I can’t believe a whole year has gone by since I’ve written an update. 2011 seemed to go by in a flash. I also wish I had better news to share, but on December 29, my sweet little Lady joined her old friend Rosie in doggie heaven. (Rosie was adopted, but passed away last year as well.)
Last Spring, I took Lady to the vet to see if we could get to the bottom of her constant scratching. I was hoping that at a minimum, we could put her back on Temaril-P so she would have some relief. Upon listening to her heart, they found that she had so much fluid in her lungs, that they couldn’t even hear her heart beat! They took some x-rays to try and pinpoint what the exact issue might be, but they were inconclusive. Her heart was somewhat enlarged and the fluid there was evident, but they couldn’t tell what was causing it. It was some sort of congestive heart failure, but it wasn’t behaving exactly like either a right or left sided heart failure, so they wanted to do an echocardiogram to see if they could pinpoint the exact cause. They were clear though, that either way, while we could treat it with medications, this would be a progressive thing. Honestly, I just couldn’t afford to spend that much on another test–the x-rays and exam, plus Murphy’s shots, had already blown through my “pet care” budget for several months.
We decided to try a round of the diuretic Lasix to see if perhaps once we got some fluid out of there, that they would better be able to hear what her heart was doing in there. So I took her home, prepared to deal with even MORE piddle problems! (I even bought a couple extra doggie diapers!) I also started making her some homemade food to cut back on sodium–just ground turkey, sweet potatoes, and some fresh kale from the garden. Fortunately, she LOVED it, and it also firmed up her poops too, which was a double blessing, and made it worth the time committment! I would usually make a big enough batch to last a couple weeks and store it in the freezer. Thankfully, we have a local foodservice company that has an outlet store, and they had a great source of naturally raised turkey, and some huge sweet potatoes, so I could get a bulk supply of both for around $20!
Over the next few months, we monitored the fluid in her lungs, and increased the Lasix once. I also finally convinced the vet to allow her to go back on the Temaril-P, and to try an anti-anxiety medication as well. I knew she probably didn’t have a year left of her life, and I wanted that time to be comfortable and as happy as possible–I wasn’t so concerned with “possible long term” interactions. I have to say, for Lady, the Termaril-P was a miracle drug. I have no idea what she was actually allergic to, or whether it was just a leftover habit from being covered with fleas for so many years, but this drug stopped the scratching within a day or so–can you imagine how good that must have felt? When she was on it the first time, I was so concerned about it beinig a steroid, and how we should wean her off it it as soon as possible. I tried all sorts of natural remedies, and nothing worked. I finally came to the conclusion that if something works, just go with it! The poor girl was about 12 years old–she deserved to be able to rest without the constant scratching. It had gotten so bad, that she had marks all over from her nails. I even had her wearing a T-shirt to keep her nails off her skin. Her fur was thinning, and there were just piles of fluff all around her crate from the hair she was scratching off.
The Amitryptaline (anti-anxiety med) also seemed to help her as well. She was coming out of her crate even more and exploring around the living room and even the kitchen-with-the-scary-Pergo-floor! It was so cute to watch her. She was SO interested in whatever was going on in the kitchen, because it might mean a bit of something yummy for her! Every night before bed, I would get a special treat for her and Murphy, and go sit on the couch. She would trot right over, and sometimes even put her paws up on the couch for her treats! (Cutest thing EVER!) I think it was the happiest time for her–she would stay there, right next to Murphy, and wait for her turn to get a bite. I also finally got a video of her trotting around the table while I made her breakfast. This was a twice-daily ritual! I’m surprised we don’t have a bald track around the table now….
I love how she would start trotting even faster when I would talk to her. Is that sweet or what?! One of my friends commented, “Geez, would you just FEED her already!” Made me laugh, but it did take a little while to get her food ready, with doling out three different medications as well! Give me a break!
The Lasix did make our potty issues a bit trickier, and the last month or so, she was having more poop issues again as well. The homemade food wasn’t doing the trick in that regard any more, so just to give myself a break, I bought her some high-quality canned food, which she thought was pretty nifty too!
I was starting to notice her panting more than usual again, but it wasn’t consistent, so with the busy holidays upon us, I just kept an eye on it to figure out if she was getting worse, or who knows–maybe she was just too hot with her crate being not too far from a heat vent? I wasn’t sure. After Christmas, I noticed that when I pressed my ear down onto her back, I could hear some crackling. She seemed fine otherwise though, and didn’t seem to be in any distress. I figured I would call the vet and see if we needed to increase the Lasix again, although I was starting to have a sense that it probably wouldn’t be the answer….
