The End?

As I was working yesterday I was waiting, waiting because I just knew my mom would text me something bad about my girl. Trusting that gut. After noon passed, I thought maybe the worst was over and I started to relax, but then my mom calls the office as an emergency and my worst fears were confirmed. We had just secured Friday with a temp for me, but I had to ask for today (Thursday) off. As fate would have it, the dentist’s patient didn’t come so he took my last patient for me and off I ran. Cried pretty much the entire drive home.

When I finally get inside the home, it was just like Tristan all over again. She tried to get up and greet me, but my mom was holding her back because she’d been crying in severe pain all day. I tearfully called the vet even though I tried to remain calm, and they told me to come over. My brother helped me bring her (got chased after by some moron in a Sorento because I cut her off. Can you believe she FOLLOWED me all the way to the vet just so she could confront me? Except she was scared and stayed in the car the whole time. In the mean time she was definitely not in the lane when I was trying to change lanes. Must’ve been doing 60mph or something. Plus, I was almost crashed into by a massive pickup forcing itself into my lane too, it’s not like people around here don’t cut you off all the time. I was so infuriated by her and in grief I managed to carry Liana all the way into the vet on my own. Amazing strength anger gives you) and she was freaking out the whole time and lying down which is very atypical of her at the vet.

Vet agreed with me about her toughness because she didn’t indicate consistently about what hurt her. Got xrays, gave her a pain shot, and the suspicion was slipped disc. Radiographs ruled out osteosarcoma, the biggest fear. Basically it most likely is a slipped disc, you’d need an MRI to know for sure. Other things it could be is just pinched nerve or even neural tumor. Treatment entails medications (gabapentin, muscle relaxer and Rimadyl) and rest for 10 days then re-evaluate. Cause? Could honestly be anything. More than likely her spirited romping on Saturday. About $800 later I was able to take her home. It was a relief but also a major worry that I was able to take her home, because when it comes down to it, I already know from 2 sources what it takes to deal with spinal surgery. $15,000 straight up and MRI too? I can’t. Just can not. Afford that.

That’s where the decision has to be made. Say I do the surgery to save her. She’s 9. She’s a large dog. 10-12 year lifespan. There’s recovery, there’s a chance she doesn’t make it out of surgery or has the same problem Gable does with bleeding (apparently he’s a big celebrity at my vet’s office too about that). Now my side of it, I’m losing even more work and have a massive debt that there’s no way I could pay off unless I sell my house. Which I can’t. And what quality of life is it without surgery? Not a good one at all. Always tiptoeing around stairs or not being able to run or chase squirrels. She’s like me in that she’s all or nothing. It sucks more than anything to know you’re capable of something but having to hold back. Is that living? Who would I be prolonging her life for then? Me or her?

When I got home yesterday, I went to take Gable out for a second walk because he didn’t poop for my mom and he was being Velcro dog with me. Liana was adamant about coming along, so I promised we wouldn’t go far at all. She was very excited and hurried along with us onto the grass. Then, she didn’t want to go anymore. She didn’t want to go forward and she didn’t want to go back. She just wanted to go towards the trees and lay down. I’ve never been more sure in anything, knowing she was ready and willing to die. Just like Tristan. I tried to carry her back, but she was a dead weight and so unbelievably heavy. Eventually my mom came looking for me and had to get my brother to carry her back into the house again. He dropped her at the door and I had to help. She must have been being a dead weight again. Back inside, she lay down and refused to do anything else. No water, no food. Forced some water down her, but she was tachycardic and breathing unbelievably heavily until almost 11pm. Forced the pills down her around 8pm…didn’t seem to make much of a difference in sedating her at all. Lots of screaming every time she tried to move. Her eyes, though, were the worst. They were wild and staring, unfocused, never closing. Gable treated her like she was basically nonexistent.

She wanted to die, I think, very badly. The pain must be unbearably excruciating, even with the pain shot.

Watching her last night and sleeping in the living room with her through the night, experiencing even worse cries and screaming than I’ve ever heard from her as she tried to turn onto her other side. She whimpered basically all night and didn’t move again. At one point I lay on the floor beside her, I could sense a fear like she didn’t want to be alone, a little disorientation.

This morning she was extremely hesitant to do anything, but I asked her to get up. She refused water again, but willingly went down the stairs with me to the backyard. She just wants to be outside. Just stood there for a while, staring at the gate, and then came back in. She couldn’t do the stairs up so I had to walk her slowly up. She lay down on the big bed like she’d wanted to all night, so I napped for a little. Then my mom gets up and I’m able to walk Gable by himself quickly before she has to leave for work. I couldn’t help but break down on the walk. It was just me and my boy again and the prospect of that in the near future was so painful. When we come back home, Liana is standing up in her bed. She had eaten one small piece of chicken. I go take a shower and come back down to see her standing up on her own again. My mom was gone but looks like Liana wants to go on a walk. I gear her up, swatting at Gable to stay (silly boy) and slowly walk her out. She’s looking out at the grass again so I take her behind the house to the quad area. She pees a bit, smells things, watches squirrels. Limps, trips, slowly makes her way around. Looks like she wants to lay out there too, but this time she comes back slowly with me. When I turn to go into the house, she pauses, looks at the trees again and then goes into the house with me. She stands and waits where I usually take off their collars, then goes in to drink water like we always do. My heart is light at that. She then proceeds to sniff around for food. I go to prepare some food, but she still refuses to eat out of my hand or the bowl and only eats 2 small pieces of beef (Gable poohpoohs his altogether, the snot). Forced her to take her meds again, and…that’s where we are right now. They’re both napping.

Now I’m unsure of what will happen. I was settled in thinking she had given up on life altogether, but this new improvement is heartening while disheartening at the same time. Heartening in that she feels better, but disheartening in that putting her down would be extremely difficult, knowing there’s a chance and that she wants to live again.

There’s always the hope that it really is just muscular-based and with the relaxers, pain meds and rest it will be all better. My patient with a similar issue said that eventually it just went away in her dog, and good, too, because they wouldn’t have been able to do the $15,000 either.. I’m so glad for my patients. However, I’m nothing but realistic and always planning for the worst. That’s twice now that I’ve been faced with possibly not taking them home again, but I have been able to. In this case, it’s not over and the possibility of losing her is still extremely high, but I have some more time at least.

Sometimes it’s worse, having more time, but always better than a surprise.

When they were playing and romping on Saturday, I remember thinking to myself,  how blessed I am to be able to see this because this might be the last time I ever see that. Then I decided against going to get my phone to video it because I didn’t want to miss a second of it, to always have it in my mind. Got to play with her and him and watch them be as happy as greyhounds can be. I did think it strange that she ran as hard as she did, I fully expected her to stop after one lap, but she kept going, almost like she knew it would be her last, too. Even earlier this year she hadn’t run that hard. Of course, I almost wish I’d stopped her and we could have avoided all of this, but I’m sure if it wasn’t this than something else would’ve done it. At least she was happy doing what she loved most.

Well, for now, she feels better. No screaming today, just yelping. I know I’m just delaying the inevitable, but I’ll hold out hope. We have 10 days. She’s a stubborn, stoic dog. The most stubborn and stoic I’ve seen and may ever see. Cesar Millan says truly stubborn dogs are very rare, but I am convinced she is one. My tough old lady.