My Shadow is Gone

By | November 26, 2009

My lab/shepherd mix Chip passed away today. I had him put down by our vet, as he was in his last hours and in obvious pain. It was a quick turn for the worst, but I’m glad it went down that way. Last Sunday with friends we went on a several mile hike at Dutch Hollow, and he was having a blast. Less than three days ago he was romping with Adah in the snow. He had really good doggy quality of life right up until the end, and for that I’m thankful on this Thanksgiving day…

Below are details, if you’re interested. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read through all this, but it was helpful for me to put down….

About six weeks ago Chip started hacking and coughing quite a lot. It was a hard, unproductive cough and right away I thought that it sounded scary and bad. I waited a couple of weeks to see if it would clear up, but eventually decided to take him to the vet to see what they had to say. He had a couple of old dog ailments including a pretty bad gum infection, and a tapeworm.

The doggy doc explained nicely that although the infection needed antibiotics, and that he needed to be de-wormed, he did not think the cough was related. He suggested some blood work to take a look at a few things, and it wasn’t encouraging. Chipper had a high elevated white blood cell count, and a very high calcium reading. With that high calcium reading the doc said that it was likely that he had some sort of malignant tumor, after all he was an 11 year old dog (or even older, as far as I know).

Rather than spend a ton of money on x-rays and other “hunt for tumor” procedures, I decided to take him home with the antibiotics and hope for the best. And in fact, the pills did seem to work. We killed off that worm and cleared up his gum infection, and he was pretty much back to himself. Within a few days he had more energy, was eating better again, but still didn’t completely lose that hacking deep cough.

We went on doing what we’ve always done together. Long walks around Timberlakes, and in the woods. He was romping around in the mornings and playing with Adah, rolling in the snow and all around being a happy dog.

Two nights ago, however, something triggered a turn for the worst. And I spent the next 24 hours preparing to say goodbye. I just knew it was bad. Being rescued from an abusive rancher, he’s been my shadow for nearly a decade. I guess I was his security blanket, so to speak. I was really in tune with the old boy, and I could just see it in his eyes. He was dying…

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 25th he vomited all over himself in his bed. And when I walked out and turned on the light, he was still just laying there in it. I did get him to go out but he was very slow and weak and staggering about, so we went back in. He laid back down on his side, and when I got up in the morning he was in the same position and seemed to be laboring to breath.

Over the next 24 hours he kept getting worse. Breathing became harder and harder, and he had that “deer in the headlights” look in his eyes. It was a frightened look, one of pain, and it broke my heart. During dinner Wednesday night he tried to get up and ended up falling backwards during the process, slamming his head on a piece of furniture. I really didn’t think he was going to make it through the night, but he did…just barely.

At first light Thanksgiving morning 2009 I dialed the doc on call, and had him meet me at the clinic at 7am. While looking him over the doc actually found a mass just under the base of his tail bone, which he said he was 99% sure was a tumor located pretty close to his hind lymph node. The doc said the cancer had likely spread to the lymph node and metastasized before the mass was even visible. And that Chip was probably living with pain and distress from the cancer for 6 months or longer, not that he ever showed it.

It was a quick and painless end for my buddy. When it was all over, he laid there still, and I closed his eyes. He looked just like a dog that had a beautiful and content life. R.I.P boy…

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