Last Wednesday morning, Daisie and I went out to do the morning duties. Mine are to feed and water the goats; hers are to…take care of business, and scout around the farm while she waits for me.
When I said, “Time to go fix your breakfast, Daisie!”, she didn’t respond with the usual enthusiasm, and walked slowly toward the house. Daisie has perfected the slow walk. It’s unbelievable how slowly she can put one foot in front of the other! But she usually only uses that strategy for times when a) she sees the toenail clippers in my hand, b) we are standing next to the hose and call her to come get her feet washed. Oddly, this time she was walking slower and slower as we went to the house. She stopped before the steps and stayed there, so I wondered if she was not hungry but wanted to lay on her bed on the deck. I put it out and when I came back to her, I saw that her back legs were slowly folding up under her. She was collapsing in slow motion!
I picked her up and carried her into the house where, under her own power, she walked into her crate – and again began a slow collapse. I got her settled in, and watched her huff to breathe, and twitch now and then. I checked the color of her gums. They were pale, and the capillary refill was slow. She had a blank stare.
I thought I was watching her die from a heart attack right before my eyes! I considered packing her up to the vet, but she was too unstable at the moment. If she truly was dying, I did not want to subject her to all kinds of heroic measures to save her life. She is 11 years old, and she doesn’t love going to the vet. I didn’t want her to die with great stress.
Randy and I watched her closely. Caitlin came and listened to her heart with her stethoscope. It was beating fast, but by that time, Daisie was breathing easier, and her gums were returning to pink color with better refill. Finally, she went to sleep, and after a long nap, she returned to her normal self. By evening, she was bounding outside for a visit with the goats and wanting a walk.
I thought the trouble was past.
But the next morning, at the very same time, during the same activity, Daisie began to stagger on her way back to the house, losing her balance, falling to the sidewalk, and stiffening like a seizure was taking place! I picked her up and got her into the house, where she lay huffing, glazed-eyed, weak and twitching again.
Because the timing was almost exactly the same, I feared that she was getting into some kind of poison when out on her duty run, and it was causing the symptoms. A recent rain had brought out a new crop of mushrooms, was that it? Was there something in the compost pile? As we waited for the vet’s office to open, Randy & I walked her usual circle, looking for some evidence.
Randy thought he had figured it out when he realized that there were some crumbs of rodenticide in a little trailer where he had been refilling bait traps for the field. But, Daisie doesn’t usually go up into a trailer to sniff or eat, and it was a pretty immediate reaction for something ingested. We were unsure. Still, I took the MSDS info with me when we went into the vet.
By the time we got there, Daisie was looking quite well, already back to her normal self. Dr. Erickson checked her over, and said that it did not seem to be poisoning. It was likely that she had a heart problem.
I left her there to have bloodwork, a chest x-ray and an EKG done. We were heavy-hearted thinking that our dear old faithful could be facing that day we knew was coming. She’s 11 years old. We know it is coming, and already, I wonder if I will find her in bed, never to wake again…which would be my preference for how she goes.
But I found out that I was not ready for that at all, and was pretty much a weepy mess when Dr. Erickson told us that she has a significant heart arrhythmia. Her heart was fibrillating and not pumping blood effectively, causing the episodes where she was severely short of oxygen, so she collapsed. There was medicine to try – sometimes it helps, sometimes it hurts. If we did not try, Daisie would have more episodes, and one of them might cause her to drop dead.
Dear old Daisie! The Best Dog in the World! The boxer who was our calm, easy-going comfort after losing two boxer puppies before her. When she was younger, we always said to her, “You know the rule: Don’t die!” We’d had too much of that, and her gentle personality, and desire to be near us kept her from harm. This time, I started to remind her, through my tears, of the rule…but I could only say, “Don’t suffer.”
I’m humbled, and must admit, that I was quite undone at the prospect of a life without our Old Faithful. I’ve said before that these are the times you pay the price for all the good your pets have given you. And I wasn’t handling it very well. I can’t imagine the strength employed by those who are suffering much greater losses as they deal with cancers, and diseases, injuries and deaths! I laud your courage, friends, and admire your strength. God bless you!
As it turned out, the medicine the vet prescribed has helped Daisie get back to normal. She has not had any more episodes, and is as energetic as she was before. She probably has as good a prognosis now, as she did before her collapses.
So, in effect, nothing is different than it was before, -- and everything is different than it was before as we are much more aware that the days are short. But they are still good, and I’m so thankful for bonus time!
Daisie and I enjoyed a long stroll today. She'd been missing investigating the smells of the fields. :)