I lost my little girl on June 4th. She was twelve and a half years old, the youngest dog to leave for the Bridge.
She had a cough for a while. It would come and go, happening most often when she was excited. I took her to the vet, who thought it might be laryngeal paralysis – correctable with surgery.
On the last day of May, in the morning, thirty minutes after playing with Seelie in the living room, Raven went into severe respiratory distress. It was a flashback to Phoenix last October – same horribly pale gums, same heavy breathing, same worried expression.
I took her to the emergency vet, a full-service hospital luckily only five minutes from home. They put her on oxygen, discovered muffled heart sounds, did an ultrasound, and found fluid built up in the pericardial sac that encloses the heart. They also found a mass on her heart.
The vet recommended using a needle to aspirate the fluid, which would give Raven immediate relief. We did that. The vet also recommended a consultation with a cardiologist, explaining a surgery to establish a pericardial window, which would prevent the fluid buildup from happening again.
Raven stayed at the hospital overnight. I did research in the meantime, and took June 1st off from work. Research indicated that a mass on the heart was almost always hemangiosarcoma – an aggressive, rapidly spreading blood vessel cancer, fairly common in Aussies and what likely killed Phoenix.
Surgery was out of the question. I saw no point in putting her through that when she could bleed out from anywhere in her body the next day.
I brought her home, knowing she could have anywhere from hours to months left.
I am so glad I did. She felt much better, and had a wonderful day on Tuesday. She went on her park adventure with Merlin and George, and I have a wonderful picture of her smiling at the camera. George told me she was playing When I got home from work, all of us played together in the living room.
On Wednesday, when I got home from work, her energy level was a bit lower. She ate dinner, but wouldn’t take a treat later on – a warning sign from a dog who never refused food. I watched her carefully, checking on her in the middle of the night.
We all played outside on Thursday afternoon. I put the other dogs inside, and sat with her for a while on the deck. Later on, she ate two bites of her dinner, then moved away from it, sat in an unnatural position, and looked at me.
It was time.
I made several phone calls… friends and family who knew her well and deserved to know. We went to the hospital, and about an hour later she went to sleep in my arms and didn’t wake up.
The hardest part is making the final decision. I’m glad she helped by letting me know how she felt; dogs tend to be rather stoic, or at least my herding dogs do, so she likely felt worse than she let on. It was all made harder by the fact that the impending loss represented an end to a chapter of my life. My last Aussie gone, a tie to past friends and agility classes and my competitions with Kestry about to be broken.
I’ve moved my large canvas pictures of Raven and Phoenix to the walls above the television so I can more easily see them every time I walk through the room. There’s an empty spot at my feet when I eat dinner. I keep almost calling her when the boys come in at night. Her ashes are in an urn on a shelf, along with Phoenix, Kestry, Panda, and Wolf.
Just the three boys now.