Sunday, July 1, 2012

Susu's last day

 On the night of June 21, 2012 Susu, a elderly chihuahua mix, breathed her last. After having been given the cocktail which would put her to sleep, she passed away in the arms of a kindly stranger who had taken pity on her. In that sense Susu was more fortunate than many elderly dogs, whose owners abandon them at the shelter as if they were worn out toys, rather than the sensitive, feeling creatures they are.

Susu had been dumped by her owners, perhaps simply because she was old; perhaps because she had advanced arthritis. In any case, Rancho De Chihuahua was her final stop, and RDC co-founder Joy Nicholson was the kindly stranger who held Susu in her last moments.

Joy's observations of the little dog's last days:
"The amazing thing about Susu is how doggedly she looked for her family. Our property is about 3 acres, and is not level, but on wobbly, painful knees, with little sight and very, very little hearing, she searched endlessly for them, walking through every inch. She would sense my presence, ( I think through smell) get very excited, 'run' towards me, then realize I was not who she was looking for, and then turn away and continue her search. When she got too physically tired, she would lay down, and I would go pick her up ( she hated to be picked up, and would buck, bite, and salivate) then she would lay, very depressed, until she slept. The other dogs scared her, so we always kept her alone, which she preferred, but didn't 'like'. When she woke, she would want to search again. Immediately. Any time of day or night. She would turn endless circles, and cry, trying to find a way to get out and search. Her happiest moments were the first 1/2 hour of each search--she would navigate to the fence, then carefully, with an upraised tail, walk the fence line, back and forth. Her tail would sink lower and lower as she got tired, and she was unable to find her people. Still, she wanted to walk. She seemed to believe that if she kept walking, she would eventually find her people, and everything would be okay."

I have to wonder where her family was during this time, and what they were doing. Did they love her? Did they stop loving her when she got old? Were they thinking about her at all? Susu could seemingly think about nothing else except finding them again. 

Joy continues:
"Susu was on Rimidyl, which seemed to help with her pain. And her ability to walk further did increase with less pain, but the emotional pain got worse, not better, when she couldn't find her people."

As sad as Susu's death was, the fact is that dogs put down at the shelter generally come to an even less pleasant end. It varies from place to place, but 50 to 80 percent of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes in shelters will ultimately die for lack of someone to adopt them. An older dog has virtually no chance at all but the least crowded shelters. An older dog with considerable health issues, like Susu, will suffer greatly for the few days spent at a shelter before the euthanization takes place.

Joy recalls Susu's last hours:
"I gave her a tranquilzer ( Acepromazine) in her breakfast treat, and when it set in, I brought her to our vet. She slept the whole way, looking at me, but not in any apparent distress or fear, and seemed very relaxed--the most relaxed she had been. At the vet, we gave her a little more tranquilzer, waited until the injection fully 'took' and she was completely under. She did not open her eyes, wake, struggle or seem to have any signs of distress when she was euthanized. I was touching her the whole time, and lightly petting her face. Susu did not like to be touched, so I kept it very light in case she was feeling it--just enough to let her know she wasn't alone--but not enough to irritate her.) She went to sleep and did not wake up.

She should have been euthanized with her people holding her. We couldn't give Susu much in life, but I do think her death was a peaceful one."

Many of us have been guilty in the past of letting the vet or someone else handle the details when one of our pets is put down. Let's resolve to do this, at least: If and when the time comes that our pet must be put down, let's not dump the poor bewildered baby off somewhere and wash our hands of the whole affair. Let's be with our pets in their final moments, and hold them as they leave this world. Let them feel love and compassion, rather than fear and loneliness. I believe It really makes a difference. 

"One can measure the greatness and the moral progress of a nation by looking at how it treats its animals." -- Mahatma Gandhi 


  1. Touching post. I remember when we had to put Max down after the attack. He was hooked up to machines with tubes everywhere. His heart rate was about 88 bpm when we entered the room. Then when Shannie and I touched and spoke to him his heart rate went down to about 65 bpm. It was almost like he knew we were there and that his journey had ended. Then the needle. And he was gone.

    It was one of the worst things in my life to put my dog down. And even though I'm crying right now, I'd still do it again. No pet should die alone without their family. After all, a dog will give their life to protect a loved one. And to just discard them because they're too old is unfair.

  2. Having an adult lifetime of animals, puppies and kittens and colts through glorious lives and their final days as elderly and loved, this post brings me to tears.

  3. Very sad and touching. I'm sorry that your dog died from an attack, Jim. Mine was very close.

    It breaks my heart to think of all the dogs lost in our society. I believe we are getting close to or have achieved a means of chemical sterilization in a dog biscuit. All dogs not registered with designated breeders should be either surgically fixed or be fed the chemical sterilizer (if safe) in front of an official.

    1. This story broke my heart too, but I have to disagree with the idea of mandatory sterilization of all pet dogs not registered to designated breeders. I've done a lot of research into the matter,(including discussing it with our vet) and while I'll agree that for female dogs,the benefits of spaying outweigh the risks, if done AFTER skeletal maturity, the same cannot be said for the male. I would routinely spay any female dog I acquired (at the appropriate time which is NOT puppyhood,) but I would only neuter the male if he developed a specific health problem and castration was the cure. The responsible dog owners are tired of being lumped in with the irresponsible dog owners who choose breeds that are known for aggression (whether they publicly admit it or not;) people who allow their dogs to roam unleashed; people who stick their dogs out in backyards unattended to bark all day and night long; people who don't pick up what Fido puts down, etc., etc., etc. Mandatory spay/neuter is just another example of the good being punished with the bad.

    2. God, DubV, I can't believe you said this. Leave the fate of the domestic dog to the AKC and its ilk?

      What was your scientific degree in again?

  4. What a touching account.

    R.I.P. Susu!

  5. And I bet that the owners got another puppy too. Probably a freebie from the "No Kill" shelter. I've also known dogs to do the same, always looking for their family, it is indeed sad.

  6. Another example of unequal love....the owner just "gets rid of" the dog when it becomes old or sick. The dog will be faithful, loving and protective of it's family for it's whole life. Sad. I'm glad that Susu was with loving people when she was put down.

  7. Very sad story.

    Pets are a lifelong commitment. Anyone who does NOT understand that, should NOT get a pet, ever. I was with my cat of 18 years, up till the end. I held her in my arms, as they euthanized her. I more then owed her that.

    I am fortunate to volunteer at a NO kill cat shelter. We have unadoptable animals. Cats with tails chopped off who have poor bowel/bladder control. He it stinks. But these animals have found a home at the shelter. When I am there, I always spend 10-15 minutes before and after each shift with them.


  8. Heartbreaking....I can't believe people are so selfish and cruel to abandon their poor little loyal dog just because he's old and sick. People SUCK!!! I'm glad this poor little dog isn't suffering anymore. RIP SUSU <3

  9. She looks like an older version of my boy, who will never be dumped. If he gets old and needs to be euthanized we will be there with him, holding him. However, I'd prefer, if possible he pass in his own time but if not possible.....I won't dump my boy.

  10. She looks a lot like my boy except quite a few more years on her. He is so loyal and so well behaved and when he came up missing I did everything in my power to find him again. I was a mess until he was home. So I cannot imagine dumping my baby off just as soon as he gets "old"
    If he has to be euthanized in old age I want to be there with my husband holding him.


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