Posted by: morrowsl | January 24, 2016

We have POOP!




The Red Dog is failing.

It started just before Chirstmas.  Those tell tale signs of irreversible change.  He is thirteen, which isn’t death’s doorstep for a mix-breed of medium size, but it does put him in the elderly category.

It’s true, he’s been slowly changing over the last year or two.  The once deep and commanding bark has started to sound a bit thin, like a baritone with a respiratory infection.  Where he used to hear the slightest sounds outside his street-view window, he’s actually let a few UPS trucks escape notice lately.  And his normal attack-mode posturing when anyone dares step onto the porch, and which got him labeled “dangerous canine” on our homeowner’s policy, has calmed to a round of loud barking and a show of teeth, followed by a nap.

His usual check-up last year didn’t bring anything alarming to light, but all the same, I added another check-up to his pre-holiday grooming in early December.  There were some things.  The most important being his inability to open his mouth.  His illness(es) presented as an inflammation of his jaw, diagnosed as Masticatory Muscle Myositis, for which he was given Prednisone.  That led to stomach issues and diarrhea.
Merry Christmas!
After the holidays, a few more little things popped up.  His left eye suddenly swelled and began to weep.  Back to the vet, although not our regular guy because he was on vacation, to see why the weeping eye?
Why the apparent dementia?
Why the unsteady legs?
Why the, now complete, hearing loss?
Diagnosis, a raging UTI, even though he showed not a sign of an issue in that area.
Yes, he’d been pretty much wearing the floor thin between the water bowl and his favorite bush.  But he’d been on Prednisone.  The increase was suspected, not suspicious.  I also pointed out a small bump over one eyebrow.  The doc felt it was something related to his weepy eye and instability.  Although she had also discussed his multiple issues with one of the techs who is completing nursing school (for humans) who pointed out that older people with UTIs often experience temporary dementia as well.  I knew this, because of my mother, but had never considered it could happen to animals as well.
New meds, which led to more stomach upset and a loss of appetite.  And the suggestion that there might be a mass in his head.  Go have an MRI and see what they find.  It’ll likely run in the thousands of dollars…

That was a week ago.  I’ve not made the call for two reasons.  One, the “thousands of dollars” was followed by a firm statement that a mass in that area will not be treatable.  My initial reaction was that at least I’d know.  If it was a mass, it would explain most of the things we were seeing.  However, I am no longer a person willing to demand heroic efforts when all signs point to useless additional stress on the animal, who is going to die no matter what is done.  Bevis taught me that.  And I promised him I would never again subject a terminal animal to guinea-pigging by an over-zealous veterinarian.
But I also delayed because I wanted some time to just observe my dog, knowing what I’d found out about him, to see what it felt like was wrong.  If it was a mass, there would likely be no improvement in his condition, while there would very likely be a good deal of change.

He’d lost five pounds in the three weeks between Christmas and the two visits.  He’d also stopped eating dry kibble when he became unable to open his mouth and chew.  Because of this, I bought a case of canned food made by the same company as his kibble.  The higher water content in the canned stuff means he fills up faster and pees more.  Initially, he couldn’t get enough of the canned stuff and ate with a gusto I hadn’t seen for some time.  Eventually though, he slowed down and lost interest.  This is a red flag for me.  Was it the canned food or food in general he didn’t want?  I offered the Old Man some cooked chicken and he tried to take my hand off!  Okay.  We seem to have an appetite, albeit a picky one.
To my mind, an animal that continues to eat isn’t one that’s giving up.

When my gal Sal was diagnosed with brain cancer, the seizures came fast and furious.  I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Dillon.  Waiting on the seizures to start.  So far, no seizures.  I’m cautiously optimistic that the idea of a mass is incorrect.  Or, at least, a cancerous mass.
So, while Dillon is failing, and he is failing.  I am not convinced it is due to cancer.

Yesterday, Marc came to visit his old friend.  They spent some time on the floor together, eye-to-eye.  Marc suggests I call the vet back and ask him to have another look.  Like me, Marc isn’t 100% convinced we’re dealing with cancer.  He feels the lump, and there is a lump still, could be sepsis.  It might be something we can biopsy at least.
Dr. Dave has a history with the Red Dog.  The first time they met, Dave muzzled Dill after a very healthy growl from deep in that gorgeous red-coated chest.  It’s the only time they’ve disagreed in the eleven years they’ve known each other.  And in those eleven years I have come to understand the doctor I trust with my animals.  I don’t think there are many like him.  When Sal got sick, it was Dave who pointed out the weight loss and suggested we look for a cause.  And it was Dave who told me, teary-eyed, that he’d found lesions in her lungs.  It was Dave who told me the cancer would show up somewhere else and that, when it did, I would know.  He was right.  And he was right about Puddin’s mammary cancer.  He’s been right about pretty much everything he’s suggested so far.  My gut tells me he’ll figure out what’s going on with Dillon.  And most likely without the benefit of an MRI.  And, while I know that is putting a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, he is the kind of vet who willingly takes the ball and runs with it.  He has never suggested a test unless he could tell me exactly what he expected to find.  If he feels he won’t find what he needs, he just doesn’t do that test.  He is also open to my own suggestions for caring for my animals.  And that lets me know that he respects me as a pet owner and my gut feeling with regard to the animals I share my home and life with.  I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Dave.  He, in turn, has a great deal of affection for Dillon.  And for Holly.  His eyes light up when Holly wiggles into the room like a three-year-old in dress-up clothes saying “Look at ME!” and he’s been down in the floor crying, right alongside me, as I’ve said goodbye to dear friends.  There is something in that alone that money can not buy.

In this week of observation I have not seen what I’ve been looking for.  There have been several episodes of being awakened in the night by Holly needing to go out that resulted in finding Dillon curled in the floor, soaked in urine, unable to get his weakened back legs to lift him up.  I’ve been through a couple of pounds of cooked chicken and a rather large sweet potato, some bacon drippings, a bit of cheese, a lot of peanut butter, and a couple of episodes of finger down the throat to get his pills in him and food on his stomach.  I feel like I spend almost as much time taking him to the bathroom as I do taking myself.  Between us, it’s a lot of trips!  I’ve learned to expect him to be wet, along with the floors, and I wash my old towels twice a day most days.  I mop every other day to clean up the rest.  I’ve stood patiently waiting as he hesitates at the door, unsure if he can traverse the threshold and negotiate the small step.  I’ve had him stand, leaning into me, for long periods as if he is lost and too tired to figure out where he should go.
I’ve also seen him dive into his food with joy and gusto.  I’ve turned to find him standing behind me, eyes sparkling, looking very much like his old self, begging for a treat or a meal.  He continues to eat several times a day, much to Holly’s dismay since she feels she too should be eating.  I’ve seen him hop over the threshold of the door and trot out to his shrub to throw his leg in the air like a ballerino.  Yesterday I heard him bark, loud and forcefully, when Marc and Mandy pulled up out front.
And today, finally, he came to get me so he could go out to the hill and poop.  It’d been a couple of days and I had decided this would be the sign, finally, that his system was shutting down.  But no.  No signs of strain.  No signs of distress.  No signs of anything much at all amiss.
Just a dog, stooped on a small rise of ground, having his morning constitutional.

The Red Dog is failing.  But, thankfully, he isn’t dying today.

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