Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saber's Story Part 1

I'm not even sure where to begin...the good or the bad? I guess I'll start with the bad and finish with the good.

It all started about 3 months ago. Mark and I had noticed before then that Saber had slowed down considerably but at the time, we just attributed that to her age and breed. Then, back at the end of April we noticed she was having a really tough time with the stairs. For instance, when going down the stairs, she would sometimes trip or even fall, plunging down one flight to the landing. So, we made an appointment with the vet thinking she probably had arthritis in her hips. The vet confirmed arthritis not only in her hips but also in her knees which was probably the main culprit of her accidents. We were given a drug called Remedyl and another drug the helped with bladder issues. (Something that we had been battling for a short time as well.) We had to go back a week later for a liver check because Remedyl can damage a dogs liver. The problem was, the Remedyl made little difference whatsoever. It seemed like Saber was actually doing worse and I had begun to notice that she was constantly walking circles, and always turning right. She also seemed indifferent sometimes and did not really want any attention. In fact, she sort of shied away from it all together. Our vet did a few tests. She checked her ears and eyes thoroughly. She mentioned to us that all these things together were starting to sound like a brain tumor. She offered us the holy mother of blood work and thyroid tests, but we needed some time to think and assess at home. A month went by and nothing happened. Saber still acted the same, maybe worsening a little. Everything came to head a week ago, Thursday.


Mark and I were hanging out here at home. I was in the office and he was in the living room with all three dogs watching TV. When he called out for me, I just KNEW something was wrong. I am sure you've had this feeling at one time in your life or another, but when he called out for me, the tenor in his voice, the pitch, the way he said it, was all wrong. I threw my book aside and hurried into the living room where I saw him on the floor with my baby, Saber. I could tell she was having some kind of seizure just by looking at her. She was rolled onto her left side and her legs were drawn up, but kicking. Her jaw was clenched down and I could see blood and lots of saliva coming out of her mouth. Her eyes were wide and she looked terrified. I ran to them and Mark moved over to make room so I could assess what was happening. I ran into the kitchen and found a wooden brush we use for basting and slid it in between her teeth. I was really afraid she was going to bite her tongue off. Next, I slid my left arm underneath her neck and around her right leg towards her belly. I took my right arm over her body and pulled her to me. I held her that way for about 5 minutes, until she acted like she wanted to stand. I kept my arms around her firmly, but still held on and talked softly to her until she sort of came around. She was having a hard time walking. Her feet were dragging but she was making it. We gave her water and she seemed better. A little while later, she wanted to go out and we took that as a good sign and went out into the yard with her. Mark kept his eye on her and I called the emergency line at the vet. I remember thinking how weird it was to be calling, as it was a phone number I had never had to use before. The vet on call (not our normal vet) told us to keep an eye on her and to call our regular vet in the morning. If she had another one that night we were to bring her in straight away. I told Mark what was going on and promptly freaked the hell out.


It was a very long night, to say the least. We gave her 2 Benedryl to calm her down so she could sleep. Mark had training the next day, so my wonderful friend Bill helped me load and take her to the vet.  The situation we were in at this point wasn't good I suspected, but I never realized just how bad it was. Our vet, who is a saint, you'll find out later, told me we better go ahead and run the blood work and the thyroid test. Everything came back beautifully. Saber was healthy. Perfect. This led us back to the conversation about the brain tumor. We could run an MRI and find it definitively, but even if we did, what would we do with that information? Have her remove it? No. We wouldn't. Saber was 10 years old, which is pretty old for a big dog. Less than that, there is just no way we could afford an MRI that would run somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500.00 and then do nothing with the information, save the cost of brain tumor removal surgery. Our vet told us the best thing we could do would be to take care of her and love her as we always have. It was possible that the seizure was a one time thing or at the very least might not happen again for a long time. It was a possibility that we could even still have months of years with our girl. She sent me home with 1 large syringe of Valium in case it did happen again, to be given rectally, since Mark or I neither one knew how to give it to her intravenously. We were also supposed to try and keep track of her good days versus bad days, just in case. So, we brought her home and treated her like the Queen of Sheba. We let her sleep wherever and whenever she wanted. We gave her bacon and all sorts of other things we wouldn't normally let her have. We stayed home with her or came home early to try and keep her safe, happy and comfortable. And I am so glad we did.


Flash forward to Friday.   Mark and I were helping with a huge barbecue to take place yesterday. We worked most of the day Friday away from the house getting ready for it. We got home Friday night and something wasn't right. I knew it before I got out of the car. Usually when we arrive home, Bruiser and Magoo are the first to the fence row to greet us. Saber usually gets there a few minutes later, (my poor, old, slow baby) and the wait until we are out of sight to run to the back door to bed let in. Not one of the dogs appeared at the fence row. Ominous. Thinking back, I am sure Mark thought this was bad too, or at the very least weird, though I didn't ask him. We were both hurrying to get inside, at any rate. I heard Bruiser barking. When I opened the door to the back porch, I could tell right away that something had happened. There was a crunch under my feet. Seashells. Our metal tub for beer had been knocked over and there were seashells from all of our beach trips inside of it. The glider I just painted recently was knocked over. Magoo was hiding under the table, and the chairs were splayed out across the deck. Bruiser was on the apron just off of the porch, up against the siding. Barking in cowardice. Saber was nowhere to bed found. I remember asking Mark to get a flashlight but getting it myself instead. (Adrenaline makes you stupid. Focused, but stupid.) We didn't go far to find her. We were calling to her and doing the whistle she knows as ours when we glimpsed her. She was making a wide circle in the yard, but I could instantly tell, even in the dark that something was wrong. It was almost like she was wounded. She would limp and fall, try to get up, shoot forward, and fall again. Something was very wrong. Her collar was also missing. Once we finally got a hold of her, my eyes were able to take in the mess that she really was. She was covered in mud and there were drops of blood here and there. Her fur was wet, sticky with drool. In her eyes she wore a very dazed stare. She did not know our touch, but seemed to recognize our voices. It was awful. We managed to get her up on the deck to clean her up a bit. We used baby wipes and it took forever. There was no way I would let her stay outside, but I am vain enough that I didn't want my carpet destroyed. A bath was completely out of the question. We were sure that another seizure had occurred, but it was too late to give her the Valium. We dosed her with the benedryl again and we all fell into bed around 1AM.


