Another absence on the blog. I feel like I’ve had those frequently throughout the last year. Life has been full of ups and downs, especially in 2019. And to think it’s almost halfway over! For those that have followed this blog for awhile, either know me personally and knew what my absence was due to… others that don’t know me personally might have speculated. And I hope that this blog post brings closure. Brings peace. It’s been 11 days. We lost Eddie, our 2nd rat terrier on April 18th. We lost his sister (litter mate) on January 26th earlier this year (I posted what was hopefully a one time post for a very long time here). The Great Dane shown in the photo below – we gave to a friend years ago when no apartment complex in the town we moved to for pharmacy school would take 3 dogs, nor a Great Dane. We lied for as long as we could that we had “one terrier” and “a lab mix” – LOL. Our friend back in Indiana stepped forward who had another Great Dane and saw my worries on Facebook, and said they would take her if we wanted. I think she probably had the best life a Great Dane could ask for. She also passed away a couple of weeks ago (with our friend back home in Indiana).
So, why the title “I wanted a Corgi?” Well, that’s exactly how it started. I grew up with dogs. My mom had an older Doberman and an older cat when I was born. When I was about 5 years old, the cat passed away (peacefully in his sleep – why can’t they all go that way?!) and as things go in the 1980’s, we went to the local pet store to find a kitten. However, no kitten came home with us. We came home with a little mixed mutt puppy and I named him Tommy (after a kid I had a crush on in Kindergarten no doubt – ha!). He looked like a black Pomeranian. Hyper as could be, an ankle biter, and my best bud for over 17 years. He passed away when I was 22 years old. I was right in the height of my horse show career, and almost every horse trainer you knew had a Corgi. I mean, have you ever seen a Corgi shake their bum? They are pretty darn cute – you gotta admit! So, I decided I would slowly start to look for a Corgi puppy.
I went to a horse show over Thanksgiving weekend in Illinois back in 2004. There were several litters of puppies there and I was determined to find that Corgi pup! My trainer came back to the stalls and told me there was a litter of “rat terriers” I should go check out. I’m pretty sure I said something like “What is that“? 😂 Back then, the Rat Terrier breed wasn’t recognized by AKC or any other breed association. They have evolved over the years through breeding of the fox terrier, beagle, jack russell, and whippets to name a few.
Well, I agreed to go look at the puppies. It was a huge litter – maybe 10-12 puppies? All tri-color (black/white/tan)… all male… except one. One was all white with brown ears. A family had bred the litter and had an 8 year old daughter who said “That one is named Brown Ear”. I said, “He has a cone head. I don’t know if I want that one.” My horse trainer convinced me to pick him up. And that was that. I held Brown Ear in my arms and knew right then he was mine, and I was his. We later changed his name to Eddie because he looked so much like the Jack Russell from the sitcom Frazier, and also since he came from a horse show he was reminiscent of “Mr Ed.” It was the perfect name.
So, I came home with a Rat Terrier and not a Corgi. I made the best decision. I loved Eddie so much that I called the breeder a few months later to see if any puppies were left. The only female in the litter that was sold before the horse show where I found Eddie was up for sale (see previous post here).
Eddie truly lived a great life. Him and Lucky. A dog that was ball obsessed. Give him a tennis ball and he’s your best friend. He loved to swim, he loved to leap through the air, he loved life. But mostly he loved tennis balls haha.
His life came to an end rather suddenly, just like Lucky’s. And we fought so hard for him. I hate that we had to give up the fight. He had been battling cancerous soft tissue skin tumors for the last several years. We had 3 of them removed that I can specifically remember, but others were removed before we moved to Florida. Last summer, 2018, he started to randomly have muscle spasms in his back leg. He would at random ‘kick out’ like a camel kick of sorts. However, they were so at random and would occur maybe once every 2-3 weeks that our vet didn’t think much of it. After we lost Lucky in January, they suddenly became more frequent. We took him back to the vet who was worried he was suffering from a herniated/bulging disc or possible ACL tear. We took X-rays and his spine was perfect, especially for a 14 year old dog. She said X-rays aren’t always conclusive though and really an MRI should be performed. However, because of his age, she felt an MRI was unwarranted because surgery wasn’t likely a possibility, so we should try medicinal therapy first.
