Maggie: We Miss You

This is a long story, so I’m going to try to be as concise as possible. What would you do for your pet if he or she was sick? And then sick again, and even after the medicine was still not getting better. Well, this happened to us recently. Maggie, our doxie, first of all, has Cushing’s disease, which impacts her kidneys and her body in a variety of other ways. Then we treated the seizures she got with medicine- but later, the medicine made her sick with the other pills she had to take for the ongoing UTI she got. The UTI got better, but she did not- they discovered what looked to be a tiny heart murmur. Another thing to add to this list. Then she started vomiting and having diarrhea. She began to refuse her special diet food and quit eating. I got pretty worried as she seemed to lose energy and weight.
We were switched to more aggressive medicine and repeat panels on Friday the 17th- over the weekend; the result came for Lepto, which is a bacterial infection that spreads through the bloodstream and makes dogs very sick (sometimes fatal). So the “other” vet came back and told us they would switch her to an antibiotic that treats it, to be aware it’s contagious and passable to humans and other dogs. She did better over the weekend-ate more again, just baby food and chicken, and also had a bowel movement for the first time in over a week or two. (SHOCK) Monday comes, and we go in. Our actual vet is back and suggests that we repeat more labs and retest for Lepto- the levels were there, but she wasn’t thinking it was concerning. They got serious about diagnosing and seeing what values they really could find. This morning, however, I got a call that the initial blood test kidney numbers were high (more than expected), and her liver numbers were elevated, too, when they weren’t previously. She suggested keeping her on the medicine that is helping for now but told us that the IV fluids she has gotten haven’t been replenishing her at all. So ideally, she would need in-patient treatment with antibiotics, ultrasounds, and more direct constant fluids. My jaw dropped to the floor as I absorbed this news and scrambled to call the nearest vet hospital for overnights. In reality, Lepto is a public health concern, so it could very much still be that however could also be her kidneys are failing and in which treating it sooner than later and before it is an end-of-life situation. We are worried and scared, but also I’m trying to stay positive. She is 12, and well, we expected that this is probably close to her time, but NOT YET.

So the plan was to take her to the nearest and *best* pet hospital, which is VCA nearby. She was evaluated and discovered exactly the same things our vet saw, possible Leptospirosis but more likely just kidney and liver issues from something looming from an infection/UTIs, or it may be chronic, in which case, we’d just put her down because she can’t live like that. So we did find take her the next day and admitted her immediately for consistent fluids and stronger antibiotics, watching her eating too (because she wasn’t eating much). The vet was immediately concerned about her numbers jumping so high so suddenly and could tell she didn’t feel good. We went ahead and paid for the first night of procedures/fluids + her stay. She did okay the first night and seemed a bit better with fluids and the antibiotics. On the second day, we paid for treatment, and she stayed in for more retesting and more nausea meds. The third morning is when I got the call that the numbers were still abnormal. She wasn’t acting herself, nausea worsened, and she seemed off and miserable to even the two veterinarians. She said we had three options: 1) bring her home and see how she does and retest in a few days, 2) do an ultrasound to look for a mass and evaluate her nasal and throat passages, and 3) we could talk about end-of-life services. My jaw DROPPED. I mean, and I was expecting it, but still. I told her we would probably choose the latter as it made the most sense, that we may not find much of anything on a discovery trip with other methods. I wanted to talk it over with Sean first, and he was still sleeping, so I had to awaken him with the news. Which felt awful, horrible, and tragic. She said she agreed and understood and just to call back or come by with a decision. I woke Sean to say all this and laid out the three options and of which only one really was humane. We could spend upwards of another 10k to MAYBE find SOMETHING, and/or to still not know and have her still be sick and miserable. We knew we had to go put down our Maggie girl. So we sobbed, cried, and hugged in those first few moments when I profusely apologized for waking him in such a situation, but I had no choice. I called Jim to come to get us to take us there and back; no way Sean could drive in that emotional state. The dogs began to wonder, I think (they still might not have any clue days later what happened) as we frantically got ready and prepared ourselves for one of the hardest days of our lives yet.

After a short ride, we arrive at the vet hospital, metaphorically head in our hands, just solemn and torn up about the next short minutes. We were shown to a room where they explained the process to us: signing papers, paying any fees due (15$), and then choosing the option for post-death care: burial at home or cremation. We chose cremation because we have no actual yard, and I would think we always want the option to spread her ashes someplace and/or take her with us if we move. So then they said the doctor would be in with her shortly. I think we really braced ourselves for it being “the last time” we saw her, held her, kissed her, etc. She came in on a small dog bed, lethargic and wet from drool, covered in a red blanket with her IV still on her. Sean told me later that as he grabbed her first, she licked his nose to say hello. He held her, and we cried, touching her head, petting down her back, tracing down her forehead and nose (I used to do that to her most), teasing her about her mohawk…. the gaze in her eyes was distant and dark, still but too still, never once looking towards us. I don’t know if it was the drugs, her own demeanor, or just her giving up….. but it shattered my heart into pieces. I was staying pretty together and somewhat logical, but also I had points that I couldn’t believe this was the end for her. We spent, I don’t know, maybe 10-15 mins alone with her holding her, talking to her, and passing her back and forth. It was too much for us to handle longer, although we would’ve stayed all day if we could. The vet came in when we were ready after pressing “200” on the phone beside the couch. Sean sobbed, and I sobbed. The vet explained how she would administer the muscle relaxant to calm her and then the solution that would make her pass. I moved down to the floor with her, I held her head, and she slowly started to lie down. I let her weight lay in my hands as I knew I wouldn’t have her here again. I stroked her chin and neck- then the solution was given, and it was almost as if I could feel the air being sucked out of the room. She checked her heartbeat, and with one last sob, that was it. “She’s gone…” she said gently. She wrapped her up and apologized but said, “That was the best thing to do,” which hurt and helped to say. We sat and cried, unbelieving that this was it- so fast, so permanent. After a minute or two, we shuffled our stuff up and got out of that depressing room. It was so hard to leave empty-handed. I knew that was the outcome and everything, but still. They took such good care of her in her last days, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. I’ve always loved the VCA system we have here, a collection of vet offices/hospitals and 24-hour clinics when your pet needs urgent care. We climbed back into the truck for the almost silent drive home; I’m sure Jim said something about it being hard and a process and not feeling permanent, but I get it because they just did it twice over with the chihuahuas. And I get how sudden and devastating that was. The rest of that day was quite weird and numb feeling. We knew we had two other dogs that needed attention and care, but we also felt the gaping hole of Maggie that was now permanent.

It’s been two months to the day (now), and I think we feel a bit better. I know I still deal with it more logically and calmer than Sean does, but I can’t fault him for being so emotionally invested and devastated by it. Recently, I tried to get a puppy that ended up not working out with our friends Saba/Trayia or with us. However, he ended up with her brother, Casey, and “Toad” seems to be in a great place now, and I can only hope that he is well taken care of and treated nicely. I felt bad bringing him in when I guess Sean wasn’t ready, and I suppose I hadn’t really considered him as much as I should’ve. We’ve had a bunch of chats since then and now I see we can really only handle the two we have for now. It’s been so much easier and calmer with everyday tasks. I’m grateful that we have these two goofs (Eevee and Bouncer) and they seem happy enough with each other. I just have to accept this slow season of growth, and that is a good thing.

We think of her often- we got her ashes back and put them up for display in the built-in bookcases downstairs with the paw prints and photo of her. Sometimes we go down and talk to her; that’s nice to do. Now we can only be thankful for the 12 amazing years we had with her and think of all the happy memories and great pictures we have of her(and the three of them together) over the years.

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