Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Rest of the Story

This is the rest of Myrna's story.  This is not a tragedy, at least not as far as I'm concerned.  This is a story of how dogs adapt, how they roll with the punches life throws at them with an acceptance that we could all emulate and be better for it.  But, it is also another of my cautionary tales.  Dogs can't tell us what's wrong, so it's up to us as owners to pay attention to the ways they do communicate and then not wait to act on them.  During the last decade, that has not been something I was very good at, unfortunately.

I no longer remember what it was that caused me to take Myrna in to the vet about four years ago now.  Something concerned me about how she was acting, but I can't really recall the specific sympton.  I was in the throes of trying to care for both my kids at that point, so it's all a blur.  I do remember I took the soonest appointment I could get, so I saw a vet I had never seen before, and he declared he thought she had Cushings disease, which impacts the adrenal glands of older dogs.  He was pretty sure about it.  And I can see why.  In reviewing the symptoms of Cushings in canines, Myrna exhibited each and every one.  So, he tested for it.  The test came back negative.  He sent me home with something to treat whatever symptom I was concerned with at the time, and all I can really remember is that I was relieved that it wasn't the scary, expensive sounding disease he had thought it was.  But she didn't get better, I took her back again, he was still convinced that's what was wrong with her, so we repeated ourselves, with the same results.  One of the symptoms of Cushings is diabetes, but I did not know that at the time.  Back home we went, my patient, quiet dog and I.  Then, one weekend she became very ill, wouldn't eat, was urinating liberally, had visually dropped weight in absolutely no time at all and, most frightening of all, crawled under the back porch and would not come out.   So I called the vet's office on a Sunday, scared and crying, not sure what was happening. and a woman doctor called me back.  I didn't know her, but she was very sweet and sounded concerned.  When she saw Myrna the next day, she was the one who immediately pegged it for diabetes.

By then, Myrna was seriously ill, so this new vet sent me to a clinic down in far south Austin and Myrna went there essentially to be placed in doggie intensive care.  The goal was to try and regulate her blood sugar.  But it took a while, and that means it cost a lot of money.  Most of our money at that time was funneling to try and help the kids, so Greg was concerned that I was trying too hard and spending too much on a dog who was too far gone.  But, I wasn't ready to give up on her.  We kept going, treating her with IV's at first, then they kept her for a few days to work on finding the right dose for her so I could take her home.  I made the commute back and forth every day she was there to see her as she patiently submitted to being poked and prodded.  Finally, she was ready to come home to begin her new life as a diabetic.  She would receive injections twice a day, have a special dog food, but essentially be like any other diabetic patient.  It's a serious condition, but it can be controlled and it can be lived with.

However, probably because it had taken so long to identify the diabetes, and her blood sugar had become so out of whack, she almost immediately began to lose her sight.  Within a couple of months she was totally blind.  Once again, I wondered if we would lose her.  But, she adjusted fairly quickly.  A few times bumping into things and she was able to make the adjustments and could find her way around the house.  The back yard was a little more problematic, and she fell into the pool a few times.  Worried that she would fall in when I wasn't there to help her out, she became an indoor dog, coming out front with me in the morning to feed the deer.  The deer, for their part, became so used to her that she literally bumped into them from time to time, they had stopped moving out of her way.  The main thing is that she became a creature of severe habit.  She did not like deviating from it.  If Greg tried to take her out front on a weekend morning so I could sleep, she would docilely go, but then come nudge me to take her out again because that's how it was done.

Christmas threw her off a little.  We have to move things around to accomodate the tree and that first holiday in particular caused her to have one pretty bad day learning how to navigate around once more, but then she got it down and things would be fine.  She did better on the following holidays, seeming to remember what to do.

We had one other bad scare with her back in October 2007, where she and a couple of the other dogs contracted a virus, and I had to learn how to give her an IV to keep her hyrdated and try and get her past it.  But, she, as always, submitted to the treatment without complaint.  And the sweet, concerned vet who finally identified her condition?  She remained Myrna's vet to the end.  She is a highly compassionate, wonderful woman with the ironic name of Dr. Grimm.

Dogs don't have particularly keen eyesight as it, so maybe that's why she adapted so well, but she was just that kind of personality. She knew she was loved, she loved us in return, and the rest was all just the way it was. There were sacrifices everyone made to make sure she was cared for. For one thing, not just anyone could watch her if we wanted to go out of town, so it was highly unusual for Greg and I to be gone at the same time. And, to afford her supplies, the other dogs get their shots at low cost clinics. Was all of it worth it? Yes, I will tell you that it absolutely was.

Everyone knows that Cheyenne and I have a special bond, but I think, if Cheyenne could talk, even she would tell you that Myrna was the calmest of them all.  Cheyenne would tell you she was glad Myrna was her sister, and she was lucky to have known her.  Then she would want to know if you brought any Goldfish for her.

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