Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Unexpected Goodbye

Esmeralda’s life was never an easy one — until she met me of course. She spent the first eight years in a cage being bred as much as three times a year in a puppy mill. Then, she ended up in a hording situation with aggressive dogs and an obese, chain smoking white woman with mental problems. Then, she was adopted by the Chatty Giant (guess who that is?), who thought it would be cool to move from a luxury apartment to a trailer park. Well, the last two years weren’t so bad, were they?

One morning while walking and looking for just the right spot to pee, Esmeralda collapsed. She wouldn’t get up and was breathing heavily. I thought she was having a heart attack. After a few minutes, she decided to get up and finish the walk. For the rest of the morning, everything seemed fine.

After lunch, she collapsed again and wouldn’t get up, so I carried her back to the house and called the veterinarian.

Unfortunately, her regular doctor was not in, so the doctor on duty examined her and said everything seemed fine, so it must be her back. I argued and said she had developed a cough, and it looked like congestive heart failure. All my dogs have lived to old age, so I have seen all the illnesses and ailments associated with old dogs.

The doctor wouldn’t hear of it, and she put her on Prednisone.

After five days, Esmeralda was miserable. She couldn’t catch her breath, and she was getting bloated.

On Tuesday, July 3, I came home from work early, and this time, she wouldn’t walk at all. I called Mrs. M to come over because I wanted to be sure I was not imagining her symptoms. As soon as she arrived, she confirmed that Esmeralda was not doing well at all even though she was fine during her two times outside. Then Esmeralda tried to stand up but couldn’t and sort of flopped around the room. She let out a scream and pooped all over herself. I dreaded the worst.

I cleaned her up the best I could and drove her to the Baltimore Emergency Animal Hospital.

They were very good and took her back immediately. The veterinarian came out and said they put her in an oxygen crate. I immediately protested and told them she would scream if put in a cage, but they assured me there were no bars. It was a Plexiglas enclosure, and Esmeralda had nested immediately. She then offered to let me come back and see her.

Esmeralda didn’t even react when I came back. She was just so uncomfortable and trying to catch her breath.

The doctor confirmed what I said all along. She was experiencing congestive heart failure. I asked if the Prednisone made it worse, and she said yes.

I was advised to go home and call back in a few hours to see if there was any improvement. Reluctantly, I did. For the first time, I was alone in the house.

At around 10:00 pm, I called back. There was no improvement, and they wanted to keep her overnight.

I prepared for bed, confused as to what to do, since I was used to walking Esmeralda first.

At 10:45 pm, the doctor called me and said she wanted to try another treatment, but I told her to wait, and I would be down in fifteen minutes.

I was dressed and in the car in five minutes, and yes, my hair was done, and my lipstick was on. I may have been distraught, but I was still me!

They immediately took me back, and Esmeralda looked worse. She didn’t even react to my arrival. I asked if she was on a medication that was making her drowsy, but she wasn’t. She was still struggling to breathe.

I then asked the doctor what the prognosis was. I was told that if she pulled out of this, she would no longer be able to walk outside on hot days. Her mobility would be limited, and she might have nine more months, but probably less. If the temperature was higher than seventy degrees, I would need to carry her outside, put her on the grass, and after she did her business, carry her back inside. She would also be on medication for the rest of her short life. In addition, since this had gone on for so long, her heart was becoming more damaged and weak with each passing hour. The doctor was also disappointed in the lack of any improvement in her condition. Esmeralda was not responding. She was clearly suffering.

The entire time I was petting her and the doctor was talking, Esmeralda had no emotional reaction. The look on her face said it all.

I told the doctor that I am a firm believer that if a dog cannot run, jump and play, she does not have a dog’s life. I also am not one to over medicate or put a dog through painful and miserable treatments just to assuage my own guilt or prolong the inevitable and avoid a tough decision. I also know that I would not want a life where I had to be carried everywhere and could not go outside for more than five minutes.

I was the one who had to ask my mother if she wanted a DNR. No one else in my family could handle it. I also have a DNR.

For the second time in my life, I had to make a decision no one should have to make alone. I decided to put Esmeralda out of her misery. The doctor didn’t even argue, and I could tell from her body language and speech that she agreed I was making the right decision.

They had me sign the papers and pay the bill, including the cremation arrangements. I guess it is easier to get money from someone who isn’t hysterically crying.

Then, they carried Esmeralda into the room. She just lay there. No reaction. She was so uncomfortable and struggling so hard to breathe.

Before giving her the second shot, the doctor said to her, “I’m sorry.” I felt more sorry for the doctor than for Esmeralda. My poor baby’s heart was so weak that it took much longer than it did for Serena, two and half years earlier, for the medicine to do the deed.

Then, it was over.

I stayed with her for a few minutes, arranged for her to be cremated then left the room.

There were people in the waiting room who knew what just happened in that room, so I avoided their eyes. While I enjoy being the center of attention and can be a drama queen when appropriate, I do not like pity. I left quickly, got into my car, and cried hysterically for ten minutes.

We had two years and two months together. Two crazy years while I tried my best to show a rescue beagle, I named Esmeralda because she sneezed, that humans can be nice and life can be good outside of a cage.

I never could convince her that window treatments are not the enemy or wall-to-wall carpet is not a lawn.

Ironically, it was on the anniversary of Esmeralda’s first attempt to run away that she left me for good.

Who knew a trailer could be so quiet and lonely.

My friends, Brian and Ed, also lost their rescue dog, Jasmine, just a few hours before Esmeralda. July 3, 2012, was not a good day.

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