Monday, May 07, 2012

On Sally the Dog

Please bear with me in this.
This is how I drain the pain and grief I have inside me now.
I write.
I do not wish to spread my pain to others, but for those few who are interested in the details of Sally, the Great Pyrenees Mountain Guard Dog's final days and her passing, this will answer most questions.
My motive is not to cause you to feel sorry for me, because in a few days or weeks, I will be fine, with just some memories of these events.

This is how our last days together went.
I realize that for most people this is TMI to the extreme.
But I need to do this.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The first indicator that something was wrong was Wednesday evening when I let Sally into the house and presented her with her dinner.
I had just cooked some beef strips and mixed a few of them with her dry dog food.
Normally she would have gobbled this combination down in a minute or two.
But that night she took a couple of sniffs and looked up at me.
I knew right then that something was very wrong with my dog.

I put her food down on the floor in its usual place and continued to prepare my dinner.
She went back to the back door to be let out.
I let her out and she went out onto the grass and vomited.
After eating my dinner I went out in the back yard and sat with her for about 30 minutes.
In that time, she heaved 5 more times.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday morning when I greeted Sally in the morning about our usual time of 6:30 she was about the same.
Still no appetite.
She wanted to be in the house with me and watched from the back room as I ate my breakfast.
Since the morning walk was cancelled, I spent some time with her in the back yard.

As the day went on she was throwing up every 30 minutes to hour or so.
I had seen her be sick before, so I was not too concerned.
After a few heaves and some rest she would recover and we would be fine.
Or so I thought.
Since her stomach was empty by now, her throwing up amounted to the dry heaves.
Very little substance with a little light-colored liquid of stomach bile and/or the last bit of water she had drunk came out.

I was concerned and did some online research on sick dogs.
One item stated that being sick was not as big a deal for a dog as it was for humans.
It said that for most sickness, they heal on their own within 24 hours.
This seemed reasonable to me so I made a mental note to wait until Friday morning before taking any action.
I also did an online search for nearby veterinarians just in case.

Since she was too sick to play or go for a walk, I consciously made time to go out and sit with her in the yard while she lay around being sick.
I was worried about my doggy and it was killing me to watch her suffering.

After seeing pictures of dogs sitting/lying near their dead owners/companions, I felt that she would understand if I just sat quietly by her.
I began praying for her.
Not knowing what we were in for, I prayed that God would either heal her or take her quickly.
Helplessly watching her suffer was killing me.
I prayed and cried for her several times that day.

That evening I let her in the house and she slept quietly most of the night next to my bed.
She seemed to rest well and I hoped we were turning a corner.
Maybe all she needed was some rest to beat this bug.

At about three AM she woke up – which woke me up.
I assumed she needed to go out to pee.
I let her out and she went into the grass and threw up again. (dry)
I was feeling sorry for my dog.
I left her outside and I went back to bed.
And at that moment I knew we were going to the doctor.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I called the selected veterinarian's office as soon as they opened Friday morning and made an appointment for that morning.
I did not call this an emergency but we needed some help/information quickly.
My dog was suffering and I could not stand to watch helplessly much longer.
The doctor and the assistant were very gentle and careful with my Girl as they poked and prodded her.
They took her into the back room to do blood samples and x-rays while I waited in the lobby.

About 30 minutes later the doctor came out and we looked at the x-ray pictures (2 of them) together.
Her large intestine seemed to have a lot of material in it.
There were no other obstructions or other indicators of a problem to be seen.
Sally's blood showed all normal.
She was not dehydrated, her heart beat was strong and clean and normal, her temperature was normal, the doctor said there was a lot of intestinal gurgling.
She weighed 63 pounds.
There was no obvious indicators for her sickness.
I mentioned the dead bird that she had munched on during our wednesday morning walk.
The doctor noted that, but there was nothing in the results of the examination to indicate that it was the cause of the problem.

They gave me some pills to fight her gastroenteritis and another to calm her nausea, and scheduled another appointment for the following Friday.

She continued to throw up every hour or two that day.
I went out and sat with her for an hour or so three or four times.
Each time I talked to her, petted her, prayed for her, cried, and felt totally useless.
Since Sally had been mildly sedated to allow the vet to do the x-rays and blood tests, I did not give any pills to Sally until that afternoon.
Ten minutes after I put the two pills on the back of her tongue she threw up again.
That evening I offered her the chance to come inside, she seemed content to stay outside, so we slept separately.

She woke me up around midnight with the sound of her vomiting just on the other side of the fence outside my bedroom window.
I lay in bed crying and praying for her for a while before drifting off to sleep again.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I went on my usual Saturday morning run at 5:30 AM.
I went outside to visit her that morning hoping for some signs of improvement.
There were none.
She did not seem worse, but no better.
I fixed breakfast for myself but fixed nothing for Sally because I knew she was not able to eat.
(had she shown the least amount of interest in eating anything I would have gladly complied)

I sensed that Sally was vomiting less often.
I hoped that perhaps we would see some improvement soon.
But the day wore on and I was becoming increasingly concerned.

