Lighthearted and occasionally sarcastic sharing of my experiences with infertility, baby-raising after infertility and life after losing a parent.
Friday, June 4, 2010
My dog died tonight. I'm not even sure where to begin, or exactly what to say. I'm still pretty shocked and devastated. As you all know, we found out in early April that she was suffering from congestive heart failure. I knew her time was limited...but somehow I thought we had more time. They stabilized her on medication, and all seemed to be going well. On May 24, I noticed that Nugget's breathing was a bit more labored and she was coughing a tad. I took her in to the vet, and he confirmed that fluid was backing up in her lungs again. At that point, I knew that if we could not maintain her for even 6 weeks on medication, her time was likely limited.
The vet increased her Lasix and sent her home. Over the next days, she seemed much better. She was coughing less frequently, and her breathing seemed to ease up a bit. I brought her in for a re-check the following Wednesday, and the vet decided to keep her on the higher dose of Lasix until this week. She was due for a re-check again this week, but I had noticed her breathing was a bit more labored again and she was waking up in the morning with a cough. I was fairly certain that they would not be reducing her medication as hoped, and I wondered if she would need an even higher dose of medication or a trip back to the cardiologist.
I took Nugget to the vet around 1:30 today. He noted that she had a slight fever, and suggested that he keep her overnight (at his house) and monitor her. He felt that she likely had an infection and he wanted to keep track of her and put her on antibiotics and monitor her breathing and coughing. I gave him a whole list of information about my dog...how she steals food, that she is deaf, and I warned him about all the trouble she was likely to cause him. After giving him my laundry list, I reluctantly agreed to leave her and headed back home without my dog. I called up around 3:30 to confirm that she still had a fever. The doctor spoke to me and said he really thought she had a mild infection and he thought from her breathing and lack of coughing that she was stable and fine. DH went to pick her up right around 5:00 pm.
I was thrilled to have Nugget home again, but as she sat here, I became convinced she was not doing well. Her breathing seemed very labored, and I definitely thought it almost sounded like a rattle. She sounded as awful as she did that night I brought her to the emergency hospital. Around 6:30 or so, I told DH that I thought I should bring Nugget to the hospital. He thought I should give the antibiotics more time to work. We debated a bit, and then I decided that I'd feed her dinner early and give her pills a bit early and see if that improved her breathing.
I went to give her the chewable pill...and she refused it. I immediately knew she was quite sick. I got the rest of her pills and put them in her mouth - she refused to swallow them, and then she threw up. At this point, DH confessed to giving her some fatty meat from his lamb ribs, and I was so angry. I managed to get the meds in her, but she still refused to eat. At that point, Micah was being really cranky and making a ton of noise and agitating the dog. I asked DH to take him out for a bit so that I could try and calm Nugget back down again.
Nugget just seemed lethargic and restless at the same time. She wouldn't sit still, but I kept thinking she was unsteady and seemed off. I called DH and told him I was going to the hospital, and he asked me to wait until he and Micah returned. They came back around 7:15 or so. DH was convinced that Nugget was doing better and I should wait a bit and see if she was feeling better after vomiting. I noticed that Nugget was not running from Micah, and she just sort of stayed in one place. I agreed to wait until DH put Micah to bed before I left with Nugget.
DH took Micah upstairs a few minutes after 8. Nugget had moved to the steps and sort of sprawled out, and Micah had been rolling around and kissing and hugging her just before bed. I kept thinking Nugget was giving me these "help me mommy" looks all night, and I was worried that she was not eating dinner and not trying to run from Micah. I planned on leaving immediately, but DH asked that I wait so he could send us off.
He came down around 8:15 or 8:20, and I had Nugget on a leash. She wouldn't walk herself outside, and I knew it was not a good sign. I picked her up, and she vomited again...but this time, there was some watered down blood. I just knew that the night wasn't going to end well. DH quickly grabbed a cloth diaper for me to take with us, and I carried Nugget to the car. I placed her on the seat next to me, and she didn't even try to move into a more comfortable position - she just stayed exactly as I placed her. I started the drive to the vet, and about 2 blocks into the drive, she vomited again - she didn't even try to move out of the vomit. I was watching the dog when I suddenly realized I'd veered across 3 lanes of traffic and nearly killed us both. I then stayed focused on the road and kept one hand on Nugget. She was very still and breathing very shallow and heavily. She was making choking sounds and she spit up a few more times. I just knew she would never make it to the hospital.
