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End of Life Care Tips from a Pack Mom
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On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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17 May 2011 - 12:46 pm
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The end of life discussion is difficult, but necessary for pawrents to ensure a peaceful transition for their beloved animal companion. In a recent Tripawd Talk Radio show, we gleaned valuable advice about this topic. And an in an ongoing discussion about how pack mates say goodbye, Tripawd Calpurnia's Mom, TC Wait, offered more enlightenment.

If anyone knows about coping with this process, TC does. As a sled dog family, TC and her husband have always had a large pack comprised of rescue dogs of all ages.

Sadly, they've gone through end-of-life care many times. It never gets easier, but TC has learned a lot through the years and wants to share it with this community.

by TC Wait

“One of the hardest things to face when you have a large pack of dogs you live your life with is when one becomes sick, old, or otherwise ailing. These dogs give us their all, consistently, all the time. They give our lives direction and meaning. Our dogs are family members. Each one is individual and cherished.

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Calpurnia, our 16-year old, three-legged dog, is not doing well. She has had a long life, lead more teams than I can count, logged thousands of miles in harness, has survived starvation, a broken femur, laryngeal paralysis, and cancer.

But she has reached a point in her life where we are not able to fix what is wrong.

You can’t fix old age. Dying is part of living, and she has indeed lived a long and glorious life. We have been blessed to be a part of it.

After our return from Alaska, she started winding down. Almost as if she had crossed the last thing off her “bucket list” that she wanted to accomplish. We took her to the vet to make sure there wasn’t anything treatable going on. But we guessed from her gaze that she was seeing trails and teams that we could not see.

Dogs know things that people don’t, or won’t see. The pack behaves differently when a member is in transition, getting ready to cross over. This week the younger dogs started bringing Cali “gifts” of pine cones and sticks, and laying close to her. Even Ivy the cat has been curling up with Cali on her bed. Sitting vigil. Saying their good-byes.

Things to Consider When Facing End-of-Life Decisions

Transitions can take a long time, but really there is no way to tell. There are cycles of good days and bad days. End-of-life care for a friend requires patience and comfort.

I have been down this road many times, and with as many furry family members as we have, have only scratched the surface of how many more times we will be here. I don't have any answers, but I do have some thoughts to share on the end-of-life that we ALL will face at some point.

There is no "right" or "wrong" here. Each dog, each situation, each day varies. All you can do is what is best for your particular friend on that particular day. Maybe it is allowing nature to do its thing, maybe it is aggressively treating an issue, maybe it is euthanasia.

I have gone all these routes (and some others too) based on each unique situation. No one can tell you what is best for your situation. YOU know your animal better than anyone else, and you need to keep their needs in mind.

Everyone dies. No one gets out of this contract. Dying isn't something to fret or worry about because it is pointless. We do what we can with the time we have – as long or as short as that may be. Each day is a gift, each moment precious. Make them count.

I don't remember being born, but I can't imagine that it was a painless process (certainly not for my mom). In that same light, I think that there is some natural discomfort in dying also. Our bodies are programed to keep fighting, sometimes beyond what they are capable of.

That being said, as a pet owner I think you need to closely evaluate what level of discomfort your friend is facing and do what you can to help. I wouldn't be afraid of pain, rather see it for what it is and try to figure out what it is telling you. Go with your heart.

Lots of people like to tell you what to do. They don't know. They can't possibly know. YOU do. YOU have to make the decisions, do the hard work, get up a million times during the night, etc. Every time someone makes a snide comment about your decisions, keep that in mind. And try not to punch them in the neck, that just leads to legal issues.

Transition from life to death can sometimes take a long time. It definitely takes a stress toll on you, and pack mates that may live with you. As much as you can, try to keep life as normal as possible. Get out and walk, watch a sunset, make a nice meal, laugh. Do the things that keep your spirit filled. Your energy keeps the pack happy, stable, and feeling secure.

Calpurnia Chooses Her Own Path

Calpurnia is very peaceful. She does not appear to be stressed or in pain. We have had a series of cool, snowy days which seems to have perked her up a bit. She watches life around her, but makes little effort to be involved. More as if she is reminding herself of this life so she has memories to take with her. She takes comfort in her team members being around her.

