Introducing Princess “Shelby” Noel Wigglebutt

I finally found a miniature schnauzer puppy !  After 2 months of looking online and in the local newspaper, I finally found a puppy that was exactly what I was looking for.  I had to do a long day of driving WAY outside of my comfort zone with the dysautonomia and joint/pain issues- and it’s only because it’s winter and cold here that it was even possible.  My knees are still not happy- but she is SO worth it.

Shelby (as I call her) is 9 weeks old. She got a good report from my vet, and has been a joy in the 3 1/2 days that I’ve had her home. She has a lot of energy, and is ‘loose’ in my apartment all day (sleeps in a dog tent at night on my bed with me), and is using more energy than she had been, so is having some mild hypoglycemia symptoms. That is common in puppies, and they generally outgrow it. So, to fix that, she’s getting four meals a day instead of three.  She does have several naps during the day, but if I get up, she wakes up and follows me everywhere… one time I managed to not wake her up initially, but she woke up and found me not around, and cried until I called her (she has no clue what her name is yet, but my voice settled her down).

Shelby’s name comes from Julia Roberts character in ‘Steel Magnolias’. The ‘Princess’ part is what her breeder mom called her.  Noel is for being born on Christmas Eve, and Wigglebutt is what her tail does !

It’s been so lonely since Mandy died.  It’s wonderful to have a lively little being in my life again. She’s got a great temperament (and I met her parents, who are sweet dogs as well).  The drive was really hard on the dysautonomia and arthritis, but I’d do it again if I knew she was the end result.

Meet Shelby:

Princess "Shelby" Noel Wigglebutt

Princess “Shelby” Noel Wigglebutt

Shelby

Shelby asleep….

Shelby in one  of her toy bins :)

Shelby in one of her toy bins 🙂

The Night Before Christmas…

…my new puppy was born, though I didn’t know it until today.  My dad was here, and I was going through online ads for miniature schnauzer puppies. Most were either too far away, had something funky going on with their eyes, or some had disconnected phone numbers. Not a good sign.  Then I found an ad that had been posted just a couple of days ago, and I called the breeder. After a few questions, I asked if I could talk it over with my dad and call her back- no problem.

We talked about it for a few minutes, but his fatigue after driving home from Florida over the last several days was catching up with him.  He said we’d talk later.  I called the lady back, and explained the situation, but said I’d be talking to him about me driving the distance to get the puppy on my own. In the winter, I do better, and have plenty of opportunity to stop and rest if needed.  I’d already decided to go by myself- after all, I’d driven over 1200 miles when I moved back here, and while I’m not able to drive very far in just any weather (i.e. when it’s above 50 degrees outside), 35 degrees should be OK.  I got part of the cash at the ATM (will get the rest tomorrow), and made some plans and got the travel crate together.

I talked to dad later, and he agreed; he’s pooped. I told him how I was getting there, and we double checked to be sure he had my cell phone number.  All was well.

My new puppy (Shelby) was born on Christmas Eve- nearly 9 weeks ago.  That was the same day as my last photo of my dear Mandy who died on December 27, 2012.  I like the information the breeder gave me.  And the photos are adorable. Tomorrow, a new phase of my life starts, that will involve patience, some frustration, but mostly a new little life to love.  I’m so ready.  I’ve got puppy teething toys, a ton of stuffed animals, and a new dog bed, along with many other things.

Tonight is my last night in my bed without my new dog.  I’m not sure I’ll sleep !!

Mandy Meltdowns

My sweet miniature schnauzer Mandy died seven weeks ago yesterday, on December 27th, 2012.  She was my sole companion for all of the years on disability, and absolute joy for the 11.75 years I had her with me.  Most of my human friends are in Texas, and I’ve been pretty much isolated since going on disability in April 2004. But Mandy was always here. We were with each other pretty much 24/7.  The bond was different than with other dogs I’ve had (though I loved them intensely, as well).  She knew my patterns and understood what I told her with an almost creepy accuracy.  My dad commented about that often.  He could tell her to do something, and she stared at him… if I said something, she knew what I wanted her to do and did it.  I miss her little quirks SO much.

