Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day Four: The Recovery Process

ANSEL AUGUST 2008 (Not happy behind that fence)
Ansel August 2008
Today marks the fourth day since Ansel died. I have been on a roller coaster of emotion since Sunday, having huge moments of grief and then rallying. Today is the first day I awoke without a huge feeling of loss. Every other morning greeted me with a tear in my eye upon waking. My first thought has been of her each and every morning.

Yesterday I had to take a deep breath of air in when I woke up to contain myself. You see, the mornings were always filled with Ansel duty. I had to take her out to pee, then give Ansel her breakfast so I could take her out to poop approximately an hour after eating (that's what worked best), then I had to give her a cocktail of medication for her eyes, a Prenizone eye drop in her right eye and a drop of Imuran in her left eye. Both of these drops had been administered for 7 years. Ever since her retinas detached when she was 1 1/2.

After the laborious job of morning meds were done, I would give her some healthy supplements, concealed in a bit of wet dog food. She was on a doggy vitamin, Glucosamine and Omega 3 fatty acids. Ansel would then go upstairs, but not before I put her dog booties on so she didn't scratch up the hardwood floors. At 8am I'd take her for walk quickly and then she'd begin her day of lounging while my wife and I went to work.

Mornings were perhaps our most involved time with Ansel and it's no wonder the grief has been the worst in the mornings. There is however, one thing that has kept me from completely losing it and that is the knowledge that I had 8 1/2 years with her. She was, as our vet told us when he heard of Ansel's death, the most cared for dog on the planet. And that she was. She cared for us and we cared for her.

I have found myself with memories coming to light that I thought I'd forgotten. Amazing times that I know I couldn't have shared with any other dog. When I think of these memories I am filled with an incredible amount of pleasure and happiness. I wouldn't trade those memories to get rid of the pain I now feel. In fact, I have learned to acknowledge the pain and grief for what it is and then quickly remind myself that although her life was shortened, it was still a great life. And she didn't have to go through the pain of old age that my parents dogs went through. She didn't have to go blind, or battle with incontinence. She didn't get arthritis, or hip pain like many Akitas do. She went out on the top, her body in very good health, still being able to enjoy all the things she loved. For this, I am very happy.

No amount of reasoning will ever convince me that my dogs death was a good thing, but I can look at the moments we shared and the fact that she didn't suffer and I can take great comfort in that.

The rest, time will heal. For now I am going to continue to think about her each and every morning and be very thankful for the time I did have with her.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ansel's Battle With HGE

THE LAST PHOTO OF ANSEL YOUNG (JUNE 27th 2009)
Last Photo of Ansel
ONE YEAR BEFORE (AUGUST 1st 2008)
Ansel 2008
On Saturday morning, the 11th of July 2009, my wife came into our room and told me Ansel had diarrhea. This was not uncommon for her. In fact, I can't remember a week where she didn't have some sort of loose stool, or diarrhea. So I brushed it off and took no more notice. At 2pm I took Ansel for another walk down the street. She had diarrhea and this time it shot out in a very clear, watery consistency. I thought I saw a very thin layer of blood in it, but when I went to check it out, there didn't seem to be anything except a half eaten carrot. Again, nothing new. Later in the evening my wife and I left the house leaving her with my mom, who was visiting for the weekend. We came home about 11:30pm and Mom told me Ansel had been throwing up but that she had no more diarrhea. It's clearing up, we thought.

My wife and I decided to spend the night in the basement with Ansel so we could monitor her and take her outside if she needed to go to the bathroom, or throw up anymore. During the night she threw up on the floor a few times and each time there was undigested food in it. Again, we thought it was clearing up and she just needed to get it out of her system. She was wagging her tail and showing no signs of distress. We took her out at 2:30am and again at 4am and each time she seemed to be doing well. She was throwing up a little bit, but there wasn't anything else to be concerned about.

This is where it gets hard and I'm struggling to continue. At 6:30am my wife woke up and walked over to Ansel. She said, "Honey, Ansel isn't doing very well and there's blood on the floor". I could see her concern. I looked up and there was blood everywhere. On the rug, on the sliding doors and all over the floor. Ansel was very uncomfortable, moving and wiggling her body like there was something in her that was putting pressure on here body. She wasn't blinking and was making no noise. She was simply laying there, her head on her paws. Mom rushed downstairs and said she'd called the vet and they were expecting us.

I wrapped Ansel in a sheet and lifted her up. She was like dead weight and I started to panic. I put her in the car and her body was motionless, except for her breathing. She was still breathing. If she's still breathing, there's still a chance, I thought. I drove as fast as I could to the vet and my mother was telling me how strong her breathing was... this was good. I wrapped her up in my arms with the sheet and walked into the vets office. The vet looked at me, then looked at Ansel and said, "Oh that's not good." My heart sank. I put her down on the table and moved aside so the vet could look at her.