That Thursday morning, I got up and took her out as usual, then made her breakfast. I got ready for work, and then went to take her out again before I left, but she hadn’t eaten any of her breakfast. Now for Lady, that was unthinkable! However, she had gulped down a whole bowl of water. I gave her another bowl of water, and she gulped that one down too, but still wouldn’t touch her food. She ended up drinking four entire bowls of water, and then started coughing up gobs of clear mucous. Even though she has had this cough since we got her, she never coughed anything up–this time it was very different. So I called the vet, and they said they could squeeze her in if I came right away.
After listening to her chest, the vet commented that her congestion was at least as bad, if not worse, than last Spring when we first started treating her, and in addition, she also had fluid in her abdomen, which indicated that both sides of her heart were now failing. We could try some other additional meds, but it probably wouldn’t buy her much time. Without treatment, she would basically drown in the fluid that had built up in her lungs. I couldn’t let her get to that point–I wanted her last days to be happy, not fighting for breath. So I made the decision to let her go that morning. The vet gave her the first shot, a sedative, and then left me with her until she was relaxed and fell asleep. She said it would take about ten minutes, but within a minute of giving her the shot, Lady was completely groggy, and I helped her get comfortable on a soft blanket on the floor. I had also brought along her own little blanket, which I rubbed on my hair to put my scent on it, and then tucked it under her head so that her last memory would be feeling close to her human. I told her what a brave girl she was, and how many families she had blessed with her puppies. Soon, she was peacefully asleep. The vet returned with the second shot, and I sat there on the floor next to her, contemplating that miraculous moment when a soul leaves it’s broken body and transforms into something new and perfect. I haven’t yet figured out the theology behind what happens to our pets after they die. The Bible isn’t quite clear on that–I’m sure the saints who wrote it weren’t thinking about pets back then! But it’s comforting to think that maybe she now understands all that I tried to do for her, and how much I loved her. Love–something she never experienced until she was rescued.
Lady never learned how to show affection herself, but the times when she would stare back into my eyes while I held her little face and scratched under her chin told me that she had come such a long way from the little dog that wouldn’t even make eye contact two years ago.
For a long time, I had been fretting over all the things I wanted her to experience before she left this earth. Lots of wonderful things that all “normal” dogs take for granted. I wanted her to play, gnaw on a bone, and just run in the grass! But as a fellow sheltie rescue friend put it, that wasn’t her ” journey”. For Lady, she needed a safe place to rest after probably 10 straight years of having litter after litter, relief from her constant itching, and lots of good, healthy, yummy food. I gave her all of those, and lots of love too. Maybe I wanted more for her, but I think she left the world pretty content.
Some people may never understand that I really did love that little dog! Just as much as Murphy, but in a different way. Just they way we love our kids all the same, but differently. She wasn’t an obligation or simply a charity case. The cool thing is that it really awakened an interest in sheltie rescue and puppy mill rescue. I’m not sure yet what role that will play in life–right now isn’t a good time in my life for rehabbing dogs, but someday I would love to foster or adopt again when I have a schedule that is more conducive to spending lots of time with the dogs and really working with them.
In addition to all the sheltie rescue groups I follow, I’ve also been impressed with a group called the National Mill Dog Rescue. I would love to take a vacation to Colorado and spend a week volunteering there!
And also, Lady and Rosie’s “mill-mate” Abbott is still looking for a good foster family/forever home up at Minnesota Sheltie Rescue! Look at that face! Isn’t he just adorable? I’ve been packing up a goodie box to send to him–I had just gotten Lady a new blanket for Christmas, and she never got to use it. So I asked them if I could send it to Abbott. I know, it seems silly to ship one blanket to a rescue, but I guess you could say it’s part of my healing process! (Shhh…don’t tell Abbott, but I’ve been gathering up some other yummy treats for him too!) I hope he likes it.
So, in closing, the last two years have been rewarding, frustrating, interesting, thought-provoking, happy, and heart-breaking….all at once. I will always love and miss the little shy, scared dog with the shaved-off fur, who stood shivering in her pen at the shelter two years ago. I think we needed each other! And for those two years, I’m grateful. I love you, my little Ladybug….