Last Sunday was the last day for the public pools to be open. They had a “doggie splash” and dogs could go. I had looked forward to it for weeks. Penny is my water dog. When she was younger I would take them to a park with a lake and let her off her leash. She would enter the water without being prompted. I prayed all last weekend she would feel good enough to go.
When it was time, she wouldn’t stand up despite seeing her leash. I finally realized it was because Miles was outside and she didn’t want to go alone. Katelyn and Sam had already gotten Miles in the car. I showed her he was going and she perked up and trotted outside. She got in the water, but she didn’t swim. Miles swam which was huge for him. He is my non-water dog. He mostly got in to keep an eye on his little person. Big dogs would approach Penny and she would growl. Not my normal girl.
By Monday morning it was clear something was really wrong. I called the vet back. We went in and sat in the waiting room for 2 hours. Lab work was done. I had a meeting at 1 that I couldn’t miss so he told me to take her home and they would call me if there were any issues. I was cautioned that it looked like she was going blind.
I waited anxiously to call back for the labs. I finally made the call with my heart in my throat. Labs were normal. All of her organs were functioning well and he said he was surprised due to her age. Her CBCs were slightly elevated so he said we should try an antibiotic just to cover bases and I asked to start her on an NSAID for the pain. When Katelyn and I got home that night with her medicine, I found her laying on her bed, on her side. Totally rigid. I fell to the ground crying telling her I was not ready. I managed to get her drink some water and as quickly as she must have fell – she got up and acted fine.
I watched her intently the rest of the week. Thursday I decided she must be going blind. She would wander around the house, get stuck in corners, and approach me slowly. She was having a hard time getting up and once she made it to her feet – her back legs just didn’t seem to want to cooperate.
Friday morning she was the first dog out of the laundry room. But while I was getting ready for work she started throwing up. One of the horrible downsides of my job is that I have to testify in court, frequently. I had court on Friday 60 miles away from home. Before we left she asked go outside. We have a deck and stairs that has gotten increasingly harder to navigate. I said a prayer and let her out.
I cried most of the way to court and prayed that God wouldn’t take her if I wasn’t there. Sam called at lunch to tell me she was under the deck and seemed to be okay. I relaxed a little on the way home.
I got to the house and immediately went in the yard. She hasn’t been coming when I call. Two weeks ago she would come bounding up the stairs just because she heard me shut the car door out front. Miles met me at the door. I called for her and went to check under the deck. No Penny. I went to her shade spot under the tree. No Penny. Heart racing and panic set in. I was so scared she had somehow gotten out and was disoriented.
I ran to the opposite side of the house. Still no Penny. And then I saw her tail. She had gotten stuck between bricks and Sam’s fire pit. I thought she was dead. I put my hand on her back and her tail thumped once. I picked her up and got her in the house.
I laid her on the kitchen floor and started calling other vets for another opinion. Through my tears I finally got someone to agree to see her on a Friday evening. The vet was in surgery but sees a lot of senior dogs. It would be an hour but bring her in.
I went and picked K up from pre-school. I wasn’t sure if Penny would be alive when I got home. I left her laying on the floor, head tilted sharply to the side, panting frantically.
When we got back I found her laying in a pool of urine and vomit. I grabbed a blanket and we got her in the car. By the time we got her to the vet’s office she was able to walk on her own and was fairly content to lay in my lap in the waiting room. Two hours later we finally got in.
I immediately told him I wasn’t sure our vet’s diagnosis was right and something was horribly wrong. He agreed. He said while she did have some signs of aging in her eyes, she was not blind. The event that had happened earlier was likely a seizure. I started discussing other symptoms and he put his hand on my shoulder. “I think your dog has Canine Cognitive Disorder.” The tears started to come. He went on to explain that it’s a severe form of aging in pets. Dementia. It used to be called Old Dogs Disease and was just thought to be aging. But it really isn’t. He advised there was a medication available but that it was expensive and might not work. He further cautioned that he didn’t even carry the medication and we would probably have to order it online. Her symptoms would continue to get worse as it is progressive. Since it came on fast, it was progressing quickly. He advised there was no way to know if she had suffered any brain damage from the seizure without an MRI but that we were at a point where anesthesia for that was just not a good option.
In shock, I asked him how I would know. I made a promise to Miles and Penny years ago that I would always love them. That they would never been thrown away. They would always be with me. And I promised I would let them go when the time was right.
Through tears when I asked, she turned around and licked my face. He softly said “That’s how you know it’s not today.” The vet tech helped me out the door with tears in her eyes.
So we drove around for awhile because she seemed to enjoy the car ride. And then we went to Sonic.
I brought her home feeling numb. Sam took Katelyn to the park and I collapsed in the floor sobbing. It was a gut wrenching deep chest aching cry and I’ve only experienced that a couple of times in my life. I felt as though my heart was ripped from my body.
I started researching our options. While the medicine is expensive, it is FDA approved and I could not find a single negative review about it online. I prepared myself that while it might not extend her life, it might bring her back to me for whatever time she has left. I prayed that they would be open on a Saturday. I called at 8 am. The receptionist who had been so wonderful the day before advised that she knew I would be calling. They already had a bottle ready to go for Penny. She called around and found another vet who had it in stock and picked it up for us.
We started the Anipryl yesterday. I feel like my heart is shattering. She is not the same girl. She paces the house with a blank stare. She hasn’t wagged her tail with purpose in days. At times she seems to come back for a minute and responds to her name. Yesterday morning she would yelp out like she was in pain. Poor Miles would run to check on her and she would start growling at him. I’ve had to keep them separated for the most part and his heart is hurting too.
I cannot fathom life without her. I’ve tried to be strong. I’ve prayed and prayed that she will pass away in her sleep. I’ve told Sam I will be with her until the end but he will have to go. I cannot be the one to give the go ahead to put her to sleep.
This morning she took her second dose of Anipryl and is cuddled up on her bed resting. I don’t know how much time we have but I’m trying to memorize her fur, her scent, her eyes. I am going to miss her forever.