Sunday, February 10, 2013
I'm not certain that I am ready to do this just yet. As I began writing this, the tears started.....again.
In 1997 I was down to one dog, Cassidy. In the fall, with the help from a friend, I managed to catch a neighborhood dog who had been roaming our street for over a month. He was extremely timid, but would kiss my face and let me pet him, with one hand only. I named him Caleb. Shortly after catching Caleb, I had to euthanize Cassidy due to a large cancerous tumor.
Because Caleb was so timid, I thought another dog would help him become less shy. When I took Caleb to my vet and mentioned this idea to him, he told me they had a 5 month old puppy that needed a home. The puppy had been brought to him by a woman who was moving out of town. As this woman was leaving her bank, after closing her account, she noticed a car ahead of her slow down and throw a puppy out of the car. Fortunately she stopped and picked up the pup. She was near the vet's office and took the puppy there, not knowing what else to do with her. My vet, Dr. Ken Sundberg, agreed to help find her a home. He spayed and vaccinated her, and Celie became part of my family in early 1998. Within a few months I rescued two more dogs from the street - Cuinn and Cordelia.
Life with the four of them had its ups and downs but, for the most part, the ups far outweighed the downs. Now, all of them are gone. Celie was a lab/chow mix. She was 15 years old. In the past year she developed fatty tumors on her stomach and behind her right front leg. She also suffered from degenrative disc disease, and had a couple of episodes where she had trouble walking. With some medication she pulled through those occurrences. She was, however, slowing down. Her sight wasn't as good as it once was and neither was her hearing. Although she had always tended to ignore me when I called her. Lately she even did it occasionally when it was dinner time.
Friday morning (Feb 9th) I knew something was wrong. I have to admit that after losing Cordelia last year, I knew Celie's time with me was coming to an end as well. Celie woke me up before 5AM to go outside. I let her out and she stayed out longer than usual. Then around 7AM, she asked to go out again. When I called her to come in she was lying in the yard, not by the back door as she usually did. She looked at me from the yard but wouldn't get up. She had never just laid down in the yard and I began to worry. I walked out to her, about 40 feet from the door, and I coaxed her to get up. I started walking back to the door and she followed for about 2 steps and then stopped. I came back to her and had to walk along side her to get her all the way into the house. As soon as she came in, she laid down on the floor, breathing heavily as though she had over exerted herself. My internal alarm bells were ringing loudly.
I was on a deadline at work and had to get everything completed for a couple of mailings, so I couldn't miss work. I continued to get ready to leave. When I was about to leave, Celie had moved to the living room rug. I found two piles of diarrhea. Obviously she was sick. I put her back outside, cleaned up the messes and called the vet. Although their schedule was full, I was told I could bring her in at 5:30. It was obvious that her back legs were giving her trouble when I brought her back inside. When I left Celie was lying on her side in the kitchen. Needless to say, throughout the day I continued to worry about her and wonder what I would be coming home to.
I had noticed a month or so ago that Celie seemed to have put on weight and was concerned, so I had taken her to the vet at that time. Her weight had not changed significantly. The vet didn't think the fatty tumors had gotten larger since her last visit, and pronounced her fine.
I left work about an hour early. Celie was in the living room when I arrived. She had two more "accidents" in the kitchen during the day. I let her outside again. When she came back in, I offered her a treat, as I had always done. She wasn't interested, which was unusual. I sometimes thought she only went outside so she could get a treat when she came back in. Not this time.
Before leaving for the vet, we walked over to Barbara's house. Celie, as always, was happy to see her and busily wagged her tail. Of my four dogs, Celie had always been Barb's favorite. Barb had gone with me when I had taken both Celie and Cordelia to training classes. She worked with Celie and I worked with Cordelia (definitely the smarter of the two). Then off we went to the vet. Dr. Porter checked her out and although he was concerned about the tightness in her abdomen, prescribed medication for her diarrhea and a probiotic. She wasn't to be fed on Friday night. That wasn't a problem because she simply wasn't interested in eating. In fact, the most telling sign is that she had no interest in cleaning up any remains in the cat food dishes. She had always raced to get to them as quickly as possible.
I have to say that I had figured Dr. Porter would tell me that Celie had stomach cancer when I took her in. With the prescriptions, I found a ray of hope. She just wasn't feeling well and we'd get through this. It wasn't her "time" yet. Deep sigh of relief. He did ask, at the time, whether or not she had been vomiting, which she hadn't. However, after giving her the medication for the diarrhea, she threw up within about 30 minutes. I chose not to give her the probiotic.
There were no accidents overnight. She went outside and came in, but still only sniffed at the treat. I gave her the medicine and within 10 minutes, she threw up again. I called the vet to clear up confusion about administering the meds and to let Dr. Porter know that she was now vomiting and not interested in food. I got a call back in a few minutes and was told that Dr. Porter wanted to do blood work and x-rays so I should bring her in then. They would work us in between other appointments.
When the young vet tech came to take her into the back for the diagnostics, she balked and didn't want to go. I walked along with them and she went more easily. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and thought that the x-ray should be done first. If it showed what I suspected, blood work would be a waste of time and money. When I returned inside, another vet assistant told me they were doing the x-rays and depending upon the results may not need to send out the blood to the lab.
Needless to say, the x-rays confirmed my worst fear. Dr. Porter apparently had come to the same conclusion between her Friday visit and the next morning. Celie had an enormous mass in her spleen, to the point that it could burst at any time and cause internal hemorrhaging. He recommended putting her down, then and there. My problem was that I had been ready to hear this news Friday evening and when I didn't I had become optimistic that this was simply an episode we could treat. I wasn't ready to give up and give in. Dr. Porter was amazingly patient with me as we talked through this. In the end I didn't want to witness her suffering with little I could do to ease her pain. Worse yet, I would have to manage to get her into the car and take her to another vet at the Emergency Clinic to have her euthanized. I have had to do that with other animals and, although, the staff at the Emergency Clinic had been kind and understanding it wasn't my preferred option.
I made the decision to put her down. The three of us, Celie, myself and Dr. Porter sat on the floor of the examining room while he injected the anesthetic and then the Fatal Plus that would end her life - forever. She went peacefully as I held her. I made arrangements with Terry, the truly kind owner of Pine Castle Pet Crematory, to bring her to him for cremation. I know it was the right decision to make, but it never gets easier no matter how many times I've gone through this.
Regardless of the sorrow that accompanies the loss of a loved and cherished dog or cat, I do not regret having taken them into my life and heart. The joy is so much greater and longer lasting than the pain of loss. Although I miss each and every one of those who are gone, I am glad they were a part of my life, of who I am. I cannot understand people who say they loved their dog or cat and cannot get another after losing that dog or cat. The lives who are extinguished for no other reason than they don't have a home weighs heavily upon me, each and every day. These dogs, cats, puppies and kittens deserve a chance to love and be loved. They deserve to experience joy, good food, attention, hugs, play time and everything else they need to lead full lives. Who better to provide these things than the very people who have had cherished companion animals? What better way to affirm the lives lost than to extend those same experiences to those who are unwanted? For me, it's a way to pay tribute to those who have come before. Share your love with another - both you and the animal you save will reap the benefits for however long each of you have left.
It has been about 36 years since there hasn't been at least one dog in my life. Although I have more than my share of cats, I know that sometime in the near future there will be another dog. During those 36 years, I haven't had to go looking for a dog - one or more have always seemed to find me.
Below is an old photo of Celie and Cordelia - The Girls: