Posts Tagged mobility

The End of an Era: Losing Part of Yourself

The End of an Era: Losing Part of Yourself

My heart is broken once again. I have lost another love so dear to me. On Friday, April 10th, not long before midnight, my beautiful sweet 13 year old Siri passed away in my arms. I have written about her struggles recently. Aging is a harsh reality that loving dog parents would prefer to do without. First her mobility was compromised with increasing restrictions placed upon her body. And to add insult to injury, her brain betrayed her and allowed dementia to take hold. Dementia meds helped greatly with the latter but an ever rotating protocol of medication, supplements and other treatments could not reverse the lack of strength on her hind end.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, Kenzo and Trent showed increasing stress about her condition. It was interesting to note the completely opposite choices they made to deal with the situation. Trent chose the loner position, opting to retreat to the second floor where he knew that neither could venture. Kenzo opted to spend nearly every moment near her in some way.

After a medication error on my part a couple of weeks ago, where I accidentally gave her his Tramadol, I rushed her to the ER because of the contraindication between that medication and her brain medication. It was a confusing and chaotic time with my hysterical phone call to the ER and fast exit from the house. I returned an hour and a half later with Siri in tow, with her having thoroughly enjoyed the car ride. Upon seeing Siri be carried back in the house with the help of her harness, Kenzo promptly plopped down on her mat set up along side of her and offered a huge grin of relief.

20150415_SiriKenzo1200Her condition deteriorated since that day (unrelated to my mistake) and I was torn about what to do. She was not in any obvious pain but her quality of life was so back and forth. But she smiled so brightly with any attention; it was obvious that she was still happy enough. When she started refusing most meals a week or so ago, I suspected that she would not be with us much longer. I made an appointment to have my vet see her to help me decide whether it was time and then canceled it because I wanted her to pass at home. I tried to make arrangements to have my vet come to my house but she wasn’t available for a home visit until several days later. I no sooner made that appointment then she surprised me and not only ate a full dinner but had a dessert of Wag-Gurt. The happiness that small success gave me cannot be overstated.

The next day she refused food once again and my reality set in more starkly. I started to worry about leaving the house for fear of returning to her having died alone. I tried to arrange for other vets to come sooner, without success. I was not willing to end her life in a vet’s office. I wanted her to pass in comfortable surroundings with her “brothers” nearby.

The last day of her life, I agonized about leaving for the three clients I had scheduled. I was frantic and sobbing constantly that day and could not have functioned at my job anyway. My clients thankfully understood. I spent the day lying with her on the floor. We laid on her mat and padding in the sunlight shining through my kitchen door and my sweet girl smiled all day. I had not seen her look that happy in weeks. After the dinner she refused, we moved into the living room as usual. She had trouble getting comfortable and I lay besides, her holding her close. She seemed to settle finally and then got restless again. She suddenly started moving her head to one side and with a great gasp, she went limp in my arms. She was gone. I sobbed uncontrollably while the boys slept nearby, seemingly fearful of confirming what they expected that I couldn’t accept sooner. I don’t think that I have ever felt more alone, with my two living dogs and my dead dog in my arms at almost midnight on a Friday night. But the power of social media is great. That same connection is available by texting close friends. Within seconds of my cry to the world, I had offers of immediate help from those close by and emotional support from those at a distance.

After being reassured that she would be fine overnight, I cleaned her up and covered her body leaving her head on her pillow. I surrounded her with her favorite things. I lit a candle and anointed her with essential oils. I urged the boys to pay their respects but they were not ready. They remained where they were. We slept restlessly that night.

A good friend arrived the next morning to assist with getting her to crematory. As we paused before taking her to my car, I wanted Kenzo and Trent to say their goodbyes. They both came and sniffed her and Kenzo bowed to her. A touching gesture to be sure, I wish it had been caught on camera.

My house is so empty even though it is full with my two boys. Siri was one of my original crew who started me on the path that brought me here. She taught me so much about fearful dogs. She came so far from where she started, as one of seven puppies rescued at six weeks of age, from a woman whose Rottweiler mated with the neighbor’s German shepherd. She threatened to a co-worker to drown them and that co-worker’s internet plea led to all seven of the “dwarves” finding their way to a network of foster homes, with four of the puppies ending their initial journey at my house for fostering. She is the one who never left. A dear friend has two of her surviving brothers.

Everywhere I look, I see her contributions to my life. Her “big balls” that she carried around constantly from room to room, until the last 6 months of her life, are scattered in various rooms. The products of our final months together are abundant. Laundry baskets with freshly cleaned towels and hospital pads, a full doggy pharmacy with every possible medication and supplement that could ever be needed by a senior dog, disposable pee pads by the pound, her Help Em Up harness draped over a kitchen chair where I laid it to dry after washing it that fateful night. I wanted it to be dry by morning so I could move her from her bed to her regular daytime spot. It will not be needed now. Her orange Kong, so uniquely colored and chosen just for her, will go unused and tucked away in her memory. Her ceramic bowl will not be needed. Her leash hasn’t been used in months. Even taking her with us on the car rides, it wasn’t needed. She could not walk by herself anyway.

Every moment brings another memory. So many things that I miss: how she would bark at the boys when it was time to come downstairs in the morning, her chasing me and barking when I ran around with them at the cemetery off leash, calling her Baby Button, her head tucking under my chin after sneaking a quick kiss when I greeted her after returned from working, seeing her and the boys play so vocally in their upstairs playroom, seeing her eat snow and grass with gusto, walking her with such ease because she was perfect, having her “tell off” one of the boys because they were too careless with their body awareness, how she used to bark fiercely at anyone who had the audacity to come too close to my Xterra. I vividly remember the way that she acted when Kenzo first arrived to live with us, hiding under the end table for a bit every evening until she finally came out to “put him in his place”. They were fast friends from that moment. She was once deemed imposing by a past boyfriend. She lived fully and deeply and with a zest. She was imposing. She aged gracefully and with kindness. I will miss her so much.

