My dog Max had been having trouble breathing for a few weeks, but the vets kept sending us home with antibiotics. He was tested for valley fever, but the test came back negative, so we stopped the medication. A few days after the negative reading, his breathing was even worse, so we took him back. He was still pretty much his happy puppy self just with a little trouble breathing. We definitely weren't expecting what happened next.
They checked him out at the vet and shot him with Benadryl, thinking that maybe he was having an allergic reaction (for weeks?) and then gave him a steroid to perhaps help his breathing. Then they took him back to give him some fluids before we took him to the overnight clinic for observation since he was dehydrated and his blood pressure was low.
The next thing I knew, they were telling me that he had had a seizure and they didn't think he was going to make it. We rushed to him, and he was breathing so heavily. It was so sad, and I thought that was it. The vet we took him to isn't exactly an ER, so they were doing what they could--keeping him warm, giving him oxygen, etc. We sat with him for an hour while they pumped him with other drugs to help stabilize him and drained air from around his lungs because she couldn't hear his heart beating anymore.
Upon seeing him like that, I felt fully prepared to tell them to put him down. It sounds cruel, but in my head, after everything I'd gone through over the summer with my depression and anxiety, I just couldn't see making him suffer any longer. With dogs, we do that sort of thing. But they didn't give me that option, and I didn't want to say it out loud. Later, Josh told me that he wishes we would have knowing what we know now, but he wanted to see if he'd get better.
His blood pressure finally came down a bit after being so high, and he started to get antsy on the table. He was lifting his head, attempting to lick our faces, and gently wagging his tail. It was heartbreaking and happy at the same time. I thought my puppy was making it. And he did for a while.
We were able to take him over to the overnight clinic, where they kept him comfortable and hydrated through the night and well into the next day. We got a call from the specialist there who'd looked over his xrays and blood work. He said that with everything he'd seen, he was assuming this was valley fever. The swollen lymph nodes over his heart were making it really hard to breathe, so he wanted to continue the steroid, keep a close eye on the seizures (which he'd never had before and did not have one again), and get him on the VF medicine.
So we took him home, kept him comfortable overnight as best we could, and hoped he'd eat and take his medications in the morning. We were up a couple times with him because of his breathing, but I just wanted to be there for him. The next morning, he didn't want to eat, but we figured it'd been a rough few days. I had to force the medication by opening his mouth and waiting for him to swallow, but that was proving difficult. Josh had to come home and do it for me.
I'd been crying all morning, and I continued to cry all day while watching my poor, sweet little baby suffer. It was hard on me, so I can only imagine how hard it was on him. His body was so tired from having to actively breathe so hard. Standing up was his only choice for easier breathing, but he just wanted to sleep. He was still drinking water, but he refused all food we tried to give him. Almond butter, rice with elk meat, treats, everything. So we kept him warm by microwaving towels, turning up the heat, and covering him with blankets when he was lying down.
I wanted to take him back to the hospital because he wasn't eating. Josh did not. We couldn't do much for him, and I thought maybe they could. But I called them to see what they'd be able to offer, and it wasn't much more. Plus, he'd be in a kennel all night, alone and scared. And as it turns out, he probably would have died there, alone and scared. And while what I'm going through now is hard, I don't even want to know how it would feel to have that on my conscience.
Finally it was bedtime, and I didn't want to fall asleep in case he took his last breath. We all managed to lie down and sleep a little before he jumped on the bed and woke me up around midnight. Josh took him to see if he wanted to go outside and go potty, but he just sat at the top of the stairs for a while. I lay down next to him and just rubbed his back, trying to soothe him.
Then he started breathing through his mouth.
I am no veterinarian. I didn't really know the warning signs to look for. But that triggered it in me. I knew that the end was probably close. And I realized I'd been thinking it since he'd woken me up twenty minutes earlier. He tried to stand up and go downstairs, but his front paws hit the first stair and he just stopped and sat there. I called for Josh, and he took him down the stairs since that's what it seemed like he wanted to do.
He lay down on the rug by the couch for a little bit before getting up and starting to walk towards the stairs, still with his open-mouth breathing. I got up to follow when he started making crying/howling noises that I can't get out of my head. All of the hair right on his spine stood straight up and he kept making those noises. I just kept rubbing his back and trying to say soothing things until he started collapsing. I took him in my arms the best I could to hold him to me while he went down close to the stairs, telling him he was a good boy and that it was all okay, it would all be okay.
