painful as it may be. In the case of the suffering of animals with no hope for recovery, I feel it would be selfish to keep a pet around in misery just for its company. Left to the course of nature, he would have already died. As it was, you extended his life well past his normal expectancy. Yes, in a way you did play the role of his god, but I think you are benevolent to regard the taking of life with such reverence. I think you did the right thing. Your dog is no longer suffering.

November 9, 2006 at 06:41 AM · Greetings,

well, someone once said that heaven is the place where all the dogs you have ever known rush out to greet you,

Cheers,

Buri

November 9, 2006 at 06:54 AM · God, I pray it's not any of the ones that rushed out to meet me on my runs.

November 9, 2006 at 06:59 AM · I feel your pain, Peter. One year ago I was faced with a similar situation involving my 14 year old feline companion. Never underestimate the depth of the emotional bond we form with a cherished pet over many years, and never allow yourself to be embarrassed by it. Grief is perfectly normal in your situation. Anyone who implies otherwise is not speaking from experience.

November 9, 2006 at 07:40 AM · Peter,

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss, and I feel your pain. My wife and I are dog lovers and we have put two of our dogs to sleep in the past. We currently have two Collies and one Collie mix, and the oldest has arthritis, hip problems, and a heart condition. We recently started him on medicine for the heart problem, and he has been given a new lease on life. However, I look at him every day and wonder how much longer he will be with us, and if we are going to be forced to make a difficult decision about his fate. For years, he has been a majestic and beautiful creature, and it is painful to watch such a rapid decline at only 9 years of age. Unfortunately, there is little to do but sit back and watch nature's process unfold.

Our last two dogs, a mother and her son, were also Collie mixes. As you mentioned, their death seemed like the end of an era, so to speak. My wife got the mother when she was in college, immediately after her own mother had just died. Because of the timing, she always viewed this dog as a connection to her mother in a strange way, and it helped her to get through a very difficult time in her life. These two dogs saw her through a death, a divorce, and nearly two decades of her life. They were there for her when nobody else was.

The first dog, the mother, was the first that we had to put to sleep, but the decision was somewhat easier to make. She had pancreatitis, and was clearly at the end. We brought her back home from the vet and actually carried her around the house with an IV and gave her injections that helped her with pain. We did this for a few days until my wife snapped from the pressure and made the decision. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. We took her back to the vet and stayed with her and held her through the process.....very difficult indeed.

Her son was one of the sweetest creatures I've ever known. I have a Yugoslavian violinist friend who used to called him "the Philosopher" because he was so sensitive. Like your dog, he declined very rapidly from arthritis and hip problems. This was a difficult case, because near the end he was mentally okay even though he couldn't walk or control his bowels. We decided that as long as he still had a desire to eat and live, we would help him as much as we could, hoping that he would just die a natural death. We carried him around, cleaned up after him and hand fed him; probably for a month or longer. It was an enormous job, but I was home a lot and felt like I had to do it. I think this came from not wanting to go through the last experience again and just giving him every possible chance to die naturally.

Near the end, our backs were killing us, and it was beginning to put a lot of stress on our relationship. Those around us thought we were crazy, and some thought it was cruel that we didn't put him out of his misery. In the final two days, he had difficulty eating and he started crying out in agony after he would manage to get some food down. This is what changed our minds and tipped the scales. At this point, even we agreed that he seemed to be suffering, and we couldn't imagine wanting to live through this ourselves. This time, we found a vet that came to our house, and again, we held him through the process.

I still don't know if we did the right thing or not, and five years later, there are still nights when I can't sleep because I'm still wrestling with the moral implications of the whole thing. Probably one of the most challenging issues for me is that they seemed like our children to us. They were very dependent on us and trusted us to take care of and protect them, so this was a real contradiction. I questioned whether I was letting them down and just putting them aside to make my own life easier, but my wife felt differently. Her view was that she would not want to live in such a condition herself, and would hope that a friend or loved one would put her out of her misery. So she felt that this was a loving act, not a selfish one. She carried it a step further by saying that it actually was selfish on our part to hang on to the dogs for as long as we did, simply because we were dependent on them and needed them so much. She thought that our last dog was aware of this and that was part of why he held on for so long.

