Thursday, April 7, 2011

March 29, 2010

I meant to make this post ON March 29 of this year, but there has been so much other stuff going on, I failed to even mark that date. So I will, today. March 29 of last year was a special day, but not in a make-you-feel-good special kind of way.

I had made a vet appointment for our sweet white Husky, Koda. He had been on prednisone (an oral steroid) for about a year and a half, if I remember correctly. When we moved into our house, we discovered the unpleasant truth that fleas can live in sand. Both Koda and Chevy were soon itching like crazy, but Koda already had something working against his coat. If you're unfamiliar with how prednisone attacks our furry friends, just know this-when they lose fur, it doesn't grow back. This is news to us humans, for whom prednisone often brings about extra, unwanted hair. So when Koda would scratch excessively from the itchy flea bites, he'd scratch out fur that would never grow back. We tried so many different flea treatments, but nothing seemed to work. He got itchier, patchier, and eventually scabbier.

Koda was on prednisone for what the vet was fairly sure was inflammatory bowel disease. I'll spare you the gory details of our ups and downs with it, but it was a messy ordeal, and he was very, very sick a few times, so much so that he required hospitalization. He hated being away from us, so being stuck at the vet's office was its own special torture to him, besides being miserable and sick. Brian can correct me if I'm wrong on the exact number, but I believe at one point, Koda weighed only 19 lbs. He was a decent sized, medium Husky, so you can imagine that was thin. In the early days of his sickness, he was put on a single protein duck diet. He wouldn't eat the duck food, so we ended up feeding him cooked duck for a little while. Seriously, we went to Whole Foods and would buy him a whole duck, boil it, skin it, and feed him the meat. Trust me when I say he would eat that!

We tried many single protein diets over the course of Koda's illness. Duck, venison, fish... we tried everything that didn't have grains, or meat byproducts. Every time we would think one was working, he would get sick again, or we would go for one of his many checkups and find that again, his albumin proteins had plummeted. We wondered again and again about the causes of his sickness; we even wondered if our townhome had mold. So when we moved into our brand new house, and he seemed to be feeling much better, we started trying to wean him off the prednisone. He'd also been on metronidisal (sp) for quite some time, but that doesn't have nearly the side effects that long-term steroid usage does. We had gotten him weaned WAY down on the pred, and he seemed to be doing awesome. So much so that I made an appointment in mid-March for a few weeks out on March 29, for him to be checked out and to talk to the vet about pulling him off the pred altogether.

March 29 was a Monday, and on Sunday, March 28 we noticed that Koda was not himself. He was lethargic and seemed sad; he wouldn't eat nor play with Chevy. He'd barely drag himself out to the back yard. Trying to distract ourselves from the conversation we both knew we needed to have, Brian and I popped in 2012 with John Cusack, the movie we had on hand from Netflix at the time. Not even a quarter of the way through the movie, we both confessed that we couldn't concentrate, that our minds and hearts were heavy with worry for our little guy.

We talked it through, and decided that if his albumin had plummeted again, or that he'd need more tests, we would not want to put him through any more. We had spent thousand of dollars over the duration of his illness, and he'd been miserably sick more times than I could count. We realized we were at the point where subjecting him to scopes, biopsies, and further hospital stays were more than we could put him through. Koda was a good, GOOD dog. He didn't deserve any more suffering. We hoped that maybe all of our worry would be fruitless, that the vet would find nothing wrong, and that he was just having a down day.

The morning of March 29 was a rushed one. I had to get myself and Gage ready, and figure out how to get Gage's bucket carrier to the car with the dog. I got Gage all loaded up, clipped Koda's leash to his collar, and patted my leg and called for him to come with me. He just lay there and looked at me. He didn't even raise his head. Panicking a little, and with dread in my heart, I set Gage's bucket down, picked up Koda, and carried him to the car in the garage.* He wouldn't even get comfortable on the floor of the front seat, and putting him on the seat was out of the question. I ran back in and got Gage, safely secured into his bucket carrier. On my way to the vet, I called Brian, frantically telling him that he'd need to meet me at the vet. Fortunately, it was almost his lunch time, and he could get away. When we arrived at the vet, Brian was just leaving his work, which was only about 5 minutes away. He pulled up, and while I got Gage out, Brian wrangled Koda out with some difficulty.

