It has been a couple of weeks or more since I last blogged. Much has happened, and I just wasn’t able to find the motivation to write about it…
On June 21st I wrote “I Am Not Prepared” about my “dog of a lifetime,” Reilly. I wrote about how she had developed a wobbly gait. Sadly, I knew that symptom could indicate a serious problem.
As those first few days unfolded, I sent off a blood test looking for Degenerative Myelopathy, a condition that causes loss of control over the rear legs. Even before I received the test results, I started to admit to myself that her front legs were also not totally under her control. I took her to the local veterinary neurologist, and he wondered if she had a degenerating spinal disk. We also talked about the diagnosis I was most afraid of: A brain tumor.
The only definitive way to see what was going on was to do an MRI. It would cost between $2500 and $4000, depending on whether they scanned one or two locations. An MRI might illuminate a brain tumor, but what would I do with that information? It wouldn’t change anything…. If she had a bad disk (and I really didn’t think that was it, as she had no pain and didn’t look like a disk dog to me), there is no way I would have subjected her to spinal surgery at her age. She had 3 out of 4 legs that had documented degenerative arthritis, so she would have really struggled to recover from something as radical as spinal surgery.
The day after we saw the neurologist, I had an appointment with a vet friend of mine who is running a stem cell study that includes one of my other dogs, Bailey. Bailey had a 90-day check-up, and I took Reilly with me to have Don assess her as well. He noted Reilly’s head tilt, which I had also noticed but was reluctant to admit to myself. The date was Thursday, June 28th.
Later that day, my boyfriend and I made a whirlwind trip to Colorado for personal reasons. We were planning on leaving for a week at the lake on Friday, but we opted to insert a 1300 mile trip in front of our lake trip. Of course, Reilly went with us. I knew we were in trouble, so for the entire trip, she got whatever she wanted. She ate McDonald’s bacon, egg and cheese biscuits for breakfast, and hamburgers for lunch. I never touched the dog food I had packed. Alan took some photos of Reilly and me right before we left Estes Park.
Although it killed me to do so, we left on Saturday for the lake and Reilly couldn’t go this time. I have an amazing critter sitter who stays at my home and who is familiar with all of my animals, and they with her. The lakehouse was less than 4 hours away from home. If necessary, I was prepared to come home. But I sobbed as we left…
On Tuesday, my critter sitter called me. Reilly was down and wouldn’t or couldn’t get up. I had her take Reilly to see Don, and he called me later that afternoon. He advised me not to wait until Sunday to return home.
We arrived home around 8 PM. Reilly was lying on her side, with a respiratory rate of 60-80. With effort, she followed me from room to room, but she was not very interested in her surroundings.
Nothing had changed by Wednesday, and I knew she was not comfortable. Her rapid respirations were likely a result of increased intracranial pressure…. A colossal headache. My girl had not been herself for several weeks, and the most likely diagnosis was, in fact, a brain tumor.
Don met me at his clinic on Wednesday afternoon, which happened to be July 4th. Ironically, it was 7 years to the day that Reilly had broken all four of her left rear toes when she jumped off a boat and caught her foot in a handle on the boat deck. I said goodbye to my girl that afternoon. Although I am writing this 2 weeks later, I am falling apart as I type… I miss her so, so much.
Yesterday I had to help a client’s old dog cross the Rainbow Bridge. It was a male dog… named Riley. I struggled to hold it together in the client’s presence, and for the most part, I did. But after he left, I wept.
Multiple times a day, I find myself desperately missing Reilly. I don’t have to wait for her to move when I put down the foot section of my lounge chair. She’s not lying by my bed when I wake up. I’m not dispensing multiple medications throughout the day. She’s not walking backward in front of me when I walk the dogs, barking at me with a stick in her mouth. I don’t have to ask her to move so I can open my shower door.
As she declined, she had ceased bugging me multiple times a day to play ball, or climbing the steps and dropping a ball down the stairs while shooting me an expectant look directing me to throw the ball back to her. I will never, ever hear thunder or experience a thunderstorm without thinking about Reilly, as she had major anxiety over loud noises. There are many, many more interactions I miss all day long.
I have four other awesome dogs, and I am now taking one of them to work with me on a rotating basis. Reilly had always gone to work with me as she was too infirm to leave home alone all day. It is a good opportunity for some one-on-one with each dog, and I am enjoying it. They are doing their best to fill the void. But oh, how I miss my girl. Cherish your moments and memories with your horses, dogs, and cats. At some point, memories will be all you have.