Edgewater Greyts WebLog

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

and the dark brindle Knight spake and said "NO!" 

I was originally going to post this to the CircleOfGrey group at Yahoo groups but then I realized that this may not be the tale to tell for someone who has just lost a loved family member and is still at the stage of second-guessing their every decision in those last days and hours. Also, don't read on if you're not somewhere where you are free to cry.

When we joined the greyhound lovers world we started with a senior. Now we are most passionate about the exceedingly special hounds with the silver-masks who you bring into your life with fear in your heart that you will lose them all too soon. You don't know whether the time you have might only number in the days or weeks.

This is about Knight the first greyhound - a dark brindle brood mom whose got'cha day was 2 years ago in April. Knight is over 10½ now.

Friday May 23rd Tom and I came home to the sounds of one of the dogs screaming. I bolted in the front door and dove to Knight's side - she was on the floor splayed out like Bambi on the ice, just shrieking in agony and fear. We raised her up to her feet but she was having a lot of difficulty standing or walking. We are convinced that the accident had JUST happened - the crew hangs out in the big cushy chairs and dog beds in the front sun-room and she must have fallen in the commotion of rushing to the door to greet us.

Knight had had a prior episode many months before of what was diagnosed as "ataxia" which once it began to improve, cleared up completely within 18 hours (another story). Since she did manage dinner and managed to relieve herself we decided to give her an aspirin and wait until morning to take her to her regular vet.

She was worse in the morning, and could not even piddle. This wasn't like the last time at all. We offered her a half-breakfast (the home-cooked good half) which she ate. Then we went off to the vets for X-rays, examination, blood work. There we got a lot of maybe's. Maybe an instability in the neck precipitating in Wobblers Syndrome, (her front left paw was now severely knuckling under), maybe a ruptured disk which would not be visible on the x-ray film. The vet tried a series of cortisone shot, monitoring for improvement. No the vet said, she was not improving, but was progressively getting worse, and now her rear left paw was also affected. She was showing pain in her back now too. Most likely a ruptured disk - her best bet was immediate surgery by an expert. A myelogram would be needed to verify pre-surgery - but then this test in itself could cause seizures. Okay this was her best chance what's the cost? Called the surgeon, he's available for the emergency as soon as we can get her there, up to $3000. Okay we'll do it, we'll manage. But on final vet to surgeon phone-consult, she's 10½, haven't ruled out a tumor, and lots of physical therapy required afterwards. Would be hell on her with nearly nothing to gain. And she's been laying flat her side on a cushion on the floor all this time, totally glassy-eyed. She was miserable. Our Knight was miserable.

So much s**t coming at us at once. We are terrified that this was it. We knew this day would come, but.. but just not like this...

Everyone's in agreement, it's her time and we will release her from this suffering.

Our old man Sam died in this office 10 years ago. Our sweet Lucy died here 2 Christmas' ago in our arms sitting on the floor with her, and though it was an easy passing it felt... wrong. She should have been at home.

Tom and I agreed that we wanted her home to say goodbye. We knew that it wasn't the easiest option for us, but I said "I will not have her die here on the floor. I want to take her home. Put a morphine patch on her for the pain - make her comfortable. And will you come to our house to to let her go after we've said our goodbyes?"

No problem to taking her home and our vet gave us the number of a vet that would come to the house, and could also follow through and take her body and arrange for cremation afterwards. I didn't know that there was such a service until now.

One other reason I wanted to take her home - When the vet said "She won't move, she won't do anything," a little voice inside my heart screamed, "but of course, that's just Knight being Knight." There wasn't any doubt in my mind that it was her time but this was all coming down on us so hard and so fast. I just wanted to only freeze these last moments and not rush into the undoable.

Tom and I carried her home with a morphine patch and a heavy prescription of Prednizone. When we came in the house she wanted to get back in the chair that she probably hurt herself jumping down from. We instead put her on one of the dog beds in the kitchen to be with us.

I went to my room to call Frankie, Knights foster mom and then suddenly Tom screamed at me to come, that Knight had just flown out of the kitchen to the front of the house and jumped into her chair. The only time her foot knuckled under was when she tried to turn around to lay in the chair.

That's our Knight, it had to be HER choice! And she chose HER chair! Just Knight being Knight.

I wrote a lot of detailed stuff after this which I tossed because I think you can get the idea now.

We were thisclose to putting her down in the vet's office that Friday. We wanted her home. And in our selfish moment of need we ended up giving her one last chance to speak for herself. And she resoundingly has said "NO, it is NOT my time!!!"

Slowly things improved dramatically. The first few days she heroically struggled to walk around the yard, and to balance to pee and poop as her left side was weak and her front paw kept trying to knuckle under.

