Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Expressions of sympathy for Albi

If you would like to make a donation to honor Albi, please make it to any or all of the following:

Your local animal shelter or animal rescue group. They are always desperate for cash, to pay for food, beds, medicine, staff time, utilities (lights, heat), their Internet access (SO important in this day and age), office materials and on-and-on. Donations of things are great, but please call them first and ASK if they need whatever item it is you want to donate.

Mayhew International, which supports nonprofits all over the world, including Afghanistan, Romania, Russia and India, regarding spay and neuter programs and programs to help build compassion and responsible pet ownership skills among local communities, particularly children. I found out about them when I lived in Kabul. They are wonderful. They are based in the U.K. You can make your gift ear-marked for a certain country or program, if you like.

Nowzad Dogs. This is a nonprofit shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan, supported in part by Mayhew. Compassion for animals breeds compassion for everyone. Helping this shelter and its animals IS helping people, and it's very much needed in Afghanistan.

The story of Albi.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Albi's last day

As of now, the moment I'm writing this, we're keeping the appointment for the vet to come here this evening to the house and put Albi to sleep.

I had a lot of second thoughts yesterday, so much that I was ready to cancel the appointment. She is better: whereas a few days ago she couldn't even lift her head and didn't care if we moved her at all, she not only sits up now on her front paws, like a Sphinx, but she can also now stand up, getting up on her own, and even walk a little. Whereas we were having to give her water out of a syringe a few days ago and she didn't care about food at all - and then when she did, we had to feed her with a spoon as she laid on her side - she can now lean up on her front legs and eat and drink out of bowl set between her paws. She's now completely responsive and aware - mentally normal and comfortable.

Last night, we carried her out to the little space in the yard where she likes to pee and stood her up off of her bed, and pee she did. This morning, we did it again, and she walked a few steps and peed. Though, both times, we had to be there to spot her so she wouldn't fall. This morning, I walked her around the kitchen and dining room.

So, so much for my comment in my last blog that she would never walk again.

But now, she can't be left alone - she could so easily fall and break a leg, even if she wasn't stumbling into things because she's blind. One of her back legs frequently doesn't land properly, with her paw often crumpling underneath the leg at an uncomfortable angle. If she needs to pee and Stefan isn't here, I can't guarantee I can get her outside - maybe she can make the walk, maybe she can't. And if I can't get her out - which I couldn't a couple of hours after he left this morning, she has no choice - she has to pee where she is. And she HATES that - she lets off this high pitched, soft whine for several minutes when she needs to pee because she doesn't want to do it inside - she likes a clean, tidy space. She is not at all at that oh-I'll-just-pee-here-I-don't-care stage. But if I can't get her outside, she has no choice, and she HATES it.

We've looked at harnesses for her back legs, to more easily lift her up and walk her, but we think her back right leg is too far gone for that to be the help with need. And that doesn't take care of our concern that she'll break a leg just stumbling around the house because I'm in another room or outside, let alone away from home.

I know that there's not many people that would fault me for putting her down at this point. But when I lay in the floor with her, and we spoon, and she sighs from loving it so much, or I watch her eat and drink just like normal, I think, couldn't I deal with it, just for a couple more months? If we could carry her bed out in the morning and every four hours throughout the day, she could pee as she needs. And I don't mind changing her bedding, I really don't. And it's not like employers are beating down my door. Couldn't I do this for a little while? Doesn't she deserve that?

She's my baby girl, my first girl. I love her so much.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Our last weekend with Albi

Albi is here with me right now - I'm in the kitchen, and she's on one of her beds, next to me, on the floor, sleeping, with her head on my foot.

We had a scare a couple of weeks ago with Albi, but she recovered significantly in a few hours, and by the next day, seemed fine - fine for a 17-year-old blind, arthritic dog. And that's how it's been for two weeks. I even went on a trip to Philadelphia for a week, and when I returned, I found a happy, normal senior dog, ready for her twice-a-day very abbreviated walk and 2 a.m. outside visit for a quick pee and as many dog treats as I would allow her. I had done a lot of searches online and decided her spell from earlier was because of vestibular disease, which is a fairly common condition in older dogs. Everything online said most dogs improve and, indeed, she obviously had.

