Trauma and the Fears that Come From Loving a Dog This Much
My Pascale girl is not quite right.
It started about two weeks ago, maybe more. At first she had a big hacking kind of cough, the kind that would make her regurgitate water after she drank. She’s gotten kennel cough before and fought it off on her own, but after about four days the hack wasn’t getting much better so I made a vet appointment for her. The day I made the appointment, she started acting head shy as well. It was subtle, but I noticed her acting weird about her head.
Since I had to get her in ASAP, we didn’t get to see our normal vet at the clinic. The one we saw sent her home with an antibiotic, coughing medicine and didn’t seem concerned about the head thing.
While the coughing medicine helped, her head shyness got worse. If I reached down to pet her sometimes, she would yelp. She turned her head to the side after just getting up, generally acted strange about picking anything off the ground. Though she still had an appetite, she didn’t want to eat from her dog bowl. I fed her by hand, and eventually put her food and water on the fireplace so it was more eye level for her.
The symptoms didn’t get better, so I took her back to the vet again to see our normal vet. He diagnosed her with some kind of injury to the right side of her neck and prescribed her steroids. After two days on steroids, she was a totally different dog. Happy, playing and wanting to run at squirrels again.
Of course with steroids, you have to taper off. We slowly backed off over the course of a few days, but a week after steroids left her with a reduced version of all the same symptoms. She still has the hack, although not as bad. When she gets any kind of physical exertion, she makes puffing sounds with her mouth like she’s trying to clear her throat. I see spittle in the corners of her mouth that I’ve never seen before, and she’s still protecting her neck. I don’t see her tipping her head to the side, but occasionally she does a soft yelp.
I’ve been waiting for my vet to call me back, and today he did with news that made me crumble. He’s very conservative, so I guess I expected him to say we just needed to give it more time or try another round of steroids. While he said those things were an option, he suggested a CT scan if I was up for it (aka could afford it) because there were some “things he was thinking about.” When I asked what those things were, he said a disc problem or a mass.
Even the slight thought that Pascale, my best girl, could have a mass sent me into the dark place.
I have great friends, a supportive family and all sorts of exciting things in my life, but nothing has gotten me through the past four years more than my animals. I don’t have to tell y’all what Simon meant to me. The first night that I spent alone in the house I shared with Tim, Pascale curled up on the pillow next to me. She has been my steady companion through everything. She puts a smile on my face faster than anything else. She is my heart.
And I am completely beside myself.
I can’t forget how I left Simon before winter break. He was fat, fitter than he had every been, the picture of health. How I lost him was so sudden and absurd that I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to lose Pascale in some tragic way as well.
All the dogs I’ve had have lived long, happy lives to old age. Honey, our first family dog, was euthanized at 18. Mocha, the second family lab, the same when she was an old 13. We never knew how old BT was, but she was not a young pup when I lost her. And Eliot was 13, just one year shy of his “contract” when I let him go from cancer.
Pascale is 7, and here we are.
Our CT scan is a week from today. Hopefully it will give me the delightful answer that she has a slipped disc, or some other expensive but not lethal diagnosis. There is literally no cap on what I’d spend on this dog. I’m not worried about the money.
But I’m worried about the threat of the mass. I have that sense that something is not right with my dog, and it’s more than a sore neck. I’m worried about cancer. I’m worried because so much of my 30s has been tragic and unfair, and I can’t believe that I get to hold on to anyone that I love. While this line of thinking isn’t positive, it’s unavoidable. There is nothing I can do to stop it, because my experience has shown me that I’m more likely to meet tragedy than not.
Believe me when I say that I don’t think I can handle losing this dog at a young age. For the next week I get to worry and fret and chart her every mood and change like a madwoman. I just need her to be okay.