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.

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.  ❤

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

Missing Mandy

My schnauzer, Mandy, died 3 days ago.  It feels like she’s been gone for months, yet there are little things that remind me of her so many times during the day- I expect to see her.  She had her little quirks and eerie understanding of what I told her.  I expect to look up and see her on her ‘TV bed’ (large dog pillow under the TV), watching me.  Every time I moved, she looked up. If I left the room and didn’t say “I’m coming back”, she’d follow me.  It was a relationship with a dog unlike others I’ve had.  Each was special and very loved (as I know the next one will be), but Mandy was smart in the way she understood what I said.  When I got up in the morning, she waited to see if I was getting my slippers on before she got up- she knew that if I was still barefoot, I was coming back- but if she saw the slippers hit my feet, she’d walk down her little dog stairs and be up for the day.

When I sneeze, there’s no little head popping up as she immediately got up and left the room. I couldn’t even say the word ‘sneeze’ or she’d leave the room!  But after I sneezed, she’d come back to see if I was still there!  When I was doing her laundry the other day, there was no little nose checking out the dryer. She especially loved the lint trap. I have no idea why- it’s not like she ever saw what I pulled off of that thing.  But she knew the sound of the dryer stopping, and would get up and look at me like “well, are you going to get the lint?”.   When I loaded the dishwasher, there’s no little face watching, or wildly bouncing around as I shut the dishwasher door.

At night, before bed, I’d tell her to ‘go potty’, and she would!  She would walk over to her pads, and pee.  IF she had ‘gone’ recently, she’d still walk over there, but sit down on the carpet and look at me.  I’d go check the pads, and sure enough- there was a ‘fresh’ pee on the pads.  She knew what I was asking her to do- and letting me know it was already done.

When she was a puppy, I took her to work with me (I had a ‘desk job’ as an RN at a  nursing home, doing assessments for care plans).  As she got older, I’d leave her in the kitchen with a baby gate, and when she was really consistent with using the pee pads, I let her have the run of the apartment when I was gone.  The first time I left her ‘loose’, I had some concerns about what she’d do to my realistic vinyl baby doll collection.  They were seated along the bottom shelves of some book cases.  I dreaded coming home to chewed toes.  Instead, I came home to a pile of baby socks by the back door, and a half-grown dog looking very proud of herself for getting about 20 baby socks off of the dolls and having them neatly piled up.  It was like some sort of offering- LOL.

When I moved from Texas to Illinois, Mandy rode in her travel crate for safety. She was always a good car-rider, lying down on the seat and being content to just be along for the ride (until she got where she was going- usually the vet or groomer).  Because I was driving a 17-foot U-haul for more than 1250 miles, she had to be in her crate, so before leaving Texas, I spent a few months incorporating the crate into her playing.  I’d toss her toys or a dog treat into the crate, and get her used to walking into it on her own. I didn’t want to have battles on the road stuffing her back into it after stopping to let her walk around and go potty.  She did well- and would walk right back into the crate after being out of it at a rest stop. BUT, she did not like when I got out to pump gas and she couldn’t see me.  The crying was horrific.  I was convinced that animal welfare people from many counties near where we were could hear her. I had to pop the gas pump into the tank and set it on ‘auto’, then move back to the truck door so she could see me. Instant quiet.  When I had the nerve to go get some breakfast at a truck stop- and leave her for about 15 minutes to get a TO-GO container (I didn’t even stay inside to eat !), I could hear her ‘screaming’ for me from about 20 yards away from the truck.  She was a ‘mama’s girl’.  I miss that.

At night, if she was ready for bed and I wasn’t, she would get up and sit in front of the hallway, and stare at the bedroom door.  Sometimes she’d go to the bedroom and just wait in the dark for me to find her.  She always had access to the bedroom and bed (and her full half of the double bed), but she wouldn’t go to bed without me.

When she got sicker, and would get cold from losing a fair amount of weight, she’d come over to where I was sitting, and shiver.  I’d get her sweater out, and she’d put her head down so I could slip it over her head.  She also knew to pick up her paws to have them put through the little sleeves.  When I’d take it off, she knew to pick her feet up only after I’d get the sleeve pulled down far enough for her to step out of it.   But she knew that the sweater did something to make her feel better- I’m not sure she understood the concept that a sweater equals ‘warmer’, but she knew enough to come over to me when she wanted it- and then go lie back down once I put it on her.

I cry many times a day when I think about her not being here any longer.  She was with me for eleven years and seven months- I got her when she was almost 2 months old. She would have turned twelve at the end of March.  I hope she knew how much I loved her. I hope she knew that she was my equivalent of a child, and I honestly can’t imagine loving an actual kid any more than I loved that dog.  I hope she knew how much I wanted the best for her- and while I hated watching her die in my arms, I would never want her to die alone and scared.

