Monday, March 10, 2008

The Bluest Monday of My Life

Today was by far the bluest Monday of all Mondays I have had to live through. My wife and I had to make the difficult decision to euthanize the oldest of our four Maltese pups today. Missy had just turned six last November and we swore we'd see her live at least another six. The complexity of life had different ideas about that.

It all started when I took her to the vet last Wednesday afternoon after noticing that her urine was a dark brown color. The vet had no luck getting a urine sample from Missy that afternoon, so she asked that we bring her in the next morning to leave her for the day. My wife noticed that she was somewhat lethargic that next morning while walking her, and the vet subsequently found her pack cell volume (measurement of red blood cells per volume of whole blood) was dangerously low.

Later that morning, at the vet's suggestion, I left my job for the day to transfer Missy to a 24 hour pet emergency hospital nearby. They almost immediately gave her a blood transfusion.

For those of you who do not know, hemoglobin is a protein that gives red blood cells their red color. Hemoglobin, and thus rbc's, are necessary for the transport of oxygen molecules from your lungs to the rest of your tissues, organs, etc. If you run out of rbc's, your body basically dies from oxygen starvation.

The doctors had pretty much decided Missy was suffering from an acute onset of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Her own body was basically attacking her red blood cells and destroying them faster than she could regenerate them.

Anyway, like I said, my wife had dropped Missy off at our regular vet that morning on the way to catch a plane out of town for work. Needless to say, by the time she landed at her destination, the news of Missy's condition had reached her and she immediately reboarded another flight back home.

Basically, after a four day and night roller coaster of two blood transfusions and regimens of multiple steroids and antibiotics, Missy's PCV dropped dramatically overnight last night. The doctor suggested we get to the pet hospital as soon as we could to discuss Missy's prognosis this morning. After a hard look at the facts and a deep gut check, we decided to take Missy over to our regular vet in order to put her to sleep.

Our vet reminded us that an extra day bought at the vet is NOT a quality day for our dog. I've done this once before, but it was a dog much older and much more ill. It's one of the hardest things I'll ever have to do letting go of a pet to ensure they never suffer physical pain or distress for a second of their life. Every vet we spoke with said her chances of recovering at any point is no better than 50% and I just couldn't leave her one more night in that cage at the pet hospital.

As I was holding her in my arms that blue Monday morning at the pet hospital, she didn't let my wife out of her sight, even as she struggled to keep her exhausted little eyes open. I truly believe she didn't want her mommy to leave her there one more time. I've never seen her so at peace when my wife was holding her. I believe that's where she wanted to be forever from that time on. She rested her head on her shoulder like nothing else mattered.

As we waited in an office at our personal vet I was holding Missy and the minute she heard his voice , she wagged her tail for a few seconds. I hadn't seen her wag her tail in days. I believe she knew he was the one that would make it all better. And he did. Marcie held her like the teddy bear she was for about an hour after she fell asleep that final time. It was a chilly and overcast day. It was the bluest Monday I've ever known.

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