Need to Write More…Puppy-Motherhood is Tiring !

There’s something about just getting stuff out of my head, whether or not anybody reads it, but knowing that somebody somewhere is probably going to actually know what is going on in my little corner of the world makes my life seem so much less isolated.  I’ve been busy with my puppy…or should I say she’s been busy with me.  This one is a corker.  I’ve had four miniature schnauzers now, and this one has been the most challenging.  She’s very smart, very fast, and has a mind of her own. She also wags her tail at literally everything, so discipline is a crap shoot since she thinks everything is fun.   There is no association between me telling her ‘no’ and what I’m telling her ‘no’ about.  It’s just fun !  For her.  The only thing that she doesn’t like is the crate with a blanket over it. If she can’t see me, she is NOT amused.  Within a few minutes the crying starts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her like crazy.  She’s got this look of perpetual happiness on her face. My dad says that in 20 years, when she’s been dead and gone for a few years, her tail will still wag.  After Mandy’s illness and being so ‘on guard’ the last month she was alive, it’s nice to have the upbeat energy around here. It’s also nice to be needed.  I miss being a working nurse, and somebody noticing  whether or not I am around and worth something.  Shelby needs me for her food and water, and clean pee pads. She also needs to be loved, and for me to interact with her and let her know that it matters that SHE is around. But she wears my butt out !   Some days I swear I need a net to round her up.  She has that puppy run of tucking her butt under, slicking her ears back, and just going for broke.  And she can stop on a dime. I’ve fallen once trying to avoid tripping over her.

She’s already learned quite a bit- fetch, ‘let go’ (when she doesn’t drop the fetched toy), “get on your chair”, “go potty” (she will go on command if she has to pee- or sit down and look at me if she doesn’t ), “sit”, “down”, “are you hungry?”, “do you want an ice cube?” (she loves ice on her teething-weary gums), and if I holler loudly enough, “NO!”.  She’s not really too good at “stay”.  She will come to her name being called, but sometimes it’s a ‘fly-by’ if she’s wound up and wants to play.  If there are dogs barking or cats meowing on TV, she stops what she’s doing and looks at them. If the bark sounds somewhat menacing, she joins in… it’s funny, but I’m trying to get her to know when barking is not OK (i.e. the neighbor taking out the trash…  I don’t need an alert for that).

She has little fear. She will jump from my arms, off of chairs, over toys, and off of my bed.  She’s growing, but she’s still not that big – I’m guessing about 13 pounds. We go to the vet tomorrow for the last Parvo shot, so she’ll get weighed then.  At least once during the day, she starts running like her butt is on fire, racing around tables, past chairs, down the hall, and sometimes over me (via a quick stop on my lap).  I haven’t done enough leash work with her because of the weather and my activity intolerance, but from what we have done, she’s not amused.  Though she did walk nicely on the leash last time we went to the vet for other puppy shots.

In the morning, she wakes up about 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. and wants to eat (she’s getting a gravity feeder tomorrow). I usually don’t go to bed until 2:00 – 4:00 a.m. (worked nights for a long time), and give her a puppy health biscuit before bed so she isn’t having to go too long without something in her tummy.   I get up and give her the 100gm scoop (heaping 1/3 cup) for her breakfast, and then go back to bed. She will putz around for a while, go poo, and then come back to bed with me. She likes to snuggle against my legs or back, and really is a cuddle bug when she slows down.  She seems to sense that I need to sleep and is really good about our routine.  She is very good about using her stairs to get up on the bed, and has her own bed and blankets up there, but prefers to snuggle.  She also brings toys to bed sometimes (as long as they aren’t the squeaky ones, they’re OK  🙂 ).

When I finally start moving around and she knows I’m awake, she gets SO excited. It’s so nice to be ‘wanted’ every day, and to have ‘someone’ show me that she’s glad I’m there for her.  Usually there is a fair amount of slurping on whatever part of me she can get to, and that tail literally wags too fast to actually see.  Boat motor speed.  And she’s so happy. It’s nice to start the awake part of my day with that.  Shelby can’t stand when I’m in the shower. I have to leave the shower curtain open about 8 inches so she can peek in to make sure I haven’t left her. I talk to her the whole time I’m in there, and it’s a transparent plastic curtain (but it’s green with turtles on it), so it’s not like I’m behind a concrete bunker, but to her I may as well be.

Sometimes she comes over to the recliner where I’m sitting and when I reach down to pet her, she flings herself over on her back, spread eagle, and waits for the belly rubs to commence. She has no shame. If I sit up, but reach down again, she throws herself down, and waits for more.  When she is ‘in the mood’ she will lie on her back in my arms like a baby, and doze off. She’s big enough now that with her arm in the crook of my elbow, her legs hanging off of my lap by a good 6 inches.

She LOVES her grandpa, and he loves her. She learned to climb up the couch using his inner thighs as a brace many weeks ago. Now she just takes a flying leap and gets on the couch. She can easily get on my lap in the recliner.  She loves the crazy playing with her grandpa; she’s not a prissy little girl- she’s ‘all in’ when it comes to playing. He’ll put her down in case she’s had enough and she always turns around immediately and wants more. 🙂

Last night, she walked over towards her pee pads and stopped cold. She leaned forward with her back legs planted firmly and acted like she was stalking some sort of evil prey.  I couldn’t figure out what in the world she was confronting, so went over there expecting something fierce. It was a plastic bag from her pee pads that had fallen on the floor.  Uh huh.  Go Killer!  I’ve seen her smack bugs with her paw and then eat them (yuck- but she’s too fast to pry them from her teeth), so thought that maybe it was at least something alive… nope. The dreaded pee pad bag.  Oooohhh. Gotta watch out for those !

Her curiosity is fun- it’s refreshing to see things for the first time with her.  Sometimes she does it from the safety of my arms, but most of the time she just charges in and pokes around. She does NOT like mirrors. She’s not curious about who that dog is, or why I’m over there and holding her.  I’ve got things ‘baby-proofed’, and so far she hasn’t been interested in chewing up my stuff.  She has an elk antler that she loves, as well as Nylabones for this teething that is making her kind of cranky and nippy. But there isn’t a mean bone in her. Even when she’s charging at something, her tail is going like crazy, ears are up, and a sort of ‘smile’ on her mouth… never bared teeth.  She’s just goofy !!

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m exhausted, but I love her.  The season change is hard with the pollens and erratic weather. We may have strong storms on Monday (possibly tornadoes), so I have more headaches and muscle pain.  I saw the pain guy last week.  Seems I got TMJ a few weeks ago, so he worked on that with a steroid injection.  I wanted to get some beef jerky, but figured my jaw would rebel… bummer, since jerky doesn’t mess up my blood sugar, and I’m always looking for protein sources that are ‘grab and go’.   I’ve been back to  reading other blogs more recently, but still miss regular updates from y’all.  Now that Shelby is playing on her own more, I can get back to writing and reading… funny how this blog world has become such an important community.  🙂

Big girl haircut !!

Big girl haircut !!

The view when I have been on the computer... Shelby brings me toys !!

The view when I have been on the computer… Shelby brings me toys !!

 

 

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.

I’m Grumpy Today

I’m not sure what my malfunction is, but I’m sorta grumpy.  I got up way earlier than usual (I’m one of those who is usually up half of the night and then sleeps until noon).  I’ve got a vague headache, but that’s nothing all that new. I have chronic headaches.  Christmas was really good- I got to see (and meet) family, and talked to my biological mom and half-brother on the phone, which is always good.  I got to spend time with family at the Swedish Christmas party since I’ve got the ice vest to wear when I leave home and don’t have as much chance of being overheated because of the dysautonomia. And yet, I’m a major dud this morning.

