Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Threats To Impending Death and A Vet Moms Promise

For the first time in my long pet mom life I am consciously taking a radical new approach to the impending death of my beloved pet.

Jekyll is dying. In little excruciating tiny steps and failing pieces. He is doing it with his beautiful velvety ears, bright shiny coat, and soft youthful muzzle all suspended and preserved with his outward beauty and youth still intact. His dying is so subtle that no passerbyer would recognize it. But he is slipping and being ratcheted into deaths grip with his soulful yearning eyes eclipsing into subtle tiredness. It is killing me. I cannot lie, nor belittle its impact upon me.

It is the hard jagged robbery of a life lived with effervescent jubilant joy meeting its final curtain call.

I feel cheated. He is being robbed.

AND, I won't stand still, nor quiet, for it! So, I do what I am trained to do. The whole reason I stepped into vet school. I fight with targeted tools and obvious intentions. The passionate, determined, unyielding sleuth who is ready to fight longer, harder, and dirtier than the microscopic thief holed up and harbored inside my pup. It is the lifeblood of being a fierce hot headed Italian determined to shape the world until it conforms to your pleading tantrums. The truth of diseases elusive lure belongs to everyone else. I, I spent decades learning in tutelage so that my pups fate could be altered, detoured, and selected. Or, so I convinced myself to believe. Surrender is for the other side to chose.

When medicine fails, faith is offered refuse.

Jekyll was always the affable, charming spirit who loves everyone he meets. Always the warm glowing light of the gathering. The star of the party, the beagle with a celebrity charisma to draw the entire crowd to him. He is a people pleaser. Everyone who meets him loves him. He has always been this way from the first moment he came to me those many years ago broken and unwanted.

Jekyll's life has been a long list of challenges. As I reviewed his medical record for his last specialist appointment I was reminded how bumpy our road together has been.

Brought to me to be euthanized at 8 weeks old as it was the cheapest option available, I refused. At the time I was a new practice owner in a rural farming community and I said "no" to a client request. It was a taboo, defiant gesture for the new girl to even consider uttering. Had I been working for someone I would have been reprimanded harshly. Clients decide, because clients are our paycheck. He was one of my first defining vet moments. The real life scenario to decide who I would become. I lost a client that day and gained my dearest friend. He was irresistable from the beginning. He was also in very dire need of multiple surgeries; a prolapsed rectum from too much cow dewormer left him straining to poo so hard he pushed his colon out of his body. He was adorable from the front and heartbreaking to look at from the back. Three surgeries over two weeks and a he graduated from pediatric patient to permanent resident at both the clinic and my side of the bed.

The next few years yielded even more bumps in our road. Bilateral cruciates left him hobbling and crippled after a long rabbit foray to the edges of his farmland horizon. He would obsessively drive his body into the grave to let a rabbit know his masterative prowess. At five he had a mast cell scare. This took one hellaciously aggressive surgery to remove them. The last surgery was a year ago to eradicate some funky foot tumor that was a total pain to both manage and remove. This adorable boy of mine has been a short medical text book of his own making. Thank goodness he landed in a vets hands if he couldn't find Daddy Warbucks front door.

This one, this last diagnosis to his current dilemma is to a disease we hardly see. This one might be the undoing of me.

When I said goodbye to Savannah it was after a long many year long decline due to old age and dementia. She was ready to go. Her body was spent. She had cashed in every last chance, and I was able to accept her passing as a life well-lived and a journey at its end. Saying goodbye is never easy, but acceptance is a gift. I could grieve and forgive and move on in time. Savannah had made it to 17. There is an easier gracious acceptance when the expected lifespan has been exceeded by many months. I could grieve her loss and be grateful for our time together. Jek's saga just has me angry and determined to cheat death's unrelenting shadowed hands. He is only 8! He is at his half way point. Who said its ok to steal half his life? I have, (are you listening?), beaten you at this game before.

We are going to exhaust each option to keep him happy and functional. After all, this disease of his, a tumor on his urethra and an overzealous prostate, makes it difficult for him to urinate and defecate. Life, for pets at least, is four basic functions; eat, drink, pee and poo. Ambulating and being happy are second tier preferences. Jek has half of his most basic functions up for grabs.

