Girlfriend. This Is A Sad Post.

hugs

From catonthelap.blogspot.com

Yes, please. I’d love a big hug. It’s been a rough few days, and I really lost it this morning, couldn’t prevent crying in front of the kids. Which scared the kids. I’m a little better now, but still on the edge of tears. No, nevermind. I’m still there with the tears.

I have a little dog named Girlfriend, and she’s just one of those souls. A deeply sweet little animal, and I’m very close to possibly having to say goodbye. I guess I’ll talk about her now.

8 years ago, I was working at a fairly large and busy practice where we rotated 24 hours emergency call between four veterinarians. One night, my colleague Dr. Troy was called in on an emergency by a very good client of ours who had found a stray dog, presumably hit by a car and laying on the side of the highway. They couldn’t have another dog, but couldn’t leave her there. They wrapped her up in a blanket, called Troy, and asked if he would come in to humanely euthanize a little stray dog that was suffering a pretty terrible injury, and they would pay for it.

When Troy assessed Girlfriend, he was able to tell that she did have a serious injury to the right hind limb that would require extensive surgery, perhaps even amputation. From the ankle down, there was a degloving injury (meaning, the skin was completely avulsed in a downward pattern as if peeling off a glove- it was just gone), and her paw was mangled, leaving only two viable toes. However, she was alert and wagging her tail, gazing up at him with soulful, liquid brown eyes, and giving him loving kisses whenever he pet her. He told me the next day that she was such a sweetheart that he just couldn’t bring himself to put her to sleep, and so he cleaned her up, put the limb in a bandage, gave pain meds and antibiotics, and put her in a cage.

Thomas

Here’s Thomas. Can you spot him?

At the time, I had another little dog with a massive wound, who was staying at the hospital. That was Thomas. I think a coyote had attacked him, and I came home one day to find his tail was completely detached at the base, and the surrounding tissue so badly traumatized that over the next few days, much of the tissue had to be debrided away and the tail, which had lost all enervation and blood supply, amputated with it. There was so much tissue removed that there was no hope of closing the wound, so Thomas had about a 6″ area on his rump where his tail used to be that I was managing as an open wound. This had to have daily hydrotherapy, debridement and bandaging, and since Thomas wasn’t one for car rides if he could avoid it, I just kept him at the hospital.

So I had Thomas on the treatment table, working on his wound, when Troy had a free minute the next day, and brought the little stray over for a second opinion. (I love wounds. They’re my favorite type of challenge in all of veterinary medicine, and I was considered the go-to for opinions on wounds at the hospital.) As he took the bandage off on one end of the table, she spotted Thomas and headed straight for him. They sniffed noses, and she began to lick all over his face, which he seemed to enjoy. I’m sure his tail would have been wagging, if he still had a tail! I made a comment that it looked like Thomas found a girlfriend, and from that point on, we all called her “Girlfriend”.

Troy and I agreed that the limb might be saved on Girlfriend, but certainly an amputation would be a lot faster and easier in terms of recovery time. The main challenge was the degloving injury. Neither of us had ever attempted a skin graft before, because it’s a costly and time-consuming process and the outcome is generally iffy- whether the graft will “take” or die off. However, there wasn’t really a client whose money was on the line in this case, and ultimately we decided that we ought to take this opportunity to try a skin graft after we got the infection under control and she developed a healthy bed of granulation tissue. So I took her to surgery and debrided the dead tissue, amputated the two toes that were unsalveagable, and we began doing a similar routine with Girlfriend as we did on Thomas- daily hydrotherapy and bandaging, and it was often easier to have them both in the bathtub and on the treatment table at the same time. They were happily distracted from the discomfort of the procedures, exchanging kisses, and pretty soon they were even sharing the same cage and taking walks together on a double leash.

girlfriend

Little Girlfriend. This dog. She’s the sweetest, most loving and loyal friend a person could have.

