Saturday, October 23, 2010

Final Days

Thank you for all of the heartfelt sympathy comments on the last post. I was not expecting "the decision" to come so quickly.

As you know, Katie was having some off days and weeks mostly due to a toe on her left hind leg. After an ouchy weekend, I was pleased to see Katie back to twirling around the yard Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday morning, Katie could not walk. She stood up, but could not take any steps forward. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her waist so I could support her rear end. I was shocked to see that she was dead lame on her right rear leg and not the leg that had been giving her trouble recently. I knew it had to be hurting badly for her to be putting all of her weight on the neurological leg.

I fed her and then the same thing. Katie could not move so we carried her outside and then I supported her again with a towel. Tuesday afternoon, she had not improved. Katie and I spent the night in the living room sleeping on our futon mattress/giant dog bed.

Wednesday morning, Katie's pain continued. By then we had added the Amantadine to her drug cocktail of Deramax and Gabapentin. Stephen came home at lunchtime and notice an improvement. By Wednesday afternoon, I noticed that she was much improved. She walked across the hardwood floor to greet me. I was still using a towel, just in case, but she was walking on her own.

The vet and I assumed that she was probably experiencing severe arthritis pain. A drug like Amantadine is used for severe episodes. Once back to a comfortable level, you wean the dog off of the drug and save its usage for the next episode. Wednesday afternoon, the Amantadine was working. In the backyard, Katie even started to lead me over to the gate that leads to the rehab exercise area. It made me smile, but I felt she did not need to aggravate any arthritis.

The improvement was short lived. By Wednesday night, we were having to carry her again. Then, adding insult to injury, I found a large, firm lump on top of her femur as I stroked her fur. I could not believe how large it was. Did it pop up overnight? Did I miss it? Bone cancer popped into my mind immediately.

That night was heart wrenching. Katie simply could not lie herself down. She would be standing on her neurological leg, but it did not have enough motor skill to lower herself down. She needed her "good" leg. We tried to help her as best we could. Trying to respect that she did not really appreciate our help, but gently forcing her to accept it.

And then the panting began. Katie panted for hours. It was agony for both of us. I just could not get her comfortable. I decided to give her the morning pain medication early and around 1 AM, the pain medication took effect and Katie was able to settle down and fall asleep. Thank goodness for the peace.... that is until 4 AM.

At 4 AM a repo man with a tow truck in my driveway rings my doorbell looking for Sarah and a PT Cruiser. Are you kidding me? We confirm the address, but Sarah does not live here, across the street, or next door. The same can be said for the PT Cruiser. I have lived here for ten years. The prior owner is not Sarah. We have excellent credit. Goodbye. Thankfully, Katie was still resting comfortably and fell back to sleep as did I.

The vet was able to see us at 9 AM. I did not feed Katie very much.... it was actually more of a beef broth with some chunks. I assumed she would need to be sedated for x-rays and tried to adhere to the recommendation that she not eat after midnight. But I couldn't bear to fast her completely.
I rode in the back of the SUV with Katie. Again it was just so painful for her to lie down. She was resistant to our assistance, but she could not do it on her own. It was a tough drive.

We arrived and one of the vet techs carried her from the SUV straight in for x-rays. Stephen and I waited. As soon as I saw my vet's face, I knew. He followed up with "you are right".... "Bone cancer?".... "Yes."

Dr. Toby showed us the x-ray. I have no personal experience with bone cancer, but have known plenty of greyhounds that passed away from it. In a way, I was relieved with the diagnosis. We knew exactly why Katie was hurting and there was only one thing left for us to do.

My biggest fear for the last few months was that Katie would slowly deteriorate. Arthritis pains would worsen. Eventually, I would have to decide when Katie's quality of life had diminished too much. My philosophy has always been that I would rather euthanize a day early than a day late. But with something not life threatening like arthritis, there seems to be a bigger responsibility in making that decision. Bone cancer completely eliminated any hopes for a rally, a solution, or a cure.

Katie had not been sedated for the x-rays so she was still awake when we said our goodbyes. We placed her on the floor on the familiar fleece pads. She ate scrambled eggs and creme cheese as she dozed off. She never ever missed a meal.

Goodbye, Katie. You were perfection. I loved your cool confidence and aloofness. Once I earned your attention, you never again looked away. You ignored all others. You were very serious about your work. However, as you got older a certain silliness appeared. When people throw around the word "alpha", I wish they could have met you. You controlled the backyard games, deciding when they started and when they ended. You flagged your tail and sassed the neighborhood. You were so fair in your dealings with other dogs. You might apply a paw or 2 to some one's back, but you were never aggressive or left teeth marks. Just assertive. You were fearless. I could take you everywhere and I did. You owned it. When you retired and eventually decided to stay home, I worried that you would be bored. But you made sure I knew you were happy and appreciated my efforts. Thank you for being mine. You were truly a dream come true. Exactly what I wanted. Now go stir things up in heaven. Get those lazy couch potato greyhounds off their clouds and running full speed again.