The last few days have been really hard for some reason.  I’ve been sobbing when I think about how she just went limp on my lap after a few minutes of altered breathing and periodic looks of confusion. She knew that something wasn’t right. She stopped in her tracks after peeing on her pee pads (this was after she whimpered and had some type of ‘spell’ that was similar to other episodes during her nine months with congestive heart failure).  She actually had the ‘presence of mind’ to go to her pee pads after an episode that was to end her life in the next 15 minutes.  That ‘look’ made me feel that she was confused about what was happening, and so I picked up that sweet dog, and got her situated on her comforter, with a pee pad underneath, and got her onto my lap as I leaned back in my recliner. She had some ‘leakage’ issues when she’d have those spells. I knew that if she was dying, she’d have no control- even though she’d had that brief moment of clarity to run to her pee pads.   She knew something wasn’t right, but she also knew that I was holding her, and wasn’t leaving her to be confused on her own.

That last ‘episode’ was different from others. She’d whimpered and cried when she fainted before, and while that sound was horrific to listen to, she’d snap out of it and become alert fairly quickly. This was different. She woke up, but never seemed to become ‘clear’.  So, I knew that this was going to be the end- whether she died naturally in my arms, or if it went into some prolonged situation that could only be dealt with humanely at the vet’s office. Regardless, I knew I was watching my dog’s final moments.  This was my sole companion.  She was with me every single day during some really lousy stuff, and there was no judgement (about the disability issues) and only love and companionship (during the chemo for leukemia).  My best friend was dying in my arms.

When she had that ‘agonal’ breathing (deep, but very slow, and associated with the dying process), I saw the color of her tongue change.  It became pale.  She was no longer looking at me, but I talked to her and thanked her for being the amazing friend that she had been.  I told her how much I loved her.  But I also told her that it was OK to go.  She’d been through enough.  That’s what I used to do with human patients when I was working as a nurse, and while I’m sure Mandy didn’t understand those words, I had to say them.  I had to let her go.

The previous two weeks had been long and hard, and indicative that things were changing, but she’d been alert, and interested in what was going on.  Even that last morning, she was very eager to get Swedish meatballs for breakfast (she’d become very picky during that last 2 weeks).  But at the very end, I knew I had to say goodbye…to the single being that was with me every single day for nearly 12 years, and the only being that was with me after I ended  up home all day every day on disability.  I have regular phone contact with my dad, but my dog was always by my side.  All other contacts with humans at that point were either medical appointments, pharmacy and grocery clerks once a month, the vet, visits with my dad every couple of weeks or so,   and  package delivery people.  There was also the brief contact with family on Christmas Eve.  That was literally my only contact with people in person…. but Mandy was always there.

When she went limp on my lap, I knew she was gone.  No more struggling. No need to take her to the vet, wondering if she knew what was happening.  And feeling like I was ‘killing’ her (even though I believe in euthanasia for the sake of the dog).  No more of the agonal (or difficult) breathing. No more wondering when enough was enough. No more of the up and down roller coaster of watching her have hard periods of time when she seemed to be going downhill very quickly, but then have her bounce back, and being alert and curious the whole time.

She went naturally. She died in my arms. She knew I was with her.  She didn’t have to endure the stress of a car ride to the vet (it had become difficult for her because the excitement of being in the car made her breathing more labored).  And she would get SO cold, from the marked weight loss of that final few weeks.

 I wanted more time with her.  It was 2:45p.m. when she took her last breath, and the crematory closed at 4:00… I’d called them around 3:00 p.m., and they were waiting. Dad was on his way to drive me over there.  But I just wanted to hold her for a while longer.  She was my only friend that I had contact with other than online.  She was my life.  And she was gone… I just wanted a few more minutes.  Handing her over to the pet crematory staff (who were VERY compassionate and handled her very gently) was horrendous.  Shifting her from my arms to his was agonizing.  She was obviously lifeless, and yet it felt like I was giving part of my life away to death.

