Monday, March 07, 2005

The Holy Goof

Last Wednesday I drove to Denver for my niece's birthday. That same night when I called my husband to check in he told me the dogs had disappeared for an hour during their evening walk. About an hour after that Emma threw up rabbit entrails and now, at bedtime,was still feeling sick. The next day when I pulled the car up to the gate no dogs greeted me as they usually do. When I opened the backdoor I saw Emma walking through the kitchen toward me. She was weaving back and forth like a drunken sailor on a ship at sea. She was smiling and her tail was wagging furiously. When she got to the back steps she stumbled and at the same time fell down them and then crashed into my legs.

My husband said she had spent the night getting up constantly to drink water and then head outside. She had been a little shaky when she got up in the morning but spent most of that morning sleeping. Not being able to walk very well was a new symptom. He had called the vet first thing but she said she could not see Emma until 3:30PM. It was already around 11:30AM and I told him we couldn't wait that long and to call another vet. When we gave them Emma's symptoms they said to bring her in right away. It took us 40 minutes to get there.

After examining Emma the vet asked if she could have got into any anti-freeze. We said no and told him about her eating and throwing up the rabbit. Emma was still throwing up a little bit and the vet left to prepare an injection to stop the vomiting. While we waited for him to return my husband mentioned to me that he had run the dogs out at the "Smith" place the morning before. As he said this the vet tech walked into the room and heard the end of the conversation. She ask what he had said about the Smiths. When he told her she said Mr. Smith's grandson had called to say his dog was sick and he was bringing him in. That was too much of a coincident.

The doctor decided to treat Emma for anti-freeze poisoning even though over 24 hours had passed. My husband and I headed home and then he drove out to the Smith place. He decide to search the machine shed and hidden in a corner behind a truck engine he found a iron skillet of dry cat food and meat floating in a sauce of anti-freeze. Now we know Mr Smith would never do something like that. He had given my husband permission to run our dogs out there and assured my husband that there was nothing in the machine shed that would harm them. But things had changed in the last month.

Mr. Smith had put his farm up for auction and there was now bad blood between he and his son. After Mr. Smith had decided to sell, he bought a home in town that the son considered too big and expensive. The son's own farm was not doing well and he was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. He need as much money as he could get from his share of the sale. The son was also upset that the farm was not cleaned up as well as it should have been before the auction. The Realtor was also pressuring the Smiths to clean up the farm in order to get more money for it.

Someone had put that skillet of poison out to kill some animal they didn't want there; cats, skunks, raccoons, who knows what. Unfortunately my dog and Mr. Smith's grandson's dog found it too. Setting that mixture out to kill any animal was unbelievably cruel. Walking away from it was unconscionable. When my husband talked to Mr. Smith's son and the Realtor about the skillet they all denied putting the mixture there. One said it must have been and accident, maybe someone was draining anti-freeze out of the engine and some splashed into the cat food. Or maybe someone was working on the engine and anti-freeze started leaking out so they grabbed the skillet to catch it in.

That night when I was in the state between awake and dreaming I found myself floating above the vet clinic where Emma was being treated. It was night and I floated down to the clinic and through the door and down the hall to door of the room were the kennel cages were and where Emma was sleeping. I floated through the door and into the room. In the room I found myself looking down at Emma's kennel and, as I watched, the interior of the kennel started glowing with a light that got brighter and brighter and then exploded into a white brilliance that filled the room. I was so surprised by this I jerked instantly awake.

On Friday morning, we drove back up to the vet clinic to see Emma. We brought Kate with us and when Emma saw Kate she struggled to stand up and then staggered out of the kennel to see us. We were delighted by this and the fact that her eyes were clear and not clouded over in misery. She climbed into my lap and lay there with her tail wagging. Every time she heard one of us speak her tail would wag in happiness. We stayed with her about 45 minutes and when she started shivering and showing signs of weariness so we carefully put her back in her kennel and prepared to leave. She keep struggling to get up and come with us. My husband took off one of his socks and put it next to her nose and that seemed to calm her and we said goodbye. The doctor was out on an emergency call but the vet tech told us that the doctor was pleased by how alert Emma was that morning but at the same time still worried because even though they had started on the second bag of saline solution Emma had still not peed. Anti-freeze kills by damaging the kidneys so Emma not urinating was a bad sign.

We went back that afternoon and she was not doing well. She was lethargic, weak, cold and the look of misery was back in her eyes. She still had not urinated and they were getting ready to start a third bag of saline solution. We took her out of the kennel and sat with her for two hours while she slept. I think she was comforted by the fact we were there. After two hours we put her back in her kennel and went home telling the vet techs we would be back in the morning.

Early Saturday morning we again made the drive up and took Kate with us. As we turned into the driveway and the clinic building came into our view I felt a wave of fear and nausea rising inside me. Nothing about the building had changed since the last time we had been here but I knew that this time I was looking at a house of death. I think my husband felt the same way because he said we should take Kate for a short walk before we went inside. We did and then brought her inside with us. The vet tech who met us was solemn as she lead us back to Emma. It was not good. Emma still had not urinated, she was on her third bag of saline solution, her body was starting to retain the fluids they had already given her, she was throwing up green bile, and the blood test they had run showed the anti-freeze had metabolized and the toxins were in her blood. Her kidneys had shut down and she was dying.

We took her outside under the trees and sat with her as we decided what to do. We had three choices, we could keep putting fluids into her and hope for a miracle, we could take her home to die, or we could have her put to sleep. In the end we decide that the first two choices would only benefit us and not Emma. She was in misery. She was starting to look bloated from the fluid build up and she was shivering. Her ears, gums, nose, and feet were cold to the touch. She had sores in her mouth and on her lips. Her gums were swollen. In her eyes I saw only misery. My husband kept looking into her eyes and she would focus on him for a few seconds and then drift off somewhere. He would call her name and she would come back for a few seconds and then drift off again. It was time.

Each night at bedtime we take the dog's collars off and tell them it is time to go to bed. As I hugged Emma I took her collar off and told her it was time to go to sleep. The time it took for Emma to die was measured in the space between inhaling and exhaling. She was alive at the beginning of that pause and gone by the end of it. As we sat with her in death I called Kate over and we watched as she carefully smelled Emma rear end, her feet, and her nose. After she was done she walked a few steps away and laid down. We then buried Emma's body in the pet cemetery near the clinic.

Emma was our clown, our knucklehead, our cuddle bug, our doofus, our love. One friend said Emma was the only dog she ever met that was always smiling.

She was my Holy Goof.


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