Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our Animal Children

I'll tell you now - writing this is for me and it's probably way more detail than anyone else cares about.  But I needed to write it and remember it and be thankful for it.  So you can't say you weren't warned!

If you have ever loved an animal, you know how sad it is to lose them.  I have cried many a tear in my life over a cat or dog and felt that deep hurt in my gut that I call grief. Maybe every animal we have seems dearer than the last, because we have them now, but ever since Randy died, I have dreaded the time when Sophie would follow him into heaven. She is not only the best dog in the world and the smartest, but she adored Randy and vice versa! He  put a lot of miles on her legs (and his) when she was a puppy and the trainers advised us to tire out her mouth (chewing bones) and her legs everyday so that she would be a good puppy! They walked all over both of our neighborhoods (we weren't married then) and more of our neighbors knew Sophie's name than ours!

So, when I look at Sophie, I not only see this incredibly wonderful dog - I also see Randy or at least feel his presence. It is a very comforting thing, but I know how difficult it will be to lose her, and also, in a way, lose Randy all over again. You may think that's weird (it's fine if you do!), but it's just the way I feel.

So, last night when I came home at 6:15 and found no Sophie on the deck, my radar went off and I immediately knew something was wrong. I called and she came stumbling up the stairs and swaying into the house, then collapsed on the floor. Her eyes were almost completely dilated, so they were black and she was pretty tense.  I started petting her and rubbing her, looking for a telltale spot. Lucy wanted to be all over her. My friend Mike was here to do some repair on a recliner, so he went into the yard, looking for anything that might have caused a problem. She relaxed a bit and took a few kibble (treats) from me, then decided to move into her inside kennel. She just seemed a little drunk. Mike worked on the chair while I called the Emergency Vet (hereafter referred to as ER!). Once they heard she was 10 years old, they just said to watch her. Before Mike left, he offered to go with me to take her and I decided it would be better to be safe than sorry. So we pulled our her dog ramps (from a bout of hip dysplasia she had at 2) and she walked up them and into the car where I'd laid the back seats down and put a bed on them and off we went, with Mike following in his car.

We arrived about 7 and first thing Sophie wanted was to do her business, so Mike took her while I checked in. He said she stumbled a little, but accomplished her objective. While we waited, she laid peacefully on the floor and wagged her tail whenever anyone walked through the waiting room. Finally, the Vet Assistant (VA) brought us into a room and examined her.  By now her eyes had returned to their normal beautiful expressive brown color.  While he was checking her out, her front legs shook almost violently for a bit.  After he left, we waited another good bit, then Dr. Townsend came in.  He got down on the floor with Sophie and examined her ultra-thoroughly from head to toe.  I told him that I hadn't warned her she would have to do yoga, as he was moving her neck from side to side (all the way to her back) and up and down!  She resisted more when he tried to move her neck to the left, but of course she did it, because she is a good dog, a Labrador, a dog who wants to please no matter how it hurts.  She never winced or whined, but I told him her pain tolerance story.  When she was about 3, her mouth swelled up but she continued to eat dry food and didn't complain when I messed with her.  I thought she'd been stung, but took her to the vet the next day.  Turns out she had an abscessed tooth which he said would have been killer pain, but never a sign of anything from Sophie.

Dr. Townsend said he thought it was probably a disk issue in her neck with inflammation causing her discomfort and the unsteadiness.  He also went through a list of things it could be (stroke, inner ear, etc.) but he didn't think so.  I then asked, "so she's not going to die?" (you realize I've never been to doggie ER before and she is my baby) and he smiled and reached back to knock on the baseboards (which are rubber) and said there was no indication of anything that serious.  At that point, I said "so I can cry now" and the tears of relief started.  I told Mike he could leave, since she was going to be OK and he did, but not before he took Sophie outside one more time.  When he came back he said she was more sure-footed than she'd been all night, so she seemed to be getting better on her own.

They did a complete blood work-up just to make sure nothing was awry and it wasn't - her blood levels all looked great!  So, she got a Tramadol pill and a spray of Metacam, which help with pain and inflammation and we paid the bill (not bad - under $250 - I had expected twice that much), the VA loaded her in my car and we came home.

At home before I could get the ramp under her, she jumped out of the back seat and splayed a little, but recovered and then wanted to check out not only our front yard, but all of the neighbors' yards as well.  I finally got her in (where Lucy was so excited to see us) and Sophie went straight to the treat jar (she always gets treats when she comes in from the front yard, as usually she is off-leash).  So she got a few kibble and we went to bed (she jumped up on the bed and just hung her back feet a little, but quickly pulled them up).  About 1 a.m. she was breathing heavily and panting and switching sides.  It seemed to go on for two hours and I was constantly touching her trying to comfort her.  Later she jumped down on the floor and went to sleep and I heard no more panting.  I decided she just had to get away from my neediness :)

This morning neither dog harassed me to get up, which is unusual, but when I did, Sophie followed me into the den, where they get a handful of kibble thrown on the rug as morning ritual.  For the first time I can ever remember, Sophie did not show any interest in kibble, even when I held it up to her mouth.  I got her pain pill and wrapped it in some cheese and she took that.  I took her out in the front yard and she did all her business, ate a little grass, then came back in and went straight to the treat jar (the old "I went in the front yard and came back in" look on her face), and this time she went after the kibble.  I fed the dogs and both ate as normal, then Sophie drank a lot of water (she hadn't drunk any since 6:00 yesterday), so things seemed normal.  We've been back out a few times and she acts like she'd like to walk further, but I don't want to push her.  She's been on the back deck on this beautiful day, but I keep telling her no when she goes to the stairs and looks down into the yard.  I think she'd like to go, but knows it's probably going to hurt.  For now, she's just going to be a front-yard dog.

