I confess, I’m a terrible pet parent – I usually use the term, “animal guardian,” but pet parent just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Spoiler Alert: No animal was injured or died in this story. So, relax and enjoy hearing about my Terrible Pet Parent screw-up!

Stella’s story

Stella in the grass forgiving me

My little dog Stella turned 12 this year. She is almost deaf and almost blind. Picture this: When we take her to Fort Hunt Park in Alexandria and let her off the leash for a bit, she loses track of Tibor (my other dog) and me. I have to move within five feet of her, wave my arms and call her loudly for her to track me. Then she smiles and trots back in my direction.

But just as often, I have to run back, grab her leash, pet her softly and say, “Here we are, “Stell-Stell”, let’s keep truckin’!”

And her front legs hurt. I know because she licks them a lot. My medical intuition also feels the ache. We don’t see it, but her back legs also hurt, especially around the knees (stifles).

Slowing down

Not surprisingly, Stella started to slow down. She always loved her walks. Or more accurately, she always loved her outside sniff times interrupted by short bursts of trotting, walking and meeting people.

Our younger dog, Tibor and I are interested in actually walking and trotting, so we were frustrated. I understood her difficulty.  But I still wanted to take longer walks with Stella and Tibor. I find so much joy on those walks!

CBD oils for joint pain

We decided to give Stella CBD oil for her joint pain. We did the research and it’s a benign plant. As far as I could research, there were no unwanted side effects unlike some of the prescription pain killers. And it seemed to be working. When we started it, she spent less time licking her front legs. So yeah!

Read the FDA article, Pain Medications for Pets: Know the Risks

Stella’s stamina disappears

Soon, however, Stella was unable to walk to the end of the street. And it’s a short street. We couldn’t wake her up out of her deep sleep, even with the call of “kitty treats!” (We have 3 cats and 2 dogs so we came up with “kitty treats;” it’s shorthand for “treats for everyone!”)

Stella couldn’t even keep her head up as she walked.  She had no energy.

Is it the end?

Hard-core Navy husband Charlie and I started boo-hooing all over the place. We wondered how much time we had left with her. How could we make her last days enjoyable? I thought, maybe we shouldn’t even walk her anymore. You’ve probably experienced similar feelings and thoughts.

I didn’t realize yet that we had become terrible pet parents.

Intuition comes to the rescue for two terrible pet parents

I don’t know why, but I looked at the CBD oil bottle. It recommended a quarter of a dropper (.25) twice a day for 20-pound dogs. You should have seen my face when I realized we were giving Stella a WHOLE dropperful of CBD oil twice a day.

Well. This newly diagnosed Terrible Pet Parent felt shame and relief at the same time.

Adjusting the dosage did the trick

A few days after we stopped overdosing her, the Stella we know showed up! She began barking at people, dogs, leaves and birds. And resumed her role as the arbiter of cat disagreements.

Stella delighted in her walks, like before. Now she even kicks her heels up and runs with joy after a good poop!

We were no longer terrible pet parents!

Moral of the story: Don’t over-tranquilize

I can laugh at our mistake now that Stella’s okay. Lucky for us, changing the amount fixed the problem. But it sure was a lesson in humility.

P.S. Mac the cat

Mac CBD oil

We’ve started giving our cat, Mac, a small amount of CBD oil. That’s because we noticed he was having trouble walking up the stairs. The CBD oil is clearly helping. And we’re not making him comatose. Hah!

If you have a not-so-funny memory about decisions you made for your animal, read my blog, Did I make the right decision at the end?


Do you have any funny “Terrible Pet Parent” stories? I’d love to hear them!