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June 21, 2011
Dog Days of Summer
I've known my best friend for 10 years now and we seriously dated for 6 of those. Naturally, her best friend is her Lhasa Apso named Reebok.
Reebok was a shelter dog she saved 15 years ago. At the time, the shelter told her Reebok was about "two years" old. (The shelters always claim a dog is about "2 years old" it seems.) Reebok is now pushing 20 years old. Lhasa Apsos surprisingly live into their twenties, (that's an old man of 150 for you and me.) He is deaf and blind, and at his age he sleeps all day only getting up on his arthritic knee to bump around to eat or looking to go outside to pee. It is a hard life being an adorable old man and he needed his sleep.
Reebok weighs about 15 lbs and is still a puppy at heart. Reebok was left to fend for himself out in the woods by his prior owners. His demeanor suggested that his prior owners had abused him. For about a month Reebok would flinch when my friend reached out to pat his head. When my friend saved him at the shelter Reebok was covered with over 200 ticks. He had ticks between every toe, on his eyelids, and on his lips. He had lost all of his hair and looked every bit as sick as he was. It took 2 days to remove all the ticks.
Never yappy dogs, Lhasa Apsos are a keen watch dogs that spend hours at your feet. They are an ancient breed of watch dog favored by Tibetan royalty. Needless to say, I was a bit leery of him at first being that I was raised around hunting dogs that were not as manipulative and cunning. Reebok could speak and say "I love you" in his younger days.
Today, my friend and I were tending to Harry. Harry is a homebound Korean War vet who we shop for to buy him cigarettes and refill his prescriptions. We put Reebok out to pee before we left for the VA clinic. We forgot to put him back in the house before we left. We were all the way across town before my friend realized that we forgot him outside. We raced back home to find a limp Reebok with his tongue hanging out in the dirt. He was baking in the unforgiving south Florida sun.
I raced Reebok to the pool and jumped in with him. He was not breathing and I could not feel if he had a heartbeat. He was in heat stroke shock. I blew into his snout about 5 times in the pool. Each time he exhaled his breath felt as hot as the opening rush of hot air out of a closed car left in the sun. But he was breathing. My friend raced inside and got the kitchen trash can and filled it with ice water. We submerged Reebok in the ice for about 5 minutes. Occasionally, Reebok would shake his head, grumble, swallow and move his legs. Other than that he remained limp in our arms.
Reebok's animal clinic was about 30 minutes away. Our vet doc took a look at him, drew some blood and took a chest x-ray to check if Reebok had got any water in his lungs. The doc did not like what he was seeing and suggested we run Reebok over to a new critical care vet hospital down the street. I raced there passing an ambulance on the way and running red lights when I could. We got him there in less than 10 minutes. Once there the critical vet doc put an IV into Reebok's forearm and they started to warm him up. Strangely, dogs that overheat lose their ability to regulate their body temperature and Reebok was about 10 degrees too cold. They clipped a blood oxygen monitor to his lip and had him monitored for heart, respiration, and temperature. The critical vet doc seemed very reassuring; she had lots of experience with animals left in vehicles and so on. She told us what to expect, how many days to recover, and how much it may cost. At that moment Reebok started to cry out and bark! He seemed to be coming around! The IV seemed to be doing the trick for him. We signed the forms so that they could continue to give him treatment. We paid half of what the expected bill was to be.
Then something odd happened. After we had signed the bill, the critical vet doc's demeanor changed. She was no longer offering much hope at all now. She gave us the obligatory "be prepared" if Reebok takes a turn for the worse. We got to see Reebok before we left. He was still seemingly delirious but was still breathing and moving his legs.
My cell phone is shot from my dip in the pool. My wallet is still drying out. I called to check on my friend to see how she was doing and if she had any news. It seems as soon as we left the new critical vet hospital, the vets had decided that Reebok was a lost cause.
This somewhat angered me. I feel a bit ripped off. Prior to signing the bill there was hope, and after the bill was paid there was none it seemed. The vets had called my friend to give her the bad news and now she was giving it to me. "To hell with them," I countered. "Do not put Reebok down! He is not in pain, if anything he is delirious and out of it! Give him a fighting chance. We have done all we could do and now Reebok deserves a fighting chance! If he passes in the night then so be it, but give him the chance."
On the speaker phone, my best friend's new boyfriend let me know that I was making things worse. All I was asking for was a little hope for my little buddy. Over the last 10 years I have walked Reebok, barefoot at times, on freezing cold mornings on frost covered grass and on blistering hot pavement. Reebok & I have spent many weekends alone when "mommy" was out of town. I have nursed him when he was sick, cleaned his vomit, crap, and pee up for the better part of a decade. It never seemed a chore to me. Reebok is that good of a dog.
I am very pragmatic about owning dogs. When it is time for them to be put down, it is time. Tonight did not seem right to me. Reebok deserved a night with an IV to recuperate. I pled my case but it is out of my hands now. I don't know what the final decision was. I feel helpless and heartsick. Reebok is always such a good boy. I am going to miss him very much when he is gone.
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