As I always say, senior dogs are such a huge love of mine. I know this perplexes some who have the thought of “why bring in an old dog when it’s going to die soon?”, but to me that’s such a sad thing to hear. Sure, their time spent with you is shortened, but does that really mean it has to be any less awesome?
In a word, NO.
We have a few right now in rescue – Noelle, Bogart is on the border of adult and senior, and of course, Ethel. Sweet, bright, canned food loving Ethel.
Yesterday, after a day of handiwork on the house, we decided that upon a sudden onset of starvation we’d make a late night trip to Waffle House. Almost two hours later to the minute, I walked in the door and started my motherly duties. Everyone was fine. Happy, waggily tails, rants about the events during the two hours I was gone, and sprints around the backyard galore. Ethel moved along as she always did, shuffling about and following the routine.
This routine includes everyone settling in after a few minutes of chaos, but last night Ethel just couldn’t seem to relax. While at first it seemed as if she needed to go outside and finish prior business, I soon realized it was more than the need to potty. She paced, she panted. She paced, she panted, and tried to lay down. Two minutes later she was pacing again, drool starting to soak her mane.
“Emergency! Emergency!” I voiced louder than normal to let the dogs know we had to hurry. They have learned the word and the routine after watching their mom run around frantically just before bolting out the door with this or that dog. They did good…they quickened their step and nobody argued about going into their crate. I was very proud of them.
It takes me so crazy long to get to the animal ER. It’s a 45min to an hour long drive, closer to 45 min in the wee hours with no traffic or deer interference on the back roads. I don’t know how long it took me, but I do know I was grateful for no highway patrol officers for the duration of my travel because I didn’t follow proper speed limit protocol.
Ethel and I walked into the emergency hospital and told the receptionist her symptoms:
- Color good
- Tummy didn’t feel distended
- Didn’t want to drink or eat anything
- Cried once while walking and instantly sat down, obviously upset
- About 12yrs old
- I feared bloat or a ruptured mass.
The doctor came into the room and agreed with my assumption, asking if they could do a couple of x-rays. I both expected and wanted this, so I agreed.
They said Ethel was a pro for the pictures.
Dr. Rogers walked in to show me the radiographs. There it sat in its attempt to be coy, only slightly showing it’s rounded features and trying to blend in so it could perform its hateful, self absorbed duties of feeding off of our sweet, senior Great Pyrenees without being noticed. <insert name-calling that probably wouldn’t be professional to type out>
Ethel, indeed, had a mass in her spleen, also known as Hemangiosarcoma. It is a fast, angry form of cancer that never shows any remorse for its actions. I’ve seen it many times and always hate it this time more than the last. Our darling Ethel was struggling as a result. I cried my goodbye and rest my head on her for a few minutes, just loving her.
All sorts of things go through my head when I have to let a dog cross the rainbow bridge. I don’t know if anyone else does this or not, but it’s an inevitable process for me b/c I think about what I did or didn’t do. In this case I looked at Ethel, scraggly and unbrushed, and apologized to her for not paying closer attention. I have a “thing” with brushing arthritic and painful dogs. It hurts when you brush them. Ethel cried. I didn’t push it. Having fibromyalgia I know what it feels like to have your skin ache, burn and sting, and how he slightest pressure can make you scream sometimes. So I empathize. Pain hurts. If they don’t have any skin issues or similar that are causing problems, then I don’t care if the dog looks a bit like a scruffy mutt.
Yet in my 2 back to back flu flare ups, only to be followed by a bulging disc, I let my light brushing get away from me (I did do that much for her). So last night I apologized for my lax ways and for not giving her more canned food for dinner.
Ethel loved moist food. Nightly I put warm water on her dry kibble…just enough to enhance the smell and make it slightly moist. She loved it. She also loved it out of a can. Daily, both morning and evening, she sat by the stove as I handed out meds to the dogs. She didn’t have many, but she took pain medication and her beloved Phycox. She typically took those meds wrapped up inside the Phycox soft chew, and then I always gave her a chunk of canned food, whether she had additional medications or not. In the back of my head, each time I handed it to her I heard “Because you’re Ethel.”
Ethel brought me a tremendous amount of joy. She was such a feisty, fun, and happy girl despite all that she’d been through. Multiple masses, multiple surgeries, a family that consciously didn’t feed her and allowed her to wear those damn masses for God knows how long (including two on her eyes). She was 68lbs of bones and bumps when she came into rescue. A few surgeries later, a lot of food, and appropriate back dancing both in the dirt and by rubbing against the fence while wearing a ridiculous, sloppy grin, Ethel became a 100lb ball of fluffy love.
I suppose the title seems to contradict this blog post, but the truth is that rescuing seniors really does rock. The things I would have missed out on if sweet Ethel hadn’t crossed my path…That enormous grin, the head rubs, the heart lifting joy she received at breakfast and before bedtime when she got her moist food meatball. The neck hugs, the silly avoidance of the camera and the fat, scrunchy face that was irresistibly cute when she slept. The love…all that love she brought to me.
Don’t think that I made a mistake in taking in a decrepit old dog that looked like a mangy mutt. There was no mistake. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I loved the last two years with her.
And if you decide to adopt a senior dog, you will learn that of which I speak. It’s different. It’s just…different.
Be different, will ya?
See you again one day, my sweet Ethel Mae. Your foster mommy loves you.
Watch how Ethel grew from the shelter to recently: