This is so difficult for me, I don’t know where to begin. But I want to write everything down while it’s still fresh in my mind.
Quigley and I were hanging out at the Valley Hills Obedience Club’s trial on Saturday 12/10/11, the second day of our 3rd annual “Rally Marathon”. It was just after we had finished our Excellent run when I suddenly noticed that something was very wrong with his right eye. It looked like a marble, not milky but I couldn’t clearly see his pupil because there was an orange/red haze over it that blurred iris and pupil together. There was no discharge, no ruptured blood vessel in the white of his eye, no scratches. Just this freaky looking iris.
After awards for the Advanced run I packed up and we went straight to our regular vet, but the folks there weren’t very helpful, telling me I should come back after 2 pm and they would see me as a walk-in. I didn’t want to wait around, so I got the number of the eye specialist that’s in the same building as the dentist Quigley sees, and luckily they were open and they said I could bring him in immediately.
In a way I’m glad it turned out that way, since at Eye Care for Animals they obviously knew what they were doing – and the specialist vet doesn’t even know what exactly is going on. They took his eye pressure, placed some test strips, stained, looked into his eyes with about 5 different instruments. The verdict: there’s massive inflammation in his eye, and also some blood. He doesn’t have much (if any) useful vision in it at all right now. We don’t know what happened. The vet said if it was an injury, it would have come from strong, blunt trauma, like running into something hard, or falling on his head. I can’t recall anything like that happening. They drew blood and tested extensively, including for any signs of tick-borne disease and fungal infection. The vet started aggressive treatment of the inflammation with Metacam and Prednisolone eye drops. A recheck was scheduled for 12/20.
I looked into my dog’s eyes every day, and I did not see this the night before when I combed him out for ticks after our hike before we went to bed. Even now I still question every time I recently saw him shake his head, rub his face with his paw, or not seeing something. When we were at the 12/11 trial, he did a lot better than the previous day, but when a friend stepped on his right side and waved her hand in front of his eye, he didn’t react at all. Other than that he behaved normally though, ate, drank, wanted to play, tug and work, and was his usual crazy, busy self.
When the vet called with lab results on Monday, 12/12 everything that came back was completely normal – to my great relief at the time. No borderline values, other than the typical higher BUN and Creatinine since Quigley is raw fed. Ehrlicia and RMSF negative. His eye looked the same, but he was still acting normal. Since there was no reason to stay home, we went to our last trial for the weekend, and he did better than on Saturday.
When I put in his eye drop in the morning on 12/16, Quigley’s eye looked a bit worse than the previous day, so I called the vet and asked if we could come in for our follow-up today after our trial instead of waiting until Tuesday. They squeezed us in because I was so concerned. They repeated some tests they had already done last Saturday, and since there was nothing new other than more blood, the vet (not the same as last time – I like both very much, but nice to have a second opinion) suggested checking Quigley’s blood pressure and an ultrasound of his eye. Hypertension can cause eye problems, and she wanted to see what was going on with his retina.
His blood pressure was between 179 and 182, and the ultrasound showed that a part of the retina was detached, probably caused by high blood pressure, but we didn’t know for sure. The detached retina caused bleeding, which is what was so visibly orange/red in his eye. Apparently some of the blood had dissipated earlier this week, but then there was another bleeding incident and it increased again.
Quigley was put on medication to lower his blood pressure and a re-check scheduled for the following Tuesday. We didn’t know at this point what caused the hypertension, and if it was just temporary or not, so my plan was to take Quigley to a cardiologist for a check up in early January to see if there’s any underlying issue. I was hoping this course of action would work and the detached portion of the retina reattach itself.
On 12/20 there was nothing new to report. His blood pressure was still high, but I didn’t know if that was just because he is so stressed every time I have to take him to a vet. The eye specialist is in the same building as the dentist, and he just had such bad experiences after 3 surgeries to have teeth pulled.
The dosage for his blood pressure meds was doubled, and we were now trying prednisone instead of Metacam to treat the inflammation more aggressively until his recheck on January 6th. Despite being so scared and trembling the whole time, he was such a good boy with the poking and prodding and shining lights in his eyes, all the vet techs involved and both vets commented on it.
On Friday, 12/23, just before we set out on our trip to Durango, I took Quigley to his regular vet to have an urinalysis done. I wanted to know if maybe there was an underlying problem with his kidneys that caused the hypertension. The vet later left a message letting me know that except for a somewhat low specific gravity (indicating that he wasn’t concentrating his urine properly at this time) everything was normal. Due to that I changed from feeding his usual diet to brown rice and salmon for the time being, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Fishy foods and treats had always been his favorite.
We had a fun trip, including a stopover at a motel in Phoenix, where he was very happy to be allowed to sleep on the bed with us, something he wasn’t allowed to do at home. Our stay in Durango was wonderful, right up to the evening of Sunday, 01/01/12. We played, hung out by the fireplace, went for some walks, and spent a lot of time together. Other than the eye problem, everything seemed so normal.
Sunday afternoon Quigley had a little coughing fit, I just thought maybe he had a piece of treat stuck in his throat. It was just a few seconds, then he was back to normal. The same thing happened again in the early evening. Later on, when we went to bed, he started coughing again and it didn’t stop very quickly. I got him to come out from under the bed by asking him if he wanted a treat, and he came crawling out immediately. A few more coughs, and suddenly he brought up a glob of bright red blood.
