Bitter Sweet Memories

I thought I was getting better; healing from the loss of my sweet Obi. Each day seems a little easier. There are still small, sad reminders. My evening routine of giving my Obi food and water has been replaced with watering Obi’s tree…the tree we planted in his memory. But oh how I wish I was tending to him and not a tree. With his illness he would often get up at night to go out. I still wake up at 3 am, expecting him to be there and ready to go out.  There are countless other triggers that bring on sadness, but I am slowly learning to deal with them while replacing the sadness with good memories.

Then something so sweet, so beautiful takes place that the hurt is unleashed once again and the tears flow freely. Yesterday was one such day. I came home from work, no longer feeling the urge to cry when Obi doesn’t greet me at the door, as my daughter’s cat, has so lovingly volunteered to fill that void. She has been so loving and sweet, but I still feel the sadness.  I found the mail on the counter as I normally do, and what appeared to be two cards were on top. First I open a beautiful card from one of my best friends, Lori. She actually took the time to buy and send it while on her family vacation.  I could feel the tears building in my eyes, but I was still alright and touched by her thoughtfulness. I love you Lori. Thank you.

Then I opened the other card. This one was from my vet and his staff. Such beautiful words were written by everyone in the office, and because we frequented the vet so often these last few months, I knew they were sincere. They had gotten to know me pretty well, and they loved my Obi. I couldn’t hold back the tears and started to cry, and once again I relived his final moments in my head. But then I noticed something on the card. A paw print. At first it seemed like it was a part of the card and I didn’t think much of it. Then I noticed how it wasn’t centered, it was imperfect and smudged, and there was a small smudge from ink elsewhere on the card. Could it be? It is! IT’S MY OBI’S PAW PRINT! Now I was crying hard. Paws once so large for such a cute little puppy, but we were blessed that he would ultimately fill them.  Once he even sliced one of his paws open, our first of a few major vet visits.  So many times I heard those paws dancing through the house out of pure happiness. So many nights I lay in bed massaging those paws, sometimes tickling him and he would pull away. So many happy memories. Now so many tears. Such a beautiful gesture from the most caring veterinary clinic I have ever been to. It’s not my baby, and it cannot replace him, but I will treasure this card for eternity, for it bears a part of him that I will never see or touch again. Such a precious memento.

I will always love you Obi. 💕🐾

The Pain Lingers…

Grieving is a tremendously hard process.  I know the stages of grief – I took many psychology classes.  But does that help a person through it?  Nope.  I also know bringing the subject up again and again will only spark beautiful comments from people who care, and those comments will bring me to a waterfall of tears once again.  But still, I write.  I have to write.  I have found that writing is my therapy.  It’s my way to say, “Hey I Love You”.  It’s my way to say I’m hurting more than I ever dreamed.  It’s my way to keep from breaking down, even though I will anyway.  But it is what I feel I have to do for me.  My baby.  My pup.  My love.  My Obi is gone.

As if the trip to the vet yesterday wasn’t hard enough, the pain continues.

First it was arriving home.  Before even getting out of the car, I had to take his dog bowl (the one that held all those ice cubes just hours before) and his leash out of the car with me.  One of the girls already had his collar.  Just the act of picking it up off the floor sent me into another round of tears.  I sat in the heat of the car for a while, not feeling the temperature at all.  But it’s what came next that was even harder.

Whenever I would walk in the door, my baby would be right there to greet me with his “dancing feet”, claws tapping on the floor, spinning circles.  The biggest sign of affection one could ever experience.  As he got sicker and sicker, his “dancing feet” quieted down, but he never failed to greet me at the door.  If I managed to sneak in without him knowing, it would only be a matter of seconds before he would come running down the stairs in anything but a graceful manner.  He was simply the most loving, most adorable creature I have ever had in my life.  And yesterday…yesterday I walked in that door to silence.  I now believe that the most heartbreaking sound anyone could ever hear is complete silence.

When I learned of his illness, I made myself a promise that I would plant a tree in his honor when he left us.  So we went out and bought a tree.  When I returned home, there was that dreadful silence yet again.  I tried to be productive, so I went into the office and sat on the floor to take a measurement of a picture frame I was working on, but it only reminded me that he would normally follow me and be laying on the floor beside me.  I just rolled over onto my back and lay there sobbing yet again.  Can a person ever run out of tears?

Everything I did the rest of the day reminded me of him.  Why do I feel like I am obsessing?  The tears would dry up for a little while.  Then something would spark them all over again.  I was almost relieved when it was time for bed.  I was exhausted.  I needed to sleep.  But sleep would be difficult.  My love was no longer in bed with me.  The weight of him at my feet was gone.  I didn’t have to shift my legs around his body to get comfortable.  There was only emptiness.

I slept for a little while, and I vaguely remember dreaming of him.  Oh how I wish I could remember that dream.  Instead what I remember are the dreams that took place in the hours that followed. Hours of on-again, off-again sleep.  These dreams were filled with animals of all sorts, but none of them were him.  I would pet an animal here or there, and I would say, but it’s not Obi.  Where is Obi?  And I kept looking for him in those dreams.  But he was gone.

Three a.m. came.  It was very normal for Obi to wake me around 3 a.m. to go outside.  I still woke up.  I lay there in the silence.  Eventually I think I slept.  Unfortunately I was met with more restless dreams.  I almost looked forward to morning.  But the morning held its own challenges. You see, my morning routine for years has been to wake up, let Obi out, feed him and then have some coffee.  More recently it included actually cooking breakfast for my baby.  Today was drastically different.  My alarm went off, and again I just lay there.  I didn’t have to get out of bed for 30 more minutes.  I didn’t have to go downstairs to care for any other living soul.  The only thing that would require me to get up would be to make myself some coffee.  So I did.

As I made my coffee, Virginia’s kitty, Baya, stood by the back door.  She knew Obi’s routine.  In her brief few months with us, she learned it and she joined us each morning.  Today she sat at the back door.  Waiting?  I don’t know, so I picked her up and took her outside for a minute.  And just for a moment, a very brief moment, I could imagine Obi standing there beside us looking out across the yard.  I wanted to say, come on Obi when I turned to go back inside.  I think I just may have. Maybe he was there beside me.  I hope so.

