Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Worry Part Deux

 My whole-hearted thanks to everyone for their concern, prayers and hugs.  I can't tell you what it means to have such wonderful friends, even though we've never met.  I am blessed.

And now I'm going to prevail upon you one more time with the other part of my Worry-Fest.

As if worrying about my mother isn't enough, there's the dogs.  We have two dogs as I write this, but my heart is heavy.

Teddy 2002
Teddy is our Original Dog.  The one we acquired as a puppy in November of 2001, a month after my father died.  He was the comic relief we all needed after Dad's passing.  My mother took to him instantly, but also informed me in no uncertain terms that I was not to get her a dog just because she was now a widow.  She had had her heart broken by our late, great German Shepherd, Sparky, twelve years earlier when he died suddenly at the age of ten.

Sparky had been my dog originally, but truth be told, he was Mom's dog through and through.  They had a mutual love connection.  It was amazing seeing my mother play with the powerful German Shepherd.  She was in her 70's then, and would toss a stick (more like a log) for Sparky and when he dashed off to retrieve it, she would run and hide.  Yes, run and hide behind a spruce tree.

Sparky knew the routine and would dutifully tear off after the stick only to stop in his tracks halfway there and immediately reverse directions and chase after my mother, diving around the tree with lightning speed.  To a casual observer this could look like an attack; a tiny elderly woman being mauled by a ninety-five pound killing machine.  But of course it wasn't anything of the sort.  It was two good friends having the time of their lives.

Sparky and me back in the '70s
After he 'found' her, Sparky would jump up in the air and frisk about in front of my mother, wagging his tail and smiling.  I swear that dog smiled more than any other dog I've ever known.  He never hurt her or jumped on her, but he celebrated finding her every time with a joyous doggy dance and Mom would hug him and tell him what a good boy he was.

Sparky followed her everywhere.  He was not a house dog, he had a bed in the garage, but he was never far away.  Where Mom went, Sparky went.  When Mom came down to see me on her bicycle, Sparky was at her side.  When she weeded in my garden, Sparky was lying in the shade on the lawn, ever faithful, ever watchful.   When she was on a tractor, he was trotting by the wheel.  He would stay home when she went to town as he understood following the car was a no-no, but upon her return he would throw a ticker tape parade and scatter the chickens and any cows grazing in the pasture in an effort to show his unbridled joy at her return.

And then one day on her way down to see me, Sparky had to stop running alongside her bicycle.  He simply stopped and abruptly laid down, looking miserable, and he was unable to get up.  I managed to get him into my dad's pickup truck and took him home.  We hoped it was something that would pass, but it was not to be.  I'm not certain what it was that ended his life, but the end was swift.  And my mother was inconsolable.

I have only seen my mother cry twice in my life.  Once when my late brother was having a hard time with his financial situation, I heard her crying in the basement and I was angry.  Nobody should make mom cry.  I knew she didn't realize I'd heard her and I said nothing to her about it, but it was a revelation to me.  My mother did indeed cry; she had emotions I knew nothing about. 

And the second time was after Sparky died.  She cried for days, openly, not even making an attempt to hide her anguish.  I started to really worry for her, but understood completely.  It hurts so much to lose your best friend.  Tears are healing, and eventually she did recover, but she said Sparky was her Last Dog.  She could not go through this again. 

So when I brought Teddy the Shih Tzu puppy up to her house to meet her, she was happy to see him, but that was as far as it went.  Her heart belonged to Sparky.

Teddy is a white dog with a feisty temperament.  He's always been a scrapper, if you think of small dogs as barking cats that are afraid of their own shadow, you haven't met Teddy.  Teddy thinks he's a Big Dog and you would do best to Not Mess With Him.  I've had him pull on his leash with all ten of his pounds in a frantic attempt to go after a dog six times his size to show the other guy who's the boss. Down, boy.

And then, five years ago, I acquired another dog named Pudding.  Pudding is Teddy's sister, given to me by my friend Ann when she had to move to an apartment that wouldn't allow pets.  Pudding is the exact opposite of Teddy, sweet-tempered and very cuddly.  I hate to admit this, but I really didn't want another dog at the time.  Pudding was eight and with the disruption in her life, had potty training issues, so we had to start all over from square one.  She caught on fast, though and soon settled in to life here.  As Sparky was to my mother, Pudding is to me. She is my shadow and totally devoted to me.  She loves to go for walks, but only if I'm on the other end of the leash.  If I'm not coming, she's not going and will simply stand and stare back at the house.
Pudding and Teddy in better days

 Carl tells me that Pudding sits by the door when I'm gone, waiting patiently for me to come back.  He said she watches the ceiling for the telltale shadow that someone is walking outside and seems to know it's me before he does.  Any attempt he makes to have her lie down in her dog bed is useless, she won't rest until she knows where I am.   And when I do walk in, no matter how short of a time I've been gone, she goes into a tap-dancing routine with her front paws and a joyous, tail-wagging, barking, licking extravaganza of a greeting that makes me feel like the Most Important Person in the World.  I guess I am, to Pudding.