An hour later we woke to a screaming dog. In the short time that had elapsed, she had managed to work her way into Marks closet and had begun seizing when we woke up. Mark rolled out of the bed and into the floor with her. I ran to get the Valium. Somehow, while I was gone, she managed to get turned around and somehow bit him. I had to leave her for about 10 minutes to tend to Mark's wound. It wasn't bad, but bad enough to bleed and HURT. (It's still jacked up, but mending.) After bandaging him up, I went back downstairs to find that she was still seizing and had knocked over both bedside tables, pooped in the floor and had wedged her self in the space between the bed and the wall, about 4 inches wide. Assessing the situation, I thought I would try to give her the Valium. This did not go over well. That syringe was large and me in a panicked state jamming it up her butt was probably not too comfortable for her. She shot the Valium and shit out against the wall so quickly, I don't believe for a minute that very much of it stayed in there. I didn't believe, but I hoped. I took her into the bathroom and pinned her in. After a while she calmed down and I was able to clean the wall, the carpet and put our bedroom back together a little. Next I googled dog bites. Never, never do this at 4AM. Trust me on this. At 4:30AM, I started the Chili for the cookout. I figured we wouldn't be attending, but a promise is a promise. It needed to be ready. At 5:30 She had another seizure. At 6:30 Mark and I switched out watch. At 8AM, he let her outside and called the vet. Our vet told us to bring her on in. We had left the truck at Bill and Beth's to load stuff for the cookout, so we headed over there, borrowed Bill's dog box and headed home. By the time we got back she had obviously seized again because her tongue was bleeding heavily. We loaded her into the dog box and headed for the vet in Sweetwater.


She seized at least 3 more times on the way down. The seizures had begun to roll one into another. We could hear her screaming most of the way there. The windows up and music did not drown out her cries. I will be haunted by this for many years. When we were 10 minutes away, Mark called the office to let them know what was going on and that they needed to be ready. The told us not to bring her in, for one of us to come in and let them know we were there. Mark went in and I went around back to my girl. I let the tailgate down and she was laying down in the crate finally. She was panting and honestly, I could barely recognize her. Between the mud, the blood, the drool and the vacant look in her eyes, I knew it was time. Our vet reached me at that time and the first thing she did was put her arms around me and I lost it. She told me how sorry she was that it had come to this so quickly. She held me in that parking lot for a few minutes and Shhhh'd my sobs. Mark came out a few minutes later with the vet tech and our vet asked me if we were ready. My only thought was to please, please make her stop hurting. It took a few minutes for all of us to coax her out of the crate. She was so, so tired but still trying to fight. That's my girl. Fighting until the end. Once we got her out, it took a few sedatives to finally get her calmed down. Laying there in the parking lot of her office, on the tail gate of our truck, our vet ended her suffering. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I realized I could let go of her collar. She wasn't going to run anywhere. Still and quiet for the first time in her exuberant life, my girl was gone. I cried. Of course, I cried. I cried while the last few patients of the day drove in and parked. Got their dogs out, and stared wordlessly at the scene we were causing in the parking lot. I even briefly considered kicking the ass of a beautiful German Shepard that was barking at my dead dog. I buried my face in her still soft, though blood spattered and muddy fur and I cried. Mark was crying too. He had his left arm around me and his right hand on her head. We cried together for a long time. Finally, I looked up into the eyes of my vet. Very softly she said "She's gone." I nodded numbly and then she told us that she and the tech would wrap her up for us and put her back in the box. She said when the tailgate shuts, you guys can leave. I looked up at Mark and he nodded. So we kissed her nose and got into the truck. Mark said "Could they have been any nicer?" I don't think they could have.


Coming home, we were very quiet. It wasn't until Mark pulled over that I realized how close to home we were...or how BLACK the sky was. I looked like 7:00 at night. The clock said 12:11. It was going to rain. Mark said we needed to tarp the box. We got out and got it covered just in time. It was pouring. When we pulled in at the house, neither one of us could bear to let her stay in the truck while it rained, even though it was tarped. We unloaded her and took her into the backyard underneath the deck. It was two hours later before was could start digging her grave. We let a very confused Bruiser and nervous Magoo into the back yard. They immediately found the box and laid down next to it in some sort of vigil. While digging, I asked Mark how deep did we need to dig? His answer was a good one. We dig until we feel better. So that we did. When the hole was deep enough, we lined it with honeysuckle. We brought the crate over and very gently lowered her in. She was swathed in a blanket. Our vet had been so careful with her. A simple kindness shown by someone who has done this countless times, but was a gesture so immeasurably wonderful to us.  We placed more honeysuckle on top, and together with Bruiser and Magoo, we said our goodbyes. We covered her up and used a rock as a small headstone. And then we cried some more.



Mandy said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Heather! I'm thinking of you all!

Lauren said...

Thinking about you Heather!! Puppies are a part of the family and I'm sorry you guys lost her.

Ellis Island said...

Thank you guys so much. It means a lot.

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