Saturday, December 10, 2011
Photo: Haggis and me in happier days:
Aimee and I are completely gutted after having to put Haggis down last night.
He'd been doing well on the prednisone. It didn't solve the laryngeal paralysis, but it kept his throat from getting sore, and so he could eat, and of course he was happy enough to be able to eat and sleep and be with us.
That's really all he ever asked of us, even when healthy. Such unconditional love.
But we couldn't find the smallest dosage that would do the job without side effects. Last week we dropped the dosage on the vet's instructions. The choking and inability to eat got immediately worse, so we called the vet and upped the dose again. The side effects began to kick in. By Tuesday he'd developed nausea, one of the side effects, and by Friday he was again starving to death, only this time from the nausea instead of being unable to eat because of a sore throat.
He worsened a good deal during Friday while we were at work. I came home to find him in terrible shape.
He wouldn't touch his food, couldn't keep anything down at all, and wouldn't even come in the house for weakness and pain. I had to pick him up to bring him in. As I picked him up, I discovered there was this additional symptom of abdominal pain, which could also have been caused by the prednisone -- stomach bleeding is one side-effect. He and I both rested for a few moments, he on his bed, me on the couch close by, while we both waited for Aimee, and he seemed like he might begin to feel better, but then he vomited about a half a gallon of almost pure water, and so I realized he'd been drinking away because of some internal pain, most likely bleeding in his stomach.
Aimee came home later, and although we prevaricated for a minute, we quickly made the decision to put him down there and then. Even if we could find a way to fix the side effects of prednisone, his inability to pant easily would make it impossible to stay cool once the warm weather returned, and would even be difficult during the very coldest weather, when the house is often cosy because of the wood stove, and even healthy dogs tend to pant.
We were prepared for this after these last two months of Haggis's illness, but not totally. Haggis has been such a good dog and such a great friend to have, and so loving. I was going to have to do it myself with the rifle -- our own vet closes at five on Friday and taking him to the emergency vet in Brewer, Maine, forty miles in his condition, with that much pain, just to be put down, wasn't a sensible option or in his best interests.
Aimee stayed inside while I put him down. He was trusting and safe in my hands until the very end, and even wagged his tail for me when I held him after the shot as he took his last breath.
I honestly can't tell you right now whether knowing he trusted me so and was happy to be with me even while dying makes it worse or better.
But I am glad he is no longer in pain and misery.
We'll bury him quietly today on our own land.