The hospital is about 3-4 miles away. We were about 1 mile or so into the drive when Nugget started to get quieter. The rattling sound stopped, and her breathing remained shallow but slowed. I started to cry because I knew she was dying. I kept telling her to hang in there and begged her not to die. I told her that I loved her. Her breathing continued to slow and there were long pauses between her breaths. She stopped blinking her eyes, and she twitched a few times. I then realized that the pauses between her breaths were just too long. And then I didn't feel any more breaths at all. At this point, I was a little more than halfway to the hospital. I stopped at a light, and I just knew she had died. I started to wail and sob uncontrollably. I could barely see in front of me. I took my hand off of Nugget and grabbed my cell phone to call DH. I couldn't even speak, I was just sobbing.
A few minutes later I arrived at the hospital. I was sobbing so loudly and I felt like I couldn't breathe. I walked around to the passenger side of the car and scooped Nugget up into my arms. I walked inside, wailing and sobbing. When they asked me what was wrong, I simply said "I think my dog just died." They took her from me and they took her in the back...and confirmed that Nugget died.
The rest is sort of a blur...talking about cremation or asking me if I wanted to bring her body back home. I asked if I could see her again and say goodbye. They brought her in to me, and she lay on the table, wrapped in a blanket. She was still warm and her fur was so soft. If I didn't know better, I could almost believe she was just sleeping. I kissed her goodbye and I stroked her fur for a few minutes. Someone came in to talk to me some more about my choices, and I'm not really sure what I said. Cremation is something I do not believe in (religious reasons), yet...I couldn't see how I would take her body home with me. I don't know where I would bury her (in our small backyard that we will be tearing apart soon for renovations, not to mention that I kind of hate the house and hope to sell it one day? At my parents' house? At my cousins' farm?) I kept imagining her rotting in the heat in the car overnight because I didn't know what to do with her. I couldn't exactly put her on the couch until morning, or carry her up to our bed, or keep her in the fridge until I figured out what to do either. All of the options just seemed so awful to me - it was almost laughable. Part of me wanted to look into a pet cemetery...but I think the cost for maintaining a grave is a little crazy, too. I was just in such shock. I could have told them to hold on to her body until I decide, too, but I just didn't think it would get easier to decide later.
All I've been able to think about is that I really didn't take advantage of the time I had left with Nugget. I should have cuddled with her more, and paid more attention to her. I was content to just let her be - rest and sleep and not interact with her. Even tonight, when she kept looking at me with those sad eyes, I spent a lot of the night just watching her, letting her be by herself. I should have picked her up and held her, or curled up next to her on the floor to pet her. I hope she knew I was concerned and that she didn't feel alone.
The hardest part was walking away with her sitting there on that table, wrapped in the blanket. I just left my baby alone there. I felt horrible that, even though she died, her body was alone. It started to feel really morbid to stay with her and touch her, but I hated to just leave her like that. And yet, I did. My Nugget is gone, and right now, she is sitting alone at that animal hospital. And I'm sending her to be cremated, and that just seems horrible to me, too.
I have never really believed in a "heaven" - I like the thought, but it just isn't part of my belief system. Tonight, I hope I'm really wrong about that, and I hope that Nugget has found my Grammy up in a heaven somewhere - I know how much my Grammy loved her, and they would take great care of each other. So, I hope Nugget is happily snuggled in Grammy's lap, maybe stealing food from the snack bowl. But...I just miss her, and wish I had more time with her. I always thought she'd live to a ripe old age. I wanted Micah to spend more time with her, and I wanted her to continue to be our family hoover. I wanted Nugget to meet Twoey, and I wanted Twoey to develop a love for dogs because of Nugget's presence in the house. But, most of all, I wanted to keep my first baby with me as long as I could. Nugget has been with me for 12 years...from law school graduation, through my first legal job, through unemployment and starting my business, through bad relationships, through a good relationship, through marriage and through a baby. For many years, she was THE reason I got up in the morning and got myself out of bed. She is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the middle of the night, and she has been my focus for so long. I just feel like there is this big, gaping hole in my heart...and my life.
I'm an attorney and policy consultant, and DH is a consultant to nonprofit organizations. We met at a Superbowl Party in 2005, got engaged the following year, and we were married in November 2006. We had a long and rocky road before finally welcoming our first baby, Micah, into this world on December 14, 2008.