She look exhausted and spent the day lying in a spot for 30 minutes or so, then getting up and slowly walking to another spot to do the same.
And the places she picked were interesting.
She went to the far south-west corner of the yard, then to the far north-east corner, then to another far corner against the fence.
In almost every case, she went to the farthest edge of the yard and laid against the fence.

Her walk was that of a zombie.
She would get up and stand still for a few seconds.
She could not hold her head up, her front legs were covered with vomit or saliva and thick strings of it hung from either side of her mouth.
I would wipe her mouth with a paper towel and 10 minutes later she would be messy again.
This was not always from vomiting again, but just from slobbering, it seems.

She walked slowly to her next destination then plopped down and lay like the sphinx.
Evidently, she could not lay on her side or she would become sick again, but I am just guessing at this.

I went out to sit with her several times that day.
I would talk to her, pet her, cry and pray for her.
My prayer was basically the same from the beginning – I asked God to heal her.
And if He was not going to heal her, then allow her to die quickly with as little suffering as possible.
I was silent much of the time I was with her.
As bad as it hurt me to see her suffering, I felt that I needed to be near her.
That SHE needed to know that I was near her.

My motive for this came from some pictures I had seen in the last few months of dogs who had lost friends or owners.
In each case, the dog would remain near the dead companion in silent vigil.
Sally was not dead, but I tried to emulate that dog action, hoping she would understand.
And I hoped that it would provide some measure of comfort to my, otherwise miserable, friend.

By afternoon I realized that Sally had stopped drinking her water.
I was dying for my dear, suffering dog.
I could do nothing for her and she had no idea how to communicate anything helpful to me.
Strangely, at dinner time, she went to the back door of my house.
I opened the door to let her in.
After several long seconds she stepped into the house and lay down by the door.
As sick and weak as she seemed, I hoped that this was a sign that she was getting better.
While I fixed my dinner in the kitchen, she lay in the next room quietly panting.
By this time, her mouth was dry. (too dry, I was to soon find out)

I took turns reading a book, playing on my computer and talking and sitting with Sally after my dinner.
She in turn moved slowly from lying in the back room to the bathroom, to my bedroom.
While I lay on my bed reading a book, Sally lay in a narrow patch of the floor next to my bed.
At about 6:30 PM she stood up.
She tried to turn around the leave the narrow (about 18 inches) area next to my bed but her hind legs would not cooperate.
It took her several seconds to get them to function, then she walked slowly to the dining room next to the chair where I usually eat.
At first I thought she wanted to go outside, but I was wrong.
I left her there and, unable to know what to do for her other than be near her, I returned to my book.
Just before 7:00 PM I went out to the dining room to see how she was doing.

Sally was laying on her side, panting.
It was a new posture for her.
This did not look good.
I sensed that she could lay like this for another 12 hours or it could be a matter of minutes until she died.

Her tongue looked like a piece of cooked bacon and her mouth was dry.
I got a spray bottle and filled it with cool water and sprayed her mouth a few times.
Her tongue never moved.
This was not good at all.

I went into the back room and got a seat cushion and sat down on the floor next to her.
Her tail flopped weakly twice.
She knew I was there. (although her eyes were open, I was not sure she could see anything)
I scratched her neck and ears a little and spoke to her.

With my heart breaking, I started to pray again and then I began to cry.
When I started to cry, SHE started to cry.
I immediately got control of myself.
If she could sense my emotions, even in her declining state of health, then I needed to be strong for her.
In those minutes I told Sally that I was sorry I could not help her.
I prayed quietly that God would take her quickly.

In the next minutes her breathing became more labored and shallower.
Soon, she was working so hard for her next breaths that she was pushing her paws against the floor.
A few times she mixed a faint high-pitched whimper in with her exhales.
She was struggling.
This was it.
Helplessly, I watched with morbid fascination as my friend faded from this life.

Finally, she stopped breathing altogether.
I felt her heart still beating, strongly, in a surprisingly slow rhythm – about one beat per second.
It would be just a few seconds now...
She let out a deep exhale.
About a minute later her heart stopped.
She gave one last deep gasp, her body convulsed and she was gone.
I looked at the clock, it was 7:17 PM.

An inky black liquid oozed from her mouth onto my white vinyl floor.
I got up and got some paper towels to clean up her small mess.
I checked her back end to see if there was anything leaking from there, but there was nothing.

I was coldly lucid.
There were no tears, no prayers now.
My Sally was dead.
There was nothing more I could do.
In a selfish way I was glad she was dead.
She would suffer no more.
And I would suffer no more, either.

I remember thinking, this is my last dog.

I knew I needed to move her fairly soon so I looked in my back room at my available wood to find a pallet to transport by big, dead dog outside.
I found a four foot piece of plywood left over from a piece of furniture I had built then dismantled that would fill the need.

I slid Sally's body up onto the piece of wood and pulled her out of the house, being illogically careful as I went over the step-downs to the patio.
Even though I had not given much conscious thought to where I would bury my dog, I dragged her pallet across the back grass to a spot about three feet from the back fence.
I slid her body off the plywood and went back into the house.

I little more black liquid had run from her mouth so I wiped it off of the plywood and returned the piece to its place against the wall.
I did a final wipe up of the dining room floor and went into my bedroom and posted the notice on Facebook that she had died.

I debated whether to bury her body then or wait until morning.
It was so dark at about 7:30 that I was not sure I could finish the job and do it properly.
But waiting until morning allowed the risk of varmints coming to desecrate my dog in the night.
I decided to wait until morning, wake up early and dig the hole.

I was surprised at my cool demeanor.
Fifteen minutes ago I was crying, now I was cool.
I knew what was going on.
I was in shock.
The state would not last.
And it did not.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I took spells of reading and crying until 1 AM, when I finally turned out the light.
I slept fitfully, waking up every hour.
After I woke up at five AM I could not go back to sleep.
I was thinking of digging that hole.
As I was putting on my work boots, I heard the distant rumble of thunder.
Now what, I grumbled.

I went outside and began digging.
Fortunately, no critters had found Sally's body.
I dug my hole down to about nine inches when the weather threatened to rain and zap me.

Reluctantly, I took Sally's body by her hind feet and dragged her into my tool shed to protect her from the coming rain.
Why I did this I am not sure.
I went into the house to look at the local radar.
The storm was significant but mostly to the east of my part of town.
It rained a little, but not hard, and not for long.

After about 30 minutes, I decided to risk getting killed by lightening to finish my job.
At this point I did not care if I got killed.
In a light drizzle with lightening rumbling around me, I finished my hole.
I rolled Sally's stiff body into the hole, arranged her head, legs and tail then began putting the dirt on top of her.
I tired to not think about what I was doing.
One thing I noticed when I had rolled her over was that her now-stiff tongue had fallen out of her mouth and had lay flat against her jaw.

When I finished covering the hole and scraped most of the mud off of my work boots, I took them off and went into the house.
The first thing that hit me was the memory of Sally's tongue, now stiff and still, that used to lick my hand and my used dishes.
And I fell apart.


I did not realize how many times in a day I used to look into my back yard.
This comes to mind because now I catch myself start to look only to realize that there is nothing back there to see.
It was an acquired habit.
Any time I was not otherwise occupied I would take a peek at my dog in the back yard to see what she was doing.
When I left the house to go somewhere, when I returned, while going to or from the kitchen to the bedroom, or just because I was curious.
There is no need now.

I did not mind eating alone.
I have done it for twelve years.
Occasionally, I would have a guest or two.
But mostly I have eaten alone.

After Sally came I got used to having her around while I ate.
After she learned the rules about not taking what was not hers, she was very well behaved.
Now, suddenly, eating alone feels VERY alone.

It will take a while to get comfortable eating alone again.

I have removed the special plywood shelf I fixed in the rear seat of my car so Sally could ride back there more steadily.
(I was in the process of building a smaller one for the front passenger seat, no longer needed.)
She loved to ride in the car.
All the towels I had dedicated to her car trips are now washed and ready to put back on the shelf.
No longer needed.

I have mopped up all the faint paw prints from my kitchen floor one last time.
The box of doggy toys has been removed and the toys thrown away.
Tomorrow I plan to rake the back yard to collect and remove all the doggy toys and sticks from there.
There will be one last scoop up operation with the shovel to remove the remaining deposits from the back yard.
I want to remove the dog house, but my son warned me to keep it around for a few weeks.

I loved my dog.
I am surprised by the depth and intensity of my reaction to Sally's sickness and death.
She was just a dog.
But apparently I had invested a lot of emotional resources into our relationship.
The greater the commitment, the greater the hurt at separation.

She only lived 195 days.


We do not know.
I went back to the veterinarian today to ask her why my dog died.
She had no answers.
I questioned her about parvovirus.
Did she test Sally for it?
There were no indicators that it was present (rectal bleeding/discharge/diarrhea, extreme weakness, very low or very high white blood cell counts, etc.)

I asked her about the dark liquid when Sally died.
The vet said it was probably old blood but there was no indicators at the time of her examination what caused that.
(I never saw any dark liquid when Sally was vomiting. And I saw her vomit at least ten times or more...)

From the time I first noticed that something was wrong (Wednesday evening) until the visit to the veterinarian (Friday morning) was 40 hours.
From the time of the visit to the veterinarian until her death (Saturday evening) was 34 hours.
Total time of Sally's illness – 74 hours.

I am saving a question for God - Why did you allow me to have this dear creature for five months or so and then take her away from me?

1 comment:

~ NappyMama ~ said...

Thinking of you, Ded. She loved you and we all loved her.

We miss you Sally-Brown. :.(


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