Note No. 70
May 28, 2010
I need to learn to write under duress.
I did do it once. And then it was a total train wreck. So, this week, when I went through a big, unexpected Awful, I kind of slipped into my old habit of going through it and then writing about it with more clarity afterward.
I did at least manage a haiku. And a tweet. And honestly, I do believe that sometimes, simplicity is best. But if I am going to be blogging, I think I should probably get better at writing when I am in all moods, because there are going to be some mad bad days, I am sure.
So what happened, anyway? It’s the question that is on everyone’s mind after someone goes through a personal tragedy but not everyone is able to ask, because it seems too delicate or too soon or maybe not important, when it’s clear that whatever did happen caused a lot of pain. It is human nature to want to know, though, and it goes beyond basic curiosity and an urge to better understand the situation so as to better empathize with the person. I think it’s also because knowing the details will maybe make it less scary, like it’s not as likely to happen to you, because you find out that it was some freakish accident that could have only happened once in a lifetime. Or maybe you discover that it is more common than you realized but that is what you are hoping NOT to find out when you ask what happened.
And I AM speaking more about human tragedies, because it takes a certain demographic to understand the pain that losing a pet causes. Plus, when you are adopting an animal, as my sister pointed out, you are inherently accepting that you will almost definitely outlive him or her. Therefore, it’s nearly a given that you will have to go through some drawn-out process of supporting the animal, while it loses basic function after basic function, so that when you hear of it happening to someone else, it’s almost like, “Oh, yeah. That will happen to me one day, too.”
And you try not to think about it.
In the case of Pedro, though, I did not expect to outlive him that quickly. That’s why losing him was such a shock. Until the very end, I had maintained an optimism that he would get better. Yes, it might take a few more weeks. It might even affect my road trip departure date. But I was confident he would pull through. I could even imagine him as a young adult, all filled into his gangly legs and his long tail that thwacked each side of his rib cage and moved his entire back from side to side, because he was wagging it so hard.
I knew it was over then when I started crying for him. I had been stoic up to that point, diligently taking him to the vet every few days, sometimes to put his head in the nebulizer, because his chest was so congested, other times to get IV fluids in him, because he was not able to drink as much as he needed. I remained positive, even as I saw him deteriorate over three weeks, going from weak and a little unstable, but still playful and sweet, to unable to walk a few steps without falling down, to unable to sit up but still able to use the bathroom when I held him over the ground, to unable to hold his head up to get water and food. Then he was using the bathroom all over himself, because he no longer knew to go when we were outside, and I was giving him chicken broth in a syringe just to keep him hydrated and a little nourished. Still, though, he had the energy to wag his tail when he saw me.
But when he started having seizures that racked his tiny body, sending him into yelping fits that I could not console him out of, things changed. It was on Sunday afternoon that a vet friend gently told me that if he were in her care, she would put him to sleep. When a dog starts having those kind of epileptic attacks, it’s pretty much over. So when she told me that, something inside of me let go and an unstoppable flow of tears began. I was mourning everything in one, long moment: the time he had lost being a normal puppy; the bond we had formed that would soon be broken; the fact that we were both going to have to give up.
I wrapped him in a blanket and just held him for an hour or two before I called my mom and told her how bad off he was. We were supposed to be going to an informal drum circle of friends that night but I said I would not go and I urged her to go anyhow.
An hour later, she was calling me from the circle, where very little drumming had actually been going on, because they had been discussing my situation. She wanted to let me know what my options were, as it was a Sunday night and no regular vet’s office was open. I told her I wanted to put him to sleep that night and so she came over and we called the university hospital and arranged to bring Pedro in as soon as we could get there.
When it was over, I said I wanted a necropsy to find out what happened to him. That is where we are now, awaiting the final results. Two blood tests came up negative for distemper but an antibody test came back positive. That could be because he had the vaccine at age four months, when he was still at the shelter even. Or it could be that he was infected with the virus before he even got the vaccine, in which case he never really had a chance.
Another option is leishmaniasis, equally hard to treat in dogs and very destructive, as well. When we were looking at options in my vet’s massive encyclopedia of worldwide canine afflictions, she was reserving this parasitic infection as a second possibility, after distemper.
Either way, most of you guys probably do not have to worry about it happening to you and your buddy. Both conditions are pretty rare in the States and Canada, and even if you live in Mexico, it’s not like it’s a guaranteed problem. It’s just that the risks are higher because the conditions are different, same as they are for people. Look at me. I got typhoid fever when I was down there.
In the meantime, I am looking at getting another dog. I have asked myself repeatedly if it is something that I really want to do and each time, after much debate, I inevitably answer Yes, because if there is one thing that Pedro taught me, it’s that to be loved by a dog is one of the best things in the world.