This weekend was one that I wish I could wipe away. Can I get a rewind, a time machine, something? Friday started fairly normal, get up, get Rylie to school, head to work… Until I got a mid morning call from my husband saying something was wrong with Stella. She had trouble getting down the back steps and had gone under the deck and refused to come out. I immediately headed home and called Animal Hospital of North Asheville to get her in quickly.
When I got home, I knew things were not good. I had taken her leash and collar to the porch to coax her out (not that she had ever needed coaxing for anything before.) It was a failed attempt. She would not get up. My husband and I had to get her to stand up which was a challenge. She walked to the car with a lot of effort. It wasn’t an easy task for her. We had to lift her into the car and I rushed her to vet. When I got there, I knew things weren’t good when she refused to get out of the car. It took myself and three vet techs to carry her out of the car. At that point she wasn’t putting any real weight on her hind legs and I was supporting a lot of her weight on her front legs.
When we didn’t stop in the waiting room and they immediately started an IV line and oxygen, I knew it was even worse than I imagined. She had an extremely high fever of 105 and it rose for the first 30 minutes I was there and topped out at 105.7. She just laid there and didn’t move. Her heart rate was extremely elevated. There were 2-3 people working with her the first hour I was there. I propped up against the wall and sobbed staying out of there way. There was a sweet older lady with her dog in another glass cubicle showing me her love with air hugs and praying hands. She was crying right along with me.
I called my mom sobbing and asked her to come and be with me. They got her somewhat stabilized and moved us into a room. At this point they had pushed two bags of fluids to get her temperature down. She was just so pitiful like I had never seen her before. Stella was a velcro dog if I have ever met one. She had to be glued to your side no matter who you were and were you were. She loved people and just wanted to be loved on.
A little back story, May 22nd of 2012, my son and I drove to Tennessee to see a Great Dane mix mix that Brother Wolf had up for adoption. We had lost our previous Great Dane Zoey at 2 years old of a heart defect. When we met her, it was love at first site. She was super gentle and needed so much love. The people that had her previously had her chained to a tree outside. She was full of worms and extremely underweight. It took us months to get weight on her. Everywhere I took her, I got comments on how I should be properly feeding my dog. It was pretty hard to explain over and over and over again that she was a rescue and we had her on a weight gaining plan, but it takes time. She brought a whole lot of happy into the holes in our hearts that Zoey had left. I am so thankful for the 5 years we shared with Stella. At times, she drove us crazy. But it was always worth it.
Back to the weekend, once I was in the room, the vet came in and explained to be her suspicions. She felt Stella had contracted a tick-borne illness. She wasn’t sure which one, but they all pretty much get treated the same way so she was going to put her on antibiotics and steroids. My mom arrived soon after which did a great deal in helping me stay under control. I called my son Rylie and let him know what was going on and told him he should come to the hospital since I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. There were more tests and more meds. The kindness and compassion that was given at Animal Hospital of North Asheville was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I will forever be thankful.
My mom departed before Rylie arrived. It was pretty bad and we were both pretty upset but we held it together pretty well in front of one another. We both continued to love on Stella and talk to her. While we were there, her stats continued to improve. We hoped that the next day we would be able to take her home if she could eat and drink on her own. We left the hospital very hopeful that evening.
When I got home that night, the current vet on duty called me to let me know how she was. She was improving but her heart rate was still quite elevated. She had also had a very low platelet count earlier in the day paired with a quite high white blood cell count. The incoming vet that night that would care for Stella the next day suspected Leptospirosis. Before then, I had never heard of it. Google did not ease my mind. Another concern is that it is communicable from pet to human. They strongly encouraged the test to see if that is what she has as well as another antibiotic to combat that possibility. That night, the technician that was with her sent me a very encouraging text letting me know she was resting peacefully and her temperature was still normal.
My night was riddled with terrible dreams and rest just didn’t happen. When I awoke the next morning all my fears became a reality. The vet called to let me know that Stella wasn’t improving and was beginning to turn yellow indicating that some of her organs were not functioning property. The also told me that she had repeatedly tried to bite the technicians through the night when they tried to move her. They had to muzzle her. This was the most heartbreaking news of all. When I heard this part, in my heart I knew things were bad. I somehow managed to pull myself together enough to drive back to the AHNA.
When I arrived, my heart crumbled. Sobs racked my body for hours and hours. The gentle vet that was there that day tried breaking each piece of news to me as gentle as possible. When he spoke of “deciding what I should do,” I knew that everything was very likely a long shot. I asked him to leave me alone with Stella. At that point I pleaded with her to get up. At one point she trie, but she just didn’t quite have the strength to get up. She raised her head and tried to move her front legs under her, but just couldn’t do it. I immediately ran out to get the technician. I asked them to help me get her up. I needed to just try one more time before I made the decision that no one should ever have to make.
Three technicians came in to assist me. The prepared me that the last time they tried to move her, she tried to bite them, but I felt since I was there it would put her at ease and she would try. The used the towel to try and lift her hindquarters while two technicians tried to lift her chest. Immediately, she got extremely aggressive. I knew the only reason she would act that way was if she was in great pain. I yelled at them to stop and repeated, “never mind” again and again. It was devastating. My sweet girl was suffering and I knew it was selfish at that point to prolong her agony.
I sat with her again for another 30 minutes or so but also knew if I didn’t make the decision soon, I would find a way to change my mind. I kept second guessing myself, but in her eyes, I could tell she was just ready to go. I told the vet, Dr. Early, what I had decided and he cried with me. He was a kind soul and I will forever be grateful to him. I will be forever thankful for the kindness and compassion that was shown in the hardest moment of my life. There was more paperwork to sign and then he went to retrieve the bright blue syringe of death. But in this case, death hopefully brought the absence of pain and the rainbow bridge. I held her and talked to her as he administered the medication and her breathing deepened for about ten seconds or so, and then there was no more breath.
It was so hard, I was consumed with sadness, anger, and guilt. I had given the vet permission to kill a piece of my heart. What if she would have gotten better? What if it hurt when her breathing deepened? What if she was longing to stay here with us? So many “what ifs” racked my brain. Finally composure came. I am not sure how it happened, but I flipped a switch and pulled myself back together again. A big piece of my heart was left in that room with my sweet girl.
Have you ever had to deal with losing a pet? How did you get through it? What helped you cope?
Love on your dogs and cats and cows and goats and pigs and snakes; Love on whatever pet it is you have. Love on your family, love on your friends, love on yourself. Death happens, it happens in the blink of an eye when you least expect it. My heart is broken for all the memories that we made and all that we didn’t get to make.
I found this poem today and it helped ease my heart a little bit.
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.