He finally stopped breathing in my arms around 12:40 a.m. with Josh at our sides and Titan wondering what the hell was going on before bleeding out of his mouth. He was just over two and a half years old.
We called the vet and they said to bring his body there. So we scooped him up in one of Josh's favorite blankets, put Titan's leash on, and got in the car. I drove while Josh held our poor baby in his arms all the way to the overnight clinic. His body was already stiff when we laid him on the table in the vet's room. We got a paw print done and stayed with him for a while, crying and petting him, telling him how much we'll miss him, how wonderful it was to have had him in our lives, and how sorry we were for what happened (out loud and in our heads).
I'm telling you this because I think we just assume that dogs get put down when they're sick. I know I usually do because that's just how things seem to happen. But that isn't how it happened with my baby. He suffered horribly until the end, and it was all of my worst nightmares from my depression and anxiety from over the summer. Loss of life, life cut short, suffering until a tragic death. I had to watch it all unfold in my dog. My baby. The life I was supposed to protect.
If you didn't want to read the story of Max, you can start reading here. This is all about me dealing with the aftermath now.
People are telling me that they're sorry for my loss, and that makes sense. But it feels so hollow because I think people would say something different if they heard this whole story first. Don't get me wrong. I'm so thankful that you all are here for me. But it wasn't a peaceful loss. I'm not just grieving the loss of my dog. I'm grieving the tragic, painful death of my puppy as it occurred in my arms. To me, that's so much different.
I feel responsible, sad, traumatized, relieved, and scared all at once. This was one of the things I didn't think I'd make it through when I was dealing with my depression. I didn't want anything to happen to them because I thought it would end me. So I'm doing everything I can to not think that because I want to be here and I want to be okay for the dog we still need to care for. Titan is my strength and a reminder of what was and what happened all wrapped up in one.
I am so grateful for my friends, family, and husband. You've all been so amazing. But my panic, anxiety, and depression aren't things I feel a huge control over, especially when they're hitting me hard. My body doesn't know how to react, and my whole world has just shifted, so I'm trying my best to reevaluate and remember what's real.
I finally ate this morning, and I slept through most of the night last night. It felt good. But I'm still trying to reconcile that with what happened with Max, and it tears me in two. I'll get through it, but I feel like I might have to hit rock bottom again first.
I did okay during the day. I thought I wanted to finish up an edit and then go lie in bed with Josh and watch a movie. But as soon as we did that, the depression/panic hit. My vision got all weird, I couldn't focus, and I wasn't laughing at things I thought I would have laughed at a week ago. I had to just try to sleep. Finally, I woke up toward the end of the movie and had to have Josh turn it off. We turned on Modern Family (our normal nightly routine) and I started to feel slightly better. But I had to message my friend Edie (who had been thinking about me at that exact same second too since she'd just messaged me) to have her talk me through the panic.
I'm trying to remember that this course of action during grief is actually normal. Loss of appetite, sleeplessness, etc. It's normal. But my body goes into panic mode the second something seems only slightly off. So alarm bells are ringing 24/7 in my body at the moment, and I can't turn it off but I don't want to ignore them. I'm just attempting to get back into my regular routine, as much for my sake as for Titan's. I know he's confused and sad, so we're trying to keep things as normal as possible for him.
I'm supposed to go out of town this weekend though. I'm nervous, excited, scared, etc. I don't know what to do yet. And my job. I schedule edits for every single day of the week. I bust my ass and work long hours because I love it, but I didn't schedule time for a death in the family. Luckily, I work with the best people in this business, and I so appreciate the understanding, deadline-shuffling, and all-around positivity in working with me during this time.
But that's basically it. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, no appetite, the tragic loss of my baby... I only fear because I know what depression is like. It's hard to get out of, and I don't feel like I have control over it at all. So I'm trying to accept things--feelings, emotions, events. Get through them as normally as possible. And I don't want to make this about me. I'm not the one who suffered. I'm not the one who died. No, I'll never see my baby run down the stairs after getting yelled at for trying to eat the cat poop in the litter box, and no, he'll never yell at me for coming home late or jump up on me when I get home from the store again even though we tried so hard to break him of those habits, but he's the one who lost his life. And I'll miss all of that terribly.
Love and hugs to you all. I appreciate every single comment, offer, visit, suggestion, hug, etc. <3
Always a goofball. <3
5/28/11 - 1/15/14