The last 5 1/2 days have been a nightmare. We’ve had two dogs for their entire lives, basically. Diego is a 13-year-old black pug. Frida was a 15-year-old chihuahua. They were an adorable, eccentric, one-of-a-kind pair. Considering their ages, they’ve been in fairly good health. Diego is deaf. Frida had what I thought was early stage kidney disease and we had her on a prescription diet.
Frida had a tendency to wander around the backyard and pick at things that are not necessarily food for dogs. She would find the remnants of figs that the birds had eaten and left that had dropped into the gravel. She would chew on the fruit that fell from our date palm. It was nearly impossible to watch her all the time and since we have lived in this house for 10 years, we figured if something had been especially dangerous for her, we would have known by now. Every now and then, she’d pay for it by throwing up, but she’d always bounce back pretty quickly.
Around 5 or 6 pm on Wednesday (the night before Thanksgiving), she suddenly threw up while sitting on my husband’s lap in his chair. She drank lots of water and threw up a few more times. I found some large berries (from the queen palm, which she had eaten before) and figured that she had overdone it during her backyard ventures. She seemed pretty sick, and I thought that maybe I should take her in. However, I knew that we’d be dealing with an emergency vet at least 45 minutes away. It was a holiday weekend and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, so we had already had a few beers. All things considered, I didn’t want to drive up there and I wasn’t convinced that it was necessary. We had dinner and she laid in their little bed in the dining room. After dinner, I could tell she really didn’t feel well. I brought her up on the couch with me and we all hung out in front of the TV. She continued to occasionally throw up all the water she had drunk. I decided I would take her to the emergency clinic in the morning if she was still so sick.
My husband woke me up early in the morning to say that she didn’t look good at all. I immediately threw on some clothes and grabbed her. She didn’t want to come out of their crate and was just looking dazed and sick. I picked her up and put her outside to see if she needed to go to the bathroom, but she could hardly stand up. I put her in a little travel crate and drove to the emergency clinic as fast as I safely could. As soon as they saw her, they rushed her to the back. I was told that her vital signs were not good (low temp/blood pressure/blood sugar) and prepaid for critical care to stabilize her. After waiting for a while, I was called in to speak to the vet. They had successfully stabilized her, and she was more alert, but her bloodwork was showing that her kidneys were not looking good. The vet recommended that they take some x-rays (there was no radiologist available for an ultrasound that day) and give her supportive care with fluids/dextrose/drugs to treat her irritated digestive system and monitor her overnight. I was given an estimate of around $2100 for all of this (including the initial critical care), which floored me, but I said yes without hesitation. The vet told me that I could go home, and I was taken in to see her. I said goodbye to her and headed home.
I had a bad feeling about the whole thing and sat in a teary daze for several hours. I found more of the berries in their crate, and I wasn’t sure which end they had come out of. She had eaten at least four of them, and they are as big as blueberries. I called the vet to see how she was doing and was told that her vital signs had improved, though there were a lot of concerns over some of her kidney values, and that the x-rays had showed a dense mass in her stomach. However, she had tried to bite them, which was a good sign, and I was hopeful that she might perk up and pass whatever this was without the need for a dangerous surgery. Finally, I decided to try and make an effort to soldier through our Thanksgiving. I forced myself to make a pie and a scaled down version of our planned meal. I was thankful that there was some hope.
A new vet called me at about 11 pm and I was told that, while she was still alert, her stomach had swollen a bit and they were worried about a possible obstruction. The vet said that surgery (exploratory at this point) was not an unreasonable choice, or they could put a tube in her nose to help get rid of some of the gas and fluid build up and that I could consider doing an ultrasound the next day to hopefully get more information. I couldn’t imagine giving them permission to cut her open for a surgery while I was not there, especially since they weren’t sure exactly what they were dealing with. I gave permission for the tube to drain off the fluid and said I would come in the next morning.
I called while I was on my way to the clinic the next morning for an update and they told me she was all right, but I could just speak to the doctor when I got there. I knew that couldn’t be good. The clinic was very busy, and they brought her in to visit with me while I waited. I felt so bad when I saw her. She had the little tube coming out of her nose and a cone around her head. She had been regurgitating fluid and some of it was stuck on her chin. She recognized me, but did not perk up at all and was clearly hurting. I just held her and petted her. I could feel her tremble with every breath. It took a very long time for the doctor to see us, and I eventually got her to fall asleep on my chest and breathe more comfortably.
When the vet came in (another new one), she told me that Frida was not as perky as she had been and that whatever was in her stomach was not moving. My options for treatment were either surgery or an ultrasound to see there actually was an obstruction (if not, they could try feeding her through the tube), and whether a scope might be a less-invasive treatment option. I knew that all of these things would mean thousands of dollars. Given her age and the apparent deterioration of her kidneys, I didn’t know if any of these things would help, or whether I was just putting off the inevitable. I talked to my husband. I knew we might have to consider euthanizing her, but I just couldn’t do it. I gave permission for the ultrasound and paid another $1500 for that and another half day of emergency care. I was hoping that we might find out that there was not an obstruction and that there might be hope for her to pass whatever was in her system with some supportive care. At the very least, I was hoping for some insight as to whether a scope or surgery had a chance of being successful.
I had decided that I wasn’t going home and leaving her overnight again. I would stay for the duration. The vet told me they needed to take her to the back and hook her back up to her dextrose and fluids. I was told it would be a couple of hours before they could get the radiologist in for the ultrasound. Since I couldn’t be with her, I decided to leave and get something to eat (and a couple of beers, which I needed at that point).
When I went back, they brought her in to visit with me again. She was still very weak and sick. We waited a long time for the vet. When she came in, the news was not good. She had at least a partial obstruction in her small intestine and the other mass was still in her stomach. It had not moved. A scope would not work. Surgery or euthanasia were basically the only options. I was told that she might need part of her small intestine removed and that the surgery could be quite complicated with reasonable chances of death or complications. A lot of things were not looking good. I knew that surgery and hospitalization could end up in the 10 or 20-thousand-dollar range and that I was quite possibly prolonging her suffering. The poor thing was still regurgitating greenish, nasty fluid. I felt so terrible for her. All things considered, I thought that it wasn’t fair to put her through that. I said that we probably needed to let her go and asked if they could take the cone off.
They brought her back to me with the cone and the tube gone. She was wrapped in a blanket. She was alert, but extremely weak. She wasn’t trembling like she had been earlier, but she was clearly uncomfortable. I signed paperwork and asked to have her privately cremated. Then I was left alone with her. I held her and told her I was sorry. I wanted so desperately to just take her home and let her fall asleep on my chest.
She got agitated a little later – looking at me and moving restlessly, and I was hoping that she was rallying and trying to put up a fight. Maybe we could call it off? However, she regurgitated a couple more times. I think that was why she moved – because her stomach was a mess and she knew it was coming. I asked for the lights to be turned off and tried to get her comfortable. I leaned back so she could fall asleep on my chest. When I felt that she was peaceful, I told the vet to give her the shots. I told her I was so sorry and that I loved her.
After she received the last shot, I undid her collar. The vet was checking for a heartbeat. Since Frida was lying on my heart, the vet couldn’t tell what she was hearing. She asked if I could move her to the table. I did, but I was absolutely not prepared for how limp her little head was. It makes sense that it would be completely limp – but I hadn’t anticipated that and it just gutted me. I just said, “She’s gone”. The vet told me how sorry she was and asked me if I wanted more time with her. I shook my head and said, “she’s gone”. The vet took her away and I just sobbed. It was terrible. After a while, I was given a clay paw print impression and I drove home without my little girl.
Now, almost six days later, I can barely function. I have just missed work for the second day in a row. Did I give up on her? Why didn’t I take her Wednesday night? Why didn’t I agree to the surgery on Thursday night? Why didn’t I give her one more chance with the surgery on Friday? She trusted me and I took good care of her for fifteen and a half years. Any more treatment could have emptied my bank account and might have only prolonged her suffering. What if she had made it through, though? How much would that have been worth? I read a story last night about an old Pomeranian that defied the odds and made it through a tough surgery. Could that have been her? I’ll never know. All I know is that I feel completely wrecked. I have no energy and I feel like a terrible person. I feel so sad that her last two days were so miserable. I wanted her to die in her own bed one day at an insanely old age.
I know I need to get it together and go back to work. My husband is also taking it hard, but I’m the one who made the final call and who saw and held her limp little body. I can’t even bring myself to tell him about how awful it was because it would make him sad, too.
Our other dog needs me. I need to make sure that the rest of his life is happy. It breaks my heart, though. They were such a pair. Who is Diego without Frida? I suppose we will find a new normal, but today I feel like the best days for our little family are over. I feel like I will never be the same. This will never NOT have happened to me. And I miss her so much. Sorry for the long post. I appreciate anyone that made it this far.