Thursday, October 25, 2007

Looking Ahead, and Back

I'll finish the Madagascar trip tales soon, but first, I interrupt. Although it has been a tough, tough week, I haven't felt up to writing about it at all until it has calmed down. This week, out of the blue, we almost lost Callie. She turns 5 next month.

Recovering from the shock and the emotional roller coaster will take a long time, but she is back home, and I hope she will be herself soon.

Monday night, we came home from work and Callie was fine. She had energy, she greeted us like always, she showed interest in everything as she always does. She bossed around the cats and Simon, she stole a sock to get my attention. Everything was normal.

About 7pm though, I heard her trying to get up. She couldn't get her hip under her. She couldn't stand - she tried and flopped down. Then a front leg acted like it too wouldn't work and was in a cramp. Then her head began to shake. I knew it had to be something neurological so we raced her to the emergency vet. As we sped across town, I held her in the back seat. She was scared - her eyes were wide, but focusing on me. She was trying to sit but she couldn't control her body. She tried to move and it was clear she had intention and couldn't carry it out. Her shaking became violent and I feared she wouldn't make it as far as the clinic. I didn't know if it was a seizure or what.

At first, they thought it was epilepsy and asked us to leave her overnight. Then around 2am we got a call they thought it was antifreeze poisoning and needed to give her a series of shots to have any chance of saving her. Since she was in fenced pasture all day with no access to antifreeze this seemed impossible, but of course we agreed to the treatment. We could tell from researching that if she encountered any toxin and it was in the neurological stage, her chances of survival were very small. The vet gave us 50/50 odds. All of a sudden, it seemed the world had stopped and the bottom had fallen out.

As time went on, Callie's liver and kidney functions remained good, and she had no crystals which would be expected with antifreeze consumption. Poison began to look less likely. Since her neurological symptoms persisted and she remained ataxic, a brain tumor became a strong possibility. She remained in the hospital day and night, and we visited, watching her fall into walls on her face, try to walk and wipe out, fall to the side, and keep trying. She was scheduled for an MRI and a spinal tap to try and determine the cause of the problem.

Then, remarkably, she was so much better that the internist decided that she did not need the MRI. A brain tumor should not have symptoms lessen and disappear like Callie's were. So, the most likely thing became a neurotoxin, in a sub-lethal dose. None of the other pets were sick. We searched the pastures and found nothing unusual.

After almost 100 hours in the hospital, Callie came home today. She acts like she's been through something. She's tired. She's happy to be home. She can't jump on the bed yet. Her back legs don't work quite right yet. Sitting seems a tad hard for her. We still see little tiny things that don't seem right. But she is so much better...and she is alive.

We are extremely grateful to the nursing staff and doctors at Westvet in Garden City. Their care was exceptional. We are lucky to have access to such a facility.

I can't describe the emotional roller coaster - but I did note that I went through shock and denial, a lot of fear, grief, anger, and I was willing to accept handicaps if she could just live. I couldn't bear the thought of her dying. I was okay with her being impaired, we could build her a handicapped agility course, we could compensate. But then, I couldn't help thinking how vibrant she was, and how could it be gone, and why? How could I not cry watching her not able to do puppy laps or play fetch anymore? I knew Callie could accept it; I didn't know how I would.

I'm afraid to leave her side even for a second. We don't understand what happened, or why. Maybe it will happen again. All I know tonight is that I feel time stopped, and everything warped, and for a time life was suspended. The house was empty; my daily life is wrapped around her in every way and I am never home when she is not. I regretted the days I've spent away from her. I regretted all the things we hadn't done yet.

While I like to think I spoil all the kids, Callie will no doubt be getting extra. I have another chance. Whatever time she has left - which I hope is a good ten years plus, I don't want to take one second of it for granted. She came back from the brink somehow. I still don't know how I feel other than so relieved she is still alive and she can walk again. My empathy for parents who have to deal with life threatening situations with their kids has gone up dramatically. The world keeps going when all you can do is sit and stare numbly at it. And without your best dog, that is a lonely, hard thing to do.

If your dog has gone through something similar, please comment. I want to learn all I can. It's frustrating not to know what happened. Whatever you do, after you read this, go hug your dog.

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