Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tragedy and Heartbreak

The storm Friday night seemed a metaphor for the gut-wrenching grief I experienced. A light that I had once taken for granted in my life was gone, leaving a black hole in my soul. Little Bama died unexpectedly that day.

Thursday, Bama had surgery. I had written in Thursday's post that she seemed to have a hard time recovering--was still groggy. She had diarrhea that night, which she hadn't experienced since I started her on yogurt about a week after her surgery. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it was a serious symptom; I thought it was difficult for her to overcome the anesthesia. I fed her yogurt, some chicken soup, and water along with giving her pills that afternoon. She still seemed to be urinating without problem. That night, I hesitated about feeding her dog food along with giving her water and yogurt, but I decided to do so to keep her protein up. She ate most of the can.

Around midnight, I put her in the soft crate on the bed beside me. When I woke up about 6:30, she had vomited. The smell did not wake me because I had become accustomed to the strong odor that always came from her wounds. I cleaned her up, and when I took her out, she didn't want to walk or make a puddle. We took her to the vet hospital about 8:00 for her bandage changes. When the vet saw her, he was shocked at how week she looked. When he undid the bandages, they were dry, and he suspected her kidneys were failing. He called me back to talk to me while he was changing her bandages. I hadn't seen her legs for a long time. All the wounds were closing and healing. They looked unbelievably good--except for the dryness. He hurried through the bandage changes so they could start her on IV fluids immediately.

What was happening? The vet told me to go home, and he would call me. It wasn't long after Dad and I got home that I was gathering some yogurt and her pills to take back to the vet. I didn't want to be away from her. Just as we were about to go back to the car, the vet called. "Bama's in trouble," he said. "Her kidneys are failing and her platelets are extremely low." I asked him if I could come to feed her, and he said yes. "I never saw this coming," he said. None of us did.

When I arrived at the vet, they had called someone who owns a greyhound, and they were extracting blood from the dog for Bama. The staff let Dad and me go to her crate, where they had her on a heating pad and wrapped with blankets. She lifted her head and wagged her tail when she heard my voice. The vet told me, "She's fighting to stay alive. Her blood is getting into her lungs."

They placed the blood on her cage and gave her steroids. We were all still hopeful--at least for a while. Indeed, she still seemed to be fighting to live.

Before his owner left, Keno the greyhound, seemed to know that Bama was getting his blood. He walked over to me as I was standing in front of Bama's cage and gave me that sweet greyhound smile. "Thank you," I said, as I patted his head. His warm eyes seemed to say, "You're welcome."

"Keno's blood has saved a lot of lives," the vet said. I'm extremely grateful to Keno's owner--and, of course, to Keno. As the vet commented later, "We do everything we can to try to save Bama."

Despite everyone's efforts, Bama continued to worsen. Dad's dog Jazzie was terrified of the vet hospital, so when I realized she was dying, we kept her at home so she could die comfortably with Dad by her side. I had seen the progression. I knew Bama was leaving me, as much as she didn't want to.

I am grateful to the staff for letting Dad and me stay with her. Even at this stage, all she wanted was to be with me. Although it must have been extremely difficult for her to move much, she shifted her body up against the edge of the cage so she could lean against me. I tried to lift her gently back on the heating pad, but she moved against me again. This time, I didn't stop her. I told her how much I loved her as I stroked her. I used my pet names for her--Bambi, Bambalina, Bambacita--and the tailed wagged just a little again. The vet eventually shifted her to the other side, and I sat it a chair so our heads were close togther. I blew gently in her face and told her how proud I was of her.

When I knew the end was coming soon, I asked if they could put her in my lap. They tried, but all the tubes were getting tangled. When they picked her up to take her off my lap to put her back in the cage, she let go. It was clear she was leaving us, and I asked them to inject her to end it. As she breathed for the last time, I was able to to tell her again that I loved her and was proud of her.

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