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 🙂

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.

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

Watching, Waiting, Wondering… When?

I was a little on guard last night when Mandy (my 11.75 year old miniature schnauzer) was breathing a little ‘off’.  This morning, I knew things were worse. The rate of her breathing and use of muscles not usually needed to breathe were obvious. Then she didn’t want to eat.  I’d recently switched her over to canned dog food (that she LOVES) since she had been eating so little of the dry stuff (both prescription). Her weight loss was visible, though not in the range of some animal rescue commercial.  She had been doing well on the canned stuff for the last 3 days. Until today.  My baby is getting sicker. She was diagnosed with heart failure about 7 months ago. It was ‘caught’ earlier than my last schnauzer, who died of the same thing a year after she was diagnosed.  Mandy seems to be going downhill more quickly.  I’m not sure she’ll be here at Christmas (in 11 days).

I’ve had great miniature schnauzers since I was a kid.  Mandy is my third, and since I’m on disability (for the last 8 1/2 years), we spend a lot of time together.  She’s picked up on cues that my other dogs didn’t. For instance, when I turn off the TV, she knows it’s time for bed, and gets up from wherever she is in the living room, and goes to the bedroom.  When I get my keys, she knows I’m going to get the mail, and escorts me to the door.  If I get her seatbelt adapter, she knows she’s going to get in the car, and goes to garage door.  She’s been the most in tune to my routines by far of any of the three dogs I’ve had.  While I’ve loved them all, there’s something different about this one. She really has been special. Her comprehension of English (and following through with commands or comments) is kind of weird. If I tell her I’m going to sneeze, she leaves the room.  Then comes back to check things out !  I know everybody thinks their dogs (or kids) are ‘gifted’… of the three I’ve had, Mandy is by far the most communicative.

Greta, my first schnauzer when I was a little kid, was a performer. She loved to jump through a hoop, sit, roll over, etc for a Milkbone dog treat.  She could clear the back of the couch with no running start. But she was also a bit bonkers.  If she got out of the front door, she’d run like the wind until someone (usually me, but could be a neighbor who saw her fly up the street, with me in pursuit) grabbed her- usually when she stopped to pee.  Hannah was a ‘talker’.  If I said ‘bow wow’ or ‘woof’, she’d howl. My mom (demented at the time) loved that!  She’d ask to talk to the dog when I started asking questions she didn’t know the answers to as I assessed where she was mentally. The dog didn’t ask questions- just interacted without expectations in return. She also knew each of her toys by name, and would go get the correct one when told to get one of them.

Now, I’ve got to face the inevitable outcome of heart failure in dogs once again.  I check the color of her tongue (still pink), and monitor how fast and ‘hard’ she’s breathing.  I watch her activity level, and know that when she isn’t getting up on her own that it’s time. Quitting eating is also a late sign- I know that from Hannah.  Any evidence of pain can’t be allowed to take what time she has and make it a cruel existence.  I realize that she could perk up, but I’ve got to mentally prepare myself that she could be gone in a matter of days.  My best friend is dying.

Last week at this time, I thought she was doing pretty well. It’s moving quickly; she had gradually stopped eating the dry food until she’d finally give in because she was so hungry, so I got her the canned stuff- there was no point in making her ‘put up with’ something she no longer liked- or took too much energy to eat.  Now, she’s resisting taking her medication, so I’m having to use applesauce and slip the spoon into her mouth with the pills hidden in each bite, and ‘lubed up’ to slide down more easily.  It’s breaking my heart.  But she’s still alert, and interested in every move I make.  I have been purposely letting her rest, hoping that her breathing will slow down, and she’ll have less stress on her heart.  What I’d love to do is wrap my arms around her and hold her for hours.  But, she’s not a snuggler.

I know she could pass quietly in her sleep, and while I wish for her a gentle journey to the Rainbow Bridge, I also know that I need to be prepared with a mental list of what is ‘enough’.  I held Hannah while she was put to sleep, knowing that she saw me come in and pick her up after a morning at the vet’s to see if anything could be done; I knew when I took her in that it wasn’t good.  I HAD to be there when she died- and for her to see me come back. I couldn’t have her remember that I’d just dropped her off and left her.   And, she had said good-bye that morning by sitting on my leg and putting her head on my shoulder…and just ‘being’ there.  She had also been an amazing companion, as I’ve always been single and don’t have kids, or that many close friends.

I know what to look for with Mandy, and I know it’s getting closer.  I dread waking up to find her lying too still beside me.  And yet, I don’t want her to struggle or suffer in any way.  She has been such an amazing companion that I have to let her go if I see that it’s too hard for her to stay here for even a couple of days.  I can’t make my best friend suffer at all.  I love her too much.

My dad told me just to enjoy the time I have left with Mandy. I’m trying, but being a nurse, I am also constantly assessing her breathing and medication and eating.  She did eat some freeze dried banana chips and peas today…so she’s not completely refusing food. Just the stuff that actually matters.  I’ll get another dog- never to replace one I’ve lost, but because of the years of joy and amazing love they bring.  I just hope she has an idea of just how much I love her.  Anything I have and can offer her seems so inadequate.  I just pray now that I’ll know ‘when’…

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.