Monday, August 20, 2018

When PETs are SICK

The Headlines:

Love is always hard. 

Love in the face of sever sickness or death... even more difficult. 

When it's your Dog (and you've never had a pet before)...  

It's unchartered territory. 

As a child, I never had a pet.  My Mom was overwhelmed with just one living thing to take care of...  A pet was never going to be a part of our household.  So when BP, the husband, insisted on a chocolate lab about a year after we were married I was like, ok I guess I need practice keeping something alive if I want children someday.

We found Maverick.

But a couple weeks ago, we came home to him struggling a bit.  My dog, in his old age tends to gasp for air... it's called Laryngeal Paralysis and it's fairly common for labs who are, well, old.  So, he's done this before.  I thought, he'll get better.  But he didn't.  He got worse.

Let me back up a bit, Maverick came to live with us after 3 months of being introduced to the world.  He was gorgeous.  A deep chocolate Labrador.  We flew to a special breeder in Northern California.  Picked him up there.  Drove him to Arizona.  I fell for the pup on that trip.  He spent the whole time on my lap.  Once at home, we had him live with a trainer for a couple months.  He hunted, got into trouble,  ate a tiki torch (including the kerosene).  He was attacked by 2 dogs on a walk.  Got in a car accident with my husband.  He liked to escape. You know, the whole 9.   It was and has been a full life.

But Mav turned 14, in people years, last month.  By my calculations that would put him right at 98 dog years old.  He's definitely slowed down.  Laryngeal Paralysis isn't a death sentence but it's the start of something towards that.  The condition is one that strips the nerves and muscles from working properly.  Not only in their throat but other places, like their hind legs.   Surgery is an option, but not always a good one.  Especially for his age.

That means, my poor dog sometimes (especially when he gets agitated or hot) has trouble breathing.  It comes and goes but it hasn't been a huge issue.  Let me say this, my dog is old, maybe a little wobbly, skinny...  but he has never seemed to suffer.  Until this day.  The day I came home and he couldn't breath.  I think the house got a little warm (we have a NEST and there was no movement so no AC was kicking on).  I kept thinking he would get better, relax and catch his breath.  But he didn't and that turned into a completely sleepless night.  He couldn't get comfortable, he couldn't sit still, he just wasn't getting enough oxygen.

Early the next morning, after I had dozed off ever so slightly... I knew he couldn't take it any more.  This was it.  I woke up my children and told them to grab their stuff.  There was a good chance they would have to say goodbye to the only dog they'd ever really known.  We all hopped in the car, not Maverick, he was carefully carried, and I drove as quickly as possible to the ER Vet location.

Because of his clearly poor condition, they took him back immediately.  We were told it seemed the condition significantly worsened and he was tranquilized to get him through it.  There wasn't much we could do at this point but make him comfortable.  The vet on duty did think it may be a good idea to do a lung x-ray.  Just in case it was more than the Laryngeal Paralysis.

In the meantime, they discharged him, we went home and I started preparing for his death.  Lots of tears were shed on this day.  BP was away and it was just me trying to figure everything out.  Yet, I had never known how hard it would be... I was unprepared for the heavy duty emotion I would feel.  People pain I get... pet pain is new.  But it was almost just as hard.

Late that same night the ER Vet called me back and left a message.  Mav may not be just suffering from the LP... the test revealed he had pneumonia too.  Apparently, this illness can go hand in hand with LP.  So the decision was made to put our dog on anti-biotics.  Within hours the old Maverick started to come back.  1 day later he even barked.  A lot.  A sound I truly thought I would never hear was ringing out like a song on stage.

But I fear it's just a reprieve.  Yes, today,  he's stronger than I imagined I'd ever see him... but I'm not sure how long it will last.  I'm giving him all his favorite foods and he is getting more special attention than he's seen in a while.  Plus, lots of sleep.  I want the remainder of his time here to be comfortable and sweet.  Just like him.

I still don't fully get dogs.  I don't agree with people putting pets above human beings.  But after having, loving and crying over one for so long I think I understand why they're such a part of the family:


That's it.  No matter what... in good times, bad times, all times.  They don't go on vacation, off to college, to the library, shopping, they don't get married.  They just stay by your side.  Who else does that?  If you're a Christian the answer is God but the Dog you can actually see.  People come and go, marriages break apart, kids grow up, Grandparents pass.  Pets are the ultimate companion.  That is, as long as they're physically able.  The only time your pet will leave you is when it's not up to them.  That's pretty special.  Very rare.  Incredibly powerful.  Even comforting.

When my 7 year old son saw our Dog after that horrifically painful time in the ER - he looked at him, gave him a long, lingering hug and as he turned to me he said,  "I'm glad Mavy didn't die today... because then I wouldn't have had this moment."  Heart melt.  I feel like we may have a few more moments left with our Dog.  Maverick will not be around too much longer... but he's here for now.  Weeks, months, maybe he'll even live to see 15.  We'll enjoy the time we have, while we have it.

As long as we can all... catch our breath.

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