Dear Dr. Fox: I had an animal rescue for 15 years. In addition to doing adoptions and caring for unadoptable critters, I also advised pet owners. People often asked the question about how to know when it’s time to say goodbye. Here’s how I would answer: “Consider whether your pet is still living the life of (a dog, a cat, a rabbit, whatever). Get a little calendar and every day, mark whether your pet is having a good day, a bad day or a so-so day. When there are more bad days than good days, it’s time.”
People find this comforting. It gives them something they can measure. Another advantage of the calendar is that it helps prevent the “Was it too soon?” second-guessing that torments people. They can look back at the calendar and remind themselves that it was the right time. P.B., Memphis, Tennessee
Dear P.B.: I think your advice will be helpful to many people who may otherwise have regrets and feel guilty having their animal companion euthanized. Keeping a record of daily quality of life can help avoid memory-suppression of bad days, which is part of our own self-protection from the burden of empathy and remembering just how long an animal had been suffering. Desensitization to how much an animal is suffering day after day might then be avoided.
Dogs at risk
With climate change, ponds and lakes across the U.S. are warming up, creating ideal conditions for algae to flourish. Of special concern is blue-green algae called Cyanobacteria, which produces a toxin lethal to dogs, and probably wildlife, who drink the water. It can also make people ill if it gets into their water supply. Runoff from fertilized lawns, gardens and agricultural crops, along with farmed animal manure, feed the algae, creating toxic blooms. Scientists are finding nutrients (as well as microplastics) in windborne dust precipitating over remote lakes where algal blooms are being reported.
Keep your dog out of the water if you have no assurance that it is safe, and if your dog does go for an off-leash dunk — water-loving breeds like Labradors in particular — hose your dog down thoroughly when you get home. Also, never let your dog drink from standing water. Take water and a bowl with you if you are going for a long walk or hike.
United Feature Syndicate
Write to Dr. Fox c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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