Update on the Pup

Monday, December 28th, 2009


Thanks again for all your kind emails and comments. The steroids have helped a lot. Harper’s now sleeping, eating, even playing a little with the other dogs. That’s only a temporary thing, though. The tumor is causing her right eye to water, so she now has a permanent tear stain down that side of her face. Looks like she’s gone goth. At this point, it’s just nice that she’s comfortable. Her struggle to breathe, sleep, eat, and drink earlier this week was wrenching. It also always gets me how dogs can pick this stuff up. Daisy usually spends about half her day biting, sitting on, and pawing at Harper. For the last few days, she just lies next to her and grooms her. It’s sweet.

Harper’s been a great companion. Hell, I’ve had her for about 30 percent of my life. The vet says the steroids could conceivably give her another few months. But it seems sort of selfish to keep propping her up for my sake. She’s better, but she’s clearly not herself. So I’ll probably have her put down when I get back to D.C.

For now, I’m headed to Nashville, Tennessee for a couple days. Light to non-existent blogging ’til I get back.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

43 Responses to “Update on the Pup”

  1. #1 |  whiskey | 

    Sorry for your loss

  2. #2 |  Judi | 

    Sorry about Harper, Radley. Miracles still happen. Let’s pray that Harper’s recovery will be one of them. But just in case, we’re all thinking about you guys!

  3. #3 |  Kristen | 

    My thoughts are with you and that gorgeous girl of yours.

  4. #4 |  Nando | 


    I know that having Harper put to sleep is going to be one of the most difficult decisions you’ve made, probably ever. To lose a faithful companion, like I can only imagine Harper has been to you, is by no means easy. I have not lost a dog since I was about 7, so I can’t really tell you what to expect. However, the mere thought of our 2.5 year old dog not being with us chokes me up and brings a tear to my eye.

    But, as much as we love our dogs, we must do what is best for them and not for us. It sounds like putting Harper to sleep and ending her misery is probably the best alternative. May the Doggie Door of Doggie Heaven await and accept her.

  5. #5 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Let’s have a meetup in Nash Vegas, let me know when you’re in town.

  6. #6 |  Mark | 

    I’ll double Michaels request. Know some good spots round the ‘ville.

  7. #7 |  dsmallwood | 

    dude, that just sucks. i am really, really sorry.

  8. #8 |  BamBam | 

    All I can say is what I went through 2 years ago: be there for your dog, don’t let her live a miserable existence, and do the humane thing and end her life when you and your vet determine it’s time. I wanted my yellow Lab Zinger to live, he was fine other than the fact that he peed blood until he had complete blockage (vet said it was likely a tumor in bladder, highly unlikely that surgery could fix it, especially a dog of his age of 12 years old). I was begging the vet for info, could anything be done, etc. while bawling my head off. Thankfully my wife was the stable one for us, and I listened to reason — it was Zinger’s time to go. We almost lost him a year prior (lack of interest in food, trouble standing up) and we paid thousands for various procedures to determine what happened, and the best we could all guess is that he had a stroke. Zinger had a strong will to live (and eat), so he healed and was better than even and gave us another wonderful year with him.

    Listen to your heart, listen to your vet, ask questions, and be there for Harper on her final journey to Doggie Heaven.

  9. #9 |  BamBam | 

    better than ever

  10. #10 |  D. | 

    I’m very sorry to hear that. It must be grueling.

  11. #11 |  More cynical | 

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  12. #12 |  Andrew S. | 

    I feel for ya, Radley. I’ve been there before, and it’s just so very rough. It’s funny how doing the right thing is one of the most difficult and painful choices you can ever make. Still feels like I failed them even though it was the right decision.

    I ope you can have a good vacation despite this all.

  13. #13 |  Lucy | 

    So sorry about the dog. I had a dog for nine years of my life, didn’t even have to have him put down, which obviously would make it worse, but it’s been three years and I still think he’s here sometimes.

    Also, I got to ask, you’re not going to the Old Crow Nashville New Years show, are you?

  14. #14 |  john | 

    i’m sorry.

  15. #15 |  Sky | 

    Harper has the most content look on her face. She absolutely knows she is loved and that you are doing everything you can to make her comfortable….it doesn’t get any better than that!

    The paw prints she has left on your heart will someday brings smiles to your face. :)

  16. #16 |  scott in phx az | 

    If people were as good as dogs there wouldn’t be a thing wrong with the world.

    Warm wishes to you in this sad time.

  17. #17 |  Bill | 

    Radley – I’ve always been a big fan, but I have upped my fanboy status since you’ve went hard on the dog posts. They are the best. My heart goes out to you on Harper – It’s admirable as hell though that you’re strong enough to do what’s best for her. I dread the days I’ll face the same situation – I’ve been through it before and it’s rough. As hard as it was, I knew it was the right thing to do (I amost backed out of it but pushed through).