I can’t get these last minutes out of my head. I do still remember her quirky, funny times, but losing her hurts like salt in an open wound, in my heart. I knew the end result of canine heart failure, and I knew those last two weeks were winding down to the end… but it also felt like part of me went with her.  Having such little contact with other people (because of the disability and physical limitations) made my relationship with Mandy so different.  And she was special (as I know all pet owners feel about their babies 😉 ). Her understanding of what I told her was eerie and made her like having ‘someone’ here.  Before becoming disabled, my other dogs were amazing parts of my life- and I loved them deeply…yet I had contact with people at school and/or work during their lives.  Maybe I became too dependent on Mandy.  I don’t know.  I just know that this time was different.

I’m going to get another schnauzer; I’ve got a breeder in mind, and am awaiting news that their mama schnauzer is pregnant.  It’s really hard to wait, but I really like the breeder and photo of one of their past puppies.  In the meantime, I’m getting things ready for having a puppy again.  And, I go through ‘Mandy Meltdowns’ – more so the last few days.  Each day, something reminds me of what is missing.  Then I replay those last minutes, then weeks, in my head- and dissolve into tears.  I’ve lost two other schnauzers over the period of time from when I was a kid, through my late 30s… and this is different.  Yes, I missed those dogs a lot, but things got better over time; I’ve never forgotten them or their individual personalities (one was nuts, the other smart and social 🙂 ).  It seems like I’m stuck, even though I’m looking forward to the new puppy.

I just miss my sweet buddy.  She made my life so much better.

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

Mandy at 8 weeks old- summer 2001

Mandy at 8 weeks old- summer 2001

Mandy's final resting place. She is with her 'big sisters' and will be buried with me one day.  I still can't get rid of her pillow bed.

Mandy’s final resting place. She is with her ‘big sisters’ and will be buried with me one day.
I still can’t get rid of her pillow bed.

Tis The Season…..

….to have all sorts of things churned up.  I don’t really get ”depressed’ over the holiday season, but more a vague sense of being overwhelmed since there are a lot of ‘anniversaries’ around this time.  This year added a new one with the death of my amazing, crazy companion- my miniature schnauzer Mandy, who died on December 27, 2012.

I’m still crying pretty much every day when I think about her, and especially about that last day.  I’m very thankful that that ‘end’ part was pretty fast.  And she was in my arms.  At first, she whimpered enough to alarm me, and from that point until she was actually gone, no more than 15 minutes went by.  After she  peed, and then froze in her tracks, she seemed confused, and not sure what to do, so I just held her and told her how wonderful she’d been.  Her breathing slowly stopped as I held her on my lap.  The ‘new normal’ of not hearing her come running when I mess with the dishwasher or clothes dryer (she had a thing for appliances), of her not leaving the room when I sneeze (or even said the word ‘sneeze’), or escorting me to the door when I got my keys to get the mail.  I didn’t have to say anything; she just knew.  I miss her more than words really can describe.  She was my only companion here in this city, for the past 10 years.  I talk to my dad every day; I saw my dog 24/7- especially since being on disability since April 2004.

Then there is the whole issue of being disabled.  It is somewhat worse in the winter months since everybody has the heat on. I don’t tolerate heat- to the point I shaved my head again (well, I had a professional do it; I wanted to avoid slicing my ears off).  With my ‘normal’ hair (mine is really, really thick), I can’t tolerate the heat it retains. Think dead animal on my scalp.  I also have to see a surgeon this next week about some (more) cysts on my scalp that are painful.  They need to go, so the poor doc has to be able to see my head.  The other issues with disability include being in more pain when it’s cold outside, and my joints just not liking getting in and out of the car.  Sounds wimpy.  Maybe it is.  All I know is that I have to manage it the best I can- so whatever I can get delivered to my door (Schwann’s frozen foods, Walmart for laundry and paper goods, Amazon for miscellaneous stuff, etc), I do.   It’s still very painful just grocery shopping for the dairy/fresh items, but it definitely helps to get stuff delivered when possible.  I’m thankful that those things are available.