After the initial whimper that began the end, she was alert enough to look at me (and at that point was motionless, just standing on the floor looking at me with a ‘different’ look- sort of a confused inability to move) and know that I picked her up.  She lifted her head a few times before just collapsing on my lap- but knew I’d put her on her comforter (and a disposable bed pad), and let me shift it to get the ‘lumps’ out.  Then she just wilted and her breathing changed to an agonal pattern associated with imminent death.  I kept stroking her back and scratching her ears, and telling her how much I loved her, and how amazing she’d been as my best friend.  I let her know that it was OK to stop fighting (like I’d do as an RN to humans- I doubt Mandy had a clue what that meant, but I had to say those words as my way of letting her go).  I told her that I’d miss her, but knew she’d hung on as long as she could (and she’d done fairly well – it had been a rocky couple of weeks, but she’d been alert, eating- though more picky, and wanted to be near me).

That morning, she’d wanted Swedish meatballs, and her Charlee Bear treats.  It was a ‘normal’ day- until 2:30 p.m. when I heard the whimper.  By 2:45 p.m., she was gone.  My only form of living companionship was gone.  I know that my next dog won’t replace Mandy (just like she hadn’t replaced her predecessor), but that she will steal my heart in her own way.  And yet, Mandy was special.  Maybe it was the amount of time I’m home, and she just got used to my routines- but her understanding of what I’d say was uncanny. Dad could ask her to do the same things, and she’d just stare at him.  She was my baby.

I miss her deeply… and yet I know the only way through this is to move forward and look at how much I’ll love a new puppy.  Mandy will never be gone from my heart, but it is a deep pain knowing she’s not here ‘in person’.   RIP, my sweet little girl.  I hope you know how much you were loved ❤

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

Mandy- 2011
3/28/01 – 12/27/12

The Death of My Best Friend…Who Waits at The Rainbow Bridge

At 2:45 p.m. today (December 27, 2012), my best friend and amazing dog Mandy died in my arms.  About 15 minutes earlier, she had been lying on her ‘TV bed’ and made a sound that was similar to those she made when she’d faint, but not as loud and only one time (instead of the usual three deep, agonized moans). I immediately went to check on her, and she was semi-conscious.  I picked her up and she began to wake up, ears perky, and  looking at me. But something wasn’t right- normally when she started to wake up, she ‘came to’ quickly and was on her feet and steady. She did go over to her pee pads and peed, but she wouldn’t leave that area- she just kind of froze standing up. So I picked her up and brought her to my recliner, to hold her and see if she’d perk up.  I decided to get her onto her comforter with a disposable underpad beneath it (she has had ‘issues’ with bodily functions after fainting).  By then, she wasn’t able to support herself on the floor, so I laid her on her recliner as I got her situated (yes, the dog had her own recliner).  I picked her up to hold her  on my lap and see what was next.  She again picked her head up, but then essentially collapsed, and began some slow, agonizing breaths that became slower and slower until they stopped altogether.  I checked her heart rate with my stethoscope. There was silence. The entire process took about fifteen minutes as she died in my arms.

I’m extremely thankful that she didn’t have any prolonged suffering; just this morning she was looking at me and wanting her Charlee Bear dog treats (which she got), and eating Swedish meatballs (microwaved and low salt, just for her).  I’m extremely grateful that she was in my arms, and not alone or afraid. She just relaxed into my lap and let go. I told her she’d been an amazing friend and dog, and that I loved her more than I could ever make her understand, and that it was OK to stop fighting the heart failure.  I knew it had been hard for her for a couple of weeks, but she had been so alert and interested in what was going on, and had still been eating (though becoming very picky).  I’m so thankful that she took the reins, and it was fast.  I had agonized with the decision to put her to sleep last week, but unlike my last dog, the signs weren’t  so clear.  Mandy was still invested in life…until she wasn’t.  The end left no questions.

I’d called my dad when I noticed something wasn’t right, and he came over as fast as he could- thinking at best we’d be taking her to the vet to be put to sleep if she was still ‘not right’, or at worst to the animal crematorium.  I also called my birth-mother. She’s been keeping up with the gradual decline. Mandy  was ‘gone’ when dad got here, which was OK, since it gave me a few moments alone with her during that time when everything changes and the order of my world began the process of adapting to the void left behind without her.  I know it’s a process, and that I’ll be a mess on and off for a while.  I’ll miss her for a long time, just as I still miss the one before her, and the one before her.

I can’t explain in human words how much I loved that dog.  There is no ‘dog-language’ to explain how important she was as the one living thing I saw more than anybody else. Being home 24/7 about %98 of the time, she was my sole companion and closest friend.  All I could do was to do all I could do, and I did. I have no regrets about the level of treatment for her congestive heart failure. I have no regrets about letting her lead the way as far as when she was ‘done’ (and she was quite decisive 🙂 ).   I only know that there’s a hole in my heart left by her absence that will be raw for a while.  I know I’ll get another dog, though none of my dogs have ever replaced her predecessor. They just grew in my heart in their own way.

Thanks to the vets and staff at the Mulford Animal Hospital in Rockford, IL.  You have been so caring, and kind.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed- my forever friend, who never let me down and always lifted me up. ❤

Mandy Bluebonnet TumbleweedMar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed
Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012

 

"Mandy