We will not rush her – we will allow Calpurnia to choose her own path and her own time as she has her whole life. We will take each day as they come and enjoy the precious moments we have left with our sweet girl.

When the time comes, she will follow that trail to her teammates waiting on the other side who will be so happy to see her. Her spirit will live on in the lessons she has taught us, the memories we have shared together, and the continuation of the journey we started together.”

Written by TC Wait. Read this in its entirety at The Adventures of the Odaroloc Sled Dogs.

Calpurnia has a special place in our hearts. She has been a member of Tripawds since 2007. When she and Spirit Jerry met in 2008, it was love at first sight. We'll never forget it.

Our hearts are breaking knowing that she will no longer be leading us down trails here on earth, but we take comfort in knowing that Spirit Jerry will be there to welcome her into eternity.

More Ways to Cope with End of Life Decisions and Grief:

Tripawds Grief Support Resources

Help for Coping with Anticipatory Grief

Pet Loss Books to Ease a Child's Broken Heart

'For Every Dog an Angel' Celebrates our Bonds

How to R.O.A.R. and Recover from Pet Loss





Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Golden Girls
18 May 2011 - 8:35 am
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Thanks for posting this. I'll check out some of the links you posted. I'm still struggling...


On The Road

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18 May 2011 - 9:24 am
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Cathy, {{{{{{hugs}}}}}{{{{{{hugs}}}}}{{{{{{hugs}}}}}

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Grandad's Garden
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19 May 2011 - 7:18 am
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Hi Cathy- I wish I had some words that would give your heart some relief.  I do think that each dog comes into our lives with a lesson to teach.  I don't know what Skyler's lesson for you was, but maybe if you remember what she brought into your life it will give you some comfort and some peace.  You are not alone, and it is perfectly normal to mourn and miss our animal friends deeply - unconditional love is not something most humans are capable of.


I am going to try to give some updates on Cali's last journey for those who this sort of thing might help.  It is hard for me, but Cali has been a faithful leader on my team, and now maybe she can lead the way for those who haven't been down this path before.

We had a couple of good days with cooler weather and some snow.  That seemed to perk Cali up a bit, but on the downside, it also brought out a bloom of belly bugs that has several of Cali's pack members down with horrible diahareah.  So far Cali hasn't been affected, but it is a lot of work to try to keep her isolated from everyone and keep things bleached to avoid getting her sick (which I think would be devistating to her health). 

Cali hasn't slept through the night in weeks, and we are getting really tired with getting up 2+ times each night to let her out (we have to carry her as she has so much trouble getting around and sometimes gives very little warning she wants to go out).  So we have to focus on getting some decent sleep! 

Cali seems to not care about her normal dog food, but is still VERY interested in chicken breasts, so we are trying to mix that in to keep her energy reserves up.  We also have her on some high doses of predisone, which isn't the best long-term solution, but I have found gives a lot of relief in some dogs.  My grandfather was a human physician, and used to have a saying "before they're dead, try pred".  Maybe not the best bedside manner, but very good advice for some humans and some dogs. 

The team just gave a long howl.  I think it is the snow howl, which is good news (to us, anyhow)!

On The Road

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19 May 2011 - 9:27 am
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Thanks for the update, and insight. Give Cali a good rub down for us.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Grandad's Garden
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9 December 2009
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20 May 2011 - 5:42 pm
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For every yin, there is a yang.  We have just returned from the Vet hospital after an emergency run this afternoon with Calpurnia. 


We have had a belly bug going through our kennel, which is common this time of the year when the snow melts, the rains come, and the dogs start digging up all sorts of goodies.  Generally, like with humans, the dogs feel sort of icky for a few days, then rebound pretty quickly.  Trouble is when you have many dogs, it tends to go through the whole pack in a staggered way.  With a geriatric old lady who isn't doing that well to begin with, we worked really hard to keep Calpurnia from getting IT.  Armed with bleach and shovels, we tried to keep her environment as clean as we could given the rain and mud involved. 