Early January is rough for anniversaries.  January 7, 1978 my figure skating coach’s six kids were murdered by her then husband.  I was 14 years old, and it rocked me to the core. I can’t imagine how she has done.  I think about her often, and have always prayed that somehow she’s managed to have a life after that.  January 10, 1987, I was raped and ‘tortured’ (word the newspaper used- don’t want to sound overly dramatic on my own) for 6 hours when the uncle of a baby I took care of regularly lied his way into my apartment… he did things to me I’d never heard of, being very naive…and a virgin.  I’ve never let anybody get close to me since then.  I’d always thought I’d have a family of my own.  That day changed a lot- but I survived.  And I’m thankful for that.

In 1982, the semester that started in late January was a bad one.  I was in the midst of some serious eating disorder stuff, and the depression I only get when I’m starving and purging.  I ended up getting sent to a psych hospital (no eating disorder ‘treatment centers’ back then) for several months.  That was a bad year. I ended up attempting suicide the next semester when I returned to the university.  I was in a coma, and then shipped back to the psych hospital for many more months, once I woke up and was medically cleared.  Things weren’t done in a week to 10 days back then.  I spent about 8 months altogether at Forest Hospital (Des Plaines, IL) in 1982.  They were good to me; I did do better, but the eating disorders were on-again/off-again for decades.

This is the first winter since early 2010 (when I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia) that I haven’t been on chemotherapy or waiting for the built up amounts of toxins to leave my body.  I’m still dealing with the weight gain and changes in my blood sugars and insulin doses, as chemo messed that all up.  The diabetes is getting better faster (great endocrinologist with a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate here in town). I wasn’t on steroids long enough for that to be an issue- it’s ‘just’ the arsenic, tretinoin (ATRA), methotrexate, and M6Mercaptopurine.  They rearranged my chromosomes (literally…. they ‘re-translocated’ the arms of 15 and 17). I guess it will take some time to get my body back to ‘normal’.  I hate the weight.  I’ve had a long history of eating disorders, so can’t just do some crash diet and hope for the best- it could easily trigger a relapse that I just can’t afford.  But I’m going to turn 50 in late 2013; I don’t want to  look like this when I turn 50.  I didn’t want to look like this at all… but it was chemo or die.

And yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m alive- that’s the big one; people with APL sometimes aren’t diagnosed until autopsy (and I know of 2 people just a few months ago who only had one and two days from the time they were told the diagnosis and the time they died; one was 11 years old).  I’ve survived being raped, and other stuff. And, with my health, I am glad to just have a day when I can get the basics done around here.  I’d like to be around people more, and am hoping to get to that Bible Study I’d mentioned in another post; last week (the first meeting of this topic- Ephesians) I wasn’t feeling well- that doesn’t mix well with indoor heat, even with my ice vest.  A childhood friend who I’ve reconnected with on FB came over one Saturday, and helped me with some generalized clutter (result of not being able to unpack after the last time I’d packed to move BACK to Texas), and is coming again- that has been a huge help.  I want to get this place puppy-proofed for the new puppy I hope to get this spring.  That helps, too.  I can’t imagine not having that hope for a new little companion to fill the dog-shaped hole in my heart.

2013 isn’t starting badly… just ‘complicated’ by past and present stuff mixing together.   There is still more good than bad.  I still have a lot of interests, and while I can’t physically do a lot, I do find things to keep me happy and make me laugh, especially online.  Blogging has been a great way to blow off steam, and some days that makes  a big difference.  🙂

Schnauzer Heart Failure

I’ve seen several search engine topics involving schnauzers having symptoms of heart failure, and fainting, even when asleep.  I’ve been there with two of my schnauzers. My last one just died 12 days ago… always consult your vet with questions, but here is my experience.   I’m also an RN (disabled, but got my license 28 years ago and still have it).  I was cued in to abnormal breathing and behaviors, which helped me know that I needed to get both of my dogs who had heart failure seen by their vets.