Now it’s back to work.  A slight distraction from the reality that is heartbreaking.  But only slight.  For I can’t help but reflect on some of the other times I have written about him here.  Funny times, silly times, even gross times.  But all gloriously wonderful times I would take back in a heartbeat (even the gross ones) just to have him by my side.

I am sure one day I will have another pup.  I can only hope and pray he/she will be as wonderful as my Obi was.  They will have some big paws to fill, but I don’t think they will ever be able to fill this hole in my heart.  There is only one Obi, and he waits for me on the other side. Only then will my heart be complete once again.

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The Hardest Day of My Life

One thing about the human body truly amazes me….it’s ability to produce an endless amount of tears.  Just when you think you couldn’t possibly cry any more, you do.  That’s been the last 24 hours for me. The only way I know how to let it out, other than crying, is writing. Welcome to the hardest day of my life.

It’s Sunday night, July 9, 2017. It has been a long hard day with lots of tears.  As the CHF and DCM has taken its toll on my beloved Obi, he has slowly withered into skin and bones.  When he refused his dog food, I started cooking for him. When he refused that food, I bought fast food burgers for him. Now he refuses all forms of food. He he hasn’t fully  eaten since Wednesday (July 5th). He took his last bite of food (just a bite of hamburger) on Thursday.  By Friday he refused to drink his water. The only thing I can get him to accept at all is ice cubes.

My Obi has always been such an affectionate dog, especially with me. He used to cuddle with me by laying all 100 lbs of him right on top on me, his head on my chest.  Now he doesn’t want to snuggle with me at all. He will lay in bed with me, but he doesn’t want to be close.  He is still a “leaner”, and he loves to follow me and be as close to me as possible, but when he leans now, he doesn’t want me to put my hands on him. He just looks at me. His eyes are pleading for me to let him go.  I’ve known for some time; I just didn’t want to accept it. But now, as he turns his nose away from steak, staring sadly into my eyes, I can no longer deny that I must make the hardest decision of my life.

There is nothing else I can do now but cry. And I cried. You know the kind of cry that gets ugly and you find it difficult to say any words that can be comprehended…yeah that was me today.  When I was through I had dinner…hoping my boy would want just one bite of table scraps (he didn’t)…made some plans for the morning, and sent a email to my boss to let her know the news and why I wouldn’t be in on Monday.  Then I gave my precious Obi the one and only thing that seems to make him happy right now, a bowl full of ice cubes.

I choked back a new batch of tears as I told my boy that I am now OK with letting him go. I know he isn’t really leaving me in spirit, only on flesh.  That still doesn’t make this any easier.

Now it’s time for bed and Obi seems as anxious for morning as I am. Although I am sure he may be looking forward to it more than I.  He has already fallen asleep. His breathing is no longer gurgly…of course he hasn’t been drinking any water so that would explain the lack of water on his lungs. However, his breathing is heavy. It’s the kind of breathing you hear when someone is constantly out of breath.  I want so badly to snuggle with him one last time, but I don’t want him to leave the bed, so I let him decide when he wants to move closer.  I hope I can sleep.

6:00 am Monday morning. I tossed and turned so much last night. Even Obi seemed restless. At one point I even woke myself up crying. I know I was crying in a dream, but the emotions bled out of my dream and into reality and it woke me up. Even though I don’t have to be on a schedule today, I set an alarm to get up early. Now I’m rethinking that as I lay here wishing for more sleep with a headache pounding away.

My best friend just sent me a blog he wrote about me and Obi (See here.)  I read it and cried my eyes out. This time Obi was there. He came up and put his head on me as I lie here in bed. I have wanted this “snuggle” for days. I finally have one last hug from my baby. Now he seems to want me to get up.

I reluctantly get up and get some coffee. This would normally be my routine breakfast time with Obi; which late included cooking cheeseburgers for him. But not today. He no longer will eat anything, except ice cubes. So I sit here drinking my coffee while he seems happy eating a bowl full of ice cubes. I love my silly, sad dog.

Obi grows anxious so I hop in the shower to get ready. As always, my silly dog follows me everywhere. But I won’t shut him out.  At this point I think I’ve made myself sick. I don’t feel so well.


As I finish my shower I see him shaking uncontrollably. I throw some clothes on and he lies down on the floor. Omg is he going to make it to the vet even? I start to panic. I ask him if he wants to go for a ride and he jumps up; suddenly better. Silly sad dog. My heart is on a roller coaster ride.  My oldest starts to chastise me for waiting so long to do this. She has always been the one who acts more like the mom here. I start crying again, begging her not to do this to me. She understands and stops. The vet opens in 15 minutes, then I can call them. I need more coffee. I need aspirin for my headache. I wish Obi would cuddle with me.

It’s 7:20. This wait is killing me. He’s pleading me to go.

7:30. I call the vet. They will take us at 8:00. I’m crying again.

I brought a bowl of ice for Obi to enjoy in the car. He enjoys some of it before laying down on the back seat. I can hear that he is quietly whimpering.

We pass by cemeteries. A reminder that I’m not the only one who has ever lost a precious part of me. It sure feels like it though.

We brought the cat so she could say goodbye and understand why he won’t be home any longer. She provides comic relief on the car ride.  Perhaps she’s already mourning too.

We stopped at a new dog park by the dam. Of course there is one close to us now. Why wasn’t this here before, when I used to bring him walking with me here? There is one dog here. He greets her. He sticks his nose in the water a few times, but he never drinks. We are here only 10 minutes and he walks towards the gate. He’s ready. It’s 8:00. We are late for the vet. But then the vet’s office calls. He won’t be in until 8:30. We are no longer late. We hop back in the car and Obi continues eating his ice. I feel nauseous.

The universe is with me. Lightning Crashes by Live plays on the radio. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about reincarnation. Now we are all crying. A more fitting song couldn’t have played.  It’s funny how the universe works.

8:23 – We are arriving at the vet. My heart literally hurts and I feel a pain in my chest.  My lungs feel tight and it’s hard to breathe. The cat is panting too. I think we both have anxiety. I know it’s psychosomatic. The song in the radio now – I’ll Be There for You by Bon Jovi, another fitting song. I reluctantly walk into the vet office.

