I’m exhasted. I didn’t sleep well last night. I thought I was ready for this. I held it together until I picked up Gilligan and put him in the back of the car. I cried all the way to the vet. They took me right in. Nobody wants a sobbing woman carrying a dog wrapped in a towel standing in their waiting room. The vet tech Karen helped me put him on the table and asked some questions. I managed to explain what happened in between the tears. Dr. Jenny came in and we went through it again. She examined him and checked the reflexes in his legs. The back right leg had hardly any response.
“What do you think is wrong with him?”
“He has a slight temperature. Something is definitely going on with his back legs and spine. He could have a tick borne disease. That tends to come on fast. Or it could be just degenerate joint disease. He is fourteen. We could do some blood work and that would give us a bit more to go on.”
Choices. I hate choices. I wanted the vet to tell me there was nothing that could be done. I was ready for that. I had been steeling myself for the past 24 hours. Now I looked at him lying on the table and there was a question mark hanging over him.
“How long does it take to get the blood results?”
“We do it right here. I can have it for you in 15 to 20 minutes. You can stay right in the exam room with him.”
“Ok. I’d like to know if this is something we can treat or if it is permanent.”
She drew the blood. He hardly reacted. I pulled the chair over to the table and put my face near his. I stroked his head.
“How you doing Booger? You in pain? You just not feeling well? I don’t know what to do. Remember when you had that vestibular disease? I thought you were dying then. I thought you had a stroke. We fixed it with a little medicine and a little time. Maybe we can do that this time too? I love you Gilligan. I love you so much. I thought I was ready for this. I’m not. It was easier with Ginger. We knew she was sick. And she was so horribly upset when she colapsed. We knew there was nothing else we could do. But you just look like my silly old man. Oh Booger, what do I do?
I put my face in his fur and I cried. And cried. And told him I love him. I whispered softly in his ear. And I waited. I could hear everything going on outside the exam room. But it was just him and I. I willed him to give me a sign. What did he want? Those 20 minutes took forever and sped by in a flash. Dr. Jenny came back in.
“Well the good news is there is no tick disease. He has an elevated white blood cell count but that could be a number of things including inflamation. His liver and kidney function is perfect. His heartbeat is a little fast but there is no sign of a murmur. Everything looks good.”
“So what could it be?”
“We would have to do more tests – Xray, MRI, CT Scan. That would show any tumor or spine problem. I don’t feel any tumor and his abdomen palpates well but we wouldn’t know without the tests. And it could be just that he is fourteen. Since his kidneys are good, we could put him on steroids and see if that helps at all.”
“If we do that, how quickly would we see progress?”
“Within a few days.”
“What do I do? I don’t know what to do?”
I knew she couldn’t give me an answer. But I was lost. Something I was so sure about an hour before now I couldn’t do. There was hope, just a bit, that he would improve with medication. It had worked with Ginger. We gave her another nine good months before we had to let her go.
“Do you want to think about it? He’s stable so we don’t have to decide right now. Do you want to stay here with him for awhile? Is there someone you want to call?”
“I’d like to call my husband. My phone is in the car. I’ll get it and be right back.”
I got my phone and Dr. Jenny left me alone to call Paul.
I couldn’t get it all out without sobbing.
“I don’t know what to do. I was thinking maybe we should try the steroids and see if they help. But we can’t leave him like this. We may only be prolonging it.”
I was quietly praying that my husband would agree. He is logical and approaches everything like the engineer he is. He wouldn’t let me do anything that didn’t make sense.
“I agree. I think that’s the right approach. We should try.”
I wanted to drop to my knees.
“Ok. Ok. Good. I’ll tell Dr. Jenny. If we have to bring him back because they don’t work, at least you will be with me. I thought I could do this alone but I can’t. I can’t do it.”
Dr. Jenny got everything together for me; the meds, the instructions and some special dog food to entice him to eat. Then she carried him out to the car for me. She wished me luck and told me to call anytime.
So we are home now. He took the first pill. I got him to eat a bit and drink. He still can’t get up. I just used a towel as a makeshift sling and took him outside to pee. I’ve been washing towels all day. Tomorrow I have to go to work, so he will be alone. He will get better or he won’t. I’ve been crying all day. I talk big about being strong and doing the right thing for my dogs. And I’ve made some incredibly tough decisions in my life. But this one is so hard. And he’s going to be my hard-headed boy to the end. Never give it to me easy. I always have to work for it.
Maybe that’s why I love him so much.