Sunday, July 11, 2010

My sweet boy

I'm blogging from Australia! I have a lot to share with you about this amazing place, but I need to go back before I can go forward.


When we first got our sweet puppy Teddy, I was on summer break and hadn't started summer school. We timed it this way on purpose so that I could be home to get him started on the right foot with house training. He came from a foster home where there were several puppies, including his bother, and a mom (not his mom) that all slept together. If we put him in his crate alone, he would cry and cry because he wasn't use to sleeping alone. We tried putting Ruby in there with him and it worked like a charm. He would stop crying and go right to sleep. Poor Ruby went from being the little princess of the house to a big sister with all new responsibilities and irritations.


I would wake up early, let them out of the crate, take Teddy outside, and spend most of the day sitting on the floor playing with him and anticipating his need to go potty. This is also how I spent the last week of his life, one year later.

Teddy loved to eat socks and underwear. It didn't start right away, but by the time he was about 8 months old, we were very aware of him swallowing and passing whole socks and underwear without even chewing them. We knew this wasn't normal, but he was part Lab and we also knew labs tend to chew everything. We thought it was a part of his puppy phase and did our best to hide our clothing and keep bedroom doors closed when we weren't home.


Right before our one year wedding anniversary, Teddy had horrible symptoms that told us that something was definitely not right. It was a Sunday, so we took him to the emergency vet down the street. They did some x-rays and couldn't detect anything. They decided to keep him overnight to monitor him and give him fluids. We got a call around 8pm from the vet telling us that he had passed a sock. We were relieved, but a bit frustrated, as we had a bill of nearly $800 waiting for us when he would have been fine if we kept him at home.

After that incident, we were determined to keep him away from anything cloth that he might want to eat. He seemed to be learning. After a while, even if we left a closet door open, he wouldn't go near it. Again, we relaxed and assumed this phase of puppyhood was over...

At the end of June, on a Saturday, he stopped eating. He threw up a few times the next day and had a bit of diarrhea. We knew that it was happening again and decided we would wait until a weekday to take him to the vet, if he wasn't getting any better. On Monday, he seemed to want to eat the plain meat we gave him, but he wasn't at all interested in his regular dog food. Tuesday, he made more progress, but on Wednesday, he seemed to be getting worse. We took him to the vet where they did an x-ray and digital exam. The vet found nothing and gave him some anti-nausea medicine along with fluids.

By Thursday, I hadn't left the house for more than an hour all week. I would stay by his side all day and all night, getting up to follow him every time he went outside. I had to watch him constantly to see if there was any progress or if things got worse. I missed two days of training because I didn't want to leave him just in case something else happened. On Friday night, I went to babysit for a friend and my husband stayed home with Teddy. At around 10pm, I called to check on him and my husband was audibly upset and told me he thought I should come home because this could be the end. I was hysterical. I called the parents of the little girl I was babysitting for and told them my dog was dying and I needed to go home. They rushed back to the house and I left to be with my baby. He was extrmemly lethargic and having trouble getting around. It had been almost a week since he had eaten a good amount of food and he was visibly thin. My husband and I both cried and I stayed up most of the night watching him to see if he was breathing.


The next morning he was still with us and able to walk on his own, though he was very slow. We took him to the vet and they decided to do a barium x-ray where they give him this substance to swallow that sticks to anything that could be blocking his intestinal tract and then shows up on the x-ray. We came back later to view the results and saw that there were at least three distinct places where the barium was stuck, meaning he had some type of material in there. The vet told us that surgery would be very difficult as it is "exploratory" and would have to be done by a specialist. He said even if the specialist tried to get everything out, he might not make it through because there was so much blockage in so many places. It was the day before the 4th of July, so we asked the vet if there was anything else we could do to try to get him to pass it. We had hope that if we gave him some sort of laxative, he would be able to pass whatever it was he ate and we could avoid surgery that might not even work. He gave us something that is normally used to help cats pass hairballs and we went home to get started.

