Today I have become less of an optimist. My dog Ivan is dead.
It seems like only a week ago that Ivan was first diagnosed with having chronic liver disease, although it was actually a few months. When he was first diagnosed, he weighed only 73.3 pounds. After a few months of treatment, he made it back up to 100.7,
Last Monday he seemed healthy as ever, although that weekend we had noticed that his stomach was a little bloated–at the same time we noticed him guzzling water a gallon at a time. We just thought the bloating was from the water. Little did we know. I should have immediately taken him to the specialist veterinarian, Dr. Bostwick (here I must say that our Vet, Sara, is currently on vacation, so was unavailable). In retrospect, no one could have done anything for Ivan, but it might have been better if we had learned how bad-off he was sooner.
So this past weekend Ivan grew hugely bloated. He looked pregnant. Tuesday I took him in and learned that it wasn;t water in his belly, but blood pooling up in his abdomen. An ultrasound showed that his liver had shriveled until it was sized appropriately for a Cocker Spaniel. The vet said it was an “end stage liver” and nothing permanent could be done, although we tried a diuretic, since that might have decreased the bloating. The vet said he could possibly get it under control and Ivan could live a long time. It had worked with other dogs. It didn’t work this time.
All yesterday Ivan got worse and worse. He started drooling blood and continued to bloat up until his usually tight little belly bulged out farther than his ribcage and felt like a hard balloon. He grew catatonic and just lay there on the couch, not moving.
Later in the evening I brought out his Kong on a rope (his favorite toy) and enticed him into taking one last walk to the park. Ivan got really energized and excited about it. Melissa and I took him down to Elms Park and tossed the ball around for him for a little while. I am really glad we got him down there in time for him to do one of his favorite things, even if he wasn’t able to do much more than slowly trot around after the Kong.
I will remember his wagging tail on that walk for the rest of my life.
He was so happy just to watch the ball go flying, even though he couldn’t really chase it like he had only a week before. On one hand it was heartbreaking to witness such a powerful, graceful beast be reduced to hauling himself over the grass like an invalid. But his excitement at getting outside and running around after the Kong. . . it makes me cry just thinking about it. I am not ashamed to say it.
After we got home he quickly fell back into himself and started slipping away. His breaths only came in ragged gasps and he couldn’t get comfortable no matter how he positioned himself. He climbed into our bed and took my spot, which he has always done as fast as possible, hoping I would just let him lay there. I was truly tempted to do so last night since I thought it was probably his last night with us. Now I regret ever being bothered at sleeping with such a big dog. I would sleep with him every night forever if I could just have him back.
We woke up with him at 4 in the morning, when he just got up and went to lay in the living room. He had no energy and his gums had turned from red to a pale white-yellow (despite his bloody saliva). We stayed with him all morning until Melissa had to go to work. Then it was just me and the dogs. I had to wait until the vet opened at 8:30. I hoped against hope that the doctor could figure something out that would get the blood out of his belly and get him working again. There was still some hope left.
Since the walk the night before had energized him for a while, I decided to take him out for one last walk with the Kong and see if he felt better. But he had weakened too much through the night and froze to a teetering stop on the sidewalk in front of our neighbor’s house. I coaxed him across the street to Lester Park where he stopped, sat down, then lay down in the grass. We just sat there, Ivan and I, and took in the morning. It took me a few minutes to get him going again. He barely had the energy to make it into the yard and back onto the couch.
I got a 9:30 vet appointment, which gave me enough time to load him into the front seat of my brother’s truck and take him to Fort Missoula, one of his all time favorite places. I used to take him there regularly and throw the Kong for him. Every time we came near the place he would start whining and hopping around like an idiot. It always made me want to kill him. I would have given anything to have him whine even once in excitement this morning. When I rolled down the windows and brought in the outside air, he didn’t move. I didn’t think my heart could break any more, but it did then.
Then, just as we came up to the parking area by the historical museum, his head shot up and he started looking around. The sunlight was bold and the skies were blue as hell. It was perfect. I pulled up sideways to the area we always ran through and just let him look out across my lap and into the field. He could hardly move his head, but his eyes were perky and bright, so I parked and helped him out of the truck. I had the Kong with me since he loved it so much, and for about 50 feet he wanted to go after it. Then he just stopped and lay down facing the field. We stayed there for about 8 minutes, then I had to coax him back into the truck so we could make the vet.
He rode all the way to the vet’s office with his head out the open window, resting on the door.
The vet said Ivan was bleeding in his GI tract and nothing could be done to save him. He also took some of his blood and learned that his red blood cell count had dropped in half in one week. If he was a human he would have been given a blood transfusion and put at the top of the liver transplant list. They don’t do that with dogs.
So at about 10:00 the vet shot him with some pink stuff and killed him. I felt his heart stop just about the second his eyes closed.
I can’t believe how empty my house is. Never the same. Never again.