Saturday, March 15, 2014

That Wasn't Supposed To Happen...

Three & a half weeks ago, my beloved furbaby, Belle, died. It was, to say the least, a shock. She was technically a "senior" dog, but as a mixed breed (black lab & whippet), we thought we had a few more years. To us, she was *only* 12y.
I guess it started many years ago... when we first noticed some lumps on her. One of them, near her butt, was hard; the rest were soft & squishy. We took her in to get them checked, and the doc suggested removing the hard one & sending it in for testing. We followed his advice, and that tumor came back benign. The others were deemed "fatty tissue tumors" - also benign. Over the years, she's gotten more of them, but they didn't seem to cause her any problems/pain, and the doc said that unless they were, there's no reason to remove them (they'd probably come back anyway).
Over time, she got more & more "old lady" like; we'd make jokes about the grunting & heavy sighs that came out of her any time she had to get up or lay back down. She stopped playing as much as she used to (chasing balls, toys, Izzy, etc), and tired easily. Over the last few months, she seemed to have problems with relieving her bowels, she sometimes skipped meals, and when she did eat, half the time she threw it back up.
They were both due for shots anyway, so we took them both in together. Dr Brian felt a mass in her spleen so asked if he could take X-Rays; we agreed. Pics showed that her spleen was huge, misshapen, & pressing into other organs... no wonder she couldn't eat, go to the bathroom, get up, or lay down comfortably. The options were: surgery - which would likely give her a more comfortable living, or no surgery - which would likely end up killing her, as the spleen would continue to grow, put more pressure on her other organs, & eventually burst. We took the weekend to discuss, and decided on surgery. We felt it was her best option for a happier life.
She went in the following Sunday night, just before they closed, so they could start surgery as early as possible Monday morning. We got a couple calls on Monday with updates; she seemed to be doing well, with the exception of one thing: apparently, the spleen was literally stuck to her pancreas, so that caused a bit more bleeding. They got it stopped, stitched her back up, and asked to keep her overnight again for observation. They also took some samples to send to their lab for testing. Tuesday morning, we got another call; she had eaten, gone to the bathroom, seemed alert, etc... We picked her up at 2p.
She was groggy (of course), so when we went out to dinner (Squeaks' bf was here for the week, so we met them in town), we left her out of the kennel. She was in the same spot when we got home, so I cuddled with her for a bit. I gave her some pain meds & went to bed around 1030p.
At almost 1230a, Ace woke me up... "Something's wrong with Belle." I shot out of bed, and went straight to her. She seemed to have trouble breathing & it looked almost like she was staring into space. She couldn't look at me, so I just pet her, and felt helpless. Ace said, "She's dying..." I couldn't even speak. Her bowels released, her breaths slowed, then stopped, as did her heartbeat. I just sat there, petting her, and all I could think of was "Her eyelids won't close... I can't get her eyelids to close." I was almost frantic about her eyelids!
He sat on the couch, crying, and I laid my head against her belly, took her paws in mine, and cried. She wasn't supposed to die. This surgery was supposed to give her a longer life. What happened? What went wrong?
There's a box in the garage with stuff we'll take to the donation sites; among them was a fuzzy green blanket Princess was getting rid of. She used to bring it & a pillow into the living room, lay the blanket down, and before she could put the pillow down, Belle would lay on the blanket. We thought it was only fitting to wrap her in it. Since it was the middle of the night, we put her into the back of the 4-Runner & cracked the back window. I cried myself to sleep.
Princess was shocked the next morning when we told her. She seemed fine until she peeked into the back of the 4-Runner on her way to school. She said she cried all the way to the bus stop.
Ace took her back to the vet in the morning (I chose to work, knowing there was nothing I could do for her at this point anyway...). Dr Brian was visibly upset, asking a bunch of questions, trying to wrap his head around her death. Cremation cost $76. We waited for biopsy results.
Two weeks went by, both of us trying to heal, different things made us each cry. Izzy went through a mourning period of her own: tail down, didn't want to eat, kept looking around for Belle every time she went outside, came back inside, stayed on "her" side of the kennel, extra cuddly... She finally smiled again (yes, my dog smiles), and we knew she'd be okay.
About a week ago, I talked to Dr Brian again. She did, in fact, have cancer. Specifically STROMAL SARCOMA, malignant, but not a fast-moving one. I'm not sure if I feel better (she didn't have to suffer a slow death from that) or worse... But, I do take comfort in the fact that she was home, and we were with her, when she passed. I fully believe she died knowing how much she was loved, and *I* know that we gave her the best life we possibly could.

Goodbye, my Bella...