I don't know the answer to this still, but as you mentioned, I also have a real problem with playing God and can't stand being thrust into that position. If only our dogs could talk, how much easier the whole thing would be! I wish that they could make their own decisions and let us know what to do. I also think that this has changed me in some profound way that I am very uncomfortable with. When I hug our current dogs, and they look back at me with trusting eyes, it is hard not to wonder if I will someday do the same thing to them. What a difficult thing to resolve in my mind - I will do everything in my power to protect you, but I may be ending your life some day. I still don't know how to handle this, and if I'm honest about it, the thought is always there on some level.

The timing of your post is very interesting to me. Yesterday, a student's father sadly confided in me that they had a dog in the same situation and he was contemplating what was going to be done about it. This guy reminds me a bit of Pete Rose, so I was touched that he would open up and share this with me. Then there is my wife's story from school. She is a high school art teacher and works with two other male art teachers in the department. One of them just put his dog to sleep today for the exact same reasons that you described. My wife knew that today would be the day, and she had a difficult time with it. She cried at school today several times during the day, and had to leave the classroom on several occasions. This morning before she left for school, she sat down with me to watch a clip of a violinist on Youtube, and somehow we ended up watching a memorial video of someones Collie. So it has been a strange week and I've been thinking a lot about this. You are right, artistic personalities probably wrestle with this more than the average person.

On a philosophical level, I've always had a difficult time with the contradictions inherent in the human race. Kevorkian gets a bad rep in the human euthanasia scene, but being anything less than that in the pet world is considered to be inhumane and crazy. That is the sort of thing that gets my head spinning sometimes and makes me think that animals have it much more together than we do.

I'm hoping that all of these details don't make you feel worse, but rather that they help you to remember that there are others out there who have the same feelings and struggle with the same issues that you do, and that you aren't strange for feeling this way about a pet. It takes a lot in this culture to express feelings for an animal and open yourself up to the critics, so I admire you for doing so.

I've found one thing that has helped some is to pour this energy back into the current dogs that we have. Again, you referred to this in your post and seem to be there already. If nothing else, it really makes you appreciate what you have now, and the only thing you can do is try to transfer your feelings over to the dog that you still do have and make the most of the time you have with him. And obviously this applies to your human family as well. :)

When I studied with Raphael Bernstein, he talked about how the violin and music was so much more than just that. He felt that you had to understand art, architecture, philosophy....life in general to be a good musician. So I find your post to be right on topic.

November 9, 2006 at 08:05 AM · I can not remember of any time in my life where I was more affected than when my dog died, two years ago. To say that they are just animals is to be blind to a type of companionship that few are capable of. I can think of no other entity which exemplifies love and loyalty like a dog. Every man has his price, whereas your dog cannot be bought or influenced, no matter what the cost to themself. The very best of them value your safety and well being more than their own life. I understand how you feel, and it does get better with time.

November 9, 2006 at 12:33 PM · peter f, thanks for sharing, take it easy during this time of loss. nothing is more beautiful than beautiful memories..

faithfulness is perhaps the most endearing quality after all. just being there for you...

November 9, 2006 at 12:43 PM · Thank you all for your kind words... It's been very hard and even with the other dog (Rusty) there's still a huge void or empty feeling in the house.

My Viszla has been going around the house and the yard looking for his friend...

Regards,

Peter

November 9, 2006 at 01:15 PM · We are cat people here, and I am so sorry for your loss.

I had to euthanize my cat Sylvia seven years ago. It was heartbreaking. My Dad told me "They count on us to do the right thing". He was right. Hang in there...the pain does ease with time.

November 9, 2006 at 01:40 PM · Thank you...

Here is a link to some photos on my site:

http://www.peterferreira.com/dogs.htm

regards,

Peter

November 9, 2006 at 01:45 PM · Peter:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. And thanks to everyone else for your empathetic comments. The decision is always at what point does the pet's suffering outweigh the value of life and the companionship and love that a pet gives and receives (and a family pet indeed becomes a true member of the family). One of our daughters was on the staff of Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society for 2 years, and faced these decisions with families and their pets on a routine basis. I'm not sure I could take a job like that.

