Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Perspective From a Very Scary Weekend

This past weekend started off well. It was a long weekend and I only had to work one of my jobs on Friday, so it felt like a semi-four-day weekend. I got up Saturday, went for a run, did some things around the house (well, I emptied the dishwasher and started laundry, which is as much "doing things around the house" as I generally get, especially on a holiday weekend). We had a fun weekend planned ahead of us.

And then, my phone rang. It was the vet. I'd taken my dog for a routine vaccine booster on Thursday, and they'd asked me if, "because she's getting older", I'd like to do a blood panel workup, just to make sure all is clear. Cinn's been acting like her normal self - read: pretty lazy but running around the yard on occasion - but I figured sure, why not. She is 10, and despite my wish that she'd live as long as I do, I am somewhat realistic. My vet told me that she'd be back on Tuesday so I probably wouldn't hear from her until then.

So when my phone rang at 9 AM on a Saturday of Memorial Weekend and I looked down and saw the vet's name pop up, I knew something was wrong. It was my actual vet, calling from home on her day off, on the other end of the phone. Usually the techs call when it's a routine "all looks good" and the vet isn't there. This did not feel right. To make a long story short, Cinn's platelets are very low. They're supposed to be at 150,000, I'm told. Hers are at 30,000. My vet told me, "it could be a lab error, or it could be very severe. If it were my dog I wouldn't wait until Tuesday when I'm back in." I handled it OK cried like a baby on the phone with the vet while hugging Cinn, begging her to be OK, and saying I'd bring her right over to Emergency.

The emergency doctor, who was wonderful and redid the platelet test for free, confirmed that it was not a lab error. We talked about obvious causes and what we could do for each. They stuck Cinn like a pin cushion (and shaved part of her legs to do so) for further blood tests, and then did several xrays. Nothing came up positive, which was in one sense a relief, but didn't help to give us any answers. In addition, they said her blood was clotting normally, which it shouldn't be for such a low platelet level. More or less, they're somewhat stumped.

On the chance that it's an autoimmune disease, she's now on a steroid and another medication, plus extra strength Pepcid AC for her already sensitive stomach. She's home, and other than being extra hungry and thirsty and needing more frequent bathroom breaks, she seems ok - of course she did before I got the phone call, so that's not much of an indicator, other than I'm glad to see that she doesn't look to be in pain. All she knows is she's getting an extra "meal" (really her normal amount of food split into three meals instead of two because one of the meds must be taken with food) and she gets peanut butter three times a day, because I have to hide the pills in it. Unlike her mama, she's probably forgotten all about the multiple vet visits, the blood work, the xrays, and she's oblivious phrases like "autoimmune disease" and "possible cancer", for which I am glad.

We had a very, very close call, and are by no means out of the woods yet. If her blood work doesn't improve, we were told we can get an ultrasound "if a diagnosis of cancer would affect our course of treatment" - i.e. if we wouldn't plan on doing chemo etc, they don't feel we need to do the ultrasound. Those are never words I want to hear about a loved one, human or furry. Hasn't our family had our share of that awful disease enough in these past few years? I can't think about that yet, though I know I should be. My poor baby girl is going on 11 years old. She seems to be enjoying life. Would putting her through all of that be for her, or for me? I'm not sure. I'm trying to think positive.

If anything good came out of this weekend - in addition to the fact that nothing obviously ominous showed up on her lab work - it's that it reminded me how short life can be. I know it sounds dumb. She's a large breed dog. Obviously, her life has a span of, I don't know, 15 to 16 years if we're really lucky? But still, I'd just kept thinking that's five or six more years. I'll prepare myself slowly. But this is different. She showed now signs. I wasn't prepared for this news. It isn't five years from now. It was a holiday weekend full of expectations of fun and relaxation. And so I spent the rest of the weekend (hugging/spoiling Cinn and...) trying to focus on the moment. I put an out of office message on my email. I tried not to worry about things I had to do once the weekend was over. I didn't pre-plan everything down to the last minute for the upcoming week, like I usually do. Instead, I focused on spending time with loved ones and just enjoying it. I vowed to do this more often. Life really is all too short to do otherwise.


