Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gone to the dogs.

I've been absent a little while because this is the time of year when I don't know what day it is. Fall is always our busiest season with performances and other events; even in spite of less out-of-state travel right now, we're still busy as ever. It's a fun, challenging, and stressful time, so full of activity that if an unforeseen incident occurs, it greatly upsets the apple cart.

And last Sunday night, we had to euthanize our dog, Sampson. Consider my cart completely tumped over, all the apples spilling out and rolling willy-nilly upon the ground.

Sampson was 8-1/2 years old. Our former neighbor, Stephanie, found him in the parking lot at Mansker's Station one night when we were having a sewing circle. He was a little fuzzy ball of fluff with a fat little puppy tummy, all alone in the park. We had lost our older dog just a few months before, and here was a puppy who needed a home, so of course we took him.

The fat little fuzzy pup grew into a 90-something pound goofy dog with big clumsy feet and long gangly legs. His tail was as long as my arm, and table height, so that we had to keep our drinks and breakables out of its way. He was playful and affectionate, and protective of me to a fault. We discovered the hard way that he didn't appreciate strangers all up in his face - on one visit to the kennel, the kennel attendant went to put his name tag around his neck, and when she got in his face, he nipped her. There was no blood, no lasting damage, but the young lady was frightened, and we were horrified. But once we realized this, we were able to make the proper modifications so this didn't happen again. Our big loveable goofball taught us a few new things about dog behavior.

Sampson never missed a meal, and managed to score quite a few extra, with our without our consent. Because he could reach the kitchen cabinet standing on his back legs, we lost a few leftovers over the years. One evening he decided to try gnawing on some corncobs, I guess because they were there. He also loved bread of any kind and would come trotting in from the other room anytime he heard me open the breadbox. No unguarded bread product was safe in our house.

He loved to curl up on the sofa, and many's the time he kept me close company while I was sick. When I was unemployed last summer and feeling sorry for myself, he was always right there. We went for nice long walks in the neighborhood before it got too hot. Sampson loved to go for "walkies" and would get ramped up anytime he saw his leash or my walking sneakers.

Just about two weeks ago, Sampson started to get draggy. We thought it was just his hip dysplasia acting up, so we made sure he had plenty of soft cushions to lie on as the weather cooled down. We didn't force him to go up the stairs, and the only walk I took him on was short because I didn't want to be hard on his old joints. He seemed tired, and his neverending appetite flagged ever so slightly, but I didn't think anything of it. He was almost 9 and had arthritis.

Last Friday evening, Mister noticed something wrong with Sampson's left eye. Sure enough, it was entirely red, like an albino rabbit eye. We ran him over to the vet before they closed, quite apologetic at being the jerks that show up at the last minute on a Friday. It turned out Sampson had gone blind. His bloodwork didn't turn up anything too odd, so the vet sent us home with some meds and made us an appointment to see the vet opthalmologist on Monday. (Yes, there is such a thing as a veterinary opthalmologist. Vet medicine has specialties just like people medicine.)

We took him back home, gave him his meds religiously, and let him lounge around on the soft cushions. He was tired and listless, and then Sunday morning, he wagged his tail a little. I thought maybe we were making progress. But later that afternoon, I noticed his front leg was swollen and it looked streaky under the fur. I got a good look at his skin, and it was bright red.

Not good.

Mister and I made the decision to take him to the emergency vet, where we left him overnight. New bloodwork showed drastic changes, and they weren't encouraging. Something was terribly wrong with our dog, and it was something terribly bad. X-rays showed he had an enlarged spleen and fluid around his heart, as well as suspicious masses in his lungs. He went downhill fast from there, and in the middle of the night, we had to make the choice to say goodbye. It was time.

The vets think Sampson had hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive and untreatable cancer that eventually causes the dog to bleed to death internally. There was nothing anyone could have done except what we did: we kept him comfortable. We loved on him. That was all there was. I wasn't quite ready to let him go yet, but it was the right thing to do.

I have loved and lost many pets over the years, and plan to love and lose many more, if I can help it. It's heartbreaking to let them go, but the joy of having them in my life far outweighs that. I'd like to think all my pets are waiting for me in the Summerlands somewhere. If there are no dogs in Heaven, I think I'd rather not go.

Goodbye, Sampson. Thanks for being my friend.

Till next time ---- hug your furry friends.

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