And as difficult as this decision is when it comes to pets, just remember that the same issues arise with people who are terminally ill. These questions and feelings become excruciatingly compounded.

Sandy

November 9, 2006 at 02:02 PM · tougher with our doggie friends because they, born optimists, can only talk through their eyes...one reason it is difficult to find closure for their human companions...

and that is why there is music,,,to relate those undescribables.

November 9, 2006 at 02:21 PM · Yes, but with humans you get into legal, religious, financial, ethical, and a whole bunch of other questions. And, yes, there is of course the link to music, which does indeed describe the undescribable.

November 9, 2006 at 03:44 PM · Wiping my eyes on my shirt....so sad. I wouldn't have understood your grieving five years ago. But about three years ago we got our firt cat, a little manx with no tail and a bit of a crippled hip/leg. She hops around like a rabbit, so we call her "Rabbit". Not more than ayear later, I was so overwhelmed by love and happiness with our "baby" that I got another kitten from a shelter. I really feel we saved her life. I miss them when I go for the weekend, and they are closer to me than a lot of people, because they are always there, 24/7.

It is hard because the second kitty, "Otter" is sickly. She almost died a few months ago from a serious infection in her mouth that got in her kidneys. I told a friend that I felt that night the same feeling I had when my father was in a coma. And when she was crawled under the desk, obviously suffering, I pulled my blankets under there and had fitful sleep with her. I was sure I'd wake up to the unspeakable.

But she made it. And my heart was so glad. My family is a little disturbed that we spend our very small funds on vet bills. But I have never known the kind of friendship and complete loyalty and devotion as with my cats. They love me unconditionally. And I, them. And it has brought me and my husband closer, much like a child would.

We had to have surgery on Otter on November 2nd. It was to be a dental, but they had to remove 11 teeth, because they were so infected and exposed and loose that they couldnt' clean them. When we got her home and she was walking into walls and falling over from the pain medication and anesthesia, I cried and cried. Did I do the right thing? She is only a little over a year...does she understand waking up with half of her teeth gone?

It was very hard to come to terms that she had no say in the matter.

But now she is playful and happier and healthier than she has ever been as long as we have had her. So I am no longer feeling that debate. She has been in pain and sickness a long time, and it is such a light to see her well.

So maybe if you think of your dog like that. That his spirit is finally well. That the pains and ills of his body are finally free from him, and you were the only one who could do that for him.

I'm so sorry for your loss. I can understand the way it would interfere with practicing and school and life...you are sweet, obviously, to have the depth to understand a pet for the importance and personality they are.

And as someone said, do not feel guilty for your grieving. Let yourself grieve. And then you will be able to pick up the pieces and keep going.

Sincerely,

JW

November 9, 2006 at 05:41 PM · You were lucky to find each other and must have great karma to encounter such a soul and have the time and presence of mind to appreciate him. They teach us to accept our ultimate destiny. Maybe that is why the winds of you your karma blew his soul into your life. The ultimate lessons for humans is facing our mortality which we see mirrored in events like the passing of our beloved pets.

Animals accept when their time comes. He sounds like a classy dude! You did the right thing. Often we take extra ordinary measure to comfort ourselves without regard for their suffering by keeping them going beyond their time, for our benefit, not theirs. You were selfless to let him go, even if you are sad now.

Feel deeply but think about your attachment and if is for him or for you. Dogs don't really dwell in the past, and maybe there is a lesson for you there too. He is teaching you even after his life is over! What a gift! When you are ready, you might find a new companion. Your other dog is probably suffering quietly too. There is not disloyalty in it. They are so different you really can't compare pets. It is their destiny to be the companion of man and teach us.

November 9, 2006 at 05:34 PM · Thank you very much for all your kind words... they do help!

Peter

November 9, 2006 at 05:47 PM · PS: Peter,

The next time will not be easier, or the time after that. It should never get easier but that is the price of a feeling heart.