My 11.75 year old schnauzer with heart failure was so eager to eat some ‘meatloaf’ I made for her yesterday (with controlled sodium), and this morning she won’t touch it. I’m running out of options.  She started refusing the prescription dog food weeks ago, and prior to that had been eating a minimal amount (which wasn’t all that unusual for her- but she managed to keep her weight up). So now I’m trying to figure out other ideas… have been through ground beef/turkey/chicken, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, brown rice, white rice, baby food veggies, cooked carrots (gag), baby food applesauce and oatmeal,  and various combinations of the above.  She normally likes all of those things. Now, I’m lucky if she eats some of her Charlee Bear dog treats- they have minimal sodium, so she can still have them.  If she weren’t still alert and very interested in what is going on, as well as physically mobile and showing no signs of pain, I’d have her put to sleep…but I don’t want to ‘kill’ my best friend if she’s still getting some enjoyment out of life.  It’s a fine line right now, so as long as it’s not blatantly obvious, I’m holding out… but that time is coming.  There’s only so much I can do, and I think I’ve pretty much hit my limits. 😦

I’ve been extremely irritated at comments to news stories on various online sites and publications. So many people are so heartless and cruel.  Or pathologically immature and even psychopathic.  Responding that they’re ‘happy’ about an article where five people were made homeless by a fire that destroyed their home? How do people get that way?  Who dropped them on their head?  Or burned them?  And then there are the other ‘less’ disturbing posts that are just plain nasty and/or cruel.  Or ignorant.  I’m actually very thankful I don’t know those people or have to spend any IRL time with them.  A click of the back button takes them out of my life.

The onslaught of horrible stories that are on the news constantly is also a major bummer. I feel really badly for those folks and what they’re going through, but what good does it do anybody to have it dissected in the media for days to weeks on end?  I’ve been a crime survivor of a high profile case (before the 24/7 media, back in 1987).  It wasn’t helpful to see it on TV for days or see the newspaper coverage over and over.  The people who knew about it, and were my actual friends/family already knew what happened, and face it: most people really don’t want to know about real life horrors that happen to other people.  Or they don’t know what to do with the information, at least to the persons’ face. Behind their back, the chatter won’t stop. If people would have just asked me straight out what happened, or even if I wanted to talk about it would have been much  more helpful than days of media coverage  (without any input from me- I was an object).  I had one ‘different’ neighbor that responded to meeting me with “I never thought I’d meet you ! ”  Really?  Meeting someone who has been raped and beaten was a life goal?  Step away from the strange one !

I’m extremely disgusted with my weight, and have my food diary set up to start on January first. I don’t want to look like this on my 50th birthday next November.  I don’t want to be grotesque and repulsive going into the last third to half of my life. I have to restrict food. I’ve tried the ‘normal’ calorie amounts I’ve been given from the doctor and diabetic dietician, and that doesn’t work…so I’ve got to go lower. I can’t do much exercise because of the issue with passing out when my heart rate goes up or I get overheated, and my knees and spine issues.  So the calories have to go.  A slippery slope for me, so I’ve got to be careful- but I have to DO something beyond what I’ve been doing.  I didn’t look like this before chemo… and I want to lose any remnants of those days.

Losing weight will also save me some time before having to have my left knee replaced (I had the right one done in late 2006, and it was a very unpleasant experience with some complications and ‘dull’ response time by the doc and nurses to a bladder infection). I had to go to a rehab place for the medically defective. It was a good rehab facility- great care, but set up where people stayed in their rooms like a hospital between therapies (no common area), and since I was infective, I was in a private room- not a horrible thing, but friggin’ isolated. It’s not like there was a big risk of someone coming into contact with my pee.   My left knee has unrepaired, and questionably healed ACL and medial meniscus tears, done when I turned over in bed back in 2009- about a week before my closest friend from here in this town died suddenly (following several complications from a KNEE replacement). She’d moved to a different state to be closer to one of her daughters, but we were in contact by phone daily, even when she was in the hospital or rehab.  I was supposed to have the left knee replacement done, but then got leukemia and everything was put on hold to survive that.  Been a weird few years.

I’m frustrated that I don’t feel that people understand why I’m like I am.  I’ve got diagnoses that people haven’t heard of.  I ‘look’ like I’m capable of working, and I miss being a nurse SO much- but too much standing or walking, and the whole heat/heart rate thing = one unconscious middle-aged RN.  I’ve been an RN for nearly 28 years.  I’ve been on disability for 8 years.  But I still keep my license, because I still AM an RN.  I worked hard for that thing.  And I loved working with it…  And those days are done.  When people ask me what I’m doing to get back to work, it hurts- there isn’t anything that can be done by me or anyone else. Some things CAN’T BE FIXED !  SO those perky, blessed-to-be-clueless people need to shut up and go target someone who has some stuff going on that is treatable. I’ve been dealing with much of this since 1996- and worked until 2004- I held out as long as I could.  I fought to keep working.  QUIT asking me if I’m going back to work. NO, I can’t !

