He left the shelter as our foster dog almost 9 years ago today. Blake’s life started out the only god knows where. He was found on I-95 by Philadelphia police officers and was taken to the city shelter. Blake was adopted and returned twice before becoming the longest-term resident. He was adopted a third time from foster care but was ultimately returned. His fourth and final adoption processed immediately upon his return back to us and so Blake became our accidental Pitbull. We always joked and said he was the Nub we never knew we needed.
On our way to the vet about 2 years ago
When Blake left the shelter we estimated that he was around 2 years old, which would make him about 11 today. He didn’t show signs of deterioration until about 18 months ago. The first thing we noticed was that his anxiety was increasing and peaking at night, his sleep cycle was disturbed shortly thereafter. He began asking to go out to the bathroom multiple times a night and not exactly on a schedule. He was diagnosed with Dementia and so our journey began.
At the vet just a couple of weeks ago!
Blake was probably 7 in this photo
We began managing the Dementia with medication and supplements prescribed by his veterinarian. At the suggestion of his veterinary behaviorist, we added in a weekly training plan, food toys and snuffle mats to keep his brain stimulated. Exercising his brain became our best defense against Dementia. We switched up the backyard, for the front yard for his bathroom breaks. He was much more excited to go out front and would explore far longer than he would outback.
Blake loves a good made bed
Blake loves lying in warm laundry
On most evenings his anxiety remains heightened, we learned that sundowning happens in dogs too. Something that has been difficult for me personally, is that Blake needs to be where I am. We have a baby gate up to separate Hudson from Blake and Oliver. If Blake is not on the same side as me, he will bark until I let him on my side or I go back to his side. On especially bad days, he will ask to go outside and then refuses to go out. He turns and runs to the opposite end of the house, it is almost as if he is scared to go out. We slowly coax him out with food and once he is outside, he zooms down the steps as if nothing was wrong, to begin with. On good days, he goes right outside.
Bromance for the ages!
Blake when he was still our foster dog! He was 2!
Although these changes and medications were helpful and gave Blake a better quality of life for a short time, we experienced setbacks. Dementia is an insidious and relentless condition that is grueling for the human caring for the pet and even the pet himself. We as human beings can at least rationalize and make sense of what is happening to them. Our pets have no idea what is happening to them, why it’s happening or if it will ever stop. They just know they are scared, confused, tired from a disturbed sleep cycle and incredibly anxious. That is the case for Blake, those are his symptoms.
Blake was a silly boy when he was young!
He has always been the most excellent snuggler
We feel that we are at a point where we need to make a decision regarding Blake’s end of life care. Jack and I have a very simple philosophy on euthanasia: We will never allow our pets to suffer needlessly if we can prevent it. We refuse to put our aging pets through invasive treatments or procedures if the prognosis or chances for remission are poor. We believe that we are the only ones who can provide our pets with kindness in times of suffering and it is our responsibility to end that suffering if we can.
He loves pillows
He loves the leg fort!
Don’t get me wrong, we all doubt ourselves and it is a process of coming to terms with something very difficult. Something I think about when questioning my thoughts as to whether it is time or not is to remember that our pets don’t have an internal narrative of the past or hopes and dreams for the future. They live in the present, now. They aren’t concerned with the idea of the afterlife. So, if they are no longer having happy “nows’ ‘ and those “unhappy nows” are indefinite, what is actually humane here? I also consult “The HHHHHMM Scale”. It is a Quality of Life scale developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos. We did not use it in our case, because the scale mainly measures physical health. Blake’s physical health is not what is in question. We are of the belief that psychological suffering is as serious as physical suffering.
He won some contests in his day too!
He participated in the MS Walk each year as our team mascot until he physically couldn’t anymore
We are all mostly expecting to outlive our pets. Being able to make the right decisions is something you need to know that either you or your partner will be able to do. We have learned through past experiences that it is far better to let your pet go early on, even at the risk of potentially losing good days. The inevitable bad days are going to come. Quite frankly, we do not believe logically, emotionally or ethically, that it is worth our pets suffering to wait for our own selfish reasons. We all wish our pets could live forever, but they can’t. We refuse to keep them alive, solely because we just cannot say goodbye yet.
He would climb up and snuggle into any nook
His smile is the greatest!
The bad days have been creeping up in numbers and before the bad days begin to outweigh the good ones; we will lovingly and humanely help Blake to peacefully leave this world. For the past few weeks, Blake has been enjoying all of the good stuff that he loves! One of the best suggestions we have ever received was to make a bucket list of all of the things your dog loves to do and complete as many as you can before the day! Being able to schedule the date gives us some control and allows us to make the final days of his life joyful and memorable. It’s also a meaningful way for us to show our love, our gratitude for the years we shared and to say goodbye.
Aunt Nina is the greatest to Blake! (and everyone else)
A warm butt is a good place to snuggle, I guess?
Blake will continue to be spoiled each day with the yummy treats he loves but was not allowed to have for various reasons such as pig ears, knee caps, and mammoth bones! He has been getting delicious gourmet treats each day and enjoying bully sticks too! He has lots of stuffies to destroy and snuffle mats to root through! He’s been enjoying Licki-Mats and Licki-Bowls with peanut butter and spreadable cheeses! His absolute favorite food is pizza and although the pizza party in pizza pajamas was not officially a bucket list item, it was something that I am really happy we got to do!
King of laying on top of people!
Blake was about 4 in this photo
His favorite person in the world is his Aunt Nina and she has been spending more time with him lately. She will, of course, take him for one last special walk and be present when we say goodbye. We will memorialize him like those that came before him by cremating him, keeping his ashes and paw print and eventually adding another portrait to Jack’s tattoo collection.
Until then, please enjoy the bucket list photos to come and if you have any memories of Blake, please share them! Follow Blake and his two brothers on their Instagram!
A very young Griffin Fam
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