Cost Benefit Analysis Doggie Style


2014 has not started out too well. Deaths and serious illness on both sides of the family punctuated by the polar vortex. It was 4 years ago yesterday that my beloved Lily died, in my arms, after a brief but deadly illness of canine hemangiosarcoma. I have not had to deal with doggie deaths on my watch since. Until today.

Just under a week ago I received a phone call from a woman asking if I could take on a pair of dogs that were owned by her adult son. She reported he had some significant mental health issues and had made a serious suicide attempt. The dogs — Mama and Mundo (“mother” and “world”) were his everything — but they were not enough to keep him safe from himself. He continues to recover from his efforts in an ICU somewhere on the west side of Cleveland and will need long term help. His family, unable to help with the dogs and preferring to avoid a shelter situation, found me, somehow. His mother called.  I answered the phone. I often don’t answer the phone — let voice mail and email help buffer the needs of others. But I answered the phone. She asked me to take the dogs and help find them new homes. I wanted to say no. I should have said no. But somehow that resolve left me and I agreed to take on the dogs — Mama the pug; Mundo the puggle.

I couldn’t take them until the polar vortex ended and I felt bad knowing they were alone in a house — I imagined it was a very cold house — and someone came by every day or two to feed them.   It couldn’t have been fun and in fact I imagined it was rather scary. At least they had each other. I was attending funerals. It was a sad time all the way around and I worried about dogs I didn’t even know yet.

Two days ago on January 9 the owner’s father and his friend delivered the dogs to my door in the late afternoon. They were wearing ill fitting collars and flimsy leashes and only came with a nearly empty bag of Kibbles’n’Bits (garbage dog food) and dog treats whose second ingredient was corn syrup (junk food treats). Mama was  tilting to the left and when I pointed it out the father said it was because she didn’t like wearing collars. “Hmm, that’s an interesting hypothesis,” I thought. I had him sign a relinquishment release and now the dogs were legally my responsibility.

Mama had that shorty happy pug joie about her and Mundo was a whirling dervish of activity. My dogs and cats accepted them well enough and I spent the rest of the night helping them settle in. But Mama’s tilt concerned me so yesterday, January 10, I took her to a nearby vet. She had a severe ear infection and $180 later she had a steroid shot, a rabies shot, got her nails trimmed and some ear medication to dose her with 2x/day with a recommended follow up a week or so later.

Love bug.

Love bug.

Throughout it all she was cheerful, cooperative and sweet. Even the vet staff found her to be so.

Last night she appeared to be a little better (wishful thinking?) and I had a number of people following her trials and tribulations — some of whom were contemplating adopting her little stubby self. Gave her some cuddle time and she melted into my lap and snorted in that irrepressible way of brachycephalic dogs. After a final potty break, I put her in a warm cozy crate with Mundo and they both quietly went to sleep.

This morning I got up and let the dogs out. She seemed less tilty and meandered about the melting snow avoiding puddles and snorting in joy. But soon things started to spin out of control.

I brought the dogs back in and fed them all — Bean, Trip and Tommy to their appointed spots; Mundo to a bowl just for him. I began to hand feed Mama since it was easier for her than trying to eat out of a bowl. After a handful of kibble was eaten she snorted, looked at me with her buggy eyes, and all of a sudden she started having a seizure. It was almost 8 am. I comforted her and after a few minutes it subsided. But then after another minute, she seized again, this time very violently and with a look of panic in her eye. I got her safely onto a soft dog bed with cushioned sides and called the vet who opened promptly at 8 am. I described the problem and they suggested I bring her in immediately.

I carried her spasming plug of a body to the car and zipped on over to the vet. Despite several injections of valium and phenobarbital she could not stop seizing. Suddenly this roly poly fawn colored snorting pug of mine (less than 36 hours of ownership) was laying on a table with an IV and stuck in an unstoppable seizure. I was given the option to euthanize (WHEN TO EUTHANIZE, JAN. 8, 2010) or take her to the Emergency Vet to have her put in a supervised coma to see if she could recover. It was impossible to say if she already had sustained irreversible brain damage (her seizure lasting over an hour at this point with no end in sight and, according to the vet, probable pain as well despite the valium). As I sat stroking her she lost control of her bladder and leaked all over my coat and the floor.

I immediately thought back to my last rescue saga that ended in a medical emergency. That too was a situation in which I had answered a phone call with a similar plea and ended up to my eyeballs in drama. You can read about that one HERE. I can tell you it had a happier ending than this one.

With a heavy heart and flowing tears for a dog I had only just met, I held her paws, crooned soft sweet nothings into her infected ear and felt her life leave her as the doctor pushed the needle into the IV. Within moments she was quiet and at peace. $230 more to the vet practice later I left, my urine soaked coat in my arms, tears mingling with the gentle rain.

My tears renew again as I write this — I can take comfort in knowing that her last days were ones filled with attention, affection, soft laps or beds, a DIP party she heartily enjoyed and some vigorous bully stick gnawing. I’m going to try to ignore the bank account for a little bit. I can forego dinners out and any new clothes or frills.

To those who expressed interest in adopting her — I thank you. To those who followed her adventures on my Facebook Fan Page — I thank you.

And if you try to call and I don’t answer…don’t take it personally.