Yesterday I lost a friend

Do you know what a true friend is?  I do, cause I had one.  A true friend is one who always gives you their unconditional love and NEVER asks for anything in return.

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Jackson came into our lives back in the fall 2011.   Jen and I had just moved in together with her horde of 3 cats and we started talking about getting a dog.   I was  not in a rush to move towards pets again as I had lived with 2 dogs that my ex-wife now has.  Ir hurt me that I lost both of them.    I loved having dogs but I knew the amount of work some can be.   I also routinely take care of 2 dogs in Bermuda so was not sure if I really up for the task.  Jen would send me pictures of dogs from the various rescues in Ottawa hoping that one would catch my attention.   One finally did – Jackson.   The story of his arrival with us can be found here – canadianloon.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/for-hopeful-hearts-an-update-on-jackson/

Since that update Jackson has had to ensure the arrival of a 4th cat and another dog.   Much to his displeasure – lol.  He liked being the sole attention.  He also moved twice more and the process of learning an entire new house always takes time with a blind dog.  But with everything he came to love all the additions to the house and the new living locations.

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His new little sister Wookie

This past year has been a tough one on our hero.  Suddenly one of his eyes turned black and we took him into the vet.  Turned out he had an ulcer on his eye.  But in true Jackson spirit he continued to smile, the vet was shocked as she knew the pain that he must be in.  We spent about 4 months trying to save the eye and in the end we had to make the decision to remove it.   As he was blind already it made sense and in hindsight (no pun intended) we should have done it much sooner.  Just a few short months later, he somehow punctured the other eye, we never thought twice, just had it removed as well.

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Since that last surgery, he has struggled.  We could tell that he was starting to lose his hearing but he was also loosing his awareness of his surroundings.   He has always been good at knowing exactly were he was and if spoken to, could move towards the voice.   This was not working anymore.  Around Christmas he started barking at nights uncontrollably  for no reason that we could detect and he would not sleep in our bedroom.  We started to think it was dementia.    He continued to get worse and into the vet we went where they could also tell something was wrong.  A few x-rays later and they confirmed that he had sever arthritis in his front shoulders.   He was in serious pain.

A mixture of pain killers and anti-inflammatories followed and the dosage kept increasing until he slowly returned to about 80%.  But he was sleeping again, smiling and being the goofy dog that he always has been.  But we could tell that time was starting to catch up with him.

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Suddenly this past Thursday he started vomiting.  This has happened in the past during the spring and we have always called it his version of the flu.  And man can he make a vomit mess!   After 24 hours he seemed to settle down and then suddenly he vomited and immediately I knew this was not the flu.  This was a very dark liquid that look black and terrible.   Called our vet who advised to get him into the emergency room for pets immediately.

As we arrived he became lethargic and laid down on the floor, this was not common for him.  They immediately took him into the back to assess what was happening.   Shortly they returned with x-rays and we started going through everything.   There was no blockage of the digestive system but the x-ray was showing something that looked like a  mass on his spleen pressing against his spine causing extreme pain.  The working theory was that anti-inflammatory meds had caused an ulcer and that was the cause of the vomiting.   The x-rays also showed that he had extreme arthritis in his rear hips as well.

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Doctors being doctors immediately wanted to start a full body scan to sort out the mass and get biopsies and figure out the surgical procedures to fix him him.   I had to stop and slow everyone down.  This is a dog who is between 10-12 years old with sever arthritis, blind and losing his hearing.  Lets think this out.  We left him overnight to get the vomiting  under control while I talked to the family and our family vet.

After talking it through the decision was made that we would bring him home and let him live out his live in comfort and not in a strange place. This could be days, weeks or hopefully months.  Putting him through painful surgeries and more trauma that would probably only prolong his life for a short period made no sense.   In talking with our vet, any mass on the spleen is usually cancer and it will burst, it was not a matter of if, but a matter of when.   We went up and brought our groggy friend home.  On the way out one of the vet techs took me aside and whispered that we were doing the right thing.    After a good nights sleep he was having a decent day at home with the family but it was obvious that he still was not feeling good.  But he was starting to take some food and water and we were hopeful that he would recover enough to spend some more time, but we would make him comfortable.

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Suddenly late yesterday afternoon he started vomiting again, but this was terrible.  It was obviously blood and the smell was terrible.  He could not stop burping and the blood kept coming.   It was tough but we realized right then that he was suffering and in pain and that we needed to do something.  He was becoming frantic and distressed.

I e-mailed a local organization called Claire Place  who have a wonderful reputation.  Unfortunately thye are only open Monday – Friday.   Jackson continued to get worse and I was about to call Alta Vista to get him in immediately as he was in extreme distress and we were frantic in wanting to help him but could think of nothing to do except to be with him.   As if perfectly timed, the phone range from Dr Titcombe of Claire House.  She could tell from my e-mail that this warranted a quick check and not to wait until Monday.  We explained what was happening and she IMMEDIATELY dispatched one of her other vets to come help us.  I will call her Dr D as I’m not sure if she wants her name revealed.

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She arrived within and hour and could see right away that Jackson was in distress.  As soon as she seen the vomit and the smell her immediate thoughts were stomach cancer.  Looks like this was not an ulcer but that mass was indeed cancerous and it had spread cancer into his stomach. We all felt that it was doubtful that he would have lasted the night.   A quick sedative and Jackson immediately calmed down and was able to relax.   The distress was over.

This was my first experience with home euthanasia and after last night I will never do it another way.   Jackson is part of our family, a cherished and loved member.   Being blind in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people must be terrifying (and this has me thinking of my own mortality).   He was home, with his people and all his fur sisters who also watched what was happening and it helped them accept what was happening.   When we took Jackson to the vet on Friday night, and I came home without him, our little dog Wookie was extremely upset and depressed.   It was obvious that she did not know what was happening.   Last night she was with him and able to see how sick he was and to see his passing.  It was like a little light bulb going off in her head, she understood.

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Dr D was amazing.   Everything was professional  and very well thought out.  She gave us private time with Jackson after he was sedated and lite a candle and provided a bag of his fur and a rock with his name made on it.   Claire House has also checked in with us today as a follow-up to see how we’re doing and they have made all the arrangements for his cremation.   After using their service I can not envision doing anything besides home euthanasia.    Dr D gave him his final shot and he quietly faded away.   She wrapped him gently in a  blanket like swaddling a baby and our friend left us.     No more pain and no more suffering.

Many of the pictures in this post were taken on a routine walk we used to do around a pond in Greely.  We moved from that location 2 years ago but it was always his favourite spot.  We will be visiting the walking trail again soon to spread his ashes along the place he loved so much.

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Throughout Jackson’s like, he endured almost constant pain, blindness and the hardship of being passed from family to family.  He was the most gentle caring dog I have  ever met.  Despite being in pain, when Jen’s dad passed just over a month ago, Jackson could sense that something wasn’t right and was there to give Jen a hug.  He was more concerned about us then his own health.   He would lead the walk not caring that he was blind.   We humans could take a few lessons from Jackson, and I believe that is why he came into our lives, to show that no matter how shitty things are things can be, it can be even shitter for others yet they are still smiling and living life, spilling out love for all those around them.

Jackson my man, you will be missed but your lessons to us will never be forgotten, and you sir, will always be in our special place of our hearts.

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