antisocialbutterflie writes: “I have garnered a lot of respect for you and your rallying behind Maximus for a while. There’s a strength of character and obvious loyalty for the things you care about that lures me back more than any amusement you provide. I now find myself in a similar situation and my understanding of what you have been going through has multiplied exponentially. Though I don’t have the financial resources to support a fight as strong as yours but I would like to query your greater experience in the matter.

If this is something you can’t talk about feel free to ignore it or even delete the comment. Frankly it’s difficult for me to say aloud even though it has been running through me head constantly for the last three weeks as things turned further south. At what point do you call it? Where is the line past which you are hurting more than helping? I’m grasping at straws hoping this will turn around because I can’t stand the thought of losing the 15 lbs of hell and dog breath that have been the center of my world for seven years yet I can’t help but feel I am rewarding his unilateral and undying affection with suffering because I am too selfish to let go. I know I can’t expect someone else to make this decision for me and that your line may be different from my own but I’m a scientist by nature and profession and I’d like to use all of the resources available to me. Again if you find this too difficult to address I understand but I had to try.”

Answer: It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since Maximus was first diagnosed.  I know many pet owners who say “You’ll know when it’s time.” or “He/she will tell you when it’s time.” but I have my doubts. Maximus stopped eating in Toronto, just days prior to our departure for Vancouver.  I assumed that was him telling me it was time. However, upon our return, Maximus started eating again and, while he wasn’t back to his old self, he was certainly better.  Then several weeks ago, he stopped eating.  Again, I thought “it was time” but, yet again, he surprised us all by resuming his eating ways.

Ultimately, I don’t believe there’s a definite answer.  It’s really up to you.  I know a guy who elected to make the call when his dog was no longer able to climb stairs.  My other pug, Jelly, reached that point years ago and today – a stem cell transplant and spinal surgery later – she still can’t climb stairs much less get around all that well, yet she’s happy and vibrant and clearly enjoying life.  In Maximus’s case, I’m not so sure.  Amid the quiet misery there are flashes of tail-wagging happiness that give me pause.  What also gives me pause is the simple fact that I don’t want to take the easy out.  Maximus stopped eating a couple of weeks ago, right before I was scheduled to fly to Montreal for Christmas.  It certainly would have been easier to make the call then, but I didn’t want to make a decision I would look back on with regret. And so, I packed him up and brought him along, flying him carry-on and doting on him during the holidays.  We’re back in Vancouver now and back at square one.  He stopped eating a couple of days ago (which suggests it may finally be time) but he still drinks plenty of water (which suggests it may not).

So when IS the right time to say goodbye?  Perhaps the biggest indicator for me comes with those now bi-weekly vet visits.  Whenever we take a seat in that waiting room, he begins to tremble.  That trembling, his obvious fear at what lies ahead, more than anything, that has been the litmus test.  In my mind, that reaction tells me he’s not prepared to go just yet, that he’d like to fight a little longer. Which is fine with me.  I’ll continue bringing him to the vet, continue to pick up his medication, continue to administer those meds.  And that’s okay.  But should he decide to give up and lose that spark, acquiesce in the face of the upteenth visit to the animal clinic, then I’ll make the difficult call.  And hopefully, when the times comes, that’ll be okay as well.

By the way, my sis – who has had to make the tough decision several times – offered her eloquent opinion in yesterday’s comments section. Check it out.


While we’re on the subject, Fondy gave me a couple of stuffed toys to pass along while I was in Montreal.  Well, last night, when I got back home to Vancouver, I did.  With predictable results.

Jelly enjoys her lobster.
While Lulu enjoys her otter to pieces. 30 seconds later, she did the same to Jelly's lobster.

Today, I sat down to screen Superman and the Mole-Men, the first entry in our Supermovie of the Week Club.  I’m watching this one in 15 minute installments as the full 57 minute run time has proven too daunting.  So far, alternately strange, annoying, dull, uncompelling, and hilarious.  Looking forward to reading Cookie Monster’s review – and, of course, your thoughts next week when we discuss.

Hey, did I mention I have a comic book launching January 11th?  You can get it here (, here (Dark Horse Digital) or at your local comic book store.  Go pick up a copy of issue #1 because I’m going to make it a point to quiz each and every one of you about its contents.

