I recounted this ten-year-old Yorkie’s last crisis in my tale of three Yorkies. He was the one who kept turning blue and wanting to die—but didn’t. Lots of drugs and beaucoup oxygen later he managed to manifest his curmudgeonly old self again. 

Sometimes I think dogs hate us so much they’d rather die than live under our care. This is definitely true of cats. But that’s usually more of a physiological stress response and less of a resentment-fueled death wish. This Yorkie’s behavior was definitely more in line with the latter approach.

This guy just did not want to hang around. But every time he tried to die today I would bring him back. Each time I’d intubate him he’d give me the eye and I’d swear he was telling me to f---- off and leave him in peace.

I was not insensitive to his plight. Finally, I complied (with the owner’s permission, of course).

This Yorkie’s owner is as elderly and crotchety as my patient was. He’s the kind of client you wish you didn’t have to deal with—we cringe when he walks through the door. At least he has the manners not to bite (as his dog often did)—but looks like he’d like nothing better than to take a chunk out of your arm, given half a chance. But we smile and humor him nonetheless. We know he lives for his dog.

Sadly, he’s been aging poorly over the past few months. First his wife died (he was a pleasure next to his battleaxe wife). Then his first Yorkie died (of chronic renal failure). Now his second Yorkie crashes and burns twice in a row—in as many months. This time was the last. Today he succumbed to a severe episode of congestive heart failure.

A big part art of the problem was the lack of compliance on his owner’s part. But what can you do when an aging, independent gentleman begins to slowly lose everything in his life? You’ve got to expect that some things are not going to get done at home. In this case it was the meds that went by the wayside. And that’s all we can do for our chronic cardiac patients—medicate them.

I knew this would be a problem with an elderly patient suffering the disorientation of life alone for the first time in fifty-plus years. My solution was to recheck the dog as frequently as I felt I could without being intrusive. That’s not easy when your client doesn’t drive and has no family on this side of the Atlantic.

Sad to say but, after today, I don’t think he’ll be living alone for too much longer. If this man can’t have his family nearby, the second Yorkie’s death (hot on the heels of his wife’s) will surely kill him. Studies demonstrate that women can usually maintain themselves well enough after losing a spouse (as long as family and friends are around). Men just seem to die. And, more than once, I’ve seen the pet’s death serve as that final straw…

So that’s why when Yorkie number two kept giving me the evil eye I just kept right on doing my thing. Sometimes you know a patient really just wants to die and you let him go out of respect for everybody concerned. But this time I wasn’t about to let him go so easily. I figured this little guy had responsibilities at home.

But someone else had other plans for him. Maybe Mom’s rounding them all up. And that would be just like her.