My first schnauzer to have heart failure was Hannah.  I got her in 1988 as a 6 week old puppy. To make a sweater for her (there weren’t many options for puppy clothes back then) I cut holes in one of my socks.  She had some episodes that were called seizures, but with how things turned out, she probably had some heart issues starting at about 18 months old when she fainted (and twitched) for the first time. By the time I got her to the vet, she was fine. She had those episodes now and then, until 2000 when in one night she fainted 7 times (I stayed up with her all night). I thought I was taking her to the vet to be put to sleep that next morning, but he got her on some medications and prescription dog food and she lived another GOOD year.  I vowed to not make her live just so I didn’t have to face the loss of her.  As a single woman with no kids, she was my family.  I wanted the best for her, but when she died, it was really hard. She had done well up until the last couple of days; when she quit eating, I knew that was it.  I had decided to get another dog before she died, so that kept me going.

Then I got Mandy.  She did very well until she was just about 11 years old.  She fainted.  Her breathing got too ‘hard’, and I knew what was going on.  I took her to the vet, and with an exam and x-rays (showing an enlarged heart, displaced trachea- from the size of her heart, and some lung congestion) she was also diagnosed with canine heart failure.  She was put on medications, and did fairly well. She only fainted 3 times total- including one time when she was asleep.  The last ‘episode’ wasn’t the same, but it was similar, and she died in my arms within 15 minutes.  I still cry every day missing her.

Something huge to remember is to not give the dog ‘people’ food because of the salt content, unless it has no salt (which means that most processed foods are out).  I got freeze dried peas  (meant for toddlers) for Mandy, and she also loved freeze dried bananas (NOT the fried ones in the grocery store).  Those items had NO added ingredients.  She also liked pieces of raw apples. The only commercial treat she could have was “Charlee Bear”- because of the sodium content being low enough (I e-mailed the company for the answer re: sodium content, and then cleared it with my dog’s vet- please check this out with your dog’s vet as well 🙂  Towards the very end, Mandy didn’t want to eat. She had lost weight, so I tried various things- ground beef, ground turkey, scrambled eggs, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, baby food fruit and veggies…. that last morning she had two Swedish meatballs that I’d adjusted for her (low sodium and baked instead of fried- like the Christmas party meatballs were).

It’s heartbreaking to see them get older and struggle.  I made some mental notes as to when it was ‘enough’- though with Mandy it was a bit less clear until she just had a brief episode and then was actively dying in minutes.  But I was prepared to have her put to sleep.  Hannah died in my arms as she was euthanized. She knew I was there. That was important to me- I couldn’t have either of them think I’d left them.  Mandy looked scared until she just collapsed in my lap.  Then it was just a few minutes before it was over.  I talked to her, and scratched behind her ears as I knew she liked.

Please feel free to use the comments to share your experiences or ask questions.  ❤

2012 in review- JillinoisRN

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

One Week Since Mandy Died… Still Brings Tears

It’s been one week since my miniature schnauzer Mandy died in my arms.  While it wasn’t unexpected, it’s never easy.  The end was mercifully fast- but I wish I had spent more time holding her, and not rushing off to the cemetery where they have a pet cremation service. I hated giving her to the guy who worked there, though he was so gentle and respectful… but I was saying goodbye to my best friend.  I think about her all the time and will bust out in tears over anything that remotely reminds me of her.  I’ve been through this before. I know it gets better, but for now, it sucks.

I spent the vast majority of the last 8 1/2 years on disability being at home with Mandy.  We knew each other’s routines and quirks, and I miss that.  When I unload the dishwasher or clothes dryer, she’s not there snooping.  There’s nobody snuggling in bed over on her part of it, with her blankets and comforter.  Nobody is there to do all she can to get as close to me as possible during thunderstorms.  She isn’t here to jump UP on her recliner (yes, a people recliner), but then walk DOWN the doggie stairs to minimize strain on her joints.  She’s not here to sit in front of me, and then walk backwards towards the kitchen if she wanted her canned dog food (or at the end, whatever people food I could get down her that was low sodium).

