Thursday, August 26, 2004

Life and near death in the unSaintly household

I had a scare last week with Good Old Boy, my elderly golden retriever.

He's been more subdued/much less active since the last tumor was removed a few months ago. His legs have seemed weaker and more arthritic, and he's been spending more time just flopped on the floor. I'd been putting the food and water bowl where he could stand on the edge of the dining room carpet to eat and drink, because his legs slipped out from under him on the kitchen tile a couple of times, and he couldn't get up by himself.

Last week, he took a sudden turn downhill and couldn't get up by himself, period. He would just lie on the floor and bark in frustration, his back legs hardly moving at all. I would try to hoist him up, but his legs would buckle. The need to pee stiffened his legs and resolve just enough to stagger out, come back in and collapse.

I was sure this was the time Good Old Boy would have to be put down. I wasn't even sure if I had made the right decision to have that last tumor removed.

A co-worker came over and helped me load Good Old Boy into the car and I took him to the vet. I asked her about something that didn't feel right along his ribs. The vet hemmed and hawed, took an x-ray, said Good Old Boy has a mass along his ribs, which may or may not be pressing on his spine, also, his arthritis is worse. Steroids and Rimadyl might help -- it was a 50-50 shot.

I went ahead and let her give Good Old Boy a large shot of steroids, let their assistant load him in the car, and took him home, feeling pessimistically that I'd have to get him back there Monday to be put down (the vet who made the house calls for Zsa-Zsa was out of town). I managed to get Good Old Boy out of the car, but had to leave him lying on the garage floor for a while -- I just couldn't get him to his feet.

Saturday was no better; he seemed even a bit worse. My back was starting to hurt from hoisting him up. Good Old Boy is a big dog, about 85 pounds when the vet weighed him.

Sunday morning he got up. He came and leaned against my legs, looked up at me adoringly, as if saying, "Thank you for helping me up so much."

He walked around the house. He got up to go out by himself.

Good Old Boy has been stiff and awkward, but he's been getting up and down on his own since then. I don't know if it was the medication, my rather pessimistic prayers and laying on of hands, or a combination of things.

I know Good Old Boy's time is limited. The bony ridges around his eyes have become more prominent and his eyes are more sunken in. He still has that mass. He still breathes hard and looks like he's in discomfort at times, but he seems glad to be alive.

Thank you, dear God.

In the meantime, Jack, or Kitten-zilla, as I call him, is doing great. His face is almost completely healed. His right eye (which had been punctured) looks 100 times better --he should be able to keep it.

Jack is an example of God's artistry at work. He has perfect tabby markings. His coat, a bit rough when I got him (maybe he had been a feral kitten), is now sleek and smooth. He has perfectly-shaped little paws, dove-colored fur on their tops and chocolate pads on the bottoms. His forehead is wide and his chin comes to a neat point. His soft triangular ears are a good size, which according to claims in the James Herriott books, would make him a good mouser -- but I don't think we have any.

What a beautiful creation.

He is a little-monster kitten, attacking my ankles from under the bed, chewing on the dogs' tails, tormenting Elvis the cat. Elvis is starting to get used to him though, and even plays with Jack the Brat a little.

When Jack isn't being a brat, he's curled up in my lap, purring.

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