As we are taken to a room, I’m given a form to sign. The second I put the pen to the paper, I could no longer see my own signature through my tears as they flow harder. They are going to sedate him. We will then be with him as long as we want. When we are ready, we have a button to push, alerting the vet to come in to euthanize.

8:30 – He’s been sedated. It’s tough on all of us. He’s letting us all love on him.

8:42 – He’s fighting sleep.  He’s down but his eyes remain open. His breathing is very heavy.

8:49 – He is asleep. No one wants to push the button.

8:53 – The button is pushed – I couldn’t do it. The vet comes in and shaves his leg. I keep the hair. He is injected. I keep my hand over his heart.

8:55 – I feel his heart stop. My baby is gone. For a very brief second, everything is calm and I’m ok.  But it is very brief.  Tears flow again

8:58 – There are still dramatic and very deep breaths coming from him. The vet told us this would happen, but he is already gone and it is the body’s normal reaction. It’s hard to watch.  More than that, it is ripping my heart out.

9:00 – I think we have witnessed the final deep breath.  We say our final goodbyes. There isn’t a dry eye at the vet office as we walk out.

This is undoubtedly the hardest day of my life.

Thank you for being a part of my life. I will miss you and love you forever my Obi Dobie.

Related Posts:

Facing the Inevitable

Day by Day

Pet Insurance – Such a Scam

Anticipating the End

 

Facing the Inevitable

Amazingly it has been six months since my Obi was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  Since then we have had our share of good days and bad days, ups and downs and quite a bit of stress.  Back when all of this began, my baby had already started turning away from his dry dog food, so I had to start watering it down.  By March, he would no longer eat that, so I started buying canned dog food and mixing it.  When he started turning away from the canned/dry mixture, I went on to straight canned dog food.  By May he wouldn’t eat canned dog food either. I then tried purchasing the refrigerated tube of dog food that is offered in some stores.  He liked it for about three days.  Then he went on a hunger strike for about a week.  I watched him get skinnier and skinnier and was afraid to go on vacation at the beginning of June.

My mom came to our house to stay with him during our vacation.  “Grannie” somehow managed to get him to eat again and helped him put some weight back on. Her trick?  Lots of leftovers.  That was more than alright by me, as I had already tried giving him some here and there as well.  I would do anything that would keep Obi eating.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last long  About a week after she left, he quit eating most of the things I gave him.  So I started to cook for my dog. I found a crock pot chicken recipe that was very simple, and he loved it!  The pot of food lasted almost a week and he ate it all.  For some reason, the second pot didn’t come out quite the same.  He knew it too, as he would nibble at it, but wouldn’t eat all of his meals.  Now we are on the third pot, and he won’t touch it at all.  We had steak one night for dinner and of course he loved that.  The next night we had hamburgers and hotdogs.  He ate the hamburger, but wouldn’t touch the hot dogs.  The next night, he turned his nose up at the hamburger.  He didn’t eat anything that night.  That brings us to last night.  My daughter made soup, and we had french bread with it.  The only thing I could find in my house that he would eat was that french bread.  Once I discovered he would eat it, I dipped it in his crock pot dog food broth to provide some substance, and that worked.  Unfortunately once the bread was gone, he wouldn’t touch anything else.  I don’t know from one day to the next what he will eat or even if he will eat, but strangely enough, there is one thing he has eaten all week with me…watermelon.  While he turned away hotdogs and hamburgers, he was more than happy to share my watermelon.  Silly dog.

But as comical as I find his taste for watermelon, it hasn’t detracted from the fact that my dog is starving himself.  Due to his salix (water pills), he was drinking a lot of water before, but even that has subsided this week.  On a good note, his lungs do not sound as “liquid” since he hasn’t been drinking, but don’t let that fool you. His nose is showing he is becoming more and more dehydrated each day.  His energy is gone.  He is still as lovable with me as ever, but he also seems so very sad.  We spent a day laying in the grass last Sunday, and I would have sworn at that time that was going to be his final day. I am happy to say it wasn’t, but that day is coming, too quickly.


As if the universe wanted to send me a message, I received an article on my news homepage yesterday regarding euthanasia for dogs. I was able to read it objectively until I got to the part about what to do with their remains.  Then I almost lost it.  My baby will be gone…very, very soon.

I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to Doberman DCM.  After reading the euthanasia article, I took a chance and posted: “I am curious as to how many DCM families made the decision to euthanize instead of letting nature take its course. If so, at what point did you decide it would be best to do it? The idea breaks my heart, but I don’t know how much pain my baby is actually in.” I received so much feedback, most of it very supportive, but most of it heartbreaking.  Many responses included signs that my baby is already showing.  Many indicated it would be better for me to euthanize so he could die comfortably instead of risking a very painful death (which some had gone through with their dobies).  Now I am at a crossroads.  My heart continues to break.  I have a tough decision to make.  I don’t think I’m strong enough to make it.  Hell I can’t even handle thinking about it.  I don’t want to be the reason my dog dies, but I don’t want to be the reason he dies in pain either.  I need more time!  Sadly, time offers no guarantees.

So now I am crying as I am reluctantly planning a “fun last day” for my baby. I haven’t picked a date yet, because that would mean it’s final.  I’m not ready for it to be final.  But if you see me and I don’t seem cheery, if you call me and I don’t want to talk, if I turn down any invitation, or if I just seem quiet and far away while I’m in your presence, even though I may or may not have a smile on my face, please, please, please understand it’s because my heart is being ripped away from my very soul.  Maybe it will be renewed one day, but for now…well for now it’s just what it is.


Related posts:  Anticipating the End, Pet Insurance; Such a Scam  and Day by Day

Day by Day

Back in January, my Obi was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and Dilated Cardiomyopathy.  (See Anticipating the End.)  Since then, it has been a struggle to keep up with the cost of heart medicines for my adorable baby. (See Pet Insurance…)  But how can you put a price on keeping a loved one in your life – even if it is a furry loved one??  All costs aside, my baby seemed to be doing very well, and no one would ever suspect he was sick.  So as any logical person struggling with the excessive cost would, I began to question the need for the medicines he was on.  First I researched three of the four.  This is what I found through my internet searches (and you may want to skip over this part if you aren’t researching for your own dog’s health):

Benazepril is used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). Lowering high blood pressure helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, and kidney problems. Benazepril is an ACE inhibitor and works by relaxing blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily.  This medication may also be used to treat heart failure or to help protect the kidneys from harm due to diabetes.

