My dog, Tinkerbell, a fawn and white boxer, age 10, has been pretty sick the last couple weeks. She’s barely eating and has frequent diarrhea with intermittent episodes of vomiting. Yeah, I know, poor thing! In her 10 years, she has been remarkably healthy. A few things here and there, a few eye infections, some teeth pulled, everything has been easily treated but nothing really serious until now.
She has had runny stools for nearly 2 weeks. We visited our local vet earlier this week and was given instructions of using imodium and some special food to get her eating and get her digestive system calmed down. After 3 days, there was really no improvement and the vomiting increased for periods of time. Yesterday, she threw up 10 times in the span of roughly 3 hours.
We headed back to the vet. I feared the worst. Obviously, something is wrong, really wrong. Tink has always had a sensitive digestive system, puking to some extent is normal for her, so is some loose bowel movements, but not this prolonged. The next step was to run some more diagnostic tests, mostly various blood tests, testing a stool sample, and a few x-rays. Of course nearly everything was negative and in normal range. Her x-rays showed she had a lot of gas in her intestines, no blocks, really nothing conclusive. The only thing that was slightly abnormal was the test they did to measure pancreatic functions-but only slightly. Because this was really the only thing found, the vet decided to treat her for pancreatitis. Tink is on a steroid pill and special low fat food that she gets small amounts of 6 times a day.
Did I mention Tinkerbell is 10 years old? This dog has seen me through so many things. She is an amazing dog. Everyone says that about their dog, but I’m not the only one who says this about her. She hardly ever barks but when she does its serious, making you pay attention to whatever she has been alerted to. She is incredible protective of her family. When I lived alone, she always positioned herself between me and the door. I would be doing dishes and she would be sitting at attention at my feet, her back to me as she watched the door, listening to all the people that walked past. We were once walking with my young niece and nephew when she noticed a man sitting on his steps across the street. He must have looked suspicious because I watched her change her position to ensure she was between that man and the kids. We walked past this man twice and both times she was eyeing him as she put herself in his path. Tink is very much in tune with my husband and his anxiety. Often times, her bouts of illness coincide with his anxious episodes making me aware of something that isn’t always noticeable. She watches little O like a helicopter parent. When he was very small, she would pace and go from his room to our room until we responded to his cries. It was like she was saying, “Hey, don’t you hear that? He’s crying! Why aren’t you fixing it? Hurry up and fix it! He’s crying!” All this on top of the emotional support that this dog has leant me. Her silent presence has gotten me through countless hard times.
Happily, this new treatment has seemed to begin to help. The vomiting has ceased. She gobbles up this food like she will never eat again. Her stools are slowing getting thicker. At this point, I’m hopeful that we’ve found something that will give her a chance to feel better. Additionally, her mood is up. She is more restful and willing to play and in general wants to be with us. To me, its clear she feels better than she has. But we aren’t all the way out of the woods. She’s not quite completely back to her normal self. She gets up and night and has to go out immediately, softly whining until I get up to take her. It’s difficult to differentiate between what is just her getting older and what is residual signs of illness.
With all this, my husband and I had to have ‘the talk.’ How far do we let it go? What measures do we take to help her? At what point do we call it? While I was waiting for the test results at the vet on Friday, a man with tears in his eyes brought in an old dog clearly not well. The dog looked lumpy, like maybe he had some growths that were taking over his body. The man brought him in with red eyes and I watched as the vet tech exchanged leashes, slipping the blue slip collar, a vet standard, around his neck and lead him to the back. The red eyed man walked out. Sitting there, it was the worse time to be a bystander as I was fairly certain this dog was walking his version of the green mile. Of course, my eyes also began to tear. I am not ready to say goodbye to my great dog. I don’t want to have to make this decision. I don’t think there is anyway to prepare for it either except to take advantage of the good days. Play with her when she wants to play, go for walks when she feels up to it, have her with us whenever we can. It might still be years if we can get through this but if we can’t it might not be. The only definite plan we have is to do our best to enjoy the time we have with our furry family member.