One of the vet techs witnessed our struggles, and came running out. Everyone at the vet hospital knew, and loved, Koda. He just had such a sweet, gentle personality. Anyways, she ran over to us, also panicking, shouting questions, "HOW LONG HAS HE BEEN LIKE THIS?! WHAT HAPPPENED?! HE IS TOO PALE, WE WILL HAVE TO RESUSCITATE! DO YOU WANT US TO RESUSCITATE?!" We were doing our best to answer her rapid fire questions as she took Koda's limp body from Brian. "Only like this since this morning. Nothing happened. Yes, resuscitate." Thinking things more like, "Should we even resuscitate?! What the heck happened to our Koda?! Is it an easy fix? And how do you look at a white dog and know he is pale?" Turns out she could see his gums, and they were very pale. I know that question seems a little humourous now, but it sure didn't then.

Anyway, she rushed him to the back, and we did our best to stay calm and entertain Gage, who was 3.5 months old at the time. We anxiously awaited news of what was going on with our little fur guy. When the vet tech finally came out, she told us they hadn't needed to resuscitate after all, but they did have to stabilize him. She said they were running tests to find out what happened, and the vet would be out to talk to us soon. Before too long, another vet assistant came out and took us to a room. Then the vet, Dr. Strasser, came in and explained that Koda was in total liver failure. There weren't too many options left for him. We had already made the decision the night before, but we wanted to know if she thought it was the right thing to do, so we asked Dr. Strasser. She told us she couldn't advise, but that we had really done a lot, everything we could for Koda, and that they knew the decision to end his life was one we'd be justified and right in making, should we choose that route. We told her we didn't want him to suffer anymore. We asked if they could hold him for a little while, as we wanted to get Gage out of there. While he was too young to remember, I didn't want him around so much negative emotion. We also wanted to pick up Chevy, hoping that if she was there as Koda passed, she would understand that her friend was not coming home.

My really good friend, Nicole, agreed to keep Gage for us while we went to be with Koda. She met us at our house, and we turned Gage over to her, picked up Chevy, and rushed back to the vet. By the time we arrived back, they'd already begun the euthanasia process, which broke my heart and made me angry. Then they explained that Koda had started having terrible seizures, and they didn't want him to suffer. They brought him into the room with us, unconscious. I lay on the floor with him for... well, I don't even know how long. I buried my face in his fur and told him how much I loved him, how I'd miss him, how he was my fur pal, and I would never forget his sweetness. I told him I loved every minute I had with him and that he was the Husky that forever changed my opinion of Huskies. Brian said his goodbyes, and we hope Chevy said hers. Then, they administered the final injection into his IV port, and just like that, he was gone.

We paid, we went home, and we grieved him. Chevy always looked for him, sometimes I think she still does. I don't know that there was any closure for her that day. I think she still misses him, her best friend, her adoptive brother. I know I still miss him, every day. I think of how good he would have been with Gage, how he'd have just loved Koda's gentle sweetness. Gage won't have any memories of Koda, but we'll make sure to tell Gage about him. Koda was such a good, gentle guy. We did our absolute best to save him, to heal him, but in the end it just wasn't enough. He was just a few months passed 7 years old; he hadn't lived nearly long enough to die. But I still believe, even though I played the "what if" game in the weeks following, that we did the right thing.

Because the true measure of love for our pets comes down to making the right decisions for them, not the right decisions for us. We miss him, but we also know he isn't suffering anymore. And I know someday, I'll cross the Rainbow Bridge, and Koda will be there waiting for me.

I also know that I remember next to nothing about 2012. I imagine it was a good movie. But I never, never want to see it again. 

*Don't hold my leaving Gage alone against me. He was strapped into his bucket carrier, and safe. And how else could I have gotten a non-responsive dog into the car?

Please note, if you read all of that-I'll be back tomorrow with more of what you're used to from this blog. I just felt the need to get that out there. I have some fun updates from this week that I'll give you tomorrow that are more on the upbeat side!

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