I was raised in an evangelical church, and am a born again Christian, without some of the judgmental drama that can go with those two things.  I hate the passive ‘I’ll pray for you’ stuff- prayer is wonderful, and I do it often, but if someone wants to help, some action would be really amazing ! Prayer is about as passive as a person can get and rationalize to themselves that they’re ‘doing’ something– and while I do believe in prayer and that it is a very positive and powerful thing (and pray for people on the news all of the time since I can’t do anything else), it’s not the be-all end-all answer to really being of use to someone.  It’s definitely better than nothing, but it really doesn’t show much in terms of actively supporting and helping someone. Sometimes it’s all people CAN do- and that’s appreciated.  But remember the ‘faith without works is dead’?  I’ve sensed a lot of dead.  I wish I could do more for others, and feel guilty about that.  Not like I know many people around here to be available for… back in the home where my heart is, I could be more useful, even if I’m not that physically ‘able’… I could drive someone to the store, or appointments.  I could water plants when they were gone, or change out cat litter. I couldn’t walk dogs or watch kids… but I’d do what I could.

I’ve contacted my ‘old’ church (from when I grew up and it was an amazingly positive experience) to find out about women’s Bible studies and other things in the past, and have been essentially blown off. I guess I’m not good enough for the ‘elite’ evangelicals anymore. My checkbook may not be deep enough or something.  I’ve tried again, and will hear back after the 31st when the contact person returns. I had really looked forward to going back there when I moved back from Texas.  I found it to be cold and a bit pretentious.  If someone can’t go back to the church they grew up in, where should they go?  Where is the ‘real’ message in that?   It hurt.  There were some really nice ladies (who I’ve known since I was a kid) who invited me to a type of ‘grief’ group, but I don’t want to sit and talk about dead family.  If that works for them, I’m really glad they have somewhere that feels right for their grieving process.  My mom is dead. Sitting in a room with folks who need that type of support doesn’t work for me.  I guess if I want to connect with anybody there, I have to be bummed out.  Not something I’m interested in.  I’m hoping the Bible study that starts on January 9th will work out- otherwise, I’m done trying to get back in to the church I grew up in. It shouldn’t be a ‘project’ just to find somewhere to fit in there.  The singles group wasn’t my bag – I want some ‘study’ group type thing.  🙂

Anyway, that’s a bit of what’s rattling through my head today.  I’m a little less grumpy now.

Mandy Had A Seizure or Fainting Spell Today

Flashbacks of my last schnauzer, Hannah.  Now Mandy.  I’d just come home from picking up some things from the pharmacy, and my dad was helping me get things into the kitchen. Mandy got all excited, and passed out.   I turned around, and she was on her side, legs stiff but twitchy, eyes rolled back… She let out three long, eerie cries before she got still, and I picked her up. She was limp in my arms as I carried her to the couch where she could be off of the floor, and wake up.  By the time she was awake and back on her feet, nudging my dad to get her ears scratched, it had only lasted 90 seconds at the most.  It felt like a lot longer.

For a few seconds when I picked her up, I thought she might be dying in my arms.  Her breathing has been ‘off’ the past couple of days, and I’d already made an appointment for her at the veterinarian for Friday (of course, today’s episode happened after office hours).  There hasn’t been anything specific, just ‘different’. She hasn’t been in any sort of distress (it’s  probably bothering me more than her, as her activity level has been unchanged). I think her water pill dosage needs to be adjusted (up). I’ve been doing some ‘chest percussion’ which loosens up any fluids so she can cough them up. She has coughed a few times, which can be a  sign of the heart failure progressing, but so far it’s not affecting her activity level. At all !