I've been very blessed by these two dogs; they've been wonderful companions.  But the years have not been kind to either of them.  Almost two years ago, Pudding suddenly let out a wail one night that cut right through us.  It sounded as if she was in the worst pain of her life.  Joel and I rushed to her side to find her convulsing.  After a minute or so,  her head hit the floor and she stopped moving.  Joel listened to her chest and could not hear her heart.  We both thought it was over.    I was too stunned to cry and kept caressing her gently.  Suddenly she took a huge inhalation and struggled to right herself; again, we were both shocked, it was like a resurrection.  After a few minutes of cuddling, she got out of her bed, took a little drink of water and asked to go outside as if nothing had happened.

Well, the vet visit the next day confirmed that something had happened.  Pudding was in the early stages of congestive heart failure.  She was put on two different heart medications.

Teddy has always had problems with allergies, he is a very itchy dog and very prone to ear and eye infections.  And sadly, one day last fall after I gave him a bath, he fainted.  The vet visit again confirmed the same diagnosis:  Congestive heart failure.  Teddy's heart failure escalated faster than Pudding's at first; he is on three different heart meds.  He has horrible coughing attacks every day, but still eats and drinks as usual.  The coughing attacks are hard to hear, but there isn't much that can be done.  We know we're on borrowed time. 

Both dogs loved to walk, but we've had to cut them down to much shorter excursions as the months go by.  I usually don't put a leash on Pudding because she follows me so closely and most of her walks are around the Back Eight.  Sometimes we go a short way down the road and back, but gone are the days of going along at a clip.  Sometimes Pudding stops to investigate a tantalizing smell and before I realize it, I'm a good twenty feet ahead of her.  When she realizes she's being left behind, she comes running full bore and my heart is always in my throat, no, don't run, it could kill you.

In fact I told the veterinarian about her wanting to run to meet me and he said, "It's very likely she'll be running one day and simply drop.  Dogs just don't realize that they shouldn't stress their hearts."  So I try to watch both dogs carefully to make sure I don't get too far ahead of them by accident.  Until this past Saturday, that is.

Joel, Dave and I had been cutting down some dead elm trees on the line fence in the back forty.  Carl had stayed home to work on taking a nap, he'd been working too hard and needed the rest.  When he woke up, he brought both dogs out to the field for their evening walk.  It was getting dark and we were finishing up, so I opted to walk the dogs back home while the men took the tractors and trailers.  Pudding was as happy as ever to see me and frisking about, but Teddy was having none of it and was clearly tired.  I handed Teddy up to Joel on the tractor and Pudding and I headed for home walking.

I don't know why I didn't notice that Pudding was tiring; I was wrapped up in my own thoughts about Mom and supper and a dozen other things.  Worrying, of course.  Finally I realized she was panting heavily, so I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way home.  She licked my face, Pudding loves to lick, and we went on like this for awhile when she started to squirm a little, so I put her down and she trotted on happily by my side.  By the time we got to the house, she had a hard time making it up the steps so I helped her with the second one.  She went in and laid down immediately, and I could tell her breathing was still fast, but she seemed ok.  I should not have had her walk so far, what was I thinking?

I set about making the evening meal and doing what had to be done afterward while keeping an eye on Pudding.  She didn't want to eat her dinner and I had to help her get outside to go potty that night.  Her eyes were clear and bright, but her breathing was difficult.  She finally snuggled down in her bed, gave me a goodnight lick and seemed more comfortable, so I went to bed.  A few hours later, Teddy woke me up, barking.  Pudding was struggling to breathe and harsh, dry coughs were wracking her body.  Carl and I quickly dressed and took her to the emergency veterinarian, arriving at 3AM.

Her initial evaluation was critical, she was struggling to breathe, her gums and tongue were purple, but when I handed her off to the technician, Pudding leaned into me with all of her might.  She did not want to leave me.  I told her it would be fine, and with one last lick, she was whisked off to an oxygen kennel and some furosemide injections to try to reduce the fluid build up.  We were sent to a waiting room where I numbly realized the error of my ways in making Pudding walk too far.  Why had I done it?

Carl assured me I hadn't intentionally overworked her; he also pointed out this is the progression of congestive heart failure and we knew it was coming.  The very nice veterinarian came in to talk to us and said Pudding's condition was grave, but they would leave her in the oxygen and see if the furosemide would help.  We were to go home and wait. 

As we were leaving, the technician had us leave a deposit and then said, "Would you like to see Pudding before you go and say good night?"

I started to say yes, but Carl cut me off.

"No, it will just upset Pudding more if you go in there and don't take her with you.  Let's just let her rest."

He was right, so, blinking back tears, we left the Vet ER just as the sun was starting to come up.

I called to check on Pudding at 9AM and they were happy to tell us she'd come out of oxygen, had trotted out with them to use the potty and seemed to be breathing much easier.  At my 2PM call, the news was much the same.  And the veterinarian called us for the last time at 6PM to tell us we could come and get her, "I've never seen a dog bounce back so well, she's looking very good."

