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dog gone it

My dog Norm is 16 years old, and it has really started to show over the past six months. He has frequent accidents in the house, and it seems that he sleeps at least 20 hours a day. He has trouble getting up and down the three steps from the porch to the lawn, and he is visibly in uncomfortable. Sometimes he struggles just to stand. I know I should consider putting him down, but I don’t think I could handle it. Can you offer any advice?

—Best Friend

The Practical Cogitator says: Is your dog happy? No. Does your dog still make you happy? No. It sounds to me like your dog is suffering, and that you in turn are suffering. Sometimes when you are a grown up you need to make difficult decisions. As a pet owner, you need to care for your pet. If your pet is suffering, then you are not doing your job. Unless you are child under the age 10, you know what needs to be done. Do it. Let your pet, that you claim to love, find peace, and end to it’s suffering And please, for the sake of all the other animals out there, think twice before you get another pet.

A Little Help From Your Friends says: I know a guy whose attachment to his dog was so strong that he recognized that he’d never be able to make an objective assessment of the situation when the dog grew old and infirm. So, while the dog was still young and hale, this guy asked three of his friends to be his outside counsel on the matter. He asked them to tell him when it was time to put the dog down, and resolved to follow their advice, no matter how painful it would be. And so he did: Two years ago, one of his friends observed the dog’s increasing decrepitude—visible discomfort, lack of energy, trouble with steps and getting in to and out of the car, trouble getting to his feet—and said it was time. My friend took his friend’s advice, though it killed him to do so, because he knew that the day was coming, and that his friends would not pass judgment idly.

If you have good, trustworthy friends who are sensitive to your attachment to your dog, you too might try outsourcing the decision.

Alternately, and more coldheartedly, you might decide on a price threshold for your next visit to the vet. Maybe $200 per month for medicine the dog hates to take is too much; maybe $2,000 for hip surgery is the bundle of hay that breaks the camel’s back.

The Straight Perspective: Ask this of yourself: What do you think you would want? Hyperbolic hysteria about “death panels” aside, most of us wouldn’t like to live in pain, and most of us, whatever our beliefs about the great beyond, aren’t afraid of it. Neither is your dog, who has had a good (I hope) long life, and deserves to end it with some modicum of dignity and as little pain as possible.

the short list

Money’s tight, and I need some help prioritizing. The roof leaks. The heat doesn’t work right. The electric wiring needs attention. Just lost our health insurance, but still have a few thousand dollars in deductibles to pay off. The car needs fixed. The basement leaks. Let’s see...the kids need new winter clothes. The credit cards are maxed. Already had a garage sale. Canned our own vegetables, which should last until January. Wife and I both work full time and have side gigs. This week is our anniversary, and I have no gift to give.

Of these liabilities, which should I address first?

—Honey Don’t

“Classified” says: Funny, I find myself in a similar predicament, and I feel your pain. I would suggest that you take care of the wife first. You can always find something reasonable if you shop around, and you can certainly do something to make life easier for her, such as: prepare dinner for a week, do laundry for a week, I’m sure you see where I am going. Check out Artviews and the Calendar listings, there are always events that are reasonably priced or free. Keep the kids in clothes. You can try Amvets, Goodwill, or Salvation Armani.I would then see what your options are for health insurance. Maybe go online and see about Healthy New York; at least try to get the kids coverage. You may even be able to make minimal payments on the deductibles you owe. Next you should address the roof. Once the roof goes, nothing is safe. Since winter is here, I’d suggest following the roof with the heating system, and from there try to scrounge up enough money to work on your electric service. You may want to try contacting your council person and see if there are any grants available for these home improvements. Now, when January rolls around, if you find times are still tough, check out the Food bank of WNY:

I hope things shape up, and I hope you and your wife enjoy your anniversary.

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