I could hear him drinking again as I glanced at the stove clock.
His claws clicked on the linoleum as he continued pacing. My hands wrap around my travel mug of coffee as I returned to looking out the kitchen door window. The goats were chasing each other around their enclosure.
His huge tongue moves rapidly as he began drinking again. I didn’t have to look to see him. The image was firmly engraved in my mind from the years he’d been with us. I knew that water was spraying everywhere and he’d drizzle it all over the floor when he was finished.
Pacing, drinking, pacing, drinking. He’d been at it for over an hour.
I’ll have to take him out again soon.
My mind flashed back to the 11 month old we’d adopted from the rescue. He looked horrible. Demodex mange had removed a good portion of his fur, but that didn’t stop him from enthusiastically greeting us when we arrived to take him home. He seemed to know we were his new family. We changed his name from Cronus, a god who ate his own children, to Jonas. I didn’t like the idea of a dog with a child-eating name. DS3 couldn’t get the “s” pronounced, so his name defaulted to Jonah. It fit, because he looked like he’d been in the belly of a great fish for several days. After a few months of owning him, his nickname became Sir Barksalot.
The minutes ticked by so slowly.
Quietly I walk over the towels that cover the floor to check on him . The drooling hadn’t stopped for over an hour. He had finally laid down. Sitting near him, I gently stroked his head as the image of him on the kitchen floor flooded my mind.
The sound of elephants rampaging through my house woke me. My alarm clock glared 5:14 through the dark.
I’m going to kill those two.
I assumed Bonnie and Clyde were at it again. They didn’t care what time it was – play time was play time.
As I jumped out of bed, something about the sound didn’t seem right. It was a steady, constant noise.
Opening my door revealed the Mal Mix sitting near it with her ears back and a scared look on her face. I could barely make her out in the dark. They obviously weren’t playing. A darker shape was on the floor of the kitchen. Flipping on the hall light revealed Sir Barksalot, on his side, in the throes of what appeared to be a Grand Mal seizure. The Husky was standing over him licking his side and face. There have been few times in my life where I’ve felt helpless. This was one of them.
Not knowing what to do, I knelt, put my hand on his side and kept telling him everything was going to be all right, I was there, he was going to be okay – not knowing if he would be – as we rode out this storm neither of us had experienced before. Shifting the other two dogs behind me, out-of-the-way, all three of us stood watch as our friend violently shook, foam gradually covering his mouth and floor, breath catching…
I grabbed my cell and punched the vet’s number in.
“Bring him in at 10:45. If he has another one call us immediately and bring him in right away.”
He’s sleeping. I’d like to. By now, I had downed half a pot of coffee. I talked to the emergency vet, who was 30 minutes away, at 6:00. Our vet practice stopped doing emergency calls several months ago.
“If it’s over, you can wait for your vet to open. However, if he has another one, call us back and bring him in. I know it’s scary, but he should be okay.”
The boys watched him while I took care of livestock earlier than normal. I wanted them done in case he had another seizure. For over 30 minutes he was disoriented. He walked into things, would start to fall over, entered rooms he wasn’t allowed in like the bathroom (he never goes in there because, well, there is a bathtub in that room). I learned this was normal behavior after a seizure.
When he stopped walking, and started to tilt over, I bent down to support him and the Husky came up on his other side. It was obvious he was trying to hold him up as well. Sir Barksalot began drinking water and pacing.
The phone rings. The vet has an earlier appointment at 10:15. He is switched to it. The receptionist is trying to move appointments around to get him in earlier. She’ll call me back if she can manage to move his even further.
I should take a nap, but it’s his first seizure. The vet says I need to watch him. His body has the normal Boxer surface tumors.
What if one is in his brain?
This is not my daughter’s dog. It is not my son’s dog.
This is my dog.
Time slows to a crawl and I regret yelling at him for getting in the trash, barking for no reason, non-stop barking at DH whenever he comes home – 9+ years and we can’t get him to stop, “sliming” me after he eats (those flues!)…
Every few minutes I find myself looking into the room where he is to make sure he’s okay. He seems to be handling it better than I am and is asleep. The Husky hasn’t left his side since this started.
Time to go. He’s excited to go for a car ride. It’s his first time riding in the truck. He is still drooling, so he’s relegated to the back where the seats are folded up. He doesn’t care and switches between windows constantly trying to watch everything at once.
When we pull into the vet’s parking lot he begins to whine. He has a love/hate relationship with the practice. He loves the attention, people and treats; he hates the exams and tests. Since his tumors started showing up, he’s had a lot of tests.
He’s lost 3 pounds despite eating normally. Not a good sign. A vet we see a lot walks in. She looks tired. Happy news: she is pregnant. Not-so-happy news: she’s not sleeping much. After examining my dog, I can tell by the look on her face she thinks it’s not good. In addition to the seizure, his lungs sound “harsh”.
“Leave him with us for a couple of hours. We’ll do blood work and x-rays, but given his tumors and weight loss, prepare yourself for the worst. I’d also recommend an MRI, but we don’t do that here. The animal emergency clinic does.”
Back home to wait. The other dogs are confused. They look at me with expressions that say, “Where is he?”
DD3 is at work. The three boys are home. Bringing them up to speed I ask if anyone wants to go if the news is bad. None of them do. They say they don’t think they can handle it. It’s funny how each time an animal is put down it is the women of the family who deal with it.
I need to eat something. I feel sick from not eating. I also need to let the other two out and feed them before I go back to the vets.
Arrive back at the vet’s office where I’m informed x-rays show his lungs are old and scarred from previous illnesses. His coughing will probably become worse, but no way to predict that. It could interfere with any anesthesia necessary for treatment.
All blood work looked good. No chemical imbalances. No cancer cells spreading through his system. Unfortunately, this points to a brain tumor. She’s “90%” sure. He doesn’t have to be put down just yet. There are no signs he is in pain. In fact, he is his normal Boxer self. I receive guidelines on dealing with seizures and am told to monitor the frequency. He may not have another for months or could have another one today.
“You could have the MRI done, but he’s a 10-year-old Boxer. Their life expectancy is around 8 years. Even if it could be removed, with his lungs and age it may be too much stress for his system. Either way we’ll monitor him, manage whatever pain shows up in the future and just take it day by day.”
In other words, the end is coming. On the way home, he kept leaning over my seat to look out the front window. I think the truck has become his favorite ride. I enter the house, watching his friends welcome him home with sniffs, licks and mutual jumping.
It’s not time yet, my old friend.
But I know time is running out and our previous Boxer is waiting to greet him on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.