So, there will be no more long walks for Pudding, I will never make that mistake again.  The furosemide seems to be working for her breathing, but she does not have much of an appetite at all and sleeps a lot.  And this morning, she looked at me so sadly, because she had wet the floor.  I know she couldn't help it, the water pill is relentless and she had no choice.

Teddy isn't doing much better or worse, he coughs when he gets up and struggles for breath, but can still walk around the house fairly well.  He's blind in one eye and his hearing is very bad.  But when Joel comes home, he's always glad to see his person.  As Mom was for Sparky, and I am for Pudding,  Joel is Teddy's favorite person, always has been, always will be.  Teddy is definitely Joel's dog. 

I have another veterinarian appointment for the two of them this afternoon.  I know the news
probably won't be good.  I know it's just a matter of time.  So, in the meantime, I worry over every little cough, monitor their breathing rates and dread going to bed as much as I dread waking up and wondering what happened overnight for both my dear mother and my dogs.

Stress, thy name is Karen.

 Everyone I know who has had a dog die tells me the same thing, I will know when it's time to say goodbye.

And it will be one of the hardest goodbyes of my life.

But for now I will try to keep my worrying to a minimum, for where there is life, there is hope.

Mom and Pudding

“Cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey.”
Jack Layton


Junebug said...

My heat goes out to you hearing first about your Mom and now the pupsters!!! It is amazing how those fur balls work themselves into your heart. It's been 6 weeks now that one of my fur balls, Jazi went to doggie heaven.

Yes, cherish every monet!! Hugs!

El Gaucho said...

So sorry to hear Karen. You gave them both an incredible life and they are probably incredibly happy to have spent their time with such a wonderful family.

Junebug said...

Oh goodness!! I need to proof read! My heart, yes, heart goes out to you!

Charade said...

I just had a chance to read these two most recent posts, and my heart goes out to you. Both subjects brought back emotions I've lived before, and I know they are not easy to deal with. I believe that burdens are easier to carry when the load is shared. Thanks for sharing your load, and know that your readers are helping in every way we can.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear, dear Karen ~ You have so much to deal with right now. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Enjoy every moment you have with Pudding and Teddy and your dear Mom.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Alison said...

Oh Karen. More hugs for you today from me to you. I just got back from a vet visit myself, to find your blog post waiting. My last kitty is struggling with some health issues too. Poor wee doggies, I hope you get to enjoy their companionship for quite a bit longer. I did enjoy reading about your mom's special relationship with Sparky.

Beth said...

Hi Karen, I read your post yesterday and it reminded me a bit of what my mom is going through. You are fortunate to live close to your mom; mine is 40 miles away. So sorry you are going through these trials. I have a dog and cats; they are precious to us. I hope Pudding and Teddy live a lot longer and healthier.
Hugs and prayers, Beth

Missy said...

Oh Karen, I'm sorry to hear that both Pudding and Teddy have such serious problems. I had been wondering how they were going. Missy is around the same age and has health problems too. I dread the day I will lose her, but I know it's coming. I hope I will remember, when the time comes, the joy and love she gave and be grateful.... but probably I'll just blubber like a baby.

outlawgardener said...

Watching our little furry kids suffer is excruciating! I'm so sorry that you and your pals are going through this and wish that there were some magic words I could say to make it better but there aren't, this just hurts. Sending you hugs and prayers. Know that you're not going through this alone as your blog pals will be sending their love your way!

PlantPostings said...

Too much to worry about for you currently, Karen. With pets, it's a unique kind of bonding and eventual passing--because they love us unconditionally. I have two elderly cats. One is stil spry as ever (though he's had too many close calls to count), and the other one is starting to slow down (cataracts, arthritis). I feel sad every time I think about losing either one of them. Hugs and prayers for you and your little furry friends.

Karen said...

Junebug, I am so sorry to hear of Jazi's passingl they are with us for far too short a time span. And you are right, they do work magic in our hearts.

El Gaucho, thank you. You know how attached we become to our dogs first-hand; I hope your dogs are doing well too, I love watching their videos.

Charade, I hope I didn't bring up painful memories. Knowing that other people have gone through the same thing gives me strength. Thank you for willingly sharing the load. :-)

Rainey, thank you dear heart.

Alison, I'm sorry to hear about your cat's health issues. I hope you have as much time as possible with your dear pet, too. Sparky and my mother were quite the pair, I still smile when I think of them together.

Beth, I am very lucky to have Mom right up the road, I can't imagine how I'd do this if there was a great distance to travel. And I want to thank you again for the lovely Shih Tzu plate you gave us; what a lovely memento we will always have.

Ros, I wish dogs lived longer, why does something as good as a dog have such a short lifespan? You and I will be blubbering together when the final parting comes, rest assured I will share your sorrow.

outlawgardener, Thank you so much, I will give Teddy and Pudding an extra pat tonight in your honor.

PlantPostings, I hope your cats continue to bless your life as long as possible, too. They become such a part of our lives, sharing the good days and the bad; thank you for your caring concern.