ACE Inhibitors – Indications

Severe heart disease is generally associated with activation of the reninangiotensin–aldosterone system (RAAS), which promotes fluid retention, vasoconstriction, and myocardial and vascular remodeling. Use of ACE inhibitors in dogs with CHF is associated with improved quality of life and survival; however, data in support of this statement are less robust for dogs with DCM than for dogs with DMVD. When diuretics such as furosemide are administered, the reduction of plasma volume further stimulates RAAS activity and coadministration with an ACE inhibitor is generally recommended.

Administration

There are a variety of ACE inhibitors available, including enalapril, benazepril, ramapril, and lisinopril (Table). Differences are relatively minor, mainly involving route of metabolism/excretion and lipophilicity. From a clinical standpoint, many cardiologists consider them to be interchangeable. In the United States, the two most commonly used ACE inhibitors are enalapril and benazepril; both are associated with clinical benefit in dogs with signs of heart failure.

Considerations

In dogs with DMVD, the use of ACE inhibitors in those without clinical signs remains controversial. Two well-designed studies offer slightly different perspectives: One study in Cavalier King Charles spaniels with mild–moderate DMVD clearly indicated that enalapril did not delay onset of CHF. Another study involving dogs of many different breeds and more advanced DMVD also failed to show benefit with respect to the study’s primary endpoint; however, analysis of several secondary endpoints suggested that dogs that received enalapril avoided heart failure longer than dogs that did not.  In my opinion, if ACE inhibitors delay heart failure in dogs with DMVD that show no clinical signs, the effect is inconsistent from individual to individual, relatively small, and unlikely to dramatically change progression of disease. In dogs with severe heart enlargement and at high risk for CHF, I prefer to use an ACE inhibitor in tandem with low-dose diuretic therapy (furosemide, 1 mg/kg Q 24 H), as this more likely reduces plasma volume, intracardiac pressure, and risk of CHF than using an ACE inhibitor alone.

In human patients with asymptomatic DCM, early use of ACE inhibitors is widely recommended. In veterinary medicine, large-scale trials are lacking; however, a small study indicated that ACE inhibitors delayed onset of heart failure in Doberman pinschers with DCM. Thus, in dogs with DCM, I recommend use of ACE inhibitors prior to onset of clinical signs.

Monitoring

Adverse effects of ACE inhibitor treatment are relatively rare, but clinically significant renal dysfunction can occur. Less commonly, systemic hypotension or electrolyte imbalances are encountered. Renal function should be evaluated both before and after initiation of ACE inhibitors and at 3- to 6-month intervals thereafter.

Sotalol is used to treat a serious (possibly life-threatening) type of fast heartbeat called sustained ventricular tachycardia. It is also used to treat certain fast/irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation/flutter) in patients with severe symptoms such as weakness and shortness of breath. Sotalol helps to lessen these symptoms. It slows the heart rate and helps the heart to beat more normally and regularly. This medication is both a beta blocker and an anti-arrhythmic.

Beta-Blockers – Indications

Sympathetic tone is chronically elevated in dogs with DMVD and DCM and is thought to contribute to disease progression. In humans, plasma norepinephrine is a powerful predictor of morbidity and mortality. However, routine use of beta-blockers in veterinary medicine is hindered by lack of well-controlled clinical trials and risk for adverse events when initiating therapy, especially in dogs with advanced disease. In humans, beta-blockade is recommended in virtually all instances of reduced contractility, such as occurs in DCM. Thus, administration of beta-blockers is advocated by many cardiologists in dogs with DCM.

Adminstration

Because of the risk for acute slowing of heart rate and decreases in contractility, treatment with beta-blockers must be performed with caution. Typically, the dose is up-titrated over 4 to 6 weeks with close monitoring of heart rate, respiratory effort, and blood pressure. Titration is best tolerated in dogs with relatively early DCM.

Considerations

In dogs with DMVD, the use of beta-blockers is controversial and no consensus recommendations can be made.

Monitoring

Practitioners who use beta-blockers must be prepared to monitor dogs closely and to deal with acute decompensation should it occur. Consultation with a cardiologist is recommended.

Vetmedin (pimobendan) is used in the management of heart failure in dogs, most commonly caused by myxomatous mitral valve disease (also previously known as endocardiosis), or dilated cardiomyopathy. Research has shown that as a monotherapy, pimobendan increases survival time and improves quality of life in canine patients with congestive heart failure secondary to mitral valve disease when compared with benazepril, an angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitor.[2] However, in clinical practice, it is often used in conjunction with an ACE inhibitor like enalapril or benazepril.

Indications
Both DMVD and DCM are associated with progressive loss of myocardial contractility. Poor contractility is much easier to detect in dogs with DCM as opposed to DMVD, where the presence of a large degree of mitral regurgitation often confounds routine echocardiographic evaluation of contractility.

Pimobendan is a positive inotrope and increases contractility through a mechanism different from that of traditional inotropes such as digoxin—the advantage of which is increased contractility without significant increases in myocardial oxygen demand. Pimobendan also relaxes vascular smooth muscle and elicits modest arterial vasodilation; this dual “inodilating” action is unique. Pimobendan improves survival and quality of life in dogs with DMVD, and very likely does the same in dogs with DCM.

Administration
The recommended dose is 0.5 mg/kg per day, divided into 2 doses that do not necessarily need to be equal.

Considerations
The benefits of pimobendan have been substantiated in dogs showing clinical signs associated with heart disease due to DMVD and DCM; treatment with this agent is recommended only if clinical signs are evident. Thus, in the majority of instances, pimobendan is prescribed only if and when dogs experience congestive heart failure and its attendant clinical manifestations (eg, cough, dyspnea, tachypnea).

Less commonly, dogs with exercise intolerance or syncope are also candidates for treatment. Currently, no evidence exists for the use of pimobendan in dogs with DMVD or DCM prior to the onset of clinical signs.

