Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Once upon a time, I worked for a vet clinic.  One fine February day in 1999, a few of my co-workers picked up this stray puppy on the street:
She was determined to be 4 months old and no one ever claimed her.  She stayed in the kennels for a little while and I would carry her around on my shoulder while I worked.  I was a senior in high school and it took a bit of convincing to talk my parents into it, but eventually she became my dog.  I named her Angel.  Her spay surgery was the first surgery I assisted in.  Later, I learned how to do dentals (teeth cleaning under anesthesia) by doing hers.   Over her puppy years, she also taught me about handling ingestion of massive amounts of chocolate, how to treat a dog who has chewed through batteries and what to do when a dog is sprayed by a skunk straight in the face at close range.  There may have also been an incident where she chewed through several quarts of oil on my parent's living room carpet. 
She did eventually grow up a little bit.  She went to college with me and played guard dog (from the safety of behind me).  If I was laying on my stomach while studying, she would lay on my back with her head on my shoulder.  If I studied too long, she'd grab the pencil out of my hand and even chewed up an entire pack of mechanical pencils one time. 
When I started dating Josh, my parents were keeping her for me.  Just before he met her, he nervously asked, "what if she doesn't like me?"  I think he may have been more worried about meeting my dog than meeting my parents.  He won her over by sharing ice cream, though.
She put up with 4 cross country moves, a marriage, 2 new dogs who both ran away and 3 kids over the years.  She never really enjoyed the kids too much, but she did accept they were part of the pack and helped watch out for them.  You had to be careful walking down the hall at night, because she'd always be sprawled across the hallway, blocking their bedroom from intruders.  The older she got, the more she wanted to sleep, but if the girls were playing out front, she was awake and watching out the window.  She would bark if anyone stopped to talk to them. 
Last February, we discovered she had a tumor that was probably cancerous.  Because she was already 13 years old, we chose not to put her through a lot of testing beyond the needle biopsy.  She managed the next 8 months without many symptoms aside from the regular aging she was already experiencing. 

At the beginning of October, she started having a lot of weakness in her hind legs and I had suspicions it was because the tumor had spread to her spinal cord.  We took her back to the vet and got her the doggie equivalent of advil and some narcotics.  The pain meds helped her out, but the weather turning cooler made a huge difference.  She was a lot peppier for a couple of weeks. 

Last night, everything was the same it has been.  She ate and drank, got around like normal and slept in the hallway when the girls went to bed, then moved into our room when Josh and I went to bed.  She needed to go out in the middle of the night so Josh let her out.  She took longer than normal to come in, but he didn't think much of it.  Then around 6 this morning she needed out again, but she was having a really hard time getting up.  I thought it was just old joints, a slick floor and a cold morning working against her.  Josh came to get me out of bed a short while later saying she couldn't hold herself up to go to the bathroom.  I got up and looked out the window at her and saw her head tilted oddly to one side and her body leaning towards that same side.  That's a pretty ominous neurological sign, so we called the vet to get her in first thing.  She continued to deteriorate over the next 2 hours and when we took her in, she was no longer holding her bladder and her proprioceptive test (turning her paw under, they should right it again immediately) was very poor in addition to the head tilt and general weakness.  The vet also found other signs that we were dealing with cancer that had spread. 

Given her age, her history and the severity of the neurological symptoms, I chose to have her euthanized.  She had been more snuggly than normal this morning, even giving me two small licks on the face as I sat next to her in the back of the van on the way to the vet.  I think she knew it was time to rest and I am pretty sure she would have had a very rapid decline at home.  I'm glad there was a definite "yes, it's time" moment/symptoms rather than prolonged suffering.  I was also able to hold her and then lay her down as they gave her the meds.  She was a good dog who put up with a lot of doggie upheaval in her 14 years and still remained 100% loyal. 

Goodbye old friend.  You'll be missed. 


Christy said...

Awww, poor Angel. At least she had a good life with you. It would've been much different if she hadn't been brought in and adopted by you. So sorry for your loss. :-(

Karen said...

This made me cry. I'm sorry for your loss.

Carmi Levy said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. As I stare at our rescued, now-diabetic miniature schnauzer lying by my feet, I know it's only a matter of time before we reach that point with him.

We never have them for as long as we'd like, but having them for any time at all is a blessing. Angel was your blessing, and I'm so glad you shared her with us here. May her memory always be a blessing.

Cheryl said...

I am so sorry for you but you have such an amazing attitude. I have a 14 year old mix breed brought home by my 29 year old daughter when she volunteered at the humane society as a teenager (as well as a beagle she brought home when she graduated from college and a stray that showed up at our house about 6 years ago). I know Lucky's time is nearing and I cannot imagine how I will handle it. I hope it is with the grace you showed with your own Angel.


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