Over the next few days, we gave him this syrupy substance and took him on several walks. He was so happy each time we got out the leash and loved to run, even though his energy was low. We wanted him to know that he was loved, so we constantly told him what a good boy he was and did anything we thought made him happy. Our friends came over on the 4th and he enjoyed greeting the visitors and protecting their baby. He loved babies and never got too rambunxious around them (like Ruby does). The vet had told us that if he didn't pass the material by Tuesday, that we would need to either try the surgery or put him down. I wasn't ready to let him go, so I asked for one more x-ray to see if the material had made any progress after 3 days of trying the laxative-type substance. My husband was working and I took him into the vet by myself.

After reviewing the x-rays, the vet told me that surgery was not even possible. He said that it was so tangled up in there that even a specialist wouldn't be able to get it all out while keeping him alive. It hadn't made any progress moving toward the bowels and he said that the longer we waited, the more he would suffer. I absolutely did not want my sweet baby to suffer. The vet had to do a minor surgery on another animal and would be back with us in 20 minutes, so I decided to take my boy on one last walk around the neighborhood. If he wanted to run, we ran. Ifhe wanted to sit and smell the roses, we sat and sniffed. I gave him lots of hugs and kisses and told him what a good boy he was.

I was holding him when he passed. I tried to stay calm so he wouldn't sense my anxiety, but it was so hard. I told him over and over again that I loved him and that he was a good boy. When it was over, I knew that he wasn't in pain anymore and that he would always have a piece of my heart.

They call what he had Pica. It is a sort of disorder where people and animals eat things that aren't edible. We have learned that if you put ceyanne pepper on the things they like to eat and let them sniff and lick it that they will learn that those things don't taste good and eventually stop the behavior. I wish we had known this before, but I know we did the best we could at trying to keep him out of our stuff.


Ruby knew that something was wrong. Some mornings she would leave her breakfast until very late in the day - something she never would have done before. When I came home without her bother, she looked outside for him and sniffed the towel I had brought for him to sit on. We cuddled on the couch and I cried, telling her that Teddy was gone and that I loved her so much.

I couldn't get excited for our big trip. I actually seriously considered not going. On that last walk with Teddy, I got stung by a bee on my finger and it swelled into a huge sasauge. It felt like a physical reminder of the pain in my heart. I feel like if I'm happy and enjoying myself, I am betraying my dear Teddy. If I spend money (our flight and hotel are free, but not the activites, food, or shopping), I feel guilty for not using that to pay for surgery. I know that surgery would not have worked and made his final moments much more horrible, but I have these constant "what ifs" going through my mind.

I am moving on, but it is a slow process. Ruby is at the ranch with my in-laws, having a ball playing with their two dogs, so I know she is happy and well cared for. I miss her so much and look forward to cuddling with her again, spoiling her with treats and toys and kisses. Losing Teddy has made me appreciate Ruby so much more. It has also taught me a lot about being a better pet owner. I vow to take Ruby on more walks and to the dog park frequently so she can have plently of play time. I promise to be more knowledgeable and not just assume something is part of a phase. I also commit to getting pet insurance when we decide to get another dog, but that won't be for at least a few years.

Thank you to everyone for your comments. I really appreciate all the love and support.

3 comments:

Sadye said... [Reply to comment]

Amy! My heart goes out to you....reading this brought tears to my eyes, and brought up the memory of my past dogs. It is such a vivid memory that is attached to so many areas of the heart. With time it does get easier...I am sending you and Teddy my love. They may not be with us in a physical body, but they are always with us alive in our hearts and live on in our memories. Big hugs xo

Jakeandjess said... [Reply to comment]

this made me cry! i am terribly sorry for your loss more than words can express. knowing that something could happen to my animal child reminds me to love to little things too. <3

MICHELLE said... [Reply to comment]

Amy, my heart is breaking for you. I just read this and couldn't stop crying. I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. We will all remember your sweet beautiful boy. I love you lots and lots.

Xoxo.
Michelle

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