The skin graft procedure, which we were ready to do about a week later, did take, and after about 6 weeks in the hospital, by which time everyone had fallen in love with her, she and Thomas came home. She’s been a wonderful pet ever since, though it was very tough on her when we had to say goodbye to Thomas a couple of years ago. Many times, though, I wished we had not attempted to save that limb, and had just amputated it right off the bat. Not that we didn’t gain valuable learning experience from the skin graft, but that grafted skin was so delicate, and had a tendency to dry out and crack and bother her. Several times over the years she would develop an open wound and have to wear a bandage and e-collar, and most of the time she went three-legged, carrying the right hind leg as if it bothered her to bear a lot of weight on it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, something happened to Girlfriend when she was outside. When we found her, she was trying to walk in a weird way, and the right hind limb, which she always just carried when it was bothering her, was toed-in and continually buckling, causing her to fall over. I determined that her knee cap was dislocated, but every time I would replace it, it would quickly pop back out of its groove, and caused her extreme discomfort. Why she wouldn’t just carry the limb like before is a mystery, as I could never find a problem with her good hind leg, but for whatever reason, she could now barely walk, and she went into a decline that pain medications weren’t helping. She wasn’t eating well, stayed in her bed all day and all night, had to be carried outside, and when she did walk, it was always trying to bear weight on that buckling right hind limb.

I knew she was going to need an orthopedic surgery to repair and stabilize the patellar luxation, but I was hesitant to put her through a major surgery on what had always been a “bum leg” for her anyway. Hubby and I talked about whether we ought to go ahead and do the patellar surgery, or just amputate the leg as I’ve many times wished we’d done in the first place, especially as she was used to the “three-legged life” from years and years of carrying the right hind limb. After a couple of weeks of her quality of life really sucking, I opted to have the problem leg amputated, but since I don’t do orthopedics, I sent her to my former boss, who is a fast surgeon and has 50 years of experience in orthopedics. That was last Friday.

I think it was a mistake. She had a seizure post-operatively and has had several more since then. Despite an initial rough couple of days, I thought we were managing her seizures and her pain fairly well with an anticonvulsant and a potent combination of pain meds, and by Sunday, she was up following me around and doing well on three limbs as I’d hoped she would. But then sometime on Sunday night, I think Girlfriend had a massive stroke. Yesterday, she wouldn’t eat, she couldn’t stand, one side of her face was drooping, she was completely disoriented, didn’t seem to know me, and was compulsively trying to turn in circles. Her balance is off from the central nervous system, and I don’t think she could stand up even if she had all 4 limbs. Although I suspected it was a stroke, I was also worried that possibly she might be having a big bad drug interaction, so I took her off one of the pain meds and the anticonvulsant, knowing that I might be making a mistake and come in to find her in a severe seizure situation, in which case I told Hubby that I might have to put her to sleep.

It all hit me this morning that I might have to say goodbye to my Girlfriend, and I just couldn’t stop crying. I tried to get it together before the kids came into the bathroom for me to fix their hair, but they knew something was off, and when Little Sister asked, “why are you sad, Momma?” I lost it again.

This morning, Girlfriend did seem to know me, and thankfully, she did want to eat, but is having trouble coordinating her mouth movements and has to be hand-fed. She still can’t stand up and tries to turn circles to the point that she gets herself stuck in awkward positions in the cage. However, no seizures, and a good appetite, so I plan to give her some time, in hopes that whatever damage she sustained from the suspected stroke will improve, and she’ll make a recovery. But she’s not out of the woods, and I’m really worried, and feeling horrible because if these are her last days, then I’ve done her a huge disservice by choosing to put her through a painful, major surgical procedure, needlessly. I’m sick about it. And so, so sad.

 

 

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36 comments

  1. Perry · March 29, 2016

    I’m in tears. You’ll make the right decision. This is so hard and brings back some very sad memories for me. Thinking of you, right now, though. Don’t beat yourself over your earlier choices.