That was when I started freaking out, because I thought he had swallowed something that had gotten stuck, so Patrick went to find out about emergency vets in Durango and I got dressed and ready so we could leave as soon as we knew where to go. Found the vet that was on call for the area and met her at the hospital about half an hour later. Quigley had stopped coughing by now, but I was still freaked out over what might be going on.
They did an exam, x-ray, and bloodwork. It was a long time before the vet came back to talk to us, and the assistant who was there told us that she had emailed the x-rays to a radiologist and was talking to him on the phone to find out more. Long story short, my poor little guy has massive lung disease and they suspected pneumonia and possibly cancer.
We packed up the car and drove home right away, with Quigley on antibiotics and bronchiodilators. Took him straight to Advanced Critical Care here when we arrived in the evening of 01/02 and he was hospitalized and put in an oxygen cage to help him breathe more easily. I felt so bad having to leave him at a vet’s yet again, after all he’s been through and hated it so much, but they said he might pass away in his sleep without oxygen therapy. He was also put on IV fluids due to being dehydrated. They took additional x-rays, and unfortunately his condition had declined already within the last 21 hours or so since we saw the vet in Colorado.
On 01/03 the vet called in the morning and said they did an ultrasound and found a mass near his pancreas, which might be a tumor, or just an enlarged lymph node. Everything else looked normal. They sedated Quigley and did a needle biopsy of the mass to hopefully learn more and get some answers as to what’s going on. The remarkable thing is that his bloodwork was still normal, with only a slightly (but still normal) elevated WBC, and slightly elevated ALT due to taking prednisone. The urinalysis was normal, including specific gravity. The ultrasound showed all other organs look normal.
At around 2.45 pm my friend Bari picked me up to go visit Quigley at the Hospital, and I was hoping to get some information on what was wrong with him, and hopefully some options for treatment. Talked to the eye specialist and also to the vet at the 24 hour care facility for a little bit, but did not get any new information. The eye doc said that it was time to “start looking for Zebras” since nothing made much sense.
When I finally got to see Quigley, he was still very disoriented from being sedated for the biopsy. He did not respond well to me, although when I first stuck my hand into the oxygen cage, he sat up and wagged his tail a little bit. The vet put us in a consultation room to spend some time together, but I made it very short as Quigley didn’t want to take any food or treats from me (a very, very bad sign – this has not happened very often throughout his life). I placed him on a fresh bed in his oxygen cage, petted his head, and left him to rest.
Bari and I went to have an early dinner, and then she dropped me off at home. At 5.41 pm the phone rang, the display showing the caller ID of the vet hospital. I didn’t know what to expect, but unfortunately it wasn’t good news. The Dr. said that since I left, Quigley’s condition had deteriorated, his heart rate was very high, and he had a harder time breathing even with oxygen therapy. She offered that they could put him on a ventilator to help him breathe, while doing more diagnostics, but there was no hope of his lungs recovering to the point where he could come home with me. I decided that it was time to say goodbye, as I did not want Quigley to suffer any more. I grabbed some treats and Patrick drove us over there.
Events at the hospital are a blur in my mind now. Just before we went inside, I told Patrick that I will not let my dog die in a place he hated so much. Many times in his life I promised Quigley that no matter what happened, I would always take care of him and never, ever leave him behind. If he had died at the hospital, I felt I would have let him down on that promise.
I asked that he be brought out so that I could take him to the car, one of the places where he has always been happiest in his life. A vet tech carried him out, and I put his collar and leash on, asking if he wanted to go home, go for a car ride. He became very determined and headed straight for the door immediately. Clearly, he wanted to leave that place. We went outside to the little potty area and he lifted his leg for a long pee, deposited a little pile, and then made a beeline for the car. It was amazing and saddening to see that he still had the strength to jump up into the front seat and then climb into his crate. It wasn’t an energetic jump like it used to be, but it was very determined.
I settled in the back seat with the crate turned sideways and offered him some chocolate and peanut butter cups, neither of which he wanted. He took a stick of dried tripe and held it for a few seconds, but dropped it when I offered some soft, fishy treats. As if to reassure me in the only way he could, he ate a few pieces and then settled into my arms. It seemed like all of Quigley’s strength suddenly left him, now that he was in a familiar, place with the people he loved. I told him many things, how much I love him, and that it is ok to let go, to sleep. Patrick climbed in to sit beside me and we said our goodbyes, telling him what a good boy he is. He was laying there, his eyes half closed and limp, but his little heart was beating very fast and he had trouble breathing. I really didn’t want to let him go just yet, but I couldn’t bear seeing him like that any longer, feeling his heart race. But more importantly I didn’t want him to pick up on my sadness and pain any more than he already did, and I felt very close to falling apart.
So I nodded to the vet that it was time. She climbed into the front seat and injected the sedative into the catheter that had already been in place to give IV fluids. I was grateful that there was no need to inflict more pain by giving the injection directly. Just a few minutes later, when I felt certain he wouldn’t feel it anymore, she gently helped him to pass and I carried him back inside. I laid him down on a soft blanket, stroked his beautiful coat and kissed him for the last time.
Good bye Quigley, my good boy, my good doggie. I love you so very, very much and am grateful for the time we had together, for all the adventures we shared.
I’ll catch up with you a little ways down the road, and then we can walk together again.