It's not that obvious if you don't know what you're looking for. It isn't as if he has severe arthritis and was barely able to move. On the contrary, he's still bouncy to an annoying level, the ditz, and the tail still wags as ferociously as ever. The coat is still shiny, the eyes barely indicating cataracts yet.
These are the things which makes it difficult. His final vet appointment is Saturday. After which, we will become a one-dog family.
It's not that I don't love him still, 12 years after us picking each other out in the pet store. He was one of three cocker spaniel puppies, the other two golden. He was the only black and white one I'd seen, mostly black with white polka dots on his belly and legs. My first ever pedigreed dog, I had him AKC registered and chipped. Since he had a "field coat", he wasn't considered desirable as a breeder, and got neutered at an appropriate age. His formal name is Kunshi Ta Koda, accents on the second syllables, a Dakota phrase roughly translating to "Grandma's Best Buddy", though Koda is a way more important relationship than a buddy. We call him Koda - accent on the first syllable - for short, though I have friends who insist his name is Dakota. He'll answer.
It's not that I'm allergic to him. I'm allergic to lots of stuff these days, mostly inescapable, and choosing medication rather than purging the environment of family pets. I have taken to keeping him out of the bedroom while I sleep, at least until lately. He guards the door, just like when I'm sitting in my chair to read or watch TV, when he parks in front of me facing out, guarding me.
It's that I can no longer bear his living in pain. He has gotten chronic ear infections, typical for his breed with his floppy ears. Mostly we've cleared them up, but this time it just keeps recurring after each time it clears up. You can tell two ways. First is the smell. I won't even try to describe it. Some of you may be eating. Second, he scratches at his ears, digging at them with his claws, never long enough to reach to where it'll do any good. Return vet visits garner him stronger and longer doses of antibiotics. Then it comes back after a week or two.
On top of that, there's his breath. No, halitosis is not a capitol offense, though this smells bad enough it might tempt someone to think so. It's a symptom. His teeth are rotting in his mouth. Despite a lifetime of dry food, milk bones, rawhides and dental chews, they're rotting away. This time I blame my dad. He spoiled Koda. I use the term "ruined". A morsel of food from Dad's plate gained him a companion for the years he lived with us, and he didn't follow house rules about how and when, or even whether, Koda could be fed. And yes, we let him, though I'm not sure we could have actually intervened. As a result, Koda got bad habits about helping himself to food. He also got rotting teeth.
I've had bad teeth. I remember the pain. You can watch Koda when he goes to one of the few rooms which still have carpeting. He will rub his muzzle against the carpet, as if to soothe the pain. He does the same outside. He'll settle for grass, but the snow seems to really help, as one would suspect it would. That has become such a priority for him that he has taken to watching rabbits in the yard. He's still capable of chasing them, formerly a favorite pastime. He's just no longer interested.
Yes, I know. We cold take him to a doggie dentist, have expensive diagnosis and removals performed. It might clear up the oral infections. But it won't help his ears. The load of microbes is something he's no longer able to cope with. It's time to quit asking him to.
But then I watch him as he greets me, see the bounce and the tail wags. And I keep second guessing my decision. Knowing all that's going on inside him renews my resolve, but part of me continues to protest. I could let him continue, and yet I can't.
It's going to be a long week.