Monitoring
Pimobendan is generally well tolerated in dogs and no specific monitoring recommendations accompany its use.

The fourth medicine (Salix), I did not bother researching, because I already knew this one was desperately needed to help keep fluid from building up in his lungs.  As you can guess, I was researching the others to see if I could drop any of them from the mix to save some money.  After reading about them, I concluded (and it’s possible I was wrong), that three of the four were taken by humans, but the fourth (Vetmedin aka Pimbendan) was not.  This pill just happened to be the most expensive at $110 for a 25 day supply from my vet.  I thought I would try to go without and see how he reacted.


At first, Obi seemed fine without the Vetmedin, but within a day or two I started to get paranoid about going without.  Therefore, I went online and found it cheaper ($88 a month).  I submitted an online order.  Since this is a prescription medicine, the company indicated they would require a prescription from the vet and would attempt to get it.  I waited.  Two days later (on a Saturday) I started to get worried, so when Obi ran out of his salix and I had to call the vet for a refill, I asked about the prescription. The company had not sent the vet a request.  I figured I would give them until Monday.

Sunday morning, during our normal routine, I was up bright and early (6:30 am – way too early for a weekend if you ask me) and gave Obi his medicine.  Since I was awake, I started to make my coffee.  Behind me I heard a thud.  I turned around and my precious baby was lying flat on his side staring wide-eyed at me. I ran over to him and tried to help him up.  He couldn’t move.  I watched for signs of a seizure.  He did not shake at all, just laid there as if he were paralyzed.  I started to panic.  I thought this was it.  I woke the kids up, because I was afraid this would be their last chance to say goodbye.  We spent the next hour laying on the floor with him.  All we could do was give him love.  Then he slowly started to get up and I asked him if he needed to go out.  He did.  He moved slowly, but as the day progressed, he worked his way back to being somewhat “normal”.  He was slower than his normal spunky self, and I could hear the fluid in his lungs, but he seemed to be OK.  A trip to the vet in the morning would be priority.


On Monday, he went to the vet and got an injection to drain the fluid from his lungs.  We also got a new supply of his vetmedin since the online company never followed-through to obtain a prescription from the vet.  That evening he was back to his spunky self.  It was settled, he would stay on all four medicines for the remainder of his life.  Happy as I was that he was doing better, I faced a new dilemma.  I have a vacation coming in a week.  A “kid vacation” if you will…the last one we will have before Virginia graduates high school and goes off to college.  I originally thought to board the dog with the vet so that I knew he would receive good care; but now I didn’t want to leave him.  Even though the staff at the vet’s office loves Obi, and even with the amount of attention they would give him, I knew there would be periods of time that he would spend in a kennel, alone.  I don’t want him to feel abandoned.  And if this happens to be his time, I don’t want to chance him dying “alone”.  I didn’t want to cancel this trip either.

I spoke with my mom (who lives a few states away), and she agreed to take him.  As fabulous as this is, and yes it is an awesome deal for both Obi and myself, it still worries me.  At the vet, he would have been dropped off the day we left, and picked up the day we returned.  Since my mom lives a few states away, I am now taking him to be with her a week prior to our trip.  That’s a week I won’t have with my baby.  I know, silly right?  But unless you have a fur baby that you deeply love, you cannot imagine how hard it is to leave your baby, especially when they are deathly ill.  Still, I have no other choice, and this is the best one.

So, we are now taking it day by day.  I listen each night as his breathing grows more “liquid” and labored.  I listen to him cough to try to eliminate it from his lungs.  My baby is slowly drowning and I feel helpless that there is nothing that can be done to reverse it all.  When I leave for work each day, I kiss him goodbye and hope when I return at the end of the day he will still be at the door to greet me when I get home.  Day by day.  That is all I can do.  That and love him with everything I have.

Pet Insurance – Such a Scam

As you may know, my precious little Obi has been suffering from CHF (Congestive Heart Failure).  I wrote about his symptoms back in February, and detailed how this came about in my blog entitled Anticipating the End.  I am happy to say as of right now, he is doing quite well.  I am very thankful that for the most part, even at 9 years old, he acts like a puppy, and you would never know he has a medical problem.

At the time this started, I was thankful that I had purchased Nationwide Pet Insurance through my employer.  After all, it seemed to be useful a few years back when we had a tumor removed from his leg, after which he proceeded to open his stitches up twice over a holiday weekend, forcing us to the vet multiple times.  The tumor turned out to be benign by the way.  After that incident, there were a few times that I contemplated the need for paying the high cost of having this insurance.  After all, premiums of $76.08 per month add up to a whopping $912.96 for a year!  And it seems that I am never reimbursed an amount equal to what I have paid in premiums – or even equal to my complete vet expenses!  In all actually, it seems that more times than not, my claims were denied for some frivolous reason.  So I started to think about cancelling this insurance just a month prior to learning of Obi’s CHF, but for some reason, I did not.  And, as I said, when I learned he had CHF, knowing that he would have to go through several expensive tests and possible future treatments, I was relieved that I still had the insurance.  But then the insurance hassles began.

From the initial onset of his disease, I was very prompt in submitting my insurance claims for reimbursement.  Nationwide Pet Insurance, however, has been anything but prompt in the processing of my claims.  In most cases, they are quick to deny.  Below I am going to share with you how ridiculous having pet insurance is, in the hopes of saving anyone else the trouble of taking on this monthly bill.  Instead, it would be much more cost-effective to just put money aside every month for possible vet expenses; a better alternative to throwing your hard-earned money away to this company.