Knight HATES being carried, and in a few days she insisted on trying to do the 6 steps from the yard on her own. We started to let her, and the vet agreed, once we realized that she seemed to knuckle under MORE after being carried than if she did the steps herself.

Then she decided she wanted to go on a real walk. She only made it maybe 200 feet up the street and had to turn around right away. Her foot knuckled under any time she had to turn, any time she lowered her head to sniff. Then one morning three weeks after bringing her back home she had a regular length walk. That morning her foot didn't knuckle under even once. She's always acted like a much younger girl. Today she's at least as good as anything I could hope for from a senior.

All that we've done is allowed her her choices, and tried to discourage the ones that can clearly hurt her. The health of her spirit is what is her healing, and there is so much that goes into nurturing that.

There were lessons learned from this. The first was that, barring a long term illness or definitive diagnosis, give your greyhound a voice, that last chance to tell you, "okay, I wasn't feeling really great there, but I'm home now, and... let's see, where's my stuffie!"

The second lesson is that we all know our dogs better than the vet, especially if we've had them long enough. We may also know greyhounds better than a greyhound saavy vet may as far as behavior and how they may differ from other dogs. It is up to us to help them interpret.

Finally, I have spent so much time with the details of the tragedy that I just want to share the feelings of growing hope in those first weeks. "She's stronger today" and "She did a little kick kick kick with all her feet today after potty" or "She opened her mouth and sassed the dog across the street today" or "Look at her chewing her bully stick with her rump up in the air" or "What's she want now cause she's staring at me and is about to roo her displeasure with me."

Today is 130 days since she fell. Today is 129 days since she stopped us from the undoable. We've had 30 months with this senior gal that have so enriched our lives. And counting.

The first of those 130 days had been hell. And magic.

~ ~ ~

This is a picture of Knight in the chair she ran to. She's very stressed out from her ordeal, panting like crazy maybe from the pred, and starting to REALLY feel loopy from the morphine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

And now it's fall, and we're so glad Frenchie is with us 

Things have been quiet around here. Little stuff takes on meaning though.

For example this coming Sunday is our Frenchie's 12th birthday. It's approaching her one year "got'cha day" and her personality continues to show itself. So also does her history.

She definitely was an only dog for too long and may still need to learn some dog manners - guess she's always had her way. A couple of nights ago as we're watching TV she was laying watching Surf chewing on a bully stick and kept creeping closer and closer and closer... right in his face. She wanted his stick even though there were several others nearby. Surf didn't bat an eye and kept working on it. Finally she was just scant inches from it and he curled his lip at her, but she wasn't going to take no for an answer and did not back off. Finally I decided enough is enough and moved her out of his face. In this case I'd rather intervene because though he's not very alpha in this house because of being outnumbered by the brood mamas Frenchie is definitely omega to Surf. I don't want him being pushed into going beyond warning her off. But what a brazen girl!

And then, just this week two things have happened that say to me that she still remembers bad times and that we still have to be careful to take that into account. The first happened during a walk. After one of the others finished their business and I went to pick it up she wandered right in the way and so I gave her hind a little nudge as I was stooping - nothing that could have hurt. It startled her enough that she let out this hoarse bellow/bark/scream thing as if I was going to hurt her - and you only hear that kind of sound when an animal is terrified. She was immediately alright but I hate to think of where her mind had been at that instant. (When we first brought her home I wondered how her sternum had grit embedded in it and crinkled skin/scar tissue; it reminded me of nothing so much as how as a child my knee would look after a really bad fall. It was at least 5 months of gently washing and cleaning before the embedded grit was gone. doG I hope that it was accidental and that she'd never been shoved to the ground.)

The second happened just last night. We were all laying on the flop-room floor watching TV and I reached out and stroked the side of her neck. Same hoarse scream, and after she calmed down I checked her neck over but she didn't have any tenderness. Just caught her off-guard thinking bad thoughts I guess.

For those of you who are saying that you shouldn't touch a dog in it's sleep let me assure you that Frenchie had never before been one to react to being woken by a touch. Same with Knight. Same with Surf. (I actually think that Surf will wake up completely before he moves or opens his eyes). Only Kimba will sometimes now react, only vocally - I think that she's fallen asleep so often cockroached up against us that she has basically lost that reaction. Now all that is required is to say her name, and even in her sleep she knows it's okay.

That Frenchie! Basically a happy girl who is the most puppylike of all the dogs. With some unjoy in her past. Still, I don't think the corners of her mouth are quite so perpetually turned-down these days. And her eyes laugh a lot. Love her!

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