    I can only offer the advice a Priest offered me (Even if you’re not religious, it’s good advice). If you focus on your loss, it’ll tear you up, if you consider her a gift that you weren’t entitled to in the first place, you appreciate the gift that she was and the time with her. I know it’s mushy, but it helped me out a lot so I figured I’d offer it to you.

    Best wishes my friend, to you and her both

  18. #18 |  Dylboz | 

    My first dog, Reese, a pound pup (all of mine are or have been) developed an autoimmune disorder in about her 7th year of life that first manifested as bruises and eventually temporary blindness caused by her eyes filling with blood (at that time, my younger pitbull/boxer mix, Sherman, would guide her around the house by walking next to her and gently shoving her to and fro, since the time he noticed her walk into a wall). She had been misdiagnosed and treated for a thyroid issue, which did nothing, obviously, and then when the eye thing happened, they finally ran the tests to determine what was really going on. Steroids gave her another 3 years, but eventually, their side-effects caught up with her. They cause fluid build up, and she just couldn’t flush it out fast enough, her kidneys apparently debilitated, her abdomen and lungs were overcome. She obeyed my last command, though. She seemed to be having a hard time breathing one morning, but it wasn’t the first time, so I didn’t rush her to the vet. I figured if she was still bad when I came home, I’d take her in. I said to her jokingly “don’t die while we’re gone,” and true to form, she waited ’til my fiancé came home, hauled her self up with the last of her strength, asked to go outside, crawled under a tree (one of her favorite little spots in the yard) and breathed her last.

    The point of my story is to say, if the steroids can help her get a few more months, give them to her. I could have put Reese down at the pathetic site of her blindness (her sight came back after treatment, though) or the obvious pain and discomfort she suffered due to bruising and internal bleeding, but the treatment really helped once an accurate diagnosis was made, and it turned out she had a few more good years left in her. If the months steroids will give her will only be miserable for Harper, well, then maybe not, but as noted above, dogs can be pretty adaptable, and maybe once the worst is over and the treatment begins to work, she’ll accommodate herself to some limitations, but still enjoy your company and that of her canine siblings. It’s worth a try, and you might regret it if you don’t.

  19. #19 |  George | 

    Sorry for you, sorry for Harper, but take some comfort in the fact that she had you as you had her for all those years.

  20. #20 |  skunky | 

    Pets are wonderful things, and when they have to leave us it’s gut-wrenching. I still get choked up thinking about the cat I grew up with and who lived with me at my first bachelor apartment. I had to put her down after nursing her back to health four years prior.

    If nothing else, it gives men a good excuse for a good cry.

  21. #21 |  Maria | 

    What a kind faced pup. Enjoy the time you have with your girl as she will enjoy it with you. I lost both my old, wonderful mutts to cancer last year and while we did everything to help them through there comes a time where you both look at each other and know it’s time to say good by. Scratch her in all the spots she loves till then but don’t be too hard on yourself either; take some time out.

  22. #22 |  FIREhat | 

    Be strong Radley. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this; I know how important dogs are to a full life.

  23. #23 |  Cornellian | 

    It’s awesome that Daisy can tell Harper isn’t well and is trying to help her get better.

    I second the earlier comment – the world would be a much better place if people were as friendly as dogs.

  24. #24 |  WiNoJoE | 

    Shit Radley, now you’ve gone and made me cry! :`(

  25. #25 |  Nick | 

    I’m really sorry. Watching a dog deteriorate like that is hard… but keeping the dogs best interests at heart like you are is the best thing you can do. Sorry for your loss, but the loyalty and love Harper gave will always be remembered.

  26. #26 |  Adam | 

    Radley – Best wishes to you in this difficult time. Levin has a good book about the relationship between human and his k9 companion that helped me through the loss of my childhood dog.

  27. #27 |  Victor Milán | 

    My condolences and my strong sympathy, Mr. Balko. It’s hideous to have to choose to end the life of a beloved animal to friend to spare him or her pain. I’ve made that choice before and, sadly, will probably have to do so again. Please keep reminding yourself that if it’s right for Harper, it’s right, and as great a service – and a kindness – as anything you’ve done for her.

  28. #28 |  Angie | 

    I’m so sorry you have to go thru this. I had a cat, Pepper, many years ago that after 16 years I had to put to sleep. Was the hardest thing ever. I’m so sorry.

  29. #29 |  Dan | 

    Radley, several years ago, our golden lab of 14 years died. This was the 5th family pet I have lost in my life and it never gets easier. This time, however, a neighbor’s 10 year old girl made a card for us and delivered it the day after we lost Que. She hand wrote a poem “Rainbow Bridge” (you can search for that on the web). I have to say, the combination of that little girl’s personal expression of sympathy and the poem assuaged some of our grief. When the time comes, take a moment and read it.

