The Hard Part

In 2015, a few months after mom died, I made a decision that caused the “Mom voice” in my head to scream “ARE YOU CRAZY?” I decided to adopt a 12 year old dog.

Penny is a Yorkshire terrier. Her previous home consisted of her original mom, plus a dad and two little children. Her parents worked a lot of hours, keeping the human kids in day care while the adults worked. Penny was kept in a crate when no one was around to care for her. No one should have to be in a cage 15 hours a day, let alone a creature who is genetically engineered for companionship. Penny’s life had evolved from being the center of her mistress’s world to being an inadvertent convict. I had the power to make that stop for her, so I did.

Bob and I adore this demanding little dog. Extremely bright, energetic and funny, we’ve enjoyed her immensely. A great traveler who is welcomed everywhere goes, she seeks the adoration of any human with whom she can engage, and usually succeeds. Not only is she pretty and courageous (she is the only dog I’ve ever met who barks at vacuum cleaners and fireworks), she makes unique noises. When content, she clucks like a hen. When absorbed in exploring during a walk, she grunts like a pig. And she snores like a sailor when she’s sleeping.

Shortly after we adopted her, some health issues arose. Her knees would displace (luxating patellas) and she’d limp. I found supplements to make her ligaments stronger and gave her physical therapy. Her leg strength improved and her knees stayed in place.

Then there was urination while sleeping. I discovered this when she had been napping in my lap, and upon disembarkation, found a wet spot on my jeans. Investigation revealed a homeopathic remedy that I could squirt down her throat twice a day. This worked beautifully for two years.

In the last couple of months, she began peeing in her sleep again. I took her to the vet to seek other remedies. He suggested urinalysis to see what was going on. The results were not good.

Blood work revealed kidney failure. It was early. We could give her low protein food and infuse subcutaneous fluids to keep her hydrated. We’ve been “poking the pup” nightly to pump 250 ml of Lactated Ringer’s Solution into our girl. She takes it well. But she’s clearly in a new, nearly final chapter, and it’s getting hard.

Last Wednesday, the vet examining Penny didn’t like the sound of her heart and lungs. An x-ray revealed enlargement of the heart and water where it shouldn’t be. Congestive heart failure is now on the menu. Lasix, a diuretic, is being prescribed. Guess what that does? It makes her pee more. Oh joy.

So, aside from the constant need to clean up her urine, wash her beds, change her diapers, let her out and walk her, we’re watching her lose ground. It’s awful seeing this happy little dog get tremors and have her legs buckle under her. She’s declining the biscuits she’s always gone crazy over. She won’t touch any of the prescription food, wet or dry. The only food she seems to like is wet cat food, and that’s high in protein, which isn’t good for her kidneys.

Thursday morning, I got up and checked on her. She prefers to sleep in a bed in my office. I used to try to get her up and out to pee before she could wet the bed, but I can’t seem to time it right anymore. And she was sleeping so soundly, I didn’t want to wake her. I also thought she might have already passed. Unwilling to confront that possibility, I went back to bed.

An hour later, she lifted her head when I walked into the office. She was ready to go out. And her bed was ready for the washer.

Speaking with the vet that morning, I learned that Penny’s kidney values were worse, pretty much where they were when we first diagnosed the issue, before the infusions began. The vet told me we could do ultrasound tests to get more data.

I told her, firmly but gently, I was not interested in spending hundreds of dollars on diagnostics that would tell me what I already know: my 14 year old dog is dying. I want to keep her as comfortable and happy as possible until I can’t do anything more to comfort her. The vet understood and supported that goal.

Penny will be getting Lasix to keep her heart functioning better (and peeing more). I will look for fattier food with less protein that she might actually eat. She is a little overweight for a dog her size (she had maxed out at 12 pounds, being spoiled by my husband, the human Pez dispenser), and in recent months got down to 11 pounds (still a pound more than she was when we adopted her). So she has weight to lose. And I suspect she will be losing a lot more weight as her condition deteriorates.

When you adopt an old dog, you know, intellectually, they will not last for a long time. I’ve spoken to Yorkie owners who say these little dogs can live to be 20. And, being the optimist I am, I had hoped Penny might be one of those lucky freaks of nature.

We now know, that is not the case. Penny will not make 20. I’m not sure if she’ll make it to 15. Her birthday is in September.

Here’s what I do know: I love this little dog with all my heart. I have enjoyed our time together more than I can possibly express. I am grateful that her previous owner was loving enough to have sought a great home for her. I will use my resources to give her the highest quality of life I can while she’s here. And I will miss her like crazy when she finally goes.

Was I crazy to have taken her in and put myself in a position to lose her so soon after adopting her? Possibly. Does watching a creature you love get sick and die hurt like hell? Do I even have to answer that question?

But do I have any regrets? Not one.

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About traceysl

Author of the groundbreaking book "Dementia Sucks", Post Hill Press, May, 2018. Having cared for my father, who had vascular dementia and died in 2004, and my mother, who died on April 14, 2015 after a long fight with Alzheimer's disease, I have refocused professionally to helping others through my experience. My company, Grand Family Planning, provides Coaching and Support Services. I am a professional speaker, offering programs for businesses seeking solutions to recruit and retain employees who care for loved ones. In this way, I share my knowledge and give meaning to the tragic turn of my parents' journey through the misery of dementia.
This entry was posted in aging, death, dog, dying, Family, life changes, pets, planning. Bookmark the permalink.

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