Included  Charge  Amount Reimbursed  Reimbursement Pending
12/14/2016 Vet visit – Annual vaccinations, Skin test for hair loss (initial CHF problem??)  $                   196.96  $            51.50
12/29/2016 12/14 visit denied due to lack of diagnosis
12/30/2017 12/14 claim resubmitted claim with diagnosis
1/11/2017 12/14 claim denied again – waiting for diagnosis
1/12/2017 Diagnosis for 12/14 claim submitted again
1/25/2017 Vet visit – Radiographs Series & Interpretation, Salix Injection, Salix Tablets, Benazepril Tablets, Vetmedin Pill  $                    325.17
1/31/2017 12/14 claim denied stating “behavior modification”
1/31/2017 Phone call arguing 12/14 claim and the fact that my dog does not have a behavioral problem, he has a heart problem – they want a new diagnosis
2/1/2017 Resubmitted 12/14 claim with new diagnosis of dilated Cardiomyopathy
2/1/2017 Vet visit – ultrasound of Obi’s heart  $                  260.00  Denied
2/2/2017 Received letter requesting Vet Records
2/3/2017 Requested update on status of 12/14 claim – no response
2/3/2017 Unable to read vet records – 1/25 claim denied again
2/3/2017 Requested update on status of 1/25 claim
2/8/2017 Resubmitted 12/14 claim with new diagnosis again
2/21/2017 Vet records sent a second time  for 1/25 visit
2/24/2017 Refill of Medication  $                   145.62  Denied
2/28/2017 Letter denying ultrasound from 2/1
3/3/2017 Received letter stating only part of 12/14 claim will be reimbursed  $             128.57
3/3/2017 Received letter stating only part of 1/25 visit will be reimbursed for Cardiomyopathy, but won’t cover CHF  $             275.00
 $                  927.75  $          51.50  $            403.57
 Expenses since 12/16  Reimbursed  Pending

As you can see, No matter how much my vet bills will amount to, having these ridiculous caps on each disease or illness, I will never recoup the cost of my yearly premiums ($912.96).  So take a tip from me, don’t buy pet insurance, at least not from Nationwide (although I don’t expect any other company would be any better!).  Save that money instead! If you are lucky, you will never need it, and if you do, you just may come out ahead paying cash to the vet instead of paying it to an insurance company that won’t reimburse!

 

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Anticipating the End

Love.  It’s a funny thing.  You can’t predict where love will come from.  You can’t predict when it will enter your life.  You can’t always predict when it will leave your life.  Sometimes it leaves with a goodbye.  Sometimes it silently walks away.  Just as it can begin without a beginning, sometimes it comes to an end without an ending.  In such a case, one never loses those feelings, they just push them aside and move on.  The sad part of life is no matter how much you love someone or something, there is no guarantee they will be with you forever. So what do you do when you find out that the most precious part of your life may no longer be around within a matter of weeks, or maybe months if you’re lucky. For some the answer is easy. Imagine having this extraordinary love; this love like none you have ever experienced in your life. Would you be surprised if I told you it may be the love between you and your pet?  You may laugh at this notion.  I may have also disagreed once.  Even though I have loved my previous dogs, I am not sure I would have gone so far as to say a love between a person and their pet could be so deep that their very existence makes life all that much more…..more what?  Here I lack the words.

My dog: Obi.  Obi the Dobie.  Obi-Wan Kenobi XX.  My guardian and protector.  My loyal, faithful, super-adorable, lovable companion.  My dog has shown me this very special love.  I cannot even truly describe it, it is that special.  But I will try.  When we are together, he is glued to my side. Sometimes it seems literally.  He is a Doberman, a breed known for being “velcro” dogs, because they do attach lovingly to their owners and like to lean against you wherever you may stand.  If you sit….well, they are happy to accommodate that as well.  Obi is no exception.  My 100-pound Doberman is a lap dog at heart. When I lay down at night to go to bed he will lay with his body between my legs, his chest on my belly and his head on my chest so I can snuggle and pet him until we are ready to move into our comfortable sleeping positions.  This beautiful creature is not short on love by any measure. I don’t think there is a human being alive that has shown more love than my dog has shown me. And as such, I probably love him more than I ever thought would be possible. But nothing lasts forever.

obi

About a month ago, my baby started coughing. It was right about the time he received a brand-new bone for Christmas. So we automatically assumed he had bitten off of piece and got it stuck in his throat. I called the vet to ask if there was anything that could be done, and the vet suggested we give it a few days to see if it would work itself out. In the mean time, my baby turned 9.  After about a week of coughing, I was about to take him in to see the vet, but then it seemed like he was getting better. So I did not follow through. A day later, his cough fired up again and was much worse. I made plans again to take him to the vet.  Then he seemed to get better yet again. This cycle continued over the course of a couple of weeks.  Each time he his cough was worse, scheduling conflicts made it difficult for me to rush him in to the vet, and when we could get there, he seemed better.  Then one night, when his cough appeared to have gotten better, we were lying in bed and I could hear his breathing. Heavy breathing with a thick gurgling sound. I immediately knew that meant he had fluid in his lungs, he would go to the vet the very next day – no matter what.

The vet wouldn’t be in until that afternoon.  So Obi was dropped off, and I waited to hear from the clinic while at work.  The day progressed very slowly. I am sure that it seemed even slower for my poor baby as he sat in a kennel all alone at the vet’s office.  That afternoon, I finally received the phone call.  I was provided with all the details, short of a diagnosis.  He had an enlarged heart, an irregular heartbeat, and fluid in his lungs.  All symptoms of congestive heart failure.  As any normal person would these days, I immediately looked up CHF in dogs and learned that this could be congenital for Dobermans.  The bad news…once it develops, even with the best case scenario of treatment, they may be lucky to live a year. I broke down crying. I was not ready to face the fact that my lovable pup may only be around another year.  Sure he is already 9 and a large dog, but I was hoping to exceed expectations and have him until about age 12.  I guess that is no longer a possibility.  After I got myself together and convinced myself not to despair (after all, nothing “bad has happened yet”), I went to the vet to pick my baby up.

As I sat waiting in an empty lobby for what felt like forever, I started to get anxious.  Why were they taking so long?  Did something already happen?  What could be worse?  Of course my fears were unfounded, as the vet was just busy.  When he was free to talk to me, I was given further details of Obi’s symptoms and what could possibly happen going forward. It was suggested that we get an ultrasound of his heart.  We agreed to set that up, and I went home with over $100 worth of heart medication for my dog. Was it necessary? I was told some of it was immediately necessary, with the most expensive being optional until the results of the ultrasound came back.  The ultrasound wouldn’t take place for another week, and I could not wait for treatment.  So to me it wasn’t an option.  I wanted whatever I could get to help my dog now, especially if there were any chance this medication would help improve his heart.  I didn’t care that it cost $100 for just this one medication.  I regularly pay $100 (or more) for concert tickets.  You’d better believe I would pay $100 for medication for the most precious part of my life. We proceeded home, and settled in the routine of medicating him every morning and every evening; waiting for his ultrasound appointment.

