Tag Archives: end of life

House of the Dying Dog

Gabe never got to have a pet as a kid because he was abused. Obviously.  As a result, he’s always wanted dogs, lots of big dogs. After we bought our house, we decided it was time to add to our family. We started out small with Toki and Evie but after awhile, he started making noise about getting a dog and his need for a canine companion was made greater when the neighbors got a ridiculously cute and fluffy Great Pyrenees puppy, the runt of the litter. Her name was Cassidy Jasmine. I called her CJ. Gabe tried to steal her and she obliged by regularly digging under the fence and squeezing through the hole to play at our house.

When Cassidy was almost 2-years-old, sad things happened to our neighbors and they had to move away. The worst part was that they couldn’t take Cassidy with so asked if she could live with us since she had grown up next door and it wouldn’t be a big change in her life.  We were pretty sure we could afford her so we accepted. Gabe re-named her Kassidy (because the K is far more impressive than a C) and we had a dog of our own! Kassidy did well with us as long as she was at home or in the car. We found out quickly, though, that she didn’t like to go on walks; she was shy and unsure of other people, other dogs, new situations. We took her to Pet Smart once and found out that she didn’t walk on slippery floors, no tile, no laminate, not even wood. It was carpet or earth for her.

Kassidy enjoying a lovely summer afternoon far away from hard, slippy surfaces.

Kassidy enjoying a lovely summer afternoon far away from hard, slippy surfaces.

One night, she got sprayed between the eyes, point-blank, by a skunk and that is why we found out she was sick. She started pooping blood and vomiting shortly thereafter so we took her to the vet who thought she’d contracted leptospirosis from said skunk. Guess what? It’s highly contagious and can be spread to humans so Kass was quarantined at the vet’s which was awful since she hated being away from home. They ran tests and found it wasn’t leptospirosis; it was Addison’s disease. Her adrenal glands had never been up to par and slowly fell apart each time we took her on a new adventure. We were killing our dog by doing things people do with dogs. Of course, we felt terrible and had many realizations in hindsight. Getting sprayed had simply been the last stressful straw and her kidneys that had been taking the brunt of her adrenal failure, failed, themselves.

This is how we kill dogs.

This is how we kill dogs.

More killing of the dog. At least she had fun while we were inadvertently murdering her.

More killing of the dog. At least she had fun while we were inadvertently murdering her.

She lasted only a few months after that. She had to visit the vet three more times and each time, the vet told us to say our goodbyes but twice, she called us the next day and told us to come get her; she’d survived the night and could go home. The girl had fighting spirit; she just wanted to be with her family. That third time, though, she didn’t come back to us. Toki was devastated, they’d always been close, and Gabe said he couldn’t face having another dog. In my pragmatic way, I felt we weren’t suited for another dog, anyhow. Gabe had lost his job plus he’d been awful at keeping the dog poop picked up. We needed to mature a bit before we would be able to do that again.

This was after the second trip back from the vet. She was so small and weak but she really REALLY wanted to be home so she lived through the night and came back home with us.

This was after the second trip back from the vet. She was so small and weak but she really REALLY wanted to be home so she lived through the night and came back home with us.

Fast forward to last year. One of our big-hearted couple-friends had lost two dogs in a relatively short time span. They still had two dogs left – Daisy and Abby, both rescue dogs who hated each other – but decided to try to fill the hole by getting a puppy. While he’s an adorable little monster and was able to rearrange the remaining pack to his liking, Daisy was miserable. She already hated Abby and now there was this new punk on the block. She grew despondent and spent most of her time sullenly guarding her food bowl.

Because our friends are good, caring people, they realized something had to give. They also remembered that we freaking LOVED Daisy so they told us that if we were interested, they would let us give her the single-dog home she wanted. She was good with cats, she’s on the medium-small side so would fit in the house with no problems and she’s cuter than anything. While we couldn’t really afford a dog, it killed us to think of her suffering, miserable and full of emotional trauma because her food bowl might be attacked at any minute. We said we wanted her and she came to live with us last September.

"Please, sir, may I have more?"

“Please, sir, may I have more?”

Daisy May is a sweetheart and I am awfully glad she became part of our family. She and Evie are best buds, they have their girl time together, but otherwise, she’s sort of shy and is ridiculously submissive. Her first week with us was hard; she jumped at everything and her tail was always between her legs. She eventually became more confident and comfortable and that’s when we decided it was time for her first vet visit. The vet told us her shyness, submissive attitude, and unsure behavior may be a result of having been neglected as a puppy and that it was a lucky thing that our friends had rescued her. While none of us had any real information on her, we’d figured she was about 7-years-old but the vet said she was an older dog, probably 10+ based on her teeth and blood and whatever else the vet was looking at. Then she told us that Daisy was in renal failure and her kidneys were more than 75% shut down. My first response was, “Are you KIDDING me? What are we, dog killers?” It turns out we’re not, we just find the dying dogs somehow.

This probably isn't good for her, all the nature and hiking and stress. We know that...NOW.

This probably isn’t good for her, all the nature and hiking and stress. We know that…NOW.

Daisy’s on specially medicated dog food that smells like dirty, sweaty, old testicles. It’s pretty gross. We have to watch what we feed her; she can’t have too much protein or salt so no fancy food or table scraps. We have to fill her saddlebags with kidney juice every 10 days which means we’ve got a bag o’ liquid medicine that we inject under the skin around her hips or shoulders 3 times a month. She hates it but it’s supposed to help her body do all the things that her kidneys can’t. If we’re lucky and she continues to react well to all this treatment, we could have her for another year and a half which would have been her expected lifespan anyhow. The kidney juice really does help, too; she gets lethargic around day 8 and her appetite fades but for several days after the injection, she’s bright-eyed, happy to go for walks and she eats well. She has many more good days than bad on this regimen and we’re doing as much as we can to make her life fun and full of love. We learned with Kassidy that there’s no use in getting frustrated or sad or pissed off over vet bills. The important thing is that Daisy has the best end of her life as possible.

As long as there are treats, she'll stick around.

As long as there are treats, she’ll stick around.

It’s a hard and horrible thing, being the House of the Dying Dog, but there are so many friends out there who need just that, a place to finish out their days and even though we swear our next dog will be the picture of health, I suspect that won’t be the case. Everyone has a calling and I think we have found ours. It’s a painful job but it’s also a good job.

This post is in memory of Kassidy who died on May 19th, 2010, and is dedicated to Daisy May who makes us laugh with her funny little faces and her bouncy ways. We love you little monsters! And a big shout out to Kathleen who held our hands and sent care packages when Kass was on her way out.


Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds