Friday, April 08, 2005

"The Life Is in the Blood"

My beautiful dog, Magdalen, is very sick. They say she'll probably die.

She's bleeding from the nose, slowly, since Wednesday night or so, and it won't stop. No, actually, it's getting worse. I've been to two vets yesterday and today, and they both say it's probably from a tumor in her sinuses. So there's nothing, really, they can do.

But they're not totally sure, so she's at the veterinary hospital now, getting fluid through an IV, and some medication to get her blood to clot. I'm to call tomorrow morning to see how she's doing. And to make decisions I'd rather not face.

I can't say this was totally sudden. Maddie hasn't been herself since I returned from interim pastor training in Austin last month. At first it was a backache. From lying around in the kennel nine days and nine nights, the vet said. She's had backaches before. She gets over them. We treated it with pain medication and I waited for her to get better.

But I'd watch her lying on her blanket on my study floor, and she seemed to sleep so stilly, so soundly. I'd actually call her name to rouse her, alarmed by-- what? And when she'd raise her head, she would look uncannily like that bedraggled, diseased, nothing-but-hair-and-bones mutt I helped rescue five years ago. I'd call her and she'd come and I'd smoothen that look away. It's not something I wanted to see.

Her back did get better. She stopped favoring her hindquarters, and went back to sleeping under the bed. But she still didn't have the energy to jump up and sleep on the bed with me and her sister the cat. Well, I figured, she's eight, maybe even nine years old. The muscles take longer to recover.

But two or three days ago I noticed the blood. A little at first. I looked but I couldn't tell where it was coming from, her coat is so long. Then Wednesday night I noticed the dribble from her left nostril. She'd sneeze, and there'd be little drops to clean up, here and there. Yesterday, the nosebleed seemed worse, and I took her to see the vet.

He thought--hoped-- it might only be an infection. After all, she was still eating and drinking with a fine appetite. So he prescribed her an antibiotic and I took her home and gave her her first dose right away. Then I went to work.

When I arrived home yesterday evening, there were bloody sneeze deposits in various places on the bedroom carpet. Oh, Maddie! I realized I'd have to confine her to the bathroom "until she got better."

She didn't like it. She wouldn't settle, even on the bedding I provided. Periodically, I'd hear her scratching at the door. That's when I'd let her out and run her downstairs "hurry, hurry, hurry!" to go outside to relieve herself-- the back pain medication caused her to drink a lot and urinate more, and we didn't need an accident in the closed bathroom. She'd go, then I'd have to harden my heart and shut her in once more.

I didn't go to sleep last night. I was up working on the computer till nearly 4:00 AM. I was restless. Maddie would scratch, I'd let her out. When I'd put her back in, I'd wipe the blood smears off the bathroom floor. A little blood goes a long way, I thought. A little blood.

I wasn't really sleepy at 4:00 this morning. So after I checked on Maddie, I decided to sit in bed and watch the Pope's funeral Mass. I watched till it was over, around 7:00 AM Eastern time. I let Maddie out, but I didn't give her her breakfast. I wish now I had.

I went to sleep till 10:00, when I was awakened by the cat. Rhadwen often-- no, usually-- wakens me in the morning, but this morning it seemed different. I checked on Maddie right away. There was more blood here and there on the bathroom floor, and my dog, my beautiful, playful, shaggy dog, was standing there stiff, as if shellshocked. I petted her, I called her sweet names, and got her to come downstairs and out the back door. But when she went across the porch and through the rip in the screen, she just stood at the top of the porch stairs as if she didn't know what to do. I urged her down into the yard, then went to get Rhadwen's breakfast.

When I next looked out the back door, Maddie wasn't waiting there, eager to come in and eat, as she usually is. She was lying out in the yard, in a patch of sunlight. "Come in, Maddie, poor dog," I urged. "Come in and get your breakfast." She came. She took her antibiotic capsule wrapped in a piece of cheese, but without her usual alacrity (you'd think pills were the greatest treat in the world, the way she jumps for them). And she refused to eat any of her breakfast, or even to take a drink of water.

That's when I knew there was something more serious going on than a little sinus infection. I got dressed, called the vet, wrapped Maddie up in a throw, and took her in.

X-rays, blood counts, an examination, a second opinion examination. All point to the same thing: only a miracle will save my pretty girl. I've always known a day would come when I'd have to let her go, but I'd hoped and expected that wouldn't be for several years yet. We've only been together five years, come the 27th of this month. They say she's not suffering, so I have to try the IV fluids. If I'd just told the vet this morning to put her down, I would always have wondered if I'd acted too precipitously. If I'd given up too soon.

But tomorrow's coming. Whether it's too soon or too late for my Magdalen, tomorrow will tell.

No comments: