Monday, January 13, 2014

Another Turn of the Tide

It has been a few weeks since the last Savannah update..and I know that some of you are worrying..fearing to ask because you are afraid to upset me, or hear an update that is upsetting.

My friend Jana just sent a little Facebook message that said, "How are things going?" simple, elusive, but inquiring. I appreciate her, and everyone else's interest and genuine concern. Truly, I do.

Of course, the problem of posting your story is that you leave your audience open to both the good and the bad, and you have to face them should your tale take a turn for the worse. You also have to grieve with them, you can't just hole up and shut everyone out.

Thankfully, the update for now is very good.

About a week ago I had two nights where Savannah was up circling, pacing, getting stuck in every corner,  and screaming at each and every few minutes. It was excruciating. She would walk a few steps, get stuck or disoriented and wail. I was up all night with her. By 3 o'clock in the morning I told her that we couldn't go on like this. I sat there with her on the floor and said to us both that I was going to sedate her or kill her. I sedated her for the second time in two months.

A quarter of a 10 mg acepromazine knocks her out for about 16 hours. It also makes her ability to wake up and regain her ability to place her feet underneath her so that she can walk impossible for about another three hours. "Ace" as we vets call it was widely believed a few years ago to  lowers a pets seizure threshold making them more likely to have a seizure. This veterinary wives tale was challenged and proved unfounded a few years ago, but, I have given her ace twice and seen two seizures on the first dose, and one on the second. I was also relaying my experience with Dr. McCadden, our newest associate at the clinic, and she told me that the same thing happened to her dog when she used it. For these reasons I am only using it as a desperate last resort.

But even with the serious side effects of this sedative Savannah woke up calm, relaxed and rested. For the first time in so long that I cannot even quantitate it, she has normal stools. I believe that her anxiety and unrest is the single biggest contributing factor to her explosive diarrhea and painful abdomen. She woke up from the last sedative induced semi-coma at peace.

I haven't kept her on any of the previously mentioned medications except for the melatonin.

Every night at about 7 pm I give her 3 mg of melatonin and a quarter of a 50 mg tramadol.

The tramadol relaxes her enough to let her sleep through the night without the seizures and the stupor. She paces for a few hours at night and then lies down and sleeps from about midnight to 6 am. There is no longer any anxiety, getting stuck or screaming in a dysphoric fear frenzy.

She is on a regular schedule of feeding three times a day, and very happy to eat, she goes for a long walk in the morning and before bedtime, and she walks without trepidation or reservation.

The last all nighter we had together left me to believe that this was her last night together. I was fairly certain that we would head to the clinic and not come home together. I couldn't bear to see her so miserable, so lost, and incapacitated. It was no way to live.

I am prepared for her voyage to end. I have come to terms with the reality that she has lived a good long happy life and that none of us live forever. I have no regrets about the life we have had, but I was torn apart about ending her life because I felt like I could not give her any other peace than death.

When you are a vet you see the final goodbyes innumerable times. You sort of get used to it.

There are the euthanasia's that we provide with a sense of duty about. The pitiful, decrepit, merciful deaths of a pet that is suffering. There are also the euthanasia's of the pets whose body has declined to the point of not being able to function on any of the most basic abilities, but still has a sharp intact, untouched mind. Those pets that look at you, the vet, the white coat stranger, with fear. Like they know we are here to separate them from the body that can no longer serve them. These are what I always believed were the hardest cases to put down. The pet that is still mentally alert, wants to flee, but cannot.

That was until I had Savannah. She eats, drinks, walks, functions but has fleeting moments of mental lucidity. I never know if she will be with me as my dog of 18 years tomorrow. I dance with a ghost who arrives secretly, silently, and mysteriously to steal my dog away from me for some unknown period of time.

It leaves me to question when the time to let her go is. For today the ghost is gone, for today she is still here with me, walking in the sunshine, kissing my hand when I pick her up.

For today her mind and body are at peace. And for today I am grateful.

If you have a pet question I would be happy to help. You can find me, and a bunch of other helpful pet people, at Pawbly is always free to use. Or you can find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or Google+.


  1. "I dance with a ghost who arrives secretly, silently, and mysteriously to steal my dog away from me for some unknown period of time." She touches your heart, and you touch ours.

  2. We had our Jazzie (Jasmine) for 18 years also and she did the same thing a few times - wandering around the perimeter of the house, getting stuck in between the bed and nightstand. She never cried nor wailed but she would walk the perimeter of the entire house for at least an hour each time. She was with me for about another year as she would have very good days and I just couldn't bear to put her down. The time did come, though. She is no longer with me physically but always in my heart.

    1. The beauty of life is that we may not spend everyday with those we love, but they are never far from our hearts. I feel so blessed to have had 18 years.

      Thank you for reading and sharing.


  3. As I was in your office today, with one of my foster cats, I wanted to ask you how Savannah was doing, and as you stated here, didn’t know if that was the right question. Especially, since I have followed your posting of Savannah and felt the pain and joy of each word.

    Sometimes, as I think others may have thought, you have an advantage because you have all the resources and knowledge to guide you in your decisions. But in reality, all of those which deeply care for our beloved pets, who are also our family, know the pain is the same.

    The thing that bothers me the most about when the time has come for us to make that decision, is I feel a great need to have my pet in my lap and at all possible have their final moments in their home or natural surroundings. I have had this done a few times and I could feel the calm and I believe, the thankfulness, from my lovely friend. It is as if they knew they were not alone and with the person who they trust the most. This service is hard to find. My equine vets have helped me the most of the time over the years.

    The highest compliment I can give anyone- people, cats, dogs, etc. (and this may sound silly to a lot of people who don’t know me) is I say “you are a good pooch.”

    Savannah, YOU are a good Pooch.

    1. I understand completely about wanting to have your pet at home in your arms as you say goodbye. We are happy to come to our clients home for this. It is a sad moment but it should be as stress-free as possible,

      Thanks for reading, and best of luck with JoJo.


  4. I think I would like to bring my senior dog to see you, he has cushings disease but suffers from dementia as well, he is on tramadol, my vet added Anipryl and it was a disaster, he was more anxious than ever - he gets 1/2 tramadol and gabapentin at night but he is still anxious all day long, crying, barking, panting - it is driving the entire house and other dogs crazy

    1. Hello Amy,

      I would be happy to meet you and your pup. I understand completely how stressful and heart wrenching it can be to see your pup so disoriented, anxious, and unsettled.

      There is a very good article from Clinicians Brief, How I Treat Cognitive Dysfunction, you may have to log in to see it, here is the link, It is very helpful

      Best of luck, and I look forward to meeting you both.


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