Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If all dogs go to heaven...I've given my share

Tuffy 05/01/1996 - 09/15/2010

  This past Saturday night, our 14-year old half-beagle Tuffy had a huge seizure. He was panting, twitching, and foaming at the mouth for 15 minutes before he stopped, but after that he spent the next 2 hours walking around in circles, walking into walls, and getting himself wedged into tight little spots where he couldn’t get out and then would just bark or howl. Eventually, I put him in the basement room where we put the dogs when no one is home and the rest of the night was uneventful. On Sunday morning, I took Tuffy for our normal walk to get a beef stick and he seemed fine. I spent the day helping at our church’s fall festival and when I got home, Kathy told me that Tuffy had another seizure. The he had another seizure that night. He was walking even more unsteady than before and his legs would go out from under him occasionally. We put him in the basement earlier than the night before.

  I worked from home and took Tuffy to the vet on Monday. The vet said based on some tests we had done earlier this year, Tuffy probably had a disease of the adrenal and pituitary glands called Cushing’s. She could only run more tests after Tuffy fasted and that if he was having 15 minute seizures, there wouldn’t be anything she could do for him if he had it. I asked how long he would have if he did have the disease and the vet said he would have about a month and the seizures would get worse and worse until the end. She gave me a prescription to treat the seizures and I took Tuffy home. He spent the rest of the day walking around in circles, bumping into walls, and spent the night in the basement again. Kathy and I took him for a walk Monday afternoon. He enjoyed the walk, but his legs were giving out a lot and he was swaying from side to side and was trailing behind Kathy. Normally, Tuffy will be in front leading us.

Kathy loved walking Tuffy more that I did
and she was his favorite.

  I took Tuffy out for a walk Tuesday morning and he was more like his old self for the first 2 blocks, but after that he was stumbling and rolling on his side a lot. He ate his breakfast and had a good appetite, but got stuck behind the toilet and in corners, giving howls of pain, confusion, and embarrassment until somebody would guide him backwards out of his predicament. When I got back from work on Tuesday, Kathy and I took him on another lumbering, stumbling walk. When we got home he was constantly getting stuck in corners and barking and howling. Eventually, he slept for a couple of hours of the floor beside me. When I put him outside to go potty, he got stuck in a tree and started howling. When I got him back inside, he tried to go upstairs, but he couldn’t control his back legs and kept sliding down. I put him in the basement again but he kept on barking and howling. I went down to check on him a lot and sometimes he would be caught in a corner and sometimes he wasn’t. Maybe he had a seizure or 2 down there. Around midnight, I took him for a long walk in the hopes of tiring him out. He was pretty energetic and only stumbled a few times, but when we got back to the house he kept on walking into corners. Kathy finally got him settled down and sleeping, but I prayed about the situation and I just knew that this was no life for a proud and strong dog like Tuffy.

  Kathy agreed with me and I made my second call in 3 weeks to the vet to have a dog put to sleep. I got home early from work and Kathy and I took Tuffy for one last walk. He was pretty unenthusiastic even when I got him a beef stick at the nearby liquor store. We got him back home for the kids to say goodbye and took Tuffy to the vet. Kathy hung out with Tuffy outside the office by a tree while I waited inside for him to be called. Just like Queenie gravitated towards me, Tuffy gravitated towards Kathy. When it was time, I got Kathy, she brought Tuffy in, we took him to the room and put him on the table and Kathy and I held him and told him how much we loved him while the vet shaved a piece of his leg and gave him the shot. He was panting like he always did, suddenly stopped panting and it was over. We spent a couple of minutes with him and left.

  It was very sad saying good bye to such a great dog that loved living so much and maybe he could have held on a couple of more weeks, but for a dog who lived with such enthusiasm to spend his last days as a stumbling shell of what he was, crying for help because he forgot to walk backwards, wouldn’t have been fair to Tuffy and was more than I could bear also. After reading about Cushing’s disease, the tumors that form by the pituitary gland probably pushed up against his brain causing all the disorientation. And the stress of losing his mother 3 weeks ago surely didn’t help. The solution for this disease with younger dogs is surgery to remove the tumors, but an older dog like Tuffy most likely wouldn’t have made it off the operating table. So maybe it is just as well. Or so I’ll tell myself.

  I know my dogs Queenie and Tuffy are in a better place. I know this. But it is really hard for me to accept that 6 weeks ago I was taking them on mile and a half walks to the Jiffy to get coffee and beef sticks and now they are both gone and that 2 times in the last 3 weeks I've watched one of my best friends take their last breath. And except for Kathy, they were my two best friends, which is either quite an endorsement of my people skills, or a sign of how much these 2 dogs became a part of my heart. I know it is going to be really rough to get up in the morning and not have an enthusiastic face beckoning me to join in the adventure of a morning walk. When I ate dinner tonight, I instinctively took a piece of food off my plate to give away to a friend, but only a cat was looking for a handout. Queenie and Tuffy are in a better place, but my place is a lot worse. It may be awhile, but I’m looking forward to our next walk together.

To paraphrase a friend, "Here's to Tuffy. Hoping every day
in heaven is like a holiday with your Mom."

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