Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lousy week

It's not been an especially pleasant week, though most things worked out. I will tell that tale later, because I believe there is always a reason for everything.

But tonight I am weary from lack of sleep and excessive worry. Solomon, my elderly German Shepherd, had two seizures last night about five hours a part. He seems to be fine at present and has been all day (seems confused by the entire family watching him and using his name in sentences regularly), but I am a mess of nerves. We'll go to the vet in the morning (we were due back anyway to check on the progress of an ear infection) and go from there.

I have experienced children with blood leaking out of their heads in buckets and rushed them to emergency rooms for stitches. And when I've told the tale later, I've heard, "Oh . . . well . . . head wounds . . . you know . . . they bleed a lot. It's really no big deal.

Really no big deal. Unless you're the mother trying to hold the blood in on the way to the hospital, watching it soak one rag after another, the one praying that it's no more serious than a few stitches and trying not to think about how you're going to pay for it all. The one holding the kid while he tries to be brave and cries anyway. I don't care how seasoned a parent you are, not being able to stop the blood from leaving your child is a big deal.

It is the same with a dog having a seizure. It is no big deal unless you're the one standing there helplessly watching your beloved companion's eyes roll back in his head, gasping for breath, his jaws parting and his teeth bared, paws paddling wildly in the air as you try to call him back from where ever he's going and having your most obedient servant blind and deaf to your pleas. Not just once, but twice, and the second time after you've convinced yourself that the first time was just a fluke.

After the second seizure, I called the vet's emergency number (I've never done that before). They have a new one who's getting all the crap shifts. He's a nice enough young guy, a bit inclined to treat me like I don't know anything, but I think that simply comes with a shiny new degree in veterinary science. I woke him, he yawned and asked me what was going on. I stood on my porch in the dark, shaking so hard I could barely hold the phone, and explained what had happened. I'd commanded myself not to panic, not to cry, but I couldn't command the shaking to stop (I never can).

He then, very logically for someone who was barely awake, explained the wait and see method of handling seizures. And he explained all the possible causes and treatments and the prognosis of each (none of them especially good at his age). Of course I wanted a cure, some assurance that it was nothing to worry about. And, of course, he couldn't say that. But he did help me understand what to look for and what to do if he had one that was worse (Worse? Worse than what?) and he finished the conversation with a simple statement.

"He's eleven years old. For a German Shepherd, that's pretty old. You know that, right?"

Yeah. I knew that. I didn't like it, but I knew it. I thought it was a tactful way to prepare me for the worst.

This kind of throws everything I'm doing with him into sharp relief. I'd become over confident, begun to believe that degenerative disease or not, that he might go on for another two or three years, which seems like an eternity when we're talking dogs. Today I saw him in a different light, saw his gray muzzle, his cataracts, his struggle to stand and his wobbling gait as we took a brief walk down the road. I am now hoping for a year and settling for months.

So tomorrow I'll get up and we'll go see what the vet thinks about where to go from here. And maybe we'll stop for an ice cream cone on the way home, because Solomon likes ice cream and almost never gets it. And maybe we'll do that a lot more often from here on out.

Because eleven years isn't a very long time in the grand scheme of things, but when it's the life span of a dog, and if that life span is full to the brim with entwined memories, then it can seem like it's longer. Like there's no memory in your mind that doesn't include him waiting in the background. I cannot imagine my life without him there, without him always waiting for walks, fetch, to go where ever I go, happy to be with me no matter how boring it is when we get there. They really should do a better job of warning you about this part of falling in love with a dog.


Debby said...

Wish there were words to make this better, but really, there aren't. Kids bleed and scare the bejeebers out of their parents and dogs get old before we do. And each and every time that it happens, it sucks. Big time. I'm sorry.

Scotty said...

I'm sorry, Mary, but despite his pain, I'd bet that Solomon knows how much he's loved. This post brought back memories of my last dog - it still hurts.


Debby said...

Just checking back in to see how Solomon is doing. Mary, I hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I haven't been to your blog in quite a while and I thoughtI'd comeover and do some catchup reading and wish you and yours a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

And I read your sad story. Debby is right there aren't any words to make this better. The only words I can give you are the same words that you would give me if our roles were reserved and my beloved pet was gravely ill. Words that I would appreciate but ultimately they would not help.

Perhaps a few words of prayer might help. I'll try that.

Warm regards,
David Mascellani

Mary O. Paddock said...

Thanks everyone. The vet ran some blood tests and determined that for a dog that is 70 plus in human years, he's in pretty good shape. His primary problem appears to be regulating his blood sugar, which is a combination of age and the prednisone he's on for an ear infection. A Dogs' normal blood sugar is 80 to 150 mg/dl. On the morning they checked his blood sugar it was 50 and that was shortly after he'd eaten. So we are feeding more often, which Solomon thinks is a famous idea. He's been trying to talk us into this for most of his life.

A long-time friend who lost her dog to cancer last summer assures me that I will never regret coddling him and feeding more often at this age. I completely agree.