November 9, 2006 at 06:00 PM · I am so very, very sorry. We faced this three years ago, as our dog--my first ever dog--succumbed to liver cancer and we could not bear to watch her weakness and suffering any longer.

Dogs teach us so much about life and death. And when my father neared his end two months after her death, I was at least a little bit more prepared for the decisions that had to be made regarding his dignity--feeding tubes, and such--as well as the emotions that accompanied his passing.

I don't think you should ever feel guilty about loving someone or something and, out of love, seeking to ease their suffering.

We have another dog now. She is sweet. She keeps us healthy. And she loves to destroy piano parts--she has eaten two Wienawskis, a Khachaturian, and a Conus.

Dogs.

November 11, 2006 at 08:34 PM · I'm very sorry for your loss.

When this decision had to be made for our beloved boxer, Molly, my sister-in-law reminded me that it's called "the last act of kindness" for a reason. I'm not sure who coined that phrase, but it's true. Our four legged family members rely on us to do what is right for them.

You did the humane thing.

November 12, 2006 at 12:25 AM · Thank you...

Peter

November 12, 2006 at 11:39 AM · Peter,

I really understand the loss of a companion...we had a dog who had a natural death over two years ago afer living to the grand old age of 14....

But we had a cat after him....she just managed to get in...no one knows how though...we named her Cary and prophetically,gave borth to very sweet kittens...her 3rd litter was a sickly one because she also went through a very sick phase in her life and the kittens though sickly grew up to be qiute strong...

Then,about two months ago a deadly virus called panleuk..similar to canine distemper just took away four cats..one of them was a very beautiful female cat called Zoharina...who held on for four miserable days but her condition was soo pathetic that the doctor himself was persuaded to recommend euthanasia...I do believe by putting an end to such misery when the end is ineviatable is an act of mercy....we could not think to prolonging her agony any more...

Somewhere in heaven,Peter,our pets might be thanking us for having done away with their earthly suffering and given them a better master....

It is only that belief that has kept my parents and myself going all these days...

I agree...it does hurt a lot when you see their companion missing them..its a very pathetic site...in zorro's litter one cat,Speckle survived but then suddenly in just a span of four days found his siblings missing..but now he has got used to it....animals forget painful things easily..they are musch more optimistic...

I believe ,Peter,that its that very optimism that we need now...let us take a lesson from them...

Anisha.

November 12, 2006 at 01:17 PM · I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Peter.

I remember well my beloved dog Clara (named after an aunt). She was the greatest animal friend imaginable! She lived over 14 years and brought us immeasurable joy. She almost seemed human at times...

When she finally collapsed in pain, unable to move, unwilling to eat, I stayed up with her all night as she moaned in her sleep. I gently stroked her fur to comfort her. I gave her red wine (small amounts) to try and dull her pain--and get her through the night until I could get her to the vet... she actually seemed grateful for it!

The sadness of taking her to the vet for the final time was, for me, agonizing. In the end, I was comforted a bit by being there with her with my face close to hers, scratching her ears... right up to the end.

I know the pain you are experiencing.

I think a big difference between animals and humans (as I have observed in nature) is that we are given the burden of contemplating matters of life and death, and they are not. Because of this,we become their caretakers and guides throughout their lives as a matter of choice and reason. They, in their innocence, care for us out of instinct.

Perhaps it is part of "having dominion" over God's creation. Its not all fun. It carries with it the responsibility to do the right thing for them when it is neccessary--- even when it is so painful to us to do so.

I have no doubt you did the right thing.

Again, I am sorry for your loss. Perhaps you will meet up with your friend at a later time :-)

November 12, 2006 at 03:55 PM · Peter,

I'm really really really sorry to hear your sad story! I have never lost a pet but I can imagine it must be awful. Just try to remember that the only thing that could bother your conscience more would be, artificially keeping Ajax alive for longer and longer and in more and more pain. You did the right thing. Rest in peace, Ajax!

November 12, 2006 at 04:39 PM · I can't really put it any better than Maura did.

I absolutely dread facing similar decisions as our two kitties approach old age. Please accept my sincere condolences Peter and please be assured you did do the right thing by Ajax.

Neil

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