There are of course things I won’t miss. Mountains of laundry, worrying myself sick when she wouldn’t eat, the calluses on my hands that developed from carrying her with the harness and most distressing, worrying about whether I would come home and find that she passed away without me here. I would gladly take all of those on again to have more happy healthy days with her.

I have just two dogs now. This is foreign territory for me. Every evening, I get the supplements gathered in a small cup, to go with their breakfast. Every evening without fail, I count out three pills for each rather than two and I cry a little. Every workday I start to prepare 3 Kongs and then catch my breath, a huge lump where my throat should be. I know this will pass. But what won’t pass is how much I miss Siri and that is okay. I want to know that I loved her that much.

So many people offered me so much support. I cannot properly thank each one of you. But this particular sentiment really resonated with my soul so I share this with you all. Thank you Rachel, who so recently went through the same heartbreak, for knowing how this would help.

Aaron Freeman, You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral

Please feel free to share your own losses below, coping strategies, remembrances, etc. And love your dogs fiercely. Every. Single. Day. Their time on this earth is far too fleeting.

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Trials and Tribulations: Multiple Mobility Issues in a Multiple Dog Household

Trials and Tribulations: Multiple Mobility Issues in a Multiple Dog Household

I wrote about Siri’s aging related woes in a recent blog and how it related to the rest of the household. Since that post, her mobility has declined as has her cognitive powers. After trying several natural remedies to restore some brain power, with some small success, I settled on prescription Anipryl. I have used this medication in the past, first with Layla, my second dog as well as Kera, with great success. The word miracle is not an overstatement with regards to its restorative powers for cognitive skills in an aging brain. Siri is now almost as mentally present as she was before the mental decline, with a couple of caveats.

I have thus far failed at restoring her mobility. I have spent many dollars on remedies for this issue as well, so far with limited success. Right now, we are in our 3rd week of Adequan shots. The vet advised me that I won’t see any signs of improvement until the first month is complete. Some friends have seen some success at two weeks, however so I remain hopeful. Siri wears a wonderful invention called the Help Em Up Harness, which enables me to lift her up to move her around and help her walk. She willingly walks on her front legs most of the time. The back legs are the culprit here. Without this harness, my size in relation to her size would present a serious problem for her care. At times it still does.

The complication to having Siri in this condition is that Kenzo is now mobility challenged as well. Several weeks ago, he began limping on a back leg. My heart froze in my throat when this cropped up. He has limped on and off on a front leg since he was six months of age. Pano was suspected and nothing was ever proved, despite x-rays and multiple examinations by various vets. But a back leg limp means something different and it’s rarely something inexpensive. His initial visit for the limp was misleading. A sprain was mentioned, with some pain meds prescribed as well as a lighter exercise routine. He seemed to get better. Then two weeks later he very suddenly refused to place any weight at all on the leg right before bed. Despite the meloxicam, he was very restless and vocal periodically all night. The vet was my first phone call the next morning, followed by a trip there that very morning. This visit was less optimistic. After palpation by a different doctor that we usually don’t see, the dreaded ACL word was mentioned.

Siri wears the "Help Em Up Harness" so that Debby can help her get around.

Siri wears the “Help Em Up Harness” so that Debby can help her get around.

So many suggestions were thrown at me, after sharing this info with friends and acquaintances. I felt incredibly overwhelmed. After countless hours of my own research, I grudgingly accepted that TPLO surgery seemed to be the only solution. As I counted down the days to his surgical consultation, a new routine developed on our lives. One I hope to put behind us someday. We now sleep in the living room. With Siri not able to assist much in her descent down the stairs anymore and Kenzo’s knee in more danger with excess stair usage, it was the only logical solution. I refuse to sleep separately from my dogs. It would cause both sides of this equation far too much emotional trauma. It has certainly been an adjustment, however. The first night caused me to wake up with some incredible neck pain that I never want to experience again. Now that I have determined how to successfully create a peaceful sleeping experience in the living room, things are much improved.

I will confess that occasionally, after a middle of the night trip to the bathroom, I stumble to my beloved bed to complete the night’s sleep. But when I come downstairs in the morning I find Siri and Kenzo have repositioned themselves to face the stairs. This instills such guilt that a repeat of this decision is unlikely.

Kenzo finally had his consultation with his surgeon and it was determined that he has a full ACL tear. His surgery date is set. My mind will be increasingly panicky as the day grows closer, but this remains the best option for the strongest outcome. For two months, Kenzo will be sentenced to the house/property. Siri very much enjoys her outings in the car but that takes a lot out of me to lift her in and out so she will be his companion when I take Trent for his much needed exercise. Here’s hoping that things progress smoothly.

It was also discovered during the pre-surgical exam that the probable cause of Kenzo’s on and off front leg limping is some early arthritis and knee dysplasia in the front legs. He will get appropriate supplements for this that will hopefully help. I know first hand how stressful it can be to have multiple medical issues at once in a multiple dog household. The amount of work that needs done for Siri alone is staggering some days. Add Kenzo’s upcoming surgery and the potential for caregiver meltdown is very high. I recently expressed my stress about this on Facebook and got an amazing outpouring of support that helped me so much. So if you are also experiencing a similar scenario, please don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to people who care. You will be surprised at how many offers of assistance you get. It will warm your heart.

I will update on this subject as possible. In the meantime, if you have a similar story to share, a suggestion or a word of advice, please take the time to share them below.

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