We immediately started Adequan (glucosamine) injections, laser therapy, and we were referred to a physical therapy vet. Before our first appointment with the physical therapy vet, Eddie suffered a “pain spell” on our nightly walk. He all of a sudden started panting, his back became weak, and he was having an incredibly hard time walking. We rushed him to the ER vet who still felt it could possibly be an ACL tear and also did not think an MRI was warranted. When we met with the physical therapy vet a week later, she truly felt it was back pain and disc related. We started him on muscle relaxant, nerve pain medication, and an anti-inflammatory. He seemed to get better as the weeks went by, but we were very careful to not let him jump on the bed, we only went for very short walks multiple times per day, and played with him on the floor without throwing any balls (we would take it from him and give it right back haha).
Looking back, did we make the right choice? Should we have had the MRI sooner? I struggle with the answer, because knowing what we know now, they may have taken his life much sooner.
Fast forward to April 17th, 2019. My husband was at home for the day. About 1:30pm he took Eddie outside to potty. He started to act funny in his back end, so my husband was worried he was having one of his pain spells (he continued to have the pain spells intermittently even with medication. Thankfully they were short lived and would last anywhere from 10-40 minutes). He brought Eddie inside immediately when all of a sudden Eddie lost complete use of his back legs. My husband called me (I was at work) and I told him, don’t even think about it, just get him to the ER vet. He could have torn the disc completely.
He raced him to the ER vet whom said what we were expecting – that it was likely the disc(s) were slipped further than they were prior. Again, it was impossible to say without an MRI. Eddie was in SO much pain guys, so much. He was howling on the way to the ER vet. My husband called me on the trip and it was all I could bear to be stuck at work and not be there with him. I told the ER vet that we wanted to move forward with an MRI. I needed to know. Something didn’t feel right. Even if he wasn’t a surgical candidate, I still needed answers.
The next morning, April 18th, Eddie was transported via ambulance to the only neurologist locally. The entire staff was amazing. We sat with Eddie on the office floor for 2 hours weighing all of our options and got the opinions of both neurology vets – a husband and wife team – whom said even IF it’s a disc problem, surgery is still an option. He could be walking in 2 days. Age is just a number. However, it could be his cancer spread to the spine. It could be he had a stroke. But we won’t know without the MRI.
At this point we were hopeful. We moved forward with the MRI. Little did we know, the results were not what we were expecting. The neurology vet’s office called us back 2 hours later. Eddie was not a surgical candidate and we needed to come back for a consult.
The neurologist sat us down in his office and we proceeded to go through each and every MRI slide. Eddie’s spine was perfect. There was no slipped disc. No herniated or bulging disc. Cartilage was good. No breaks. No bone spurs. Nothing. That’s where the neurologist said he had to go through each and every organ to find out the answer.
And that’s where we found it. His heart. Eddie had a clot in his aorta. The largest artery in the body. 80% occluded. 80%! The clot was huge. It was also very long. The MRI showed Eddie’s back legs were incredibly inflamed. Essentially he wasn’t getting enough circulation to his legs, which created an immense amount of pain and muscle breakdown due to lack of oxygen and build up of toxins. So, a clot? Ok. What kind of clot busters do we have for dogs? Can we remove it? Can we place a stent? What do we do?
The neurologist said we needed to get him back to critical care. His kidneys weren’t perfusing, causing the muscle breakdown and also pancreatitis. Step 1. He said at that point we can start treatment. He still felt hopeful at this point. He said ‘the only thing you can’t come back from is euthanasia.’ That stuck with me.
We transported him back via ambulance to the ER vet. My husband and I still held out hope this was all going to be okay. We waited for the vet to admit him again and call us with a treatment plan. We got the call about 2 hours later. The critical care vet was very grave. She gave us a list of options (mind you – there are no dog specific related treatment options – we would need to have a prescription filled at our local pharmacy, pick it up and take back to the vet office). And all 3 options – heparin, low molecular weight heparin (Lovenox), and oral anticogulant (Xarelto) did not have safe monitoring parameters in dogs. So, basically, Eddie could bleed out. Also, we don’t know why he is clotting. So even if we treat the one clot and he does well for a couple weeks, the same scenario could happen again. And the likely culprit was cancer. However, the chemotherapy had stopped working the year prior, so we were out of chemotherapy options as well.
I think I almost hit the floor at this point. I just knew. I knew it was time. That moment when you have fought so hard for him, and he’s fought so hard for you. I could tell my husband didn’t want to give up, especially after the neurology vet had been so hopeful. But I knew it wasn’t giving up. It was our gift to Eddie. He was in so much pain. He had a Fentanyl patch on his neck to control the pain. A pain reliever only recommended for terminally ill and cancer patients.
And so this is where we said goodbye. I hope Eddie recognized us that night when we went back to the ER hospital for the last time and I held him til he took his last breath. I hope he’s in peace now and pain-free. I’m not a religious person, but if there is one place I want to believe there is a heaven, is for dogs. His death has been incredibly hard. I cried on and off for days. 11 days later and I’m doing better, but daily tasks are sometimes still hard. Our house is so quiet now that it’s dog free. So sterile. It’s horrible. Lucky’s death was sudden also, but if you read her story, you know that although she went into heart failure, she also had a liver mass the size of a melon growing inside her small tummy. The decision was easier (not easy… but easier…) for her as she was truly suffering. After doing my own research on aortic clots in dogs, I do feel more at peace with our decision with Eddie. Aortic clots are incredibly rare (one article I read said they only occur in 0.0005% of dogs!), and only recent studies since 2016 have published retrospective studies of dogs with known aortic clots since 2010 and treatment methods. Xarelto was only used from treatment starting in 2016. Eddie would have been a science experiment of sorts if we had moved forward with treatment. And I would have hated myself forever had he died from bleeding out internally due to our desperation of keeping him here with us.
I created a memorial in our house below for both dogs. It’s nothing huge, but it sits right on the wall next to my side of the bed in our master bedroom. I wake up and see them every morning. I pinned their most recent set of collars in a shadow box and painted their paw prints with the colors we used most for all their harnesses, collars, and backpacks. Their individual ashes are in each little box. The ER vet provided those services for us, and I highly recommend the private cremation and paw print for your own pet – it has brought a lot of peace having both with me.
So, I’ll end this blog post by saying I wanted a Corgi, but ended up with two of the most fun-loving, high-spirited, and best little dogs I could have ever wished for. And if you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, thank you. It helps me to write these things out. A diary of sorts. A glimpse into my life, and one of the biggest parts of my life.
We plan to now rescue a dog or two in the near or far future. I figure it will happen when it’s meant to be. I actually found a pair of rat terrier brothers to adopt about 3 hours from where we live. I applied for adoption, and received an email the next day that one of the dogs was already adopted, but I’m waiting to hear back about the other. I’ve also inquired to other rescue organizations about other dogs, but waiting for responses. Apparently adopting a dog isn’t an easy process, but it could be it’s not the right time for us either. I’m letting fate take it’s course. Eddie and Lucky were both unexpected, and a life gift I will never forget. I expect our next dog(s) will happen in a similar manner.
Thank you friends, for all the love & support if we’ve already spoken about Eddie in days prior. Eddie has received more cards at our house then I think we received Christmas cards from friends & family this year haha! All from his team of medical staff and caretakers. He was well loved.💗
Blogging will probably be a little slower coming up the month of May, but I have more determination and inspiration than I’ve ever had to hopefully make this space part of my ‘career’ and not just a hobby in the future. I have a lot of older posts from 2-3 weeks ago that never made it to the blog that I will start to post over the next few days, and then pick back up next week or the week after.