"I think she's gone." The vet said.

There's no words to describe how I felt when the vet said this to me.

"Her eyes are unresponsive. Her eyelids aren't closing. She's gone."

My mother jumped through the door and said, "Honey, tell her you love her, quick."

And I did just that. Streams of tears falling from my eyes. I saw her dried, dead eyes and nothing went through my mind except, "I can't believe this is happening."

They put Ansel onto a table and wheeled her away, telling me they would do what they could. A few minutes later the vet returned and said she was gone.

My first words were, "How the F is that possible? She was alive and doing great this morning and even a few hours ago. How is this possible?" In 24 hours she had gone from nearly perfect health, to being wheeled away from me forever. Dead.

The vet had no explanation except to tell me sometimes these things happen. Not to me. And not to my girl. We had saved her from going blind numerous times. In fact she did go blind when she was 1 1/2, her retinas detached and we were so quick to get her to a specialist that she regained her sight and had been in very good health for 7 years. We had removed benign growths, healed urinary infections, had a very successful cataract surgery a month ago and various other ailments. She'd always been fine in the end. What made this day different?

Well, for some reason on that Saturday morning Ansel had caught HGE. Had we taken her straight into the vet for an immediate IV of fluids and antibiotics she may have lived. For 24 hours I have beaten myself up, I have cried, I have told myself I would never forgive myself for not taking her in sooner. But the truth is, until yesterday, I had no idea HGE even existed. To me, she seemed like she had a stomach bug and she needed to get it out, like I have done so many times. When it's out, it's out and the bug is gone.

I cannot express to you how much I miss my Ansel. She was the sweetest, most affectionate dog on the planet. Akitas are not known for these traits, but with Ansel it was different. She didn't have a negative bone in her body. When I would come home from work, she would always be there to greet me. This is not just my loss, but the loss of many. She will be missed beyond belief. I just hope that her death opens the eyes of all the dog owners who read this. If you see blood in your dogs excrement, or in their vomit, go straight to the vet. Do not second guess yourself, or think you're being over protective. I wish I had taken that advice 48 hours ago. Dear God, I wish I had taken that advice.

Here's to you Ansel. I will love you for the rest of my life. You were the best. Get a stronger body next lifetime my darling. You deserve it.

A Horrible End For A Wonderful Companion

This weekend, my best friend and oldest companion died. She was 8 1/2 years old. Even for an Akita, that's young. She died of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis or HGE. An almost unknown disease which can take a dog's life in a matter of hours. I decided to write this blog because of the lack of information on this subject.

I encourage all dog owners to contribute and share their thoughts and their own stories. The only thing which will save more dogs from this horrible fate is if we all inform each other.

What is Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis?

It is a possibly fatal disease which can strike any dog at any time. There is no known cause for it other than some speculation that it could be a virus, or parasite. It could also be caused by allergies, a change in diet, stress and many other reasons.

How do I know if my dog has it?

The signs are blood in the dog's vomit and bloody diarrhea. However, in Ansel's case, she showed no clear signs of blood either in her vomit, or in her diarrhea. So watch closely. If you suspect that there is even the smallest amount of blood, rush your dog to the vet.

Is it curable?

Most of the cases of HGE have been cured. The most important thing is to recognize the signs early and act quickly. There is only about a 10-15% chance of fatality with treatment. That's WITH treatment. Without treatment, as in Ansel's case, fatality is almost guaranteed. There is also a 10-15% chance of HGE recurring in your dog once they've had it. So again, it takes dedication and diligence to spot it and get your dog to the vet.

What's the treatment?

Hospitalization is a must. The vet will administer an IV with fluids, antibiotics and sometimes potassium. There is also a possibility of a blood transfusion in cases that need it.

What is the recovery time?

Most dogs should recover in a few days. In that time, their diet should consist of bland foods like boiled rice and boiled burger. After a week, or so a normal diet can resume.

ANSEL JANUARY 2001 - AGE 3 MONTHS
Ansel Jan 2001
Ansel Jan 2001
Ansel Jan 2001
ANSEL JANUARY 2002 - AGE 1 YEAR AND 3 MONTHS
Ansel Jan 2002
Ansel Jan 2002
Ansel Jan 2002
Ansel Jan 2002
ANSEL SEPTEMBER 2006 - AGE 5 YEARS AND 11 MONTHS
Ansel Sept 2006
Ansel Sept 2006
ANSEL FEBRUARY 2008 - 7 YEARS AND 5 MONTHS
Ansel Feb 2008
Ansel 2007
Ansel 2007