She’s still alert and interested in everything I do.  I look down at her sometimes and am in awe that that sweet little dog looks up at me, and wants to be with me no matter what.  And I want her around as long as possible. But I also have to have a  game plan for when it’s ‘enough’.  It has to be what is best for her.  I had some parameters for Hannah’s ‘signs’ that it was over, and when she stopped being interested in her beloved grapes (before I found out they’re bad for dogs), that was it.  Time to let go.

Mandy at 8 weeks old

Find Mandy !

I’m hopeful that Mandy will be around for a while longer, but nothing in life is a guarantee.  Besides death.  I’ve had her since early June 2001.  She was a little bit of a thing, and had me wrapped around her ‘paw’ immediately.  Since I’ve been on disability, we’ve been together nearly 24/7.  She is the ‘constant’ living thing in my life; I have little face to face contact with people. I don’t leave home often because of medical issues, so it’s just the two of us most of the time.   I have to be thankful for the wonderful years I’ve had with her, and keep looking at what’s in her best interest.  I love her too much to do anything less.

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

In the meantime, I can’t take anything for granted.  She’s my best friend.

Mandy- 2011

Hannah’s Last Day

Hannah was my present to myself for my 25th birthday.  She was a salt and pepper miniature schnauzer.  I’d gone and picked her out from her litter when she was about 4 weeks old. When she was ‘ready’ at 7 weeks old, I drove out to Lake Travis (near Austin, TX) in a raging thunderstorm in November 1988, and got her. She and her littermates were all standing up on the covered patio with their dog mama, peeking in the French doors into the house. They were all so cute, but she walked over to me first when the door  was opened.  She seemed to remember!

She was so funny when she was little.  I didn’t have the heart to make her sleep by herself, and since she was a ‘baby’ didn’t want her peeing in my bed.  I put her into a regular baby bassinet that a neighbor had given to me, and put it next to my bed.  She’d give a good puppy howl if she was scared, and as soon as I draped my hand into the bassinet, she’d quiet down and go back to sleep. After a couple of nights, she seemed to understand that I wasn’t going anywhere. As soon as she was potty trained, she slept in bed with me.

Hannah was about 2  years old when she had her first ‘seizure’. By the time I got her to the vet, the vet looked at me like I was a bit on the overprotective side. Hannah was fine, and just stared at both of us.  Back home… She continued to have these ‘seizures’ on and off for years.  They never happened more than 2-3 times a year, so from what the vet had said about risk/benefits of medication, I opted to keep her off of meds. She always bounced back as if nothing had happened.

When Hannah was 11 1/2  years old, she scared me out of my mind.  One single night, she passed out  seven times.  I was up all night with her. She’d get sort of woozy and stagger a bit and, then fall over on her side, twitching.  She’d then stagger to her feet and have to go out to pee immediately. Like right now.  I thought for sure she was dying.  She slept on the couch next to me that whole night between episodes.  She had stopped eating the day before (which was very unlike her), but initially I thought it was some bug.  I watched her, and she didn’t have any vomiting or diarrhea… but then that night. Oy. I thought it was the end.

As soon as the vet’s office opened I called, and got her right in.  We lived in a small town from the time she was 7 years old; they didn’t have an emergency animal hospital there at the the time.  I was glad her regular vet saw her.  He asked me to leave her there for a few hours so he could figure out what was going on.  I agreed, but I hated leaving her.  She was my only companion.  My best friend.

I got the call to come and get her (good news) and when I got there the vet told me that she was in heart failure.  Grade 4 murmur ( a ‘5’ is the worst). He’d given her oxygen and a shot of a strong diuretic (water pill medicine), and she’d peed off a bunch of fluid her heart couldn’t circulate through her body normally, to be eliminated through her kidneys.  I got prescription dog food, three medicines to give her by mouth, and a bottle of the diuretic medicine to give her as a shot if she needed a ‘booster’ to help her breathing, and the syringes and needles for her shots.  He knew I was an RN, so giving shots wasn’t a problem.  He just showed me where on the back of her neck to give them.