Some time in the wee hours of Thursday morning this week, it happened again - after getting up every hour on the hour in the night, looking for I-don't-know-what, she plopped down on her bed and then couldn't get up, and was completely limp. But this time, she wasn't dehydrated, and copious amounts of water did nothing to improve her state. Albi lay like a sack of potatoes, with no reaction to us picking her up and moving her or touching her oh-so-sensitive front legs, just like a couple of weeks ago. But this time, after a few hours, she wasn't getting better. We tried standing her up, but her paws would buckle underneath her, even as we held her up.

I spent all that day giving her water through a large syringe, sans needle, and trying to get her to eat, hoping for another recovery. After 17 hours of no food, the only thing she would eat was lunch meat. She wasn't even interested in dog treats, something she normally will take your hand off in pursuit of. I finally got her to eat some dry food soaked in chicken broth - I had to hold her head up to eat such, but she did chomp a few bites down.

By the end of Thursday, we were both a mess - she could barely move, and I was so sleep deprived I was trying not to cry over absolutely everything. I was giving her water from the syringe every 30 minutes because she couldn't hold her head up to drink out of a bowl. She was peeing - as she lay there, on one of her beds - and while I wasn't happy about the mess and smell, it meant she was hydrated.

Friday was calmer and better: we both slept through the night, and she started eating again. But Albi still cannot get up. She raised herself up on her front up for a few minutes on Friday, but that's it. I still give her water with the syringe, and I have to feed her with a spoon - at least now she is interested again in food, even dog treats (watch those fingers - you WILL lose one if you get too close during feeding time). But when she starts flailing those stiff joints as though she wants to get up, and we try to help her, she flops right back down immediately ("I wanted to get up, but now that you are touching me, please commence with the body massage").

Our choices are letting nature take its course, or hurrying it along.

I have been fine with the way things have been for the last two years - yes, she's blind and more and more hasn't been able to make it outside in time to poop, but until now, she has eaten oh so well, and the messes are easy to clean up. And she's been able to get up and walk. But now, she can't. After a pee accident one evening in the house a few months ago, I was getting up in the middle of the night to take her out, and that seemed to take care of her needs. Now, since she can't get up at all, she has to pee laying on her bed. For the last 48 hours, we've had at least one clean bed in the waiting, and one bed drying to be ready later, and I'm constantly changing the pads  of paper towels I have her laying on in an attempt to soak up as much pee as possible, so she's not constantly laying in such. And we will do this all weekend. But it's no way for a dog to live long-term.

Her mind is fine, her spirit is fierce, and I know she's angry about why her body isn't working properly. We just can't tell how much discomfort she's in. We're hoping it's not too bad, since she's able to sleep - and does so most of the time.

We've decided that, now, letting nature take its course is not good for Albi. Stefan and I have decided to make an appointment for the vet to come on Tuesday evening. That way, we have the entire weekend together. Barring a miracle, this is our last weekend together with our lovely Albi.

Today, Friday, has been beautiful, so we carried her outside on her bed, turned her over so she could sleep on her other side for the first time in 48 hours, onto a clean bed, and I cleaned her up as best I could, then let her fur dry in the sun. I also took a few photos. She loved it. I thought we'd be out for maybe an hour. We were out for almost 3. We brought her in when it cooled off, even in the sun, and we could tell she was cold.

Yes, that's Max the cat in the photo at left. Max likes being near her. But never goes near her mouth, as he somehow knows that, given the chance, he would be chomped. She's blind, she can barely move, but she would love nothing better than to chomp a cat.

Her mind is still so sharp, her lust for life is still so strong. It makes me think of my grandfather.  That's how he was too at the end. And that's what made it so much harder.

And so, now she lays here next to me here in the kitchen. She just had some dry dog food, and a bit more water. Every few hours, she starts flailing those stiff legs and breathing a bit hard and even lifting her nose up a bit - she wants something. To get up. To stop this nonsense.

It's our last weekend together. We're trying to make it a good one.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Albi update

She's MUCH better. Significantly better. She had copious amount of water, slept reasonably well, and 24 hours later, was being her usual, demanding self.

We're now taking her to her water bowl every time she gets up, even if she had a lot of water the last time she was up. You can take an Albi to water but you can't make her drink - but you can keep encouraging her, and a little chicken broth in the water can help.

Oh, and she was back to growling at the neighbors' dogs at the door. HURRAH!