Dark Matter makes SFX 360’s list of Most Anticipated Titles of 2012: Comic Countdown #3: Year In Preview (Pt. 2) | SFX-360: Bringing …

I chat with MTV Geek’s Alexander Zalben and break down the ship’s mystery crew, reflect on Stargate: Universe and the future of the franchise, and offer my take on psychotic kids, and: Stargate’s Joseph Mallozzi Explores ‘Dark Matter’… And … – MTV Geek

I talk with Michael Meade over at Tastes Like Rock!’s Geekonomicon, touching on the development of Dark Matter’s visual style, the challenges of writing for the comic book medium, and some anime favorites:

Over at Angry Koala Gear, Charles Perez and I discuss my influences, “the plan” for Dark Matter, and my favorite comic books growing up:

Dark Matter #1 will be hitting the shelves in about a week, so it’s time to rally the troops and get the word out!  I’m counting on each and every one of you to take the next seven days off work (and/or family) and hit the net – forums, twitter, your cousin Marcie’s quilting blog – and tell everyone to pick up the first issue!

24 thoughts on “January 3, 2012: The doggy dilemma! Dark Matter!

  1. I can’t wait for Dark Matter!!! The comic book store here is a short distance from the post office where hubby and I get our mail. I plan on having him stop there so we can be the proud owners of the first issue! Yeah!!!!!

    Have a good night!!!!

  2. Did my minion duty and posted the link and a reasonable 140 character message that they need to go buy it. Will continue each day. I preordered so I hope it will come sooner than Jan 11. If not, I’ll be yelling.

    My heart goes out to everyone’s animals that are ill. Eventually that day is going to come for Maddie.

    And bad, bad Lulu for stealing Jelly’s present and destroying it. No treats for you today.

  3. Re: end of life decisions -I’m a vet at an internal medicine referral center, and I have to have these conversations all too often. My take – they’ll have good days and bad days; you know what sort of activities have always made them happy (they greet you at the door, they watch the neighbors out the window) and if they aren’t really doing those things most of the time, then the quality of life is not good. I also tell people, if you’re not ready today, then maybe today is not the day. There’s no right decision – you have to make the decision you can live with. Think about whether you will feel down the road that you didn’t give them every opportunity, or will you say that you kept going on too long. Consider letting them go while they still have a little dignity. And honestly, in many cases it’s OK to let them go on their own, if you can’t bring yourself to end it for them. We (Americans at least) have such a phobia about death that we can’t stand to watch the process. It’s hard, I’ll grant you that, but if they aren’t in pain, and aren’t nauseous or having trouble breathing, then maybe it’s ok to let death proceed at it’s own pace.

    Downer! Be happy for their lives and love!

  4. Okay, Joe. I did my part. Posted a little blurb about Dark Matter link to on my Facebook status for all my geeky gamer friends to see.

    Sis’s post made me cry. You and antisocialbutterfly and das and all the other folks with sick pets (and also those sick pets) are in my prayers.

  5. Thank you Joe. I appreciate your candor. I know how tough this has been for you. Reading through your Sister’s poignant response ended in tears but I am grateful for the input. This dog’s predecessor was one of those cases where you just know. Heart murmur + pneumonia = organ failure. It hurt but I have never doubted that it was the right thing to do.

    This one is perhaps more like Maximus. He could be yakking his head off and would still eat something if I gave it to him or paralyzed and would still try to come if I called. As long as I’m there he will fight just to be with me. This is what is making the decision so difficult. We’ve got one last Hail Mary to play. For the moment I’ll continue cleaning up the blood from the ulcers that won’t close, feeding him pepcid to keep the steriods down, and sleeping with an E-collared dog under the covers as long as he keeps wagging his tail when I walk in the door. And now that I’ve finally convinced my vet to talk to me like the decade long cancer researcher I am I finally feel a bit more in control of the situation (though if she’d told me what the initial results actually were instead of saying they were inconclusive we might not be in this mess).

    Thanks to the other comments (Jean Jarvis) and well-wishes (Sparrow_hawk). The support and insight help a lot.

  6. @ Joe, Andria, and antisocialbutterflie – I have no words, just a thank you for your touching comments.