  1. Reading this made me want to hug you! I have been a Vet Tech for 15 years and I am an animal owner. I know how it feels to be the one to deliver news like this and the pet owner to hear this news. I will be thinking happy, healthy vibes for you. Spoil her rotten!

  2. Aww thank you! I felt awful for the emergency vet - all she was dealing with were crises (of course), and it must be awful to have to constantly deliver that kind of news. Thank you for the happy, healthy vibes! I intend to spoil her as much as I can!

  3. Cinn has a lot of supporters out there so many be if we all do our Tinkerbell wishes she'll make it through this valley and get back to her normal self. It is some comfort to know that, at least from her point of view, she has probably forgotten all about the events of the weekend.

    1. I certainly hope so! And yes, at least her short term memory isn't as good as ours, at least for details like this. I'm not sure she'll enjoy going to the vet again Saturday, as I'm sure she has some memory of it, but at least she's not contemplating and analyzing it.

  4. Cinn has a lot of supporters out there so many be if we all do our Tinkerbell wishes she'll make it through this valley and get back to her normal self. It is some comfort to know that, at least from her point of view, she has probably forgotten all about the events of the weekend.

  5. I am so sorry to hear about Cinn. I know she is your baby and has been with you as your anchor through many difficult transitions in your life. I'm not one for prayer, but will be hoping that they can figure out what is wrong and that it is something treatable.

    I remember when Sophie was diagnosed with cancer. She was 12 or 13. She has a swelling in her jaw and we thought it was just a bad tooth they would have to pull. Instead it was Jaw Cancer. Francis and I really debated how much treatment to give her. She had a few minor procedures, but we just couldn't see putting her through the misery of chemo and a surgery to remove half her jaw. Even though it made us feel like uncaring "moms" we also could not see spending $10-15K on medical treatment to add an extra two or three years to the life of an older dog when we had fledgling retirement accounts that needed attention. Five years later we are both at peace with the decision. She lived a good life and had a peaceful end at home, surrounded by her people. But it was SO hard.

    Several years later, I was faced with illness myself. I am certainly glad it was treatable and, had I not had insurance, I would have spent anything I had to battle it. But, I recall being in my hospital room after an extremely invasive surgery. I was miserable (my doctor later told me it was one of the most painful surgeries and recoveries. Awsome!) I remember thinking to myself that if I were an animal who could not understand what was happening to me, or even a person who had no chance of recovery, I would not want to go through the surgery. It completely confirmed for me the decision that was made regarding Sophie. I agree with your comment that it is very important for us to try to distinguish what we are doing for us versus what we are doing for them.

    I sincerely hope it does not come to anything that serious. My heart is with you and Cinn.

    1. Thank you so much. That does honestly make me feel better - not that you had to go through it with your dog or certainly yourself, but the perspective that you give. If she was a puppy or young adult, with lots of life ahead of her, that would be one thing. But mastiff's do not have a long life span. And you're right, she wouldn't know what was happening. I hope it doesn't come to that decision. And god forbid it does, I hope we know when "the time is right" and do the gentle and best thing for her so that she doesn't suffer and isn't in pain, but knows how loved she is. For now, I plan to spend as much time as I can with her because she's so attached to me, and I know that makes her feel better.

      A while back, I read a blog post "from a dog" that was entitled something like "today is the day I will die." It was about a dog's last day when his owners knew they'd have to put him down later that day. They brought him to all of his favorite places, let him eat all of his favorite food, and did everything they thought would make it a great day. It was so sad, but also such a wonderful thing they did for their dog on his last day. It put it in perspective. Making a dog suffer like that, with little prospect of getting better, is really something the owner does for themselves, not the dog.