We are also keeping an internal daily bucket list. It is his list. Not some ridiculous crusade to make expensive trips to the ocean or 4 star hotels. He is all beagle. He seeks acrid excrement, purview over his kingdom, and trips in the gator and truck to fuel his King of the Jungle self designation. We are giving him his favorite things everyday; runs in the parks, chicken and delifresh dinners, belly rubs, long walks to see the wildlife, and lots of re-affirming accolades. He loves a few things and he will get them every single day.

Jekyll is an adventuring spirit. He loves to survey his domain from his front porch. We designed it, the whole front of our home, for him to have this vantage point. Dog bed, custom cushion and best view around. His preference is to stand guard on his front porch, post in command and barking should any critter muster his purview. He could spend the whole day there. He wouldn't let a soul pass without warning. It is his calling. His purpose. The genetic code of a long legacy of invaluable guardians he serves. He is unsurpassed in this single skill. He has earned his keep ten-thousand times over. His contribution to a deep commitment we both have for each other.

He is the pup who digs succulent gummy grubs in late Spring. The mole hunter gatherer meets praying mantis appetite. He was also the only dog I ever knew who would seek his own snacks from the labors of others work. He can be seen propelling himself off of his perch to march directly to the corn field across the drive, sniff the largest juiciest kernels where he sniffs, selects, and snaps! The corn ear is twisted twice and ripped from its stalk. The confident thief then saunters back to his perch to enjoy the spoils of his plantation. When the first ear filled him he would select a few to bury in the yard for a darker day with leaner choices. He is the self-reliant MVP should the zombie apocalypse hit. Grab him and run, he will keep you fed amongst any seemingly barren wasteland.

Each Summer a few randomly placed stalks erupt in various places of the yard. An ear here and there he forgot about, or never got around to needing. I know those volunteer kernels will live on for many years to come after he has gone from me. The remnants of the time capsule to remind me he is always here with me.

This time he is dying in front of me, mind still sharp, will still focused on adventures in the woods, and failing to respond to anything I try to cease the aberrant alien cells within him.

I won't get a neat package of decay this time. I will get failure of viable options, inability to provide human standards of intervention and fury to become, and will myself into providing mercy. I am not sure I can do this for him this time. I am not sure I can push him into another place without me.

Veterinarians are trained to say goodbye. To accept that life will not play by a fair hand. That you cannot pick the fate it delivers on your terms. That acceptance is how you define it and how you resolve the unimaginable.

This time I am going to try to get through this without the anger of disappointment and the heartbreak of feeling cheated. This time I am going to just see the good, dismiss the unchangeable the battle already won on a scale only he can feel and I can see. We will live each day on our own terms, without judgement, without guilt and without fear.

Beagles are built this way. To only see the good, to only look back if it helps get through today. Beagles are not built to be brave, just beautiful.

More  on Jekyll here;

Jekyll Arrives

Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo. Tail Droop.

The Things Only A Mom Knows. Planning for our pets lives beyond our own.

A Tribute To A Beagle, Jekyll.

Slowing Down Without Giving Up.

There are pieces that I write that serve a singular selfish purpose. A cathartic way of putting the shit out to dry and letting the world take care of it in for some hopeful wish I can get a bit of an emotional respite. I also feel that my adoration for my pets is felt similarly by so many others. Others who sit quietly at home struggling with how to say goodbye, and how to process a grief they fear others might mock at. To all of you who feel that the loss of your companion is one of the most painful things in life I understand. I also empathize. It is impossible. I know it. I feel it too.

Be who you are. The most precious and beautiful parts of everything are fleeting. Savor and celebrate them even if they hurt later. The hurt will fade and the joyful memories live forever. Protect your compassion with everything that you are for it is your most valuable asset.

If you have a pet story that you would like to share, or an experience with this condition please add it to our Storyline page at

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  1. :-( I'm so sorry; this is so unfair.

  2. So very sorry, it is so unfair, sending positive thoughts during this most difficult and challenging time!

  3. Krista, this is a beautiful tribute to the love we feel for our chosen companions. Your compassion and empathy from all angles, professional and personal are your hallmark. Thank you for sharing this. I felt your joy and tears here, and Jekyll's too!