Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Dog Gone Shame
Hubby and I had to say goodbye to our faithful companion over the weekend.
It was completely unexpected. Our dog was 11 1/2, which is not young for a Corgi. He had arthritis and had to take pain medication, and it seemed the vet was constantly giving us astronomical estimates for dental care. But other than that he was healthy and happy.
So when we woke up and found him bloated around the middle and in pain, it was hard to imagine it could be too serious.
We found him that way on Thursday morning. I got up at 5:30 and woke up my husband. We were up at the land, where our dog loved to roam around and hunt lizards. He had been out for a particularly long time the evening before and my husband thought he must have eaten something that didn't agree with him. Our dog will eat anything. Rocks, whatever. He seemed particularly fond of excrement. So anyway, it wasn't too far fetched.
So my husband got up and went looking around a favorite spot where our dog seemed to be hanging out while I called the local vet. Being so early in the morning, I got an after hours message that included the number to an emergency clinic, located about an hour away.
I talked to someone there and described the symptoms. The technician there said it sounded like an emergency and we should bring him in. She told me from the symptoms I described, he might have "flipped" his stomach. It was unusual for a Corgi, but that's what it sounded like.
My husband suggested that if it were an emergency, we should call the local vet's home number, since she was a lot closer. Once I got her on the phone, she told me pretty much the same thing. We needed to go to the emergency clinic, though. This was not a simple procedure. It required special equipment and a team.
"What I tell people in this case," she said, "is that you're looking at a lot of money and a poor prognosis."
So we trundled our poor dog, who was by then lying under the porch and refusing to move, into the van. When he saw the van, he got up and walked to the door, and waited to be loaded.
I struggled with how much to share with my husband, who loves this dog beyond reason. I told him that both parties had told me the same thing. Then I told him what the vet had said.
"I think we should prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome," I said.
But my husband brushed it off. He was convinced he had just eaten something bad.
We all believe what we need to believe.
When we got to the clinic, they took our dog right in and before we had filled out the paperwork, the technician brought out a consent form for a $500 emergency assessment, including a IV and an X-ray.
My poor husband pressed his case with the receptionist that our dog had probably just eaten something.
"He'll eat anything," my husband pleaded. He tried to give her examples. He wanted to speak to the vet.
The receptionist patiently explained that they believed our dog had flipped his stomach, and they needed the X-ray to confirm that.
Once my husband agreed, we sat down to wait.
"It sounds like we might have a difficult decision to make," he said to me.
"I know," I said. "That's what I was trying to prepare you for."
I told my husband that I thought it was his decision to make. Hubby had bought him as a puppy, and was very attached. I said I was at peace with whatever that was.
I went to the bathroom and kneeled to pray. I prayed that God would wrap my husband in his grace and mercy, and carry him through this.
When I came out, I watched the vet go into a room behind the front counter. He was a young man, wearing blue scrubs. He looked at us with a tense expression as if trying to size us up. A minute later, he invited us in to look at the X-rays.
The stomach had, indeed, flipped. It was sealed off at both ends so that the food inside had begun to ferment, which is what caused the bloating.
He told us, "If your dog is to survive, I need to get him into surgery now."
The surgery would cost several thousand dollars, which, like everything, had to be paid in advance, with no idea what the outcome would be.
"Sometimes," he admitted, they had to put the dog down on the table.
He left us alone for a few minutes, but stressed that we didn't have long to decide.
"Your options are surgery or euthanasia," he said. "There is no medical option."
We sat down side by side on a metal bench. I knew my husband was close to tears, so I didn't want to look at him. I wanted to give him that much privacy.
"He's not a young dog," I offered. "He's had a good life."
My husband nodded. When the vet came back in, my husband said we were thinking about putting him to sleep. "He's had a good life," he said, then broke down.
The vet looked alarmed and uncomfortable.
"Give us a few minutes," I mouthed, and the vet left quickly.
I just sat with my husband, holding his hand and not looking at his face. In a few minutes, he said, "Okay. Let's tell them."
He didn't want to see our dog again, but I did. They asked if I wanted to be there when they gave him the injection, and I said yes, I did.
When they took me back, our dog was lying on a table, his ears drooping to the side, the tip of his tongue just visible.
"Hey, buddy," I said brightly, but he didn't respond at all.
The vet was very kind. He explained that the injection was an overdose of anesthesia. Our dog would simply go to sleep. Then his heart would stop.
I crouched down so I could look into our dog's eyes, and caressed the soft hair of his ears.
"You are such a good boy," I said.
Then the vet gave him the injection, and his head dropped slowly to the side as he went to sleep. I continued to pet him as the vet listened to his heart with a stethoscope. Tears were rolling down my face by then, and in a minute the vet said, "He's gone."
"I'm sorry," he told me as I got up, putting his hand on my back.
We wanted to bury our dog ourselves, so they put him in a white cardboard box with two little flowers taped to the top and carried him to the van for us.
We buried him at the land, where he had been so happy.
It was a very hard day.
The Al-Anon lessons that served me were simply this:
I can experience something difficult, without trying to control the outcome.
I can sit with someone I love and allow them to feel whatever they feel without trying to fix them or make them feel better.
I can live life on life's terms. Life on life's terms means it won't always be easy. There will be difficulty. There will be sorrow. And with the help of my Higher Power, I can walk through it.