    @ Sparrowhawk – Thanks, luv. {{hugs}}

    Would say more, but I’ve had a huge day, and I really need to fall into bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…


  7. @ antisocialbutterflie and Joe.
    I understand your situation because I have lived it. This very difficult, absolutely gut wrenching, but not insurmountable, not impossible decision, is rough.
    I appreciate Sis’s thoughts from yesterday’s post, and the poems were beautiful.

    Undoubtedly you will search for reason and measure, the “should I or should I nots”, when all your emotions are on fire.
    But the best choice is the choice you finally make.
    You make this choice on behalf of your furry friend and for yourself. It will not be based on reason or calculation, but rather, your heart. Follow it. Trust your heart and be not afraid to say goodbye for now.

    Joe, you said “But should he decide to give up and lose that spark, acquiesce in the face of the upteenth visit to the animal clinic, then I’ll make the difficult call. And hopefully, when the times comes, that’ll be okay as well.”

    Yes, Joe, when the time comes, it will be okay.

    I wish you strength and peace, always. My prayers join others here.


  8. I do believe you’ll know when it’s time. When my cat was diagnosed with kidney disease I did everything I could. My mom said to just put her down because she’ll die eventually. I told her we don’t put grandma down even though we know she’s going to die. She didn’t really appreciate that (go figure) but the point is as long as they can enjoy life they have every right to be alive. And my cat did have another four month and they were good month. When the kidneys finally started to fail for good there were so many ups and downs. One day I was sure I had to bring her in and the next she was better. It was heartbreaking. When the day finally came I just knew. I woke up and she was cuddled right next to me. I looked at her and could see that she had given up, she wasn’t fighting anymore, she was ready. I don’t know how I could ‘see’ that but I just knew. I hemmed and hawed all mornIng and watched her deteriorate before bringing her in that last time. She was the calmest I had ever seen her at the vet. She fought more with a broken hip as a much younger cat. I knew I made the right call. Tears are streaming down my face as I type this. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life. I was a crying basket case for months. But I cherish every memory of her. My heart goes out to you and I’m wishing you all the strength in the world. Maximus will let you know, I’m convinced of it.

  9. I think you share my feelings about when it’s time. As I mentioned, we’re kind of dealing with this with our Shepherd, except that while his body’s failing, he doesn’t seem to be in any pain. He’s the last survivor from his litter, and the breeder suggests putting them down when they get this weak. But the way I see it, he’s still trying. When he can’t get his back end up, he keeps trying until he does. And if he’s still willing to try, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t keep supporting him. (Of course, sometimes people aren’t financially able to give them the care they need to help extend their lives. Fortunately, I haven’t been in that situation yet. It would be terrible to have to make that decision for financial reasons.)

    Ah, Dark Horse. I took a tour of their offices once in junior high. To this day, I have no idea why. Our class took some weird trips to some cool places with no apparent educational value. *shrug*

  10. Oh, also, I see from your sidebar that you recently read Wizard’s First Rule. What did you think? I’ve been thinking about reading that series, but I’ve heard that the books get bad as it goes on, and I don’t know that I want to invest in a series that goes downhill, even if the first books are good. I don’t know. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it.

    And I notice the books link to goodreads? Do you have an account there? I just found that last year or so, and I’ve found it helpful to keep track of what I read and look up books I’m on the fence about whether I should bother reading.

  11. I went through this with my heart dog a couple of years ago. I said to the vet, ‘How will I know?’ and she said, ‘You’ll know.’ And I did because his behaviour changed. He no longer wanted to sleep in his usual spot, he wanted to sleep in another family member’s room who was away. I remember the moment of blinding clarity, of realising he was saying he was just waiting for that family member to come home. I rang the vet that day and said, ‘It’s time, I just have to wait a day so he can say goodbye.’

    You’ll know because your dog will tell you.

  12. Freezing here this morning, it’s actually warmed up to 32 degrees. Brrr. My daughter has gone back to London and my house is too quiet again, despite 2 cats and 3 dogs in different stages of “gimme”.

    I haven’t wanted to comment too much on the euthanasia issue because I feel it is very personal and incredibly difficult for all of us. As you all know, we had to put little Summer down in November, and it had already been a tough year or two losing two cats and our beautiful girl, Flannery. Like @Sis, I’ve been through it many times, and have even had to see all my horses put down in Guatemala due to an epidemic of equine Encephalitis (many years ago). Each time has been different, and some of them have left me second-guessing myself for years, despite having done everything humanly possible. As tough as it is, I’m grateful for the time we have or have had together and for the mountains of love I’ve given and received, and I miss them all.

