The decision to end a dog's life is never made without bitter heartache and contrition. We are getting close to having to make such a decision, as declining mobility brought on by joint stiffness has resulted in a poor quality of life for our old girl.

What can I say about Babs. Since we first brought her home from the pet store in 2008 at just a few weeks old, she has been a hellion of a dog. We spoiled her like crazy the first few years of her life, then at about age three, we noticed she began to act aggressively toward company, and even certain family members. Aside from a few smacks on the butt for misbehaving, she's never been handled in any sort of way that would cause this type of personality change.

Our last family dog was an incredibly loving and loyal German Shepherd named Chance, who lived to age 13, and passed away when Babs was just shy of a year old; the two dogs only crossed paths twice. Their last visit together was the weekend we lost Chance.

Chance with my daughter on the day he passed. Photo by Greg Jannetta

It reached the point where we had to put her behind a plastic baby gate when company came to visit. Between my wife's family and mine, she's bitten everyone with the exception of maybe one or two people. She would get this really glazed over look on her face, and her eyes would bulge just prior to lashing out.

babs look
There's that "look" she would give when she was close to biting. She constantly had to be watched.

I spoke to someone recently who knows a great deal about dogs, and her thoughts were that something went wrong in the breeding process. As frustrating as it has been to have to repeatedly apologize to company for her actions, she is still our dog. She has provided many good memories as well. Her favorite thing in life besides mealtime is lying on a chair by the fire while camping.

babs chair
Greg Jannetta

I've never in my adult life had to put a dog down that wasn't on death's door already. Chance began showing signs of heart failure the weekend we took him to a local veterinary to have put down. He could barely breath, and his condition was verified by the doctor, so I guess there was some comfort in that. I sat on the cold floor of the office--just Chance and I-- and held his paw until he slipped away. I must have been a wreck, because I brought a woman in the lobby to tears on my way out the door.

Babs had an incident last summer at an area lake where two dogs broke free from their tether and attacked her as we were walking her. She sustained a large cut to the side of her neck, and nearly passed away the next day due to infection. She pulled through, but has never been the same since. She doesn't get around well at all anymore, and we have to carry her up and down stairs and outside.

During Babs' visit to the vet last summer, we were told her arthritis was very bad, which we were unaware of because she is not a dog that yelps or ever shows signs of being in any pain; she's a tough old broad indeed.

My same acquaintance who knows a great deal about dogs told me when the animal is in pain, that's when she knows it's time to make the decision. Bulldogs don't normally live to 13, but that is exactly what age Babs will be this November.

So, I have a question to Idaho dog owners out there. What constitutes putting a dog down in your mind? We obviously want our dog around as long as possible, but is it right to let the animal's health advance to the point at which they are merely just present in the home.

Twin Falls Animal Shelter Adoptable Cats and Dogs February 2021

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