    We now own two Dachshunds (Apple and Abner), never thought I would like a small dog… boy was I wrong.

  30. #30 |  Marty | 

    I’ve been around a lot of dying in my life and I don’t know that I’ve ever grieved more than when my buddy Jake died. I’m sorry you and Harper are hurting- the dog blogs and stories show how big a part of your life she is. My thoughts are with you.

  31. #31 |  Corbin Kohn | 

    I am sorry to hear about your dog. I know it is one of the most painful experiences that life gives us. She is lucky to have an owner who is so devoted to her comfort and well-being.
    Corbin Kohn

  32. #32 |  Don | 

    My sincerest sympathy Radley, I understand what you’re going through and really do wish you the best.
    I’ve seen the love you have for your dogs, and i appreciate it greatly.

  33. #33 |  Joanne | 

    I’m so, so sorry. We had to put our border collie mix down last summer. It was so hard for us–but it was the right thing for him. We miss him terribly, but we know he had a good life with us and now is at peace. Thinking of you and your beautiful pups.

  34. #34 |  B | 

    I’m so sorry.

  35. #35 |  MacGhil | 

    It’s a terrible time for you all, Radley. My condolences.

    If it makes it easier on her, and you, ask the vet for a small dose of the same med they use to put them down (just enough to render her unconscious–IIRC, we were given 3ml in a syringe), so you can say your good-byes at home, and then sedate her. This way, her last waking moments won’t be at the dreaded vet.

  36. #36 |  scott | 

    When you first broke the news of Harper’s illness my heart broke for you. And this update just… well… yeah. Dog people understand. Non-dog people never will.

    Big manly hugs to you and the critters.

  37. #37 |  Carlyle Moulton | 


    Dogs are good friends, they are really good natured creatures. Unfortunately their life span is much shorter than ours so those of us who like dogs have to put up with the fact that during our life times many of our dog friends will die. For big dogs 13 years is a long life although I know of a couple of large dogs who made it to 19. My dog Rexx is already 9 years old and I am already dreading the time 4 or 5 years in the future when she runs out of life. Cats last longer, 19 years is quite common for cats.

    Console yourself with the knowledge that you have given Harper a good life. Don’t put her down while she still has days of quality life left, but don’t hesitate once her span of quality life is exhausted.

    When Harper dies Daisy will be lonely, get another dog quickly for both your and Daisy’s sanity.

    I enjoy your dog blogging photos.

  38. #38 |  Toastrider | 

    Back in March, I had to put one of my basset hounds to sleep. She had developed cancer which had metastasized in her lungs. Couldn’t eat; couldn’t drink; could barely move. She was nine years old.

    We kept her going for about two weeks on IV nutrients while we scrambled to see if there was a solution. But, sadly, there wasn’t one. My heart still aches from that last day, when we came into the vet clinic. She scented us immediately, and her tail began its thumpa-thump rhythm, as if to say ‘where the hell have you been?’.

    Sometimes, the only gift you can give is to let them go. It hurts, and it should; don’t think less of yourself if you cry. But remember that this is the right thing, the responsible thing to do. A man takes care of his dog, even at the end.

    I’ve had to think about that with my other basset, who’s getting on in years (he’s almost ten now). He gets sore joints occasionally, and his behavior is sometimes that of a grumpy old man. As if to counter this, we recently adopted a basset hound crossbreed who’s not even a year old. But it seems to have done the old man a world of good.

    A hug as well, and the new pup offers slobbery kisses (dear God I wish she wouldn’t do that in the mornings… :) )

  39. #39 |  Andrew Williams | 

    So sorry for you and Harper.

  40. #40 |  Gritsforbreakfast | 

    Radley, I’m sorry to hear this. I’ve had to go through this twice as an adult and it’s a terrible responsibility. When the dog reaches a certain point, though, I think it’s the right thing. Dogs have no life of the mind – when their bodies go south, it’s a mitzvah IMO to relieve them of their final suffering.

    Good luck and I’m really sorry you must endure this. It’s the price we pay for the times of enjoyment with our animals, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.

  41. #41 |  Jaundicedi | 

    Greetings. I’m one of your far liberal readers. You are my best source for the Maricopa County story. I’m sorry you are having to go through all this with your animal companion. Losing a beloved pet is often harder than losing family. It makes no sense, but it is true none the less. Although we don’t always agree, I respect you and wish you well.

  42. #42 |  joev | 

    you have my deepest sympathies — recently lost a beloved member of the family as well. all my best radley.

  43. #43 |  Kidseven | 

    I wish you the best in dealing with this. Been down that hard road myself. Sounds like you’re handling it the right way.