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you, Perry. I’m trying not to beat myself up, but I really wish I could turn back the clock and not have put her through all this. I know I couldn’t have foreseen a massive stroke, but any type of major surgery is a risk factor for stroke, so I can’t help but feel like I made a bad call, and my sweet girl is paying the price.

      Like

  2. Buffy Brinkley · March 29, 2016

    Oh sweetie. You did so much more already than I dare say most others would. Her quality of life and degree of pain will help you make that hardest of decisions (I know how hard it is). You will do right by her and love her as you always have and she will love you as she always has, now and into the next life.

    You’re in my thoughts and prayers, my friend.

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you so much, Buffy. It is a painful decision, and one that I see clients struggle with, and that I have struggled with more than a few times on my own pets. It never gets easier. We all just adore this loving little dog, and want her to pull through. She’s been through so much in her life, and has always had the best attitude. Breaks my heart.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Buffy Brinkley · March 29, 2016

        She may surprise you. I’ll pray for that. Wishing you and your family all the best. Sending (((HUGS)))

        Like

  3. Hariclea · March 29, 2016

    oh, poor baby and poor you too! Don’ beat yourself up, there isn’t right or wrong. You had to try and make her better as she was really struggling. Nobody can know how these things go and i am sure, especially now that she does recognise you she knows how loved she is. Sometimes an illness just comes out of the blue and you can’t do much about it. Take it one day at a time and just give her what you always have, loads of love 🙂
    I’ll cross my fingers for you and for her and hope she will get better. biggest hug!

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    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thanks, Hari. That’s what we’re going to do. One day at a time. She did eat 3 pretty big meals today, and this afternoon she stood up and managed to walk (in a circle, unfortunately, but better than I expected after yesterday’s inability to even stand!) I’m crossing fingers, too, but there is just no guarantee.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Evie Arl · March 29, 2016

    Nothing I can possibly say will help, but I will say it anyway. Every thing you did, you did with the best intentions and for the best reasons. You clearly adore Girlfriend and she knows it. Yes, you don’t want to lose her, but deep down you know that really you had to try this op, for her. I’m not Richard, but I’m sending you a massive hug anyway. (Imagines big hug). Thinking of you all. Evie xxx
    Now where on earth are my tissues!

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you, Evie, and welcome to commenting. I do adore my girl, and she’s always been a symbol of resilience and the power of love and affection. If we lose her this way, I’ll always have a tremendous regret, despite knowing that I had the best of intentions. Thanks for the virtual hug =)

      Like

  5. Guylty · March 29, 2016

    Oh no no no, not your dog as well! I am so sorry to read this. Girlfriend’s story really touched me to tears – just the fact that she was left to die, but looked at your colleague with such hopeful eyes. (Dogs are just the nicest creatures on Earth…) Anyway, I really feel a lump of sadness in my throat, and I hope that she will pull through. She couldn’t have a better carer than you, in every way.

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    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thanks, Guylty. I know, right? There has always been something really special about this little dog’s heart and soul, and I have always been so grateful to Troy that he listened to his heart that night. She’s been a major blessing in our life, and even Hubby, who is unapologetically a “cat person”, is crazy about this dog. We’re so torn up.

      Like

  6. Mimi Cruz · March 29, 2016

    I cannot express the sympathy I have for your situation right now. My sweet wise hubs said many years ago when a decision we had made went horribly wrong (thankfully it did not involve life & death) this was a few years after we were married: We make the best decision possible with the information we have at the time. If it turns out to be wrong, we have to accept that we made the best decision we could have and not agonise or torture ourselves endlessly over it.

