I got a frantic phone message one day from an elderly gentleman asking me if I could help him get his dog in the car because he needs to take him to a vet right away and he and his wife were unable to lift him. I called the gentleman back within five minutes, but by then a neighbor helped load the dog and off they went. He did appreciate my call however, and would be sure to keep my number in case he needed me in the future.
The future was two hours later. They had taken the dog to the vet who had painted a grim picture without much advice or hope or compassion. I agreed to meet them and their dog right away and to assess the situation. They said the dog was a Corgi and he was around 10.
I walked in the door and greeted Mimi and Ed. And then I saw Casey and my heart sank. He was nearly twice his normal weight. He had a mouth so rotten you could smell it from across the room. The only thing their vet said was that 'he has kidney disease and that's to be expected for a dog his age and there's nothing we can do except hospitalize him for a few days and give him fluids.' He said it so matter-of-factly but he failed at one of the most important things. He never looked into Mimi's eyes to see the connection between owner and dog. He stayed purely clinical and didn't show patience or respect to these sweet, elderly people who clearly loved their dog. The only thing Mimi and Ed feel that vet did right was to give them my name and number.
Here's what the next ten months meant to Casey.
First and foremost, I made an appointment with my veterinarian. It would be more than a week before we could see her and they were impatient and desperate. They scoured the phone book for other vets who could see him right away, but I convinced them that my giving fluids at home (provided by the other vet) would keep him going until he saw my vet. "She's worth the wait, I promise!" They've thanked me every day for being so insistent.
The first course of action was to treat Casey's kidney disease with a proper, low protien dog food diet. No more croissants in the morning. No sharing dinners with him. We established his age was 14+ years from looking at his records, not 10. Within 5 months we took 13 pounds off of him. I went over every single day to give him fluids under the skin to help keep his kidneys flushed, and to monitor his feedings and his progress. We all went to the vet appointments together. We got his bloodwork in good enough shape to clean up his mouth and he began enjoying his food. He would run around the long table several times a day just because he felt so good to be alive! And as much as a transformation as there was in Casey, so it was with Mimi. I'd walk in the door each day and look at her first because she was my barometer for how he was doing. They were so connected.
Things eventually began to decline a couple of weeks ago. Casey wasn't enjoying his food (which greatly upsets Mimi) and he began to walk funny. He seemed more vague to me as if he left the room but his body stayed. A recent ultrasound showed a couple of masses and funny cysts on his kidneys. And now he was dropping too much weight too fast. They could do MRI's and all sorts of extensive and expensive tests far from home but we all knew his age and other factors would probably go against any treatment.
Yesterday when I saw him we made an appointement for today to have his hind end checked out because of a new swelling. But by last night they called in a panic. Casey couldn't move his back end at all. I went over and spent a couple of hours sitting on the floor and checking Casey, but mostly letting them talk. I gave my honest opinion as I always promised I would. I felt it was time to let him go because he had nothing left to give. Mimi wanted to hold out hope for the appointment and I told her hope is a good thing.
I carried Casey to the car knowing full well that this was the last time we'd all be together. Mimi was singing to Casey in the back seat, mostly about what a sweet puppy he is. Ed was sitting in the front with me, discreetly wiping an errant tear. The doctor came in and examined him and agreed letting him go would be the kindest and bravest thing they could do. He was given a large dose of anesthesia so he'd sleep. The doctor and I let Mimi and Ed have some personal time with him and then we were all there for the final injection.
Casey was a gentle dog. An old soul in a short package. You could tell that he was grateful for the help he was getting. He never, ever complained until last night. That was the first whimper I ever heard from him in ten months.
He adored his family and he savored time in the garden with Mimi.
He lived his life with gratitude and he left us feeling more grateful for small blessings. Like Ed said when it was over, "Imagine that, we gave him 300 more days of a good life."
We sure did Ed. We sure did. And it was my great pleasure to be a part of it.
(This is a stock photo of a Welsh Corgi. Casey was camera shy.)