She also couldn’t have regular dog treats, or anything with a ‘normal’ sodium level.  I got her some low-sodium peanut butter (to hide her pills in).  She didn’t like it.  She also didn’t like the prescription ‘heart’ diet food, so the rest of that  case of cans was returned, and she got the ‘kidney’ food. It had limited sodium like the ‘heart’ diet.   And she got grapes (this was about 10 years before I found out that dogs shouldn’t have grapes). She LOVED those grapes.  I’d sneak her pills into them, and she acted like I’d given her filet mignon and truffles.

Hannah and GRAPES !!!

She did very well, and had many, many days where she was playing, and acting like she felt really good.  She knew the names of her individual toys, and would get them, and enjoy chasing them.  She still howled when I was on the phone to my folks; my mom had dementia, and one thing SHE still enjoyed was Hannah howling at her on the phone when I said “woof”, or “bow wow”.  I just had to say the words, and she’d do her howling bit.  Mom loved it !

Hannah, and the toy named “Weirdo”- feeling better !

Hannah still had an occasional fainting episode, but within a few minutes (and a quick trip outside to pee) was back to her normal self.   I had told the vet that  I would NOT put my best friend through  a miserable year just because I couldn’t say goodbye.  If she wasn’t going to have any quality of life, forget it.  But he was right- she had some very good months left in her.

About 11 months later, I noticed her start to change  not long after moving to a different apartment in the same complex.  She started not wanting to eat, and her breathing was getting funky.  I gave her the shots to get rid of the fluid (and it did). But it wasn’t working as well.  I had told myself when she was diagnosed that if she started to refuse food completely, that was it.  We were done.  The shots were only helping for about a half a day, and I had to give them to her a couple of times a day for 4-5 days.  Then she completely stopped eating.  My heart started to break.  That night, her breathing was horrible. I knew what was coming.

In the morning, she got off of the bed, and peed on the floor. Then she went and hid in my closet, as if to say she was so ashamed.  I couldn’t get mad at her, she was sick !  It was pitiful to see her hiding from her accident.  She NEVER peed on the floor- she was so good about waiting to go outside, or using the pee pads when I left her in the kitchen to go to work.  I knew I had to take her to the vet.

I sat on the couch before getting ready to load her into the car.   She got up on the couch with me, and climbed on my lap. She ended up sitting on my thigh, and then putting her head on my shoulder.  I think she was saying goodbye, and  it was easier for her to breathe if she was upright, but didn’t have to support herself.  I loaded her into a laundry basket to put in the car, since her balance was a little iffy.  When I took her in to the vet, he said he’d like to try some more oxygen and medications, and he’d call me.  I told him that I could be back there in minutes if it looked like she was getting worse (she was already bad), and he agreed that he’d call me if I needed to come.  I did not want her dying without knowing I was there, and I hadn’t  just dropped her off and deserted her.

I got the call around 11:30 a.m.  I had the kind of desk nursing job where there was flexibility for such things. I’d told my boss ahead of time what was going on, so when I told the receptionist I had to leave I could just go.

When I got there, Hannah was hooked up to an IV, oxygen, rectal probe (temperature), and  heart monitor. She looked spent.  But she also lifted her head a little when she heard my voice. She knew I was there.  I was told to take whatever time I needed, but I think when she put her head on my shoulder earlier that morning, that was our time.  Right then, I had to do what was best for her, so I started taking the equipment off of her, and just holding her.   I was satisfied she knew I was there, and that  it was OK  for her to stop fighting.  I told the vet to just ‘do it’.

She slowly dropped her head as the ‘go to sleep’ stuff took effect. I could feel her full weight against my arms, and then she took her last breath.  It was over. My best friend was gone.  I was told that I could spend time with her.  (the vet’s office had cleared out for lunch, aside from those who were helping Hannah… and they were all in tears as well).  I could hardly see her through the tears, but I did want to hold her for just a few minutes.  They let me take her to one of the exam rooms where it was quiet, and private.  I just cried, and told her how much I loved her, and how wonderful she’d been as my best friend.  I wasn’t in that little room with her for very long.  I’d had 12 1/2 years with her to remember… those were gifts. But I got to say ‘goodbye’, just her and me.

I just hope she knew how much I loved her.