Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Dogs’

The end came like a guillotine.DSCN0001a

In January, the vet said Brownie, 16, was in the final stage of congestive heart failure. This was in addition to a heart murmur, arthritis and serious losses of sight and hearing. A matter of months now, the vet told me.

Nine pills daily of five different kinds eased her pain and slowed her decline to a very gradual descent. We kept making new normals out of incremental adjustments: shorter walks, then none; no more steep stairs. I disguised the bitter taste of her pain pills with liver sausage, peanut butter or hot dog pieces.

She still enjoyed her life. She ate with gusto, played with the cat and pestered visitors for attention. By June, I began daring to hope that Brownie might enjoy one more summer.

I watched closely for signs of impending heart failure. At night, I counted her respirations during 60 seconds of deep sleep. Twelve a minute, fifteen a minute – when that number spiked, accompanied by coughing fits, it would be a matter of hours.

But it wasn’t heart failure that killed her.

One morning, she collapsed after her back legs gave out. She got up on her feet, but could barely move, and listed a bit to one side. She managed to get to the back yard for a potty break, but lost her balance and fell over while shaking away a gnat that had started buzzing around her head. She had to be carried up the stairs.

I called the vet. She said Brownie’s weakened heart would be even more stressed by the failure of her back legs. I decided it was time. The vet said she’d come over at noon.

For the next few hours, I tried to distract myself or petted Brownie. I didn’t want to hover or brood enough to arouse anxiety in her. I swept and vacuumed dog hair from the floors and rugs, realizing that for once this chore wasn’t annoying. I told her she was going to a place with a huge back yard bordered by a big lake, how there’d be lots of dogs and cats to play with, that she’d get to eat peanut butter smeared on everything and never have to have her nails trimmed. I thought about how she used to love rolling in the sand at the beach or grabbing one end of a four- or five-foot-long branch during a walk and trot proudly along with the other end dragging on the ground. No weeny sticks for her.

BrownieWhen the vet and an assistant arrived, Brownie got to her feet and followed me to the front door. They spread a white blanket on the living room floor and I guided her to it. The assistant enveloped her in a firm hug and I stroked her ears while the vet inserted a needle into a front leg. Brownie’s heart stopped after 15 quiet seconds. They gently wrapped her in the blanket. I helped carry her body out to their SUV. Then, just hours after she’d collapsed, I went back inside the house for the first time without Brownie there waiting for me.

This new reality will keep smacking me in the face for a while. Time to feed Brownie – nope. She needs her next round of pills – nope. She should go out once more before bed – nope.

On my first morning without her, I woke up thinking I’d heard her give a single bark. It was her time-for-my-breakfast signal.

The trickiest part of loving a pet is giving them as much good time as possible, but not waiting too long when they’re merely surviving. What comforts me is the relief of knowing Brownie was spared last moments full of pain and panic while in the throes of a final crisis. Instead, she enjoyed a chicken bratwurst I fed her piece by piece, followed by respectful attention from her last two visitors.

Read Full Post »

This is the fourth week of Brownie’s three-times-a-week laser therapy treatments for arthritis and a torn ligament. Just last week, unable to see improvement, I began to wonder if the expense and inconvenience were worth it.

This week, she started to put weight on her injured back leg, which had been dangling uselessly since she tore the ligaments in her back-right knee. We’ve started going for short walks, and she’s felt good enough to repeatedly initiate play sessions with a 90-pound doberman who was boarding with us for a few days. I hated to have to put a stop to that, but couldn’t risk letting her chase or be chased on a bum leg.

The picture above, taken off the Internet, shows what a session is like with a dog about Brownie’s size. The vet tech puts a comforter on the floor for Brownie, who gets very anxious and antsy if lifted onto a table. Brownie can stand, sit or lie down, as she likes, while the vet tech gets down on the floor with her and maneuvers herself around to reach whatever spot is being treated. My mother and I sit right there in a couple of chairs, petting Brownie and gently holding her in place if she gets restless. The vet tech simply moves the head of the laser back and forth and around whatever area is being targeted for five minutes, close enough to ruffle Brownie’s fur but without any pressure. In Brownie’s case, the tech treats her back knees, hips, one shoulder and part of her spine.

It’s likely that a combination of laser treatments, bi-weekly pain shots and special joint-boosting treats have led to this improvement as their effects accumulated over the past month. The techs say most dogs grow to enjoy and look forward to their laser treatments, but Brownie isn’t one of them. She cooperates, but remains very anxious about car travel and vet visits. We’ve added a Busy Bone treat to her car trips, in addition to a tranquilizer and a personal transportation aide (Mom) to hold her steady and pet her while I drive.

Laser treatments aren’t easy to find around here, as not many vets want to invest $40,000 in one machine. We go to Vale Park Animal Hospital in Valparaiso, Indiana, and patients come from all over Northwest Indiana for laser treatments there. At our next session, we’ll meet with the vet to map out what’s next for Brownie.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: