Sudden Onset

December 10-16, 2015

On Thursday evening, James and I were having a typical, whirlwind evening: late return from work, quick turnaround for dinner and getting out the door to see a play I consulted on at a local high school.  Everything was rote: put the dogs on the landing, scoop the food, send MJ back to the landing, finish scooping their dinner, send her to her room, put down Zo’s food, walk MJ’s bowls to her… and something stopped me.  She was knuckling… sort of.

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Saturday morning.

I didn’t panic.  I asked her what she was doing with her foot.  She T-rex’d for her dinner.  I put down her food and watched her arch her toes.  James came in and took a look.  There was definitely something going on.  We had to make a follow-up appointment with her oncologist anyway.  On the way to the theater I made an appointment for Christmas Eve day.  We’d keep an eye on her until then.

The weekend arrived.  She fell apart.  We fell apart.  I sent a text message on Sunday to her neurologist, who encouraged us to bring her in.

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James diligently carried her everywhere.  Everywhere.

By Monday, she had no balance.  She was knuckling with her front AND back paws, her front legs all the way up to her elbows.  She couldn’t stand up on her own.  She had no traction on our wooden floors.  She was having accidents.  She was confused.  She was slow to eat and wouldn’t drink unless we ladled water to her.  She couldn’t rest or settle.  She was twitching.  She didn’t know who we were.

The earliest appointment we could get was Tuesday.  Her symptoms were worse.  She was deteriorating and there was nothing we could do about it but hold her and tell her she was ok.  That we love her.  To rest… rest.

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Sunday: her last calm night.

Our neurology appointment confirmed our suspicions: MJ was exhibiting symptoms consistent with her cancer.  It had either recurred or she was having early-onset radiation sickness.  We could try to put her on a high dose of prednisone and hope that it would reduce the swelling on her brain and her symptoms would abate.

Give it until Friday.

Give us a call.

We’ll know then what to do.

Be hopeful.

We went home.  Things got horribly worse.  She couldn’t sleep but she was always tired.  We had to carry her around the house, not just up and down the stairs.

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Wednesday night’s sleeping arrangements.  She lasted in here, just adjacent to our bed, for an hour.

Her twitching became more frequent.  She started wandering aimlessly around rooms when she could get up, stopping and swaying in corners or at the entrance to her crate.  Her breathing was erratic.  We were losing her.  The prednisone didn’t work.

On Wednesday, we knew we couldn’t wait until Friday.  Hope ran out.  She didn’t recognize us but something within her wouldn’t let go.  We knew.  We sobbed on the floor and held her. We apologized because we couldn’t save her. We called Southpaws and passed the phone back and forth when the crying got to be too much.  I took distracted notes and called Sunset Pet Services to make arrangements for her after…

There was no reason to delay.  She wasn’t herself.  She hadn’t been for almost a week.  She wouldn’t give kisses.  She wasn’t wiggling her bum or her little stump.  We found her leash and shoes and car keys and drove to the hospital.  They knew we were coming.  There was a private room waiting.

No fewer than 12 people came in to say goodbye to her.  We took our time.  We shared some memories.  We cried.  They administered the medicine and we held her as she finally let go.  She was so brave and strong.  She fought until we wouldn’t let her fight anymore.

We love her so much.

It hurts.  It’s a deep sorrow that sneaks up on you and surprises you with its profound weight. It’s exhausting and infuriating.  That won’t stop, just change.

She’d be five on December 27th.  Too little time; too young.  But what an amazing adventure it’s been.

We’ll pick her up from Sunset and bring her home again.  Then she’ll be with us.  Where she belongs.

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