My friends often comment about how many random topics I happen to have intimate knowledge of but unfortunately it is usually because it has impacted my life specifically.
Last Thursday started off like every ordinary day. My husband and I roll out of bed, wash the night off our faces and sleepily hook our dog up on her leash for her morning ritual. Recent months have brought slightly slower walks as she approaches 15 years old but like most days, this walk included a spurt of energy where she runs and leaps and feels true joy. Upon our return, my husband continues the morning ritual and gives her a treat. Oddly, she stumbles backwards but seemed to recover. Passing thought was she got caught on the edge of the rug. Moments later, we hear a commotion and she is sprawled out, wedged between her food & water bowls and the wall. Quickly, my husband swoops her up into his arms to calm her and we both break down knowing that this is likely a sign that the cancer we removed last year has spread to her brain.
Once calmer, he puts her down to see if she can walk but as expected, she shakes and stumbles much like a baby giraffe trying out their new legs. Her eyes are scattering back and forth like a typewriter head and her head tilts. She is vomiting and panting. Clearly scared.
How could we have just had a nice, normal walk and now thoughts of the decision of euthanasia are setting in? Last summer, she was having some teeth removed and when the vet was trying to start an aspiration tube, it got caught on something… a mass. Upon the vet’s suggestion, we went to a special surgeon who removed the growth and the biopsy results showed high potential of cancer. She become “Lumpy Lilly” so we expected that it likely was not the only cancerous tumor but at 14, we wanted to focus on quality of life and we decided to leave the rest alone.
Since then, her life has been full. She quickly recovered from her surgeries and was eating more than ever. She seemed pain free and enjoyed playing and herding her family as all Tibetan Terriers instinctively do. In the back of our minds, we have been preparing for a sad day but no one is ever ready to let go of someone you love and gives so much unconditional love in return.
Assuming there would be no chance of recovery, we were now focused on giving her a peaceful goodbye and chose an in-home euthanasia service, Peaceful Passage. My mind is always evaluating businesses, and this time was no different. From the initial contact, you could tell their compassion and professionalism made this unique service their true calling. While we waited for the doctor’s arrival, we prepared for what we thought would be our final goodbye. The tears and prayers flowed.
As she entered our home, she promptly asked me about the series of events that led us to call for their services. Instantly, Dr. White’s face changed when she heard the symptoms that I described and wanted to meet with both my husband and I and meet our dear Lilly before we went any further.
Her diagnosis was quick; Vestibular Disease for older dogs. What she described was much like what I feel when I have an attack of Vertigo, the eye movement is her body’s attempt to slow down the spinning and her inability to walk is explained by that same instability. While we can assume the underlying cause is her cancer either in her brain or inner ear, we cannot be sure that she won’t recover and still enjoy a quality of life a little longer so we agree to hold off on any decisions and go to her regular veterinarian office.
Although cautious to give us any hope, the diagnosis is the same and they give her an IV of fluids and anti-nausea medicine to hopefully stop the vomiting that resulted from the spinning. Fate always amazes me, and this doctor visit was no different. While we were waiting for Lilly to complete her IV drip, we met another dog and his human. When she heard that we were there for Vestibular Disease she promptly said that her dog had experienced the same diseases and, while it was frightening to both owner and dog, it did improve over the course of a week.
Lilly was presented to us by the technician and miraculously, we started to see a reduction in eye movement and gained hope that the next 72 hours would bring positive change.
The next 24 hours were long and none of us have had much sleep. She is clearly scared, as are we. While I know we may still be on the verge of a dreadful decision, learning how common this disease is in older dogs that can recover made me compelled to share this story and information with my readers.
The Sunny Side: Clearly Lilly was listening because almost to the minute, 72 hours after the initial onset of symptoms, she is showing clear improvement. She got up and walked over to her water bowl with determination and lopped up some fresh fluids. She stopped on her way back to her bed for a quick snack of kibble we left on the floor for her. Not 100% stable and clearly requiring effort with every step but progress for sure. The sign we needed that we had made the right decision was overwhelming to see. The best Mother’s Day gift I could ask for this year.
We still don’t know how much progress we can expect and what our new normal will look like. Obviously, she cannot live forever but with every wag of the tail and lick of the hand, we know she has a little more will to live and we are happy to give the time she deserves. We love our Lilly very much!