My vet got the report from the ER and called me early today to check on her.  Other than the night panting, she has seemed fine.  I cancelled everything that was taking me out of the house today - I am home with a sick child :)  And, thankfully, I have a sick child to be home with (preposition, I know)!

Losing Sophie will be right up there with my top three worst things I've experienced so far in my life - losing Randy (2009), losing my Dad (2002) and losing Katy (2000), my almost 17- year-old Humane Society mutt.  I'd had dinner with friends Tuesday night and we talked about losing our 4-legged best friends, as one friend's "adopted" (her friend's dog, but she loves him like her own) 16-year-old golden retriever had been diagnosed in renal failure.  I kept thinking last night before we had any idea what was wrong that 10 is just way too young to lose a dog, even a big dog.  I know that when "it" happens, God will give me the strength to get through it, as he did with the three mentioned above and so many other things in life.  I just don't want that strength too soon, OK Lord?

Mostly I am thankful...that Sophie feels better, for a kind and compassionate ER vet and for the friendship of people like the Flynns.  It is interesting that Mike was there with me, as Sophie has always especially loved Mike. She has occasionally even shunned Sandra a little bit when she was with him (like, you had to bring her along?)!  So Mike definitely knew something was wrong as Sophie was not her usual adoring self. He was a great help and support and it's just one more reason for me to be thankful....

Friday, 2/25 update:  My vet doesn't think Sophie has any disk problems, as her mobility was as good as ever on Friday.  They think it was definitely a seizure, so I'm now "watching" her and hoping/praying it was a one-time event.  She seems fine now, but I am somewhat paranoid.

Friday, 3/2 update:  So far, so good.  Sophie seems just fine.  I'm going out of town next week and "Aunt Jane" is coming to stay with the girls.  I hope and pray all will be well.


  1. Karen you have such a wonderful, loving heart. Everyone should love their dogs as much, the world would be a better place. Stacy

    1. Thank you. I should probably love some humans as much as I love my dogs. I'm working on that during Lent :)

  2. Karen I know where you are coming from. Where most people did not know you as a child I will never forget the German Shepherd you had that laid on the steps going into your back door when we were but children and neighbors. To bad our closest neighbors were over a mile away. We now have 6 fur kids in our house. The first year we were married Bruce bought me a standard dashund (Fred). He was so very loyal to me, I will never forget the night I got home after daddy had passed away. Fred got on my lap and was not moving for even Bruce. We had him for a little over 5 years then one day he come in the house from his venture outside to do his business and could not get around very good. We lived in Jonesboro at that time but used a vet in Hardy, so on Monday morning I brought Susie-q the dashund I gave Bruce for Christmas the second year we were married and my mother-in-law watched her while I took Fred to the vet. She said that he needed an MRI on his back which they could not do up here, so I made an appointment in Memphis to get it done but was going to have to wait until the next Monday. I hand fed Fred and slept with one eye open, gave him all his meds and made him as comfortable as possible until that Saturday when while laying on the bed with us he looked at Bruce then me and took his last breath. That was as hard on me as losing my parents. Bruce wrote a poem about Fred and his picture is still in my living room. We then went nearly to St. Louis and bought a standard wire haired dashund (Grant). Susie-q had to have a friend. We now have 5 dashund's and a mix breed which we love so much. During the past 15 years we have adopted 4 more and 2 of them have passed but still are in our hearts. Susie-q is now almost 15 years old. She is hard of hearing and can't get on the couch by herself but that's o.k. because she is our fur kid and we love her. 20 years ago if you had told me that I would have all these dogs I would have said you were crazy. Since all the boys are grown and married I would be safe in saying we are as protective of these fur kids as we were our children. I just wish they could talk and tell me where they hurt. They do show all their love with the puppy kisses. I also have chickens that are so old they don't lay eggs anymore and I have ordered more. Bruce ask me if I was going to kill the old ones and I told him NO they were my friends. I love talking to them every morning and afternoon. Sometimes I think they know what I am saying. When they hear me open the back door in the morning they start crowing and moving around in their chicken house where they are locked up during the night.

    OK some people may think we are crazy but we love our animals.

    I hope Sophie gets back to being herself. I know how much you love her.

    We need to get together some day and do nothing but talk about how our lives have changed in the past many years. You notice I didn't say how many years. That part is scarry.

    1. Cathy, thank you for the lovely comment that shows your passion toward animals. I'd love chickens too if I had them :) King was the wonderful German Shepherd we had when I was a child and probably the first dog I ever loved. I would love to see you and reminisce, but it's really not that many years :) At least I don't feel like it, but I'm probably deluding myself!

  3. Karen, let's just say it has been several many years!