That last day started out like any morning over the last two weeks had- she wanted food, and was alert and snooping around.  When ‘it’ started, she had either fainted or had some episode that caused her to lose consciousness.  The whimper was the clue for me- she wasn’t a ‘noisy’ dog, so with any ‘distressing’ noise,  I knew something was wrong and immediately went over to her- and picked her up.  She started to squirm a bit, and wanted to be put down, at which time she went straight to her pee pads and peed.  Then she walked about two steps and froze.  The look in her eyes was one of incomprehension. She just looked at me with eyes that said she was scared, and triggered the ‘go help her’ reaction in me.  I picked her up, and she ‘felt’ different. She wasn’t as stable keeping herself balanced, so I got her laid on her comforter, putting a disposable bed pad under her (after the fainting spells, she has bladder and bowel ‘issues’).

Then it was just time to hold her and talk to her.  She had her ears up a few times, but it was obvious that this was bad.  She wasn’t going to make it out of this spell.   It was going fast, which was a blessing for her, but I felt like my heart was ripped out.  I kept telling her how much I loved her and thanking her for being the best friend I could have had.  I told her I’d miss her, but that I knew she was tired and it was OK…. she could go and rest.  Her breathing got ‘agonal’- or more like shallow gasps every 5-10 seconds, gradually slowing down, her tongue getting pale.  And then she was still.  No more struggles. No more wondering what to do with her to make her feel better. No more medication or foods to try. No more hoping I was doing the right thing by her.  No more heartbeat.  She was gone.

My dad got there about 5 minutes later, and I’d already called the pet crematorium, that would be closing soon; they were going to wait for us to get there.  I felt rushed, but knew that I would lose it if I had to put my best friend in a box in the garage overnight if we didn’t get her over there ‘on time’… but I really didn’t want to let her go so quickly.  I wanted time to just be with her.  I wanted to hold her for a while longer.   I wanted that time to be ‘enough’ to feel like I wasn’t just rushing to make it before they closed.  I know that the rational thing to do was what was done- but I just wanted those last irretrievable moments to feel her in my arms.  To scratch her ears one  more time (or two, or three).  To rub that place between her eyes that made her relax.  To just BE with her.  To see that she was at peace.  To just have time alone to say goodbye to my best friend.  I might go weeks without seeing another human being at times- but Mandy was there every day for the 11 1/2 years I had her, and with me 24/7 for the 8 1/2 years I was on disability. She was my world.  Sure, I talked to my dad daily, and we do see each other regularly…. but Mandy was my constant.  And then she was gone.

It’s only been a week. I don’t expect the pain to be gone, or even all that much lessened.  With nothing else going on with any sort of regularity (like work, that I was still able to do when my last dog died in 2001), Mandy was what gave my days order.  This is a new normal that I do not like !

I’m planning on getting another puppy, and have found a breeder I like. The next litter is due sometime in the spring. I like this breeder well enough to wait; the photo of the puppy I saw in the ad for this last litter was perfect.  An absolute doll- so I will wait, and have something to look forward to, which helps with the healing. I’m getting things puppy-proofed and some new goodies for her.  I’ve picked out a name, and have first dibs on the female puppies with the litter to come.  That puppy will never replace Mandy, but she will fill the dog sized hole that has been ripped open in my heart.

I’m so thankful for the years I had Mandy. She was special.  I’ve loved each of my three dogs (all miniature schnauzers), but the amount of time I was around her made for a different type of bond.  She actually understood a LOT of words. Dad could ask her to do the same things, and she’d sit down and stare at him. If I asked her to do something, it was done. 🙂

I miss her and will probably keep writing about her.  I can’t imagine loving a human as much as I’ve loved my dogs.  I’m lucky that I’ve had wonderful dogs in my life, and I know that getting another one means I’ll have to face this loss again. But life is so much better having had them with me for the years I have.  There is no more loyal friend. ❤

Mandy- 20113/28/01 - 12/27/12

Mandy- 2011
3/28/01 – 12/27/12