The day of Obi’s ultrasound finally arrived.  Once again, he was dropped off in the morning, and I had to wait to hear from the vet when it was completed. Optimistic me expected his heart to be better.  I expected that the medicines would have given us a miracle.  I expected the unexpected.  I wouldn’t get it.  When I arrived to pick Obi up, it was confirmed, his heart was rather enlarged.  Now forgive me if I mix some of the medical explanations up here.  I already don’t have the best memory, but sometimes it’s more difficult to understand everything when you find yourself emotionally weak.  I was told Obi’s heart produces impulses at a rate of 24%.  It should be at a rate of 40%.  It was a miracle he had not simply passed out on a regular basis due to the lack of blood flow.  He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and he is in the stages of heart failure.  We could give him another heart medicine that would help his arrhythmia.  While this may have a positive effect and “keep him from dropping dead” as the vet put it, it could also bring forth its own set of problems by dropping his blood pressure too low. I had to outweigh the trade-offs.  Not having this medicine could kill him, but giving him this medicine could also kill him. What kind of choices are those?  I could see a cardiologist for my dog, but apparently there aren’t any in the immediate area. Fighting back tears and jokingly telling the vet that he was killing me, I kept myself together and asked him how long he would guess Obi would have, good or bad.  Then then my world was crushed.  He could make it a few months… or he may only make it a week.  How could this be?  My dog has always seemed rather healthy.  We feed him only top of the line dog food.  We limit people food and unhealthy treats.  He looks healthy. He acts healthy. He’s still spunky like a pup. We did everything right.  But that didn’t matter.

In my car, the tears fell.  I knew I was highly optimistic to once think such a large dog could live to be 12.  But now it would be extremely optimistic for him to live to his next birthday.  My heart is slowly breaking, but all I can do is love my baby harder than I’ve ever loved him before. He is irreplaceable.  I cannot fathom where I’m going to be mentally the day he moves on.  I will lose the biggest love of my life.  But I won’t lose that love, for he will always be with me.  All I know is I don’t want that day to come.

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He’s Just a Dog…

I think I’m becoming one of those annoying people that love their dog way too much.  Wait a minute, I guess I’ve always been one of those annoying people.  Sort of.  Well at least to some extent.

It started with my “first” dog, Stanley.  I call him my first, because he was MY first dog – owned and cared for by me as an adult.  We got Stanley before we had kids.  So he was my first “baby”.  A very smart, adorable black lab puppy.  We lived in Colorado at the time, and I had friends who lived way out in the middle of nowhere with several acres.  Because I visited these friends often, because I couldn’t just leave my puppy at home for extended hours at a time (especially after working long hours and leaving him alone all week long), and because they had several acres, they allowed me to bring him out to their ranch to run and play with their dogs – actually I think it was their idea first.  It was great for socializing and exercise for my beloved Stanley.  When he got older, and much much bigger, he started to wear out his welcome when he developed a digging habit.  So I understood when I was asked not to bring him to visit any longer – sort of.  They had several of their own dogs tearing up the yard, as well as horses.  Did one more small dog hole really matter?  In the end, I valued my friends enough to stop taking my Stanley to visit them.  After all, he was a dog, and not a child.

Over time, we moved back “home” to Ohio, My parents also had several acres.  Because poor Stanley was a big dog, living in a small apartment with us (until we purchased a home that is), I took him whenever I visited my parents so he could run free and enjoy life as a dog should.  My parents loved Stanley too.  As my kids came along, Stanley started getting treated more and more like a dog, and not my baby.  But he still got around, as we moved through several states during his life – the last being Tennessee.  Each time we visited family back in Ohio, he would go with us.  When we moved here, we were once again in an apartment until we were able to find a house.  An injustice to a big dog, if you ask me.  So, I was logical about it and asked my parents to care for him until we purchased another house.  They did so.  He was happy, and they were happy with him.  My mom even said she hated to give him back to me when we purchased our house.  😉

A few years later, we got Obi.  Obi is way more rambunctious than Stanley ever was.  A very intelligent, strong, huge Doberman puppy.  Don’t be confused with the Doberman stereotype – they are great protectors, but also extremely goofy and loveable dogs for their family; not the vicious animals that are portrayed in many movies.  When we got Obi, Stanley was already 12 years old.  While still loving, he had the temperament of a grumpy old man with a toddler towards Obi.  Another injustice to Stanley.  So we decided to let Stanley “retire” to my parents’ place where he could live out his final days in peace, with lots of room to run (if he could).

So now for the past four years, Obi has taken up a big part of our family life.  He is very much a member of our family, and my biggest “baby” yet.  He is still very rambunctious (especially around company), but oh so super loveable.  He is more loveable than any other animal I have had in my life.  He is definitely a “pack” animal, and I feel guilty every time I leave him home alone.  I know he hates it, but the joy I am greeted with each day when I return home cannot be compared.  My kids don’t even greet me like that any longer.  Again, I love to take him with me to visit my parents, because they have acreage.  A big dog needs acreage.  We have a small, yet sufficient, yard.  A visit to Ohio is a superb vacation for Obi.  He can run and play with my parents’ dogs.  He can get plenty of much needed exercise.  And most importantly, my little family-loving, pack animal doesn’t feel as if I am ripping his heart out and abandoning him permanently by my leaving him behind at home or in a cold teeny tiny kennel in a boarding shelter where an unfounded, uneducated fear of his breed will keep him from getting any love and attention during my departure.  Sadly, I am once again faced with the turmoil of a giant puppy, who has worn out his welcome.  You see, my parents are very much dog-loving animals.  So much, that when my father had a dog (Blue) that managed to bite almost everyone of his grandchildren, he sided with the dog and not with the child.  Yes, it was wrong, but I do understand his love for “his dog”.  A dog is very much a part of the family, and a dog parent can’t help but be protective of their pooch as if they are one of the kids.  Still, it made me angry each time another incident took place and another child was bitten.  That dog eventually had to be put down, but was quickly replaced with another….five dogs.  Yes, I said five.  One was my beloved Stanley, one (Cleo) was the dog of a friend who was going through chemotherapy and couldn’t care for her, two (Midnight and Murphy) were old ones from a shelter, and one was a puppy (Rusty) that was found in a park.  Several of these dogs overlapped and were around while Blue was still around.  My parents actually had four dogs at the same time, but little by little, they all passed away due old age – except the Rusty.  So where did my Obi manage to go wrong in a house that catered to dogs?  Well, last year, when my parents were down to just Cleo and Rusty, they watched Obi while I went on vacation for a week.  Obi has not been neutered.  He is a pure-bred dog, and my husband always had hopes of breeding him.  We never have, but not we just can’t bring ourselves to doing “the deed”.  As Obi has matured, he has had a tendency to do the doggly deed of checking people out by smelling them.  Sometimes with a little more enthusiasm than they like – especially my dad.  On top of that, he was at the ripe age of three during this vacation, and around a female dog.  He gave Cleo way more attention than she wanted.  This would upset Cleo, which in turn upset Rusty, and that ultimately upset my dad.  Rusty and Obi had it out.  Obi won, but ultimately he lost.  He was no longer welcome in their home.  I had only been on vacation a day, and my parents already didn’t want my dog there any longer.  Not news you want to hear from another country.  My kids were staying with my parents as well, and they were upset.  The whole incident had been blown to proportions greater than necessary.  Tempers flared.  Feelings were hurt.