    He is a very kind reasonable, logical man. Which really pisses me off sometimes, but I am his captive in love. So, my best hopes, thoughts and virtual hugs go out to you 💗

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you, Mimi. I just wish I could stop agonizing over it. It was my decision, and I did have her best interest in the long run in mind, but it feels like everything has gone horribly wrong. It’s going to be hard to forgive myself if she doesn’t pull through.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mimi Cruz · March 29, 2016

        I completely understand. Hope it helps to know that people you don’t know, but reading your blog believe you were making the best decisions to benefit Girlfriend’s life and quality of life. At least, (even tho I try not to be judgy) that is how I have judged you as a person. It hurts our hearts when we lose those we love. I wish I knew how to make it stop. Hugs —Mimi

        Liked by 1 person

  7. AnotherRAFan · March 29, 2016

    This is so sad. Hugs to you. You did what you thought was best at the time. You had her best interest at heart and that’s what really matters.

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you =) and I know. I just wish I could have a way to explain it to Girlfriend. She’s so scared and disoriented. But I do think she’s comforted when I am there today, which is an improvement from yesterday, when she didn’t seem to know me at all.

      Like

  8. Servetus · March 29, 2016

    I will be thinking of you, and her.

    Like

  9. suzy · March 29, 2016

    I am sitting in front of the screen and I am in tears. I often had a situation like this. To make the final decision 😦 It´always awful! With you and your family she has had a wonderful life! This is the most important point! Big hugs ❤

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you, Suzy. I do take comfort in that- she has had a full life with a good boyfriend (Thomas!), pet parents who love her, and has welcomed into the world a couple of kids who are crazy about her, too. (((Hugs back)))

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Helen · March 29, 2016

    Everyone has said it – you have always done your best for her and she has had wonderful years with you, full of love. Big, big hugs and sending every hope for an improvement in her condition.

    Like

    • jholland · March 29, 2016

      Thank you, Helen. Your caring comment, and the others above, have managed to lift my spirits on a day when I’ve been fighting tears from minute to minute. I’ll try to post an update one way or the other in the next few days. =)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Teuchter · March 29, 2016

    Oh my dear. My heart just aches for you. We “lost” our dog last year and it’s hard to put into words how terrible it was. We were just devastated. You all love Girlfriend so much and I’m convinced she must somehow sense it. You have done everything for the very best of reasons. That is the important thing and I hope that fact will be of some comfort to you as you struggle with all that is going on. Hoping and praying for you.

    Like

    • jholland · March 30, 2016

      Thank you so much, Teuchter, and I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. Girlfriend is hanging in there still, and hasn’t worsened or improved. I’ll give it more time, and I do appreciate prayers! =)

      Like

  12. Elanor · March 30, 2016

    This is so sad. I commiserate with you.

    Like

  13. carlyquinnauthor · March 30, 2016

    So many difficult decisions! I hope you realize you’ve done the best you know how, I’m sure your sweet doggy knows it. I’ll be thinking of you and sending highest hopes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · March 31, 2016

      Thank you, Carly. I’m starting to become cautiously optimistic. She’s so much more alert this morning. =)

      Like

  14. linnetmoss · March 31, 2016

    You did right. Nobody can foresee everything, and Girlfriend knows you love her. That’s what counts with an animal friend. Having said that, I’m sorry for your pain. Sending you and Girlfriend lots of healing vibes!

    Like

    • jholland · March 31, 2016

      Thanks, Linnet, and keep them coming! She’s improving for sure. The biggest question is whether she will have another stroke. If she doesn’t, the next big challenge is to figure out how to navigate if this tendency to circle doesn’t go away.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Gratiana Lovelace · March 31, 2016

    I’m so sorry that Girlfriend is so ill. It’s tough when then can’t tell us what’s wrong, or how we can at least make them feel a little better. But you end on a hopeful note. So I will keep her and you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs & Love!

    Like

  16. april73 · April 6, 2016

    I’m so sorry for Girlfriend. Send you a lot of hugs and love.

    Like

    • jholland · April 6, 2016

      Thank you, April73. She is actually doing better and I think I’m going to try taking her home tomorrow, though. It’s been a slow recovery and she still has neurological problems from the stroke, but she’s still making progress. =)

      Liked by 1 person

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