  13. Hi Joe,

    always reading your blog and waiting for the rise of anew era in real sci-fi show on tv or big screen.
    I wish you an Happy New Year and good news for your projects.
    And you will wish us, here in Québec City, the return of the Nordiques in NHL for september 2012…

  14. End of life decisions are hard, emotionally difficult and very personal. I’ve had pets–hamsters to horses–all my life and have had to make some tough choices. Your sister probably said it best. For me, the bottom line is always the quality of life for your pet and you are the only one who knows what that is for your friend. Two years ago, my senior mini schnauzer was diagnosed with advanced diabetes. He was going blind and was mostly deaf but still had a great time eating, sleeping and peeing on trees. After discussing the treatment with the vet, I decided that my little fellow wouldn’t understand me sticking him 1 or 2 times daily with a needle and limiting his food intake (since treats were a great joy to him). So, we had a wonderful weekend of cuddles and treats then he fell asleep in my arms. I got a lot of flack from many people, but I knew it was the right thing to do for my friend. Another point that is important to keep in mind (an older vet had this discussion with me years ago) is that most animals live in the present. They don’t have hopes and dreams or understand that 5 months from now they should be feeling better (or not). So, I always consider their present and how long they can deal with a situation. As for them letting you know, I did have a German shepherd who I was debating about her time. Every time I thought “this it is, I think” she rallied. One day, however, she lay down and just looked at me with old eyes, halfheartedly ate her meals/treats, and it was so obvious that she was done and wanted my help. I had always wondered about the “just knowing” and here it was. My heart goes out to anyone in that position (Joe & antisocialbutterfly). Doggy lifespans are just too short!

    On a more happy note, we’ve had really warm weather for Alberta and just enough snow to say “white Christmas”. The dogs are having a blast “tracking” deer, moose, rabbits, partridge, etc in the back bush. Luckily for the wildlife, the dogs are a bit dense in the actual hunting department but make an awesome show of it.

  15. Oh man, what a bummer. I’ve worked on the other side of the syringe, and I am pro-euthanasia. Pro, IF it’s done with care, professionalism and compassion, that is. Most euthanasia solution, that I’ve worked with, is an overdose of phenobarbital. The pet literally goes to sleep. If you have a good relationship with your vet, he/she might come out to your house to perform this task and help keep down the anxiety/stress levels.

    I’ve seen a few people that, I felt, kept their pet alive longer than they should but then again, I’ve had to put a pet to sleep and it is gut wrenching! So I can understand why they go that route. I think most of us on the blog have gone through this terrible situation. There is no formula for “knowing” that works for every person. Every pet is different, also. There is a survival instinct in some animals that causes them to hide their pain until it gets too bad.

    You are the person that knows Max the best, so unfortunately the decision falls to you. So far, you’ve made wise choices. So my humble opinion is: Trust yourself. But know that euthanasia is not the bogyman. It’s not evil and sometimes, it’s the kind choice.

    Prayers to all those have lost friends, family or loved ones…

  16. Ah, man. HUgs.

    My friend (who is like a daughter) just had to put down her much beloved dog. Ill, weaker but okay with meds, then one morning lethargy and the poor dog wet herself where she lay. I worry,as that dog was her lifeline and center, kept her calm and focused, very much a service dog although not trained or certified as one. She gave away her Schnauzer to a happier home with another Schnauzer and kids, and now only has a cat and a newly ex-husband. I am really, really worried about her.

  17. Correction: it’s pentobarbital not phenobarbital is the E. solution we used.

    I’ll try to change the mood for ya. “News of the Weird”: I took my son for his driver’s exam (he passed, Yay). We got there early and I saw the staff arrive. One of the “official driver license tester’s” drove up with a toddler in her lap! A man was in the car with her riding in the passenger seat. She got out and he put the toddler in the passenger seat and drove off. No car seat, no boaster seat! Now there is something you don’t every day! Only in Mississippi…..

  18. Nice tongue there Jelly, was that sentiment to something happening??,hah. I agree dog toys are not very sturdy made, I think its a racket to get you to buy more, maybe we should go into the sturdy making dog toy business. We can test them on Lulu. Have a better day.

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