Saying Goodbye To Caesar

One of the saddest things I’ve experienced happened to me this week when I went to the veterinary clinic with my chinchilla, Caesar. I knew it was coming, had known for almost two weeks, but as soon as the vet left me and my mom for a few minutes with him to decide on burial options, I started to cry. I didn’t want to have to make any decisions, and I didn’t want to go through with any of it, not when I was holding him, his little heart beating fast in his little chest. Whenever I picture a pet going through euthanasia, I picture one that is old, unable to walk, clearly in so much agony that signing the paper for the needle is a blessing for the poor animal. Caesar was in pain, his energy was minimal, but it was different. Chinchillas hide their symptoms of sickness and pain very well as a defense mechanism; predators target prey that appears to be weak. This makes it hard for owners to know caesarwhen chinchillas are sick sometimes, and it makes diagnosis difficult. It also makes it hard, when the decision falls upon an owner’s shoulders, to go through with putting a beloved chinchilla (or any pet, really) to sleep. It was the right thing to do, he was in pain, but it was hard to visualize the magnitude of suffering he had to have been enduring during the last week.
I first brought Caesar to Norton Animal Hospital in November. He had been drooling and pawing at his mouth, which are two textbook symptoms for tooth problems. I was nervous when we went to the clinic but we were soon introduced to Dr. Thomas Silberhorn, who always told us all of our options and kept us informed. Caesar’s bottom front incisors had grown up into the top of his mouth because he had stopped chewing on the chews (including his wood hay manger, lava rocks, and wood chews) that were in his cage for him. Dr. Silberhorn clipped Caesar’s teeth down, prescribed an eye lubricant for his runny eyes, and we left, hoping that periodic tooth trimming would be our only worry.
It soon became apparent that something else was wrong. His teeth had become overgrown again, but Dr. Silberhorn also found an infection by Caesar’s back molars. His teeth were trimmed easily, but the infection was problematic. It was also discovered that his teeth were growing downward into his mandible, causing him pain. The latter was the most grim; surgery was possible, but the odds were not good. In order to fix it, Caesar would have had to be put under anesthesia (which was risky in itself) and his mandible would have to be drilled carefully so the teeth could be taken out. A chinchilla’s mandible is very small and fragile, and if it were to be fractured during the surgery, he would have to be put to sleep. Caesar’s lifespan and our options depended on whether or not the teeth pushing through his mandible would stay the same or get worse. Dr. Silberhorn prescribed an antibiotic for the infection and told us to come back in two weeks and see if anything had changed.
I decided right away that if it came down to surgery, I wouldn’t make Caesar go through with it. The surgery was risky, a procedure that Dr. Silberhorn himself didn’t like doing. To go through hours of surgery with the odds so badly stacked against my little friend was not a fair option. I tried not to worry about it, but the truth was that it scared me to death. We administered the antibiotic, but after a week, it was clear that Caesar was suffering terribly. He ate very little and wouldn’t even accept treats, he was drinking half as much as he did before, and he was extremely lethargic. It seemed as though the infection had gone away, but the teeth pushing through his mandible were relentless. Administering the antibiotic was not pleasant for Caesar, and after a week and a half I stopped. I didn’t want him to be mad at me for forcing his mouth open to give him medication if this was the end for him; I wanted him to know that I loved him.
This past Wednesday was our two week check in, and I couldn’t have felt worse. I wasn’t letting myself believe what was probably going to happen, and the inevitable wasn’t something I was ready for. Caesar’s infection had cleared up, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. Caesar had lost almost 100 grams in two weeks, a big drop for such a little guy. Dr. Silberhorn told us that X-rays may be the next step, but that was before he felt Caesar’s jaw, and had us feel it too. What had been a small bump before had grown huge in a matter of only two weeks. Things were going downhill extremely fast, and our choices became even more grim. Dr. Silberhorn could prescribe a painkiller, which wouldn’t solve anything, only keep Caesar alive for a little longer. The other option was to put him to sleep. We were given a few moments to decide, but I already knew what I didn’t want to do, but had to do. I couldn’t just keep him alive out of selfishness; if nothing was going to get better, and there was no medications that would help him rather than just keep him going, I had no choice but to put him to sleep.
It was the first time that I had ever cried at a veterinary clinic. Caesar was fully my pet; he lived in a huge four-level cage in my room for four years. I thoroughly cleaned his cage out every week, gave him periodic dust baths, and let him run around on my bed. I taught him to come to the cage door when I shook his treat bag, and he wasn’t afraid to jump into my hands and up my arm when invited. My grandparents had gotten him for me when I was visiting them (my grandfather had read somewhere that chinchillas were on sale at a pet store and mentioned it to me) and my parents (much to my surprise) agreed to let me go get him. I named him after Julius Caesar, my favorite historical figure after completing my 7th grade history class. I loved him so much, and letting him go was extremely hard; I’ve been upset ever since. I know that he isn’t in pain anymore, which is something to take comfort in, but I wish he hadn’t been hurting in the first place. I don’t know if he understood what was happening or not, and I don’t know if chinchillas (or any of us) go anywhere after they (or we) die. All I can do is hope that he is happy wherever he is, and that he understands that I loved him and did what I believed was best for him.

Adoption Tips: Dogs

So, after months of prodding from your children or a move out of that pet-free apartment or even a sudden desire for a furry friend, you’ve decided that your home would be more complete with a dog. That’s wonderful; dogs, or any pet really, have been proven to raise morale (source: and even keep you healthier. Before you go and bring Fido home, however, there are a few things you have to make sure of.

Are you prepared for a new pet?
Before you go looking for your new best friend, make sure it isn’t just a decision you’re making on a whim; dogs are a lot of work, and are worth all of that work, but only if you’re in it for the long run. If you have other pets, make sure that they’ll be alright with a new addition to the family. A few things you’ll need for Fido before you bring him home are:
– a collar (fitted with license and identification tags as soon as you can)
– a leash
– food and water bowls
– food (dry kibble is a good start)
– a crate
– baby gates (if you have spaces you want to keep your new friend out of)
– toys
– dog bed (optional, depending on if you want Fido in your bed or not)

What type of dog are you looking for?
This is a very important question, because there are a lot of factors to look into if you’re looking for a specific breed, such as temperament around children if you have any, allergen risks, etc. If you don’t have a lot of space, such as if you live in an apartment, a big, active Great Dane probably isn’t the right choice for you. Some key factors to look into when deciding on a specific breed are as follows:
– temperament, such as energy level, protectiveness, and intelligence
– size
– cost (such as grooming)
– allergies that would prevent you from certain dog fur exposure
– health problems associated with specific breeds (such as hip dysplasia in golden retrievers)
– compatibility with children and/or other pets (based on your individual situation)

How can you adopt safely?
Shelters are always the best and first choice for pet adoptions, and many shelters have specific breeds rescued from puppy mills or otherwise unclaimed that would be perfect for your family. If you aren’t looking for a specific breed, shelters always have plenty of mutts or breeds you may just fall in love with. If you’ve gone to local shelters and just haven’t found the right dog to take home yet, you can always wait and check back at another time, or you can look into finding a reputable local breeder. Looking into is also a good option, but stay away from websites like Craig’s List and pet stores, where more often than not the dogs are coming from cruel puppy mills that you don’t want to help fund.