Normally I make some attempt of something resembling sane writing, but I’ve discovered I still have problems writing this, so I’m just going to write it. Later on, when I can, I’ll clean it up. This post was started almost 3 weeks ago, but I couldn’t get through it, so I set it aside until I could.
In June of 2012, DD3 asked if she could get her own dog. She was 22, had a job and loves animals. I didn’t see why not, so we took a drive to the local shelter to see what was available. We brought the Boxer with, so we could make sure he’d get along with whatever dog she picked. Amusingly enough, someone said they’d take him before we even made it to the building. I declined. I’m pretty partial to him.
My daughter has many breeds she favors, but her top pick is Siberian Huskies. We found an 8-year-old female that day. From the time we brought her home, she was a picky eater. Her energy level was normal, so we assumed she was adjusting to a new home. This dog was the gentlest dog I’ve ever seen. She was very low-key. She never barked unless told to “speak”. She did the normal Husky “talking” when she wanted to do something or wanted a treat.
My 2 yo grandson is scared of the Boxer, due to his face, but loved the Husky. She was very patient with him, and let him pull on her ears until we would catch him and tell him to stop. She would stand perfectly still as he checked out every part of her body except her tail. We noticed her tail was sensitive, so we stopped him from touching it.
When it had been a few weeks, we took her in for an exam which we do with all new animals. The vet practice we use has multiple vets. The one we saw kept saying it was normal for Huskies to be picky about their food. I researched it and discovered the breed is notorious for this. They get bored with their food and refuse to eat. We started rotating between “burger” food and dry. Sometimes she’d eat; sometimes she wouldn’t. Her weight stayed about the same, so we didn’t worry too much.
Over time, I noticed that she had a hard time with her back legs, especially after sitting or laying down for a long time. A vet exam and x-rays showed she had Hypertrophic Arthritis in her lower spine right above her tail. That explained why she didn’t wag it unless she was really happy or excited about something. The burrs were growing between the vertebrae close to her spinal nerves which made operating impossible. She was put on supplements to help slow the progression.
We had been a bit slack on walking her, so we made sure she was walked/run every day to work her legs and keep them from becoming stiff. Huskies love to run, and she was in heaven. We considered buying an ATV to keep up with her. She was also leaking urine, so the vet put her on DES which is a hormone replacement. It’s a common problem with older female dogs.
I don’t really care for dogs laying in the kitchen, because they are usually under my feet, but she insisted on sleeping up against the kitchen door. Over time I gave in, because it really wasn’t hurting anything. Sometimes it would be pain to get in or go out, because you’d have to wait for her to move, so you could open the door. We all learned to look before coming in, opening the door a little to let her know we were there, and give her time to get up and move.
Throughout the months, she went through 5 area rugs that were put by the door. I finally gave up keeping one, which kind of stunk because of the snow and mud that got tracked through. However, it was getting a bit silly with replacing them about once a month or so.
Three months ago, she was leaking urine badly again, so back to the vet who changed her meds to a stronger version. That seemed to do the trick, but if she drank a lot of water that day, we had to take her out more often – like very 2 hours.
Starting about 6 weeks ago, we noticed she was losing weight and not eating much of anything. We went back to the vet and answered questions about her eating habits again. This time we mentioned her adoption sheet said she was raised on Alpo. The vet we saw said, “That is like the McDonalds of dog food. At her age, and being a Husky, you will never get her off of it.”
DD3 went out and bought a small case of Alpo. By now, the Husky was only eating small amounts that wouldn’t keep the cat alive. I made a comment that she ate like she had gastric bypass or something. Those turned out to be prophetic words. DD3 gave her a can of food, she tried to inhale it and threw it up 30 minutes later. She was obviously hungry, but something wasn’t right.
Thinking maybe her stomach had shrunk from not eating much, we waited a few hours, cut back to half a can to see what would happen, but she threw it up again. I put some soft food in her bowl, and the next morning I began feeding her Alpo a tablespoon at a time every few hours. I felt this wasn’t right. Even a picky dog should be able to eat without becoming sick.
She began drinking a lot of water and the medication wasn’t helping her at all with her urine leakage by this time. The area she was laying in would be soaked with urine before she realized she was leaking. The poor dog tried. As soon as she knew she needed the bathroom, she’s run to the door near their bathroom area. We had no idea what was going on, but it was obvious something was seriously wrong and had been in the 8 months since we got her. At first it wasn’t noticeable and was hidden by other things.
We decided that we wanted the vets to do whatever they could to find out what was happening. This wasn’t a dog being picky. Something was wrong. She had no energy which is the antithesis of a Husky. She could no longer handle her walks. She ran out of energy, so we stopped because we didn’t want to stress her system. Her skeletal structure was becoming more prominent. Whatever was going on – she was becoming worse and it was obvious that it was much more than being a picky dog. Our pet was very ill. We called the vet and got an emergency appointment.
We put her on the vet scales and were shocked when her weight was read to us. In a month, she had dropped 10 pounds. This is a huge amount for her breed. The vet we saw this time was a Husky owner. She had seen ours a couple of times, but not enough to get a pattern. She walked in with tears in her eyes. She had put her Husky down 3 weeks earlier. She came into the room and her first words were, “I’m going to be honest. I’m scared.” DD3’s Husky was exhibiting the same symptoms.
A physical exam showed our fuzzy pup was jaundiced and anemic. Her liver was failing. An x-ray revealed a huge mass, larger than a softball, that had pushed her stomach up to her spine and her other organs were shoved into a compact space. She had little room for food. DD3 had tears running down her face. She blamed herself for not putting it all together, but everyone kept telling her that there was no way to know. Hindsight is 20/20 and now all the symptoms came together.
Ultrasound showed it involved her pancreas and GI tract. Blood work was ordered and I put my arm around my daughter as the verdict was read: a nasty cancerous tumor that could not be removed. In her current state, the operation alone could kill her. However, they would have to remove her pancreas, and she just couldn’t live without one. There wasn’t any other option. We were leaving without our gentle fuzzy mass of fur.
The vet said that since she came to us already having problems eating, it is highly likely the owners who surrendered her knew about this. This ticks me off more than anything. Anyone surrendering an animal should know that a family may adopt. It is a horrible thing to do to a family especially if they have small children. They should have put it down on her paper. If they had, maybe she could have been saved.
We were given the option of taking her home to say good-bye and bringing her back the next day. After discussing it, we declined. We felt it would be selfish of us. This poor animal had suffered for months without anyone knowing. She was already weak. We couldn’t bring ourselves to make her suffer now that we knew how sick she was.
I don’t cry much, but I was trying not to lose it, not only for the dog, but my daughter who truly loved this animal. She held her beloved friend, and cried into her fur as the vet prepared the injection site after we spent some time saying good-bye. Our poor vet had to relive putting down her own Husky and was in tears as our dog’s spirit was set free. Almost 3 hours after we arrived as three; we left as two with my daughter holding the collar and leash to her heart.
I lost track of how many times my daughter cried in my arms the first week. It has been several weeks since then, and DD3 has started bringing up rescue sites. I know she is beginning to heal now. I suspect that soon she will want to give another unwanted dog a new home. I’m okay with that.
Rest In Peace Mika (Meekah). You are now pain-free.