April 15, 2012

My Heart Is Slowly Breaking

We had 27 incredible, blissful days.

Miss A is here, R was off of work for 3 weeks, and even after he went back last week, everything went well. For the first time in nearly a decade, it felt like we were a typical, normal family without the sadness of infertility constantly weighing us down.

Now, there is another weight making our hearts heavy and making the tears fall.

Out of the three dogs R and I have had during our 16 years of marriage, we only have one left. Our first dog (a black lab/golden retriever mix) died at 6 1/2 unexpectedly due to congestive heart failure, and we lost the third one (an Australian cattle dog) 13 months ago after he was diagnosed with a rare tumor and then developed an intestinal blockage at age 8.

Our second dog, also an Australian cattle dog, turned 14 a couple of weeks ago. We've had her since she was 7 months old. She's an incredible dog, a total sweetheart. She doesn't hear very well anymore, so she likes to stay within sight of me. (We taught our dogs hand signals along with verbal commands, so we can still communicate with her fairly easily.)

Overall, she's pretty healthy. However, she's developed arthritis in her joints. And we live in a 2-story house. Our bedroom is upstairs, and there's not really a good option for converting a downstairs room into a bedroom.

We've been managing the arthritis with injections for several months, and we also started acupuncture with her a few weeks before A was born. It all seemed to be helping, and she was doing pretty well going up and down the stairs.

Until yesterday (Saturday). R took her downstairs for her usual morning potty trip outside, and when they were coming back up the stairs, she couldn't muster enough strength in her back legs to push herself up the stairs. Instead, when she tried, she'd fall backwards a step. This, despite getting up the stairs pretty much without trouble as recently as Friday.

R helped her up the stairs, but she was limping badly on her back right leg. When she laid down, she struggled mightily to get back up. She could barely walk. My heart started to crack.

I called the vet and made an appointment to take her. By the time we got there, she was walking much closer to normal, but the vet said it was probably the adrenaline of coming to the vet's office. Apparently he was correct, because when we got her back home, she started to struggle again.

While we were there, he gave her another injection and prescribed an anti-pain/anti-inflammatory medication. I don't think the injection helped this time, but the medication seemed to help a bit after she received her first dose last night, although she didn't get totally back to normal. He also told us she shouldn't go up or down the stairs on her own any more, which means we are now carrying a 33-pound dog up and down the stairs.

This morning, she couldn't really stand on her own again. R took her downstairs, and after she received the second dose, things seemed to improve again. She was even able to jump up onto the couch before we could help her. (We're trying to discourage her from doing that anymore without assistance.)

The vet also called to check on her today, and he assured us there are other medications we can try if this one doesn't seem to help.

But I also know the reality - she's 14, and she's not walking well without medication, and at some point, even the medication will likely not be enough. And then we will have to make a very difficult, very painful decision.

I was selfishly hoping we would have at least a couple more years with her, but each time she struggles a little to get up or limps a little, I know it's more likely that our time will be measured in months (if we're lucky). And each time, my heart breaks a little bit more just thinking about it.


Silver said...

Oh Rebecca - I'm so sorry to hear this news. I remember when Indy passed and looking at his lovely photos. I don't know if you remember me, but if you do you'll remember I'm a fellow dog-lover who totally understands that they really ARE part of the family. My wee boy now plays with my folks' Border Collie so we're raising another dog-mad generation. There's nothing I can say except I know you'll do your very best for your furbaby and that she's much loved. I came across a lovely song last week and thought of you and Indy, as it made me think of my dog and losing her. It's called "Bronte", by Gotye, and it's clearly about saying goodbye to a pet - I sobbed listening to it and it's been 20 years since I said goodbye to my girl, so you might want to pick your time if you seek it out. Sending hugs.

Anonymous said...

have you thought about acupuncture? our greyhound had big problems with the same things, and the acupuncture really, really helped. your vet may know of someone local.

we also carried her up and down the stairs and she was 65 lbs. for a year. other than her difficulty getting around, her quality of life was very good, so giving her help with stairs, etc was not something we had a hard time doing.

it is hard to see our much loved pets get old. we had 4 dogs and 2 cats and over the course of our IF, we watched them all go. my last dog died 7 weeks before my son was born... it was very difficult, to say the least.

you will know what to do when the time comes, but until then, enjoy your dog each day he's with you, take lots of pictures!

will be thinking of you, and good to hear that things are going well in other areas of life.

ks said...

Oh I'm so sorry to read this! I'm going through this as well with my ol doggie! Slipped disk in her neck ;( ... It's so hard. Thinking of you.

Reese said...

It always seems to be something right? I'm so glad that at least you have your tiny daughter now. It is so hard to watch pets get older. Especially when you've been through so much together. My dog Maya is just a few months younger than my firstborn and I sort of mark the passage of time with her. Now I am starting to see her have trouble jumping onto the bed and not being as playful, and I think "Has it really been that long?" I hope you get a bit more time with her. I hope you are getting pictures of her with Baby A!

Libby said...

Oh no, I'm sorry to hear about your pup :( They are our first kids for sure, and it is so incredibly hard to see them in pain. We did the whole towel under the belly to help our girl dog at the end, and now I see they have a belly sling with handles that would have been a ton easier for stairs. Like you, we also gave pain management meds to her because we weren't entirely sure how she was feeling. I have to say, our dogs have been much stronger with not showing how they truly feel than I ever have ever been. Arthritis is tough, but I know, at least for people, it's trial and error with meds. I hope something works for her and you have more quality time with her. So sorry she is not doing well right now :(

Hopeful Mother said...

I'm so sorry about your furry family member. We just lost our dog of 11 years - he got me through some very tough times of IF as well and was my constant companion.

Give your pup some extra love and hugs... and know we are thinking of you.