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.

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