(Don't say I didn't warn you.)
Ready? Okay, pet owners, and everyone: I'm writing this all out because at some point, you will need to know how to deal with a dying pet, and...everyone's reactions will be different. Your reactions, whatever they are, or will be, ARE SO FUCKING VALID, because...well, read on.
For those of you who don’t know, Titan had an unexpected, and very scary, unknown event happen to him on Saturday night. All I know is, I watched him—in what seemed like slow-motion—collapse, rear end hitting the ground first—in my apartment hallway. And when I ran to him to help him up, he vehemently shied away from my touch.
It was then that I realized his pupils were beyond dilated and he was temporarily blind and also had lost any control of his hindquarters.
I screamed at him for a while, in my apartment hallway, giving him orders: Do NOT die on me, you fucking weakling, I should have left you at the pound 13 years ago, if THIS is how you repay me, get the FUCK up, don’t you do this to me. DON’T you do this to me. I have to go to a fancy party in an hour, I did NOT plan on putting you down tonight, don’t you leave me here, on Earth, without you, DON’T YOU LEAVE ME HERE, I can’t live without you, I CAN’T live without you, DON’T YOU FUCKING LEAVE ME, YOU FUCKING BASTARD!
Then I realized I probably wasn’t accomplishing anything and bodily forced him into my car.
I fought my broken clutch on my way to the ER, through the stop-and-go traffic of the Wallingford section of 45th at 7:30 pm on a Saturday night, thinking my dog was going to die at any second. In case you were thinking about trying that soon for your own amusement, my advice is:
Many, many, things happened after that, including me carrying on with life*, not sure if my dog was going to make it or not. On Saturday night, it seemed like he would; they assumed he had ingested some kind of dog neurotoxin (which could be a LOT of things in your medicine cabinet, including NSAIDs) due to the rapid onset. Which also made sense to me. (Note: Two patients who came in after me had to put their cats down, and let me tell you—it was a small office. The obvious pain was...a little awful.)
Back to Titan: They were going to keep him overnight, pump him with fluids and activated charcoal, and run some tests. Fine. Okay. I went home and did the fastest primp job ever, trying to cover up my swollen eyelids. (LOTS of yellow-tinted eyeshadow primer, ladies.)**
2 am Sunday morning, they had tested for every known dog toxin under the sun and were no longer sure what had happened. Obviously pancreatitis, possibly pancreatic cancer, probably some colitis, we’ll call you when we know more. We’re not sure he’s going to make it; we don’t know what’s wrong. That was...a rough night. Shall we just say.
At 8 am Sunday morning, they still didn’t know what had happened, but he was improving; Sunday afternoon, even more promising; Sunday evening, he was *totally* surviving! Stable! Talking! Talking quite loudly, actually! Please come pick him up before we all go deaf! (Titan has his own language, as everyone who has met him knows. Still haven’t found a damned interpreter.) Except...we (the vet) don’t know why he had that event, and you should probably take him to see a neurologist, because problems that cause Serious Neurological Events don’t usually fix themselves. (Excuse my black comedy; it’s a survival mechanism. If you’re offended, fuck you.)
So, after meeting with the veterinary neurologist (yes, I am now the kind of person who gets a neurologist for her *dog*--and we won’t make any jokes about how I probably need it more than he does) I know the truth: he probably has a few months of high quality life left, maybe even a year or longer***. I know what symptoms/turning points to look for, and I have options A, B, and C at every one of those turning points, if and when they happen****. How he’s doing: he’s doing fine right now—he’s sleeping a lot, but he seems happy and comfortable, and he has plenty of appetite, once I got the right food*****. I’m crossing my fingers.
How I’m doing: I feel…fey. I mean, I thought in the middle of Sunday that I was going to have put him down RIGHT THEN, so…when he got better, and I didn’t have to, I felt incredibly relieved, but also pretty apprehensive, like: I have no idea what happened, it could happen again, what the heck am I going to do, when will it end, when will I *know*, what if, what if, WHAT IF. And now, after the neurologist, I have some answers, which, on top of the incredible sense of relief I had after he unexpectedly improved, has made me almost manic******.
This man has been my lifeline for the past 8 years, since I graduated from college. He has been my anchor. My rock. My guiding star, my reason for living, my boyfriend, my priest, my ball-and-chain, my roommate, my heating blanket, my reason for cursing, my expense, my sacrifice, and now, he has emerged as my rather slow-acting…heart. The outward extension of my emotions, my lightning rod, my canary in a coal mine. He’s the most wonderful, and the most frustrating, experience I have ever had. And while he’s very alive right now, at some point in the next year, he will die.
So: expect me to cycle rapidly through the “stages” of grief at some point in the next few weeks/months/years, and by “cycle” I mean “I may experience any of them at any moment, at any second." I’m thinking about carrying color-coded flash cards, so I can just hold one up when I know what I’m feeling, which in ITSELF assumes that I’ll know what I’m experiencing, which is a big assumption. For example: yesterday my ski gear didn’t fit, because I’ve lost weight, and I was so pissed that I was losing that much weight that I hurled my motorcycle boot against the wall and left a dent. (Hope my apartment super isn’t reading this. Hi, James!)
I hope you get/got to meet my Man, and I hope I don’t take it out on you too much, and I hope you can understand if I do.
*Yeah, I carried on with life. I'll go into that in maybe a next post. I'm certainly not done writing about this subject, I can tell you that. LOTS of emotions to go through. Shout-out to the Snowshoe Gang, who were incredibly supportive when I showed up at Victrola, so unstable that I was breaking into pieces and re-healing all at the same time.
**Like I said: your reactions, whatever they are, are VALID. I chose to go on with life, and I'll talk more about that in a separate post. Shout-out to the Roommate, my mother, and various love interests, both present and past, all of whom have been unbelievably supportive at this crucial time.
***I will happily go into the medical details for anyone (medicine specialists, pet owners, or just the plain nosy) who wants to know. Message me.
****That poor vet. She must have thought I had gone insane, I was so mathematical and logical, but she never said a judgmental word, and went out of her way to discuss, and re-discuss, every possible option with me. I want to take this moment to say that one of the bright spots of this episode in my life has been the extremely high quality of veterinary care I have gotten, from both Emerald City Emergency Clinic and the VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle. They made me feel like I was the only patient on their books; I called and re-called, and they took as much time as I needed; it was like I had a private team of vets devoted to just my dog. I cannot say enough good things.
*****Twelve hours ago he still wasn't eating. Turns out he just didn't like his old food anymore; a simple hack, a simple thing to fix, not the heart-breaking episode it might have been. If this happens to you, pet owners, try switching up the food a few times before calling the ER. AGAIN.
******I'm fascinated with everything he does, with every move he makes. It's a little strange, but I'm adjusting.