This morning started well.  The sun came out and Cali was able to hop around a bit and find her own sunny place to snooze.  But by 11 am it was clear that despite our efforts, Cali was coming down with the bug.  By 2 pm, she was listless and limp.  Knowing the bug was taking 3-5 days to get through the other dogs, we quickly consulted with our vets to see what the best course of action would be to support her through this.  It seemed that fluids would probably be the best route.

At the vets, we discovered that Cali is very anemic, and there is now a large mass in her belly.  We had suspected her cancer had come back from bloodwork a few weeks ago.  Her system is not circulating like it is supposed to, so the vet opted for a IV catheter instead of sub-q fluids.  While it is likely there is something terminal going on, I also know Cali cycles with good and bad spells.  I am hoping to give her a fighting chance to rally again, but on the other hand don't think that things like blood transfusions will really be worthwhile at this point.  Whatever happens, I want Cali to make her own decisions if possible.  Neither of us felt that today was "the day."

So, now we are in a wait-and-see pattern.  Maybe the fluids will help support Cali's feeble system during this bug, maybe it won't make a difference.  We will give her this chance and see what happens.

She is resting on her bed and being good about her IV line.  I worry that she has messed herself and I can't really clean her up right now, but I suppose that is not what I should be focused on.  Her eyes watch me everywhere I go.  I can feel them on me now.

Life is a precious gift.

On The Road

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20 May 2011 - 8:27 pm
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Oh TC, I can't imagine the roller coaster ride you are on right now. My heart goes out to you, Dave, the pack, and especially Calpurnia. Thank you so much for this update.

Oh this is not easy, but you have such a strong head on your shoulders, and are such a realist, I know that only you can make this rough situation as best as it can be for you and Cali, and the pack of course.

We hope the fluids will bring her the comfort she needs right now. Give her our love and whisper Jerry's name in her ear for us. We love you guys.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Grandad's Garden
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20 May 2011 - 8:42 pm
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And just like that, she is gone.


I love you Cali.  Godspeed.  Tell the others I love them too.

knoxville, tn
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12 February 2010
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20 May 2011 - 9:03 pm
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we are so sad to hear of cali's passing.  she lived a beautiful life and offered hope to us all.  love never ends.

charon & gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


Chicago, IL
Member Since:
5 March 2011
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20 May 2011 - 9:37 pm
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I am so sorry for your loss and so much admire the way you've handled this. 

Thank you for sharing, we've never been down the path and reading these stories is a great help to us because we know the day is coming sooner or later.

August 16, 2006 to November 28, 2011
TATE ~ Forever in our hearts.

20 May 2011 - 9:48 pm
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I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing both Cali's life and your wisdom. You will all be in my thoughts.

Cynthia & Isabelle

Oakland, CA
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20 December 2008
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20 May 2011 - 11:09 pm
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Ah, beautiful Calpurnia, you lived life on your own terms, and left it on your own terms. Run free and light through the snow, forever.

You are a true tripawd hero, we will never forget you, because you will live forever in our hearts,


the Oaktown Pack

Woohoo! Tripawds Rule!

Regulator of the Oaktown Pack, Sheriff of the Oaktown Pawsse, Founding member and President of the Tripawd Girldogs With 2 Names ROCK Club, and ... Tripawd Girldog Extraordinaire!

Visit Codie Rae's Blog!

Member Since:
25 December 2008
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21 May 2011 - 12:32 am
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Sweet Calpurnia.  You now fly with angels.  Blessings to you and your pack.

Portage Lake, Maine
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8 December 2009
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21 May 2011 - 7:00 am
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You had a wonderful life on this earth, Cali!  R.I.P. and run free!  You were truly an inspiration to us all.


Tracy, Maggie's Mom

Maggie was amputated for soft tissue sarcoma 10-20-09

Maggie lost her battle with kidney disease on 8-24-13


Greater Western Washington area
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25 August 2010
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21 May 2011 - 9:29 am
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I am without words.  Your wisdom and connection with your dogs inspire me.  I am so sorry for your loss, but I feel that Cali was so blessed to be in your world.  She couldn't have had a better life.  Thank you for sharing.

Hugs and the best of peace be with you,



Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,

leg fractured 8/27/10,

leg amputated 8/30/10


I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us.  Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.

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