Fast forward a year.  Things have long calmed down (maybe out of absence).  Cleo is gone.  Obi is still maturing, but has calmed down some, and now I want to visit my family for Easter this year.  Once again, I would like it to be a family venture….Obi included.  Unfortunately, due to my husband’s job, he is not able to join us.  He will remain home so he can continue to work 14-15 hour days.  Yuck!!  Another reason I would like to take Obi with me.  This would be a much-needed vacation for him to run and burn off excess energy, instead of him being locked up extra long hours all weekend.  But I have been asked not to bring him.

Now if this same issue were happening to someone else, I would say, “What’s the big deal?” or “Have a friend watch him.”  But it’s happening to me.  My baby is being banned.  I am being asked to leave my dog locked up extra long hours all weekend.  My initial response was denial; wait until closer to the date to even worry about it; things will change.  Now we are a week out.  My instant reaction is pain.  First I think, “then I won’t go.”  But that’s stupidly irrational, isn’t it?  I know it is.  I love my family dearly.  I miss my parents so much.  Why would I let a stupid dog interfere with that?  Why?  Because he’s my baby.  He needs me and relies on me.  He loves me unconditionally.  Hell, I believe he loves me more than my kids most days.  But I love my parents, and ultimately, he’s just a dog.  A goofy,faithful and lovable part of my family, but still just a Dog.

Things My Dog Has Eaten

I have a big, goofy, lovable, 100 lb. doberman. He is nothing like people imagine when they are presented with the word DOBERMAN.  Actually, anyone, that knows anything about this breed of dog, would know that those stories just aren’t true.  How did they get a bad name?  Namely movies, but it could be because they do have one trait, the fact that they will lay down their life for their “family”, that may help give this negative image of this breed.

Anyway, one little problem with my doberman….he does get a little anxious when we leave him alone.  When he was a puppy, he would chew everything up (like a typical puppy), so we were smart about it and kept him in a kennel when we weren’t home.  Over time he outgrew that, and we were able to retire the kennel.  He did great for about a year.  Then it started back up.  A piece of paper here, a piece of paper there.  Until, one day my husband noticed a trend.  If the last person to leave the house for the day walked out without saying anything to the dog, nothing would get torn up.  If the dog was talked to (doesn’t everyone say goodbye to their dogs like they are family members?), then he would tear something up.  It seemed saying anything was code for “we are leaving you forever….go to town”, whereas not saying goodbye was more like “running outside for a minute, but will be right back in”.  So we stopped talking to the dog before leaving, and kept everything picked up out of his reach.  It was working.  And then it wasn’t.  He started venturing upstairs to the kids territory.  Goodbye books.

So in an effort to keep from bringing the monstrous kennel back into our living space (remember, he’s a BIG dog), we put a baby gate up on the stairs to keep him downstairs, and started keeping everything picked up downstairs….namely paper.  Again, that was working (for a while).  Then last night we discovered another glitch in the plan.  After being good for nine hours while everyone was at school and work, I had to leave again to take my kids to gymnastics.  We were gone for one hour and 30 minutes.  I guess he hates when we leave a second time after doing his nine hour stretch.  We came home to a shredded text book.  My daughter swore it was in her backpack and it was zipped up.  Oh, is he now venturing into trying to find things?  He also chewed up a brush that was “put up high”.  I watched Virginia put it up.  So now he is putting effort into his revenge.  Sadly, I guess this means this is the end of his free-reign in the house.

So far…things my dogs has eaten include (over the course of his life, not just recently, and in no particular order):

  1. Tubes of Toothpaste (2)
  2. Toothbrushes
  3. A loaf of bread
  4. Several toys – I don’t even recall what they were
  5. Numerous, numerous, numerous receipts
  6. Hairbrushes (2)
  7. Grapes (yes they are poisonous to dogs)
  8. Dog Beds (3)
  9. Several towels (used in the kennel to replace the dog beds)
  10. Boxes of Tissues (several)
  11. A Pillow
  12. A Pair of Shoes – they were uncomfortable, so I forgave that one
  13. A digital thermometer
  14. CD’s
  15. A notebook – actually several
  16. My daughter’s homework – yes this really does happen
  17. A Leather-Bound Alice in Wonderland Book
  18. Carpet (yes, wall-to-wall carpet) – that was expensive to replace, since we had to buy it for the whole room
  19. A cable remote – luckily the cable company replaced it for free
  20. A Cell Phone – $50 to replace…only because of the insurance
  21. A Bose Stereo Remote – $88 to replace
  22. A Social Studies Text Book – $50 to replace
  23. My Prozac – I bet that one made him feel good….maybe I should get him his own prescription and he won’t have so much separation anxiety.

I think that just about sums it up.  Yep, I truly love my dog, but it’s time to bring the freaking kennel back in.