Tuesday was - bar none - the worst day of my life (and I've had some pretty shitty days). I thank you all so much for your words of support. It helps to know that people - strangers, even - have us in their thoughts.
But let's back up, so I can tell my sweet girl's story (sorry it's a bit long, but I have to get it out). She spent much of the day last Sunday enjoying the unseasonably warm weather we've been having. She ran all over the yard, chasing and barking at that damned squirrel - her longtime nemesis - who always happened to be just one step ahead. She sunned herself on the deck. She rolled in the grass. All in all, she had a good day.
It also happened to be a mostly unsupervised day. When she came in in the early evening and vomitted, I didn't think much of it. Dogs puke, ya know? Then she puked a few more times, and the alarm bells slowly started going off in my head. I knew I'd have to bring her in to work with me the next day, but I still didn't think it was serious - we've seen a TON of pukey dogs lately, and with medications and TLC they all recovered without a problem. She didn't seem terribly comfortable though, as she kept pacing and coming in and out. I thought that maybe I should bring her to the emergency clinic, but wrote it off as overreacting. Those of us who work in the veterinary field sometimes imagine the worst for our own pets. I woke up sometime between three and four in the morning, and went to check on her. She seemed to be resting a bit more comfortably, but there were numerous spots of vomit throughout the living room. I kept an eye on her until my office opened, and then dropped her off there so I could clean up the pukey house before work.
I was pretty worried about a foreign body obstruction, based on her symptoms. A series of xrays seemed to confirm it, so just before lunch we decided to open her up and do an exploratory. While she was getting prepped, I decided to grab a quick bite since it was sure to be a long day of surgery, recovery and aftercare. I had just taken my food out of the microwave when my boss came in to the break room and said "You need to get her to a specialist." Apparently, she spewed bloody diarrhea all over the place after intubation. Pure panic overtook me. The doctors woke her up and off I went to the specialist. She never quite woke up, though, not that I saw. The specialist decided to admit her and run some more diagnostics, and then to go ahead with the exploratory because they thought they saw a foreign body on the ultrasound. I spoke to the surgeon afterwards, who explained that they didn't actually find a foreign body, but it seemed she had Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE), which could be medically managed. He said she woke up just fine, and was resting with sedation and pain relief.
At this point I thought the worst part of all of this would be dealing with a large healing incision, and paying for a surgery that proved unnecessary. I called Monday night before bed to check on her - about 10pm, I think, and the tech said she was doing great and had been out for a short walk. I decided not to visit her because I didn't want her to get too excited and think she was coming home.
Tuesday, I rolled out of bed and called again to check on her and to my surprise, was informed that she struggled all night. She had been doing great, the doctor said, until about midnight. She then had a large seizure and was in a semi-conscious state. I almost had a panic attack right there, but I pulled it together enough to jump in the car and go see her. I spent an hour with her, petting her and telling her how much I love her. It broke my heart to see her like that - my sweet, crazy, enthusiastic about everything and everyone pup, just lying there, barely blinking, just giving the occasional groan.
Throughout the morning she continued to decline, having seizure after seizure, vomitting, having explosive, hemorrhagic diarrhea despite IV anti-seizure and anti-nausea/diarrhea meds. Her neurological symptoms worsened - her pupils were unevenly dilated and it seemed that she was unable to control her eyes at all. She was also unable to maintain her blood sugar, despite IV dextrose.
Nothing they were doing helped. The doctor in charge of her case said they could try a few more things but he wasn't too hopeful (he suspected a stroke), and it would have cost upwards of $8000 (in addition to the $2000 for the surgery). I decided to give her another few hours to see if anything improved at all. Nothing did.
I decided to pick her up and bring her back to my office for euthanasia. I just couldn't stomach the thought of her taking her last breath in the place where she was so so sick. I wanted to bring her home, to her friends and a familiar environment.The only way they could get her to stop convulsing for the ride was to give her a paralytic normally used to induce anesthesia (which didn't do anything for the cause of the seizures, just prevented her muscles from spasming). I felt - still feel - like a complete scumbag for letting money influence my decision, but we are BROKE (and trying to save for treatment) and the thought of her suffering any more while we tried shots in the dark destroyed me.
That car ride was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I tried to be soothing to her, but she was struggling to breathe and with each labored breath, I died a little inside. Hubby met me at my office and together we said goodbye to our sweetie. I still can't believe she's not coming home. My heart has broken a thousand times this week - every time I think I see her shadow or hear her collar it hits me all over again: She's fucking dead! I can't sleep because every time I close my eyes, I see her. Oh, and then we got to go find out that our baby had died. Yay.
I wish I would have done so many things differently - supervised her more in the yard, brought her in to the emergency vet late Sunday, brought her to a different specialist, gone to see her after her surgery, made different decisions about her care, given her more time to pull through. But she's dead - dead! I can't fucking wrap my brain around it - and I can't change anything about it. I just hate that her last days were spent so very ill, getting cut open and handled by strangers and feeling so fucking shitty. I'm haunted by it. I was her mama, and I failed her, just as I failed Ocho and all the others before him.
I had accepted - expected - that things probably weren't going well with the pregnancy. I was somewhat prepared for the horrible encounter with the dildocam, and the growing realization that being an eight time loser means I will probably never get to have what I want so badly. I just never imagined it would be two hours after I watched my dog die. I didn't know that I could cry as much as I have this past week and not run out of tears, that I could hurt so terribly and not just die.
My dog is dead. My baby is dead. I fail at life.
Oh sweet Lulu, you were the best cuddle buddy I could ever have. The bed feels so empty without you. I'll miss your butt wags, your face licks, your sniff downs and snorts and snores, your huge personality stuffed in that little body. You loved everyone - and everyone loved you - and if I could have just half the enthusiasm you had for everything, I'd be just fine. I'm so very sorry you suffered. I love you.
PS - Papa wanted to kill that squirrel for you, but I thought you'd like it better if Big John got him instead. Here's hoping (but we all know you were the better hunter!).
BTW, this post will totally out me to some peeps I know IRL, and I just don't give a damn.