Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Biggest Heart

Today, our beloved Boo Bear left us.  Though not unexpected, it is devastating, nonetheless.

A couple of months ago, I took Boo to the vet for a checkup.  He was breathing fast - panting at times - and he was more restless than usual.  Boo's always been an anxious boy, but he was pacing nearly constantly, and coughing.  His appetite had dropped off.  The vet started conservatively, and gave him prednisone and antibiotics.  He couldn't hear heart sounds well, but said he might have some bronchitis and a sore throat from the coughing.  He was concerned, as his belly was full of fluid as well.  He did fairly well on the meds, but relapsed as soon as he came off of them, so we did a chest x-ray.  That's when reality set in.

When I went to pick him up after the xray, I was seated in the waiting room.  I could see an xray on a viewbox in an exam room, and I thought "if that's Boo's xray, then we are in big trouble."  It was, and we were.  His heart, which should've been slightly larger than a plum, was roughly the size of a small pumpkin.  Boo had end stage congestive heart failure.  Now, I'm a nurse, so I knew what this meant: no cure, and progressive worsening, but hopefully management on medications.  He was placed on three different heart meds.  The cough continued, in varying degrees, but he calmed a bit and started eating again.  I had hope.

Last weekend, he took a turn for the worse.  He was coughing a LOT, even at night, and was extremely anxious when he couldn't stop.  His breathing was more labored, and he looked like he was ready to give birth.  As happenstance would have it, we had dinner with our vet on Sunday night, and he told me to bring him in the next day.  By the time I got him there, he was coughing nearly constantly, and looked miserable.  He had gained six pounds in less than a month, and we knew where it was -- in that huge belly.  The vet and I had a heart to heart.  She wanted to know what I thought about his condition, and I was direct -- I know he's not going to be cured, and that he's worse -- much worse.  I told her that I had told myself from the time of his diagnosis that I was not going to do anything to keep him here, suffering, just so that I could have more time with him.  The vet nodded in agreement.

She suggested that I take him home so that Jill could say goodbye, as she was here for the weekend, but had spent the night before at her best friend's house.  We agreed that I'd bring him back today.  I asked if we could give him something to calm him a bit, as I know that they use Xanax or other meds for anxiety.  She was concerned that his heart was so compromised that meds would tilt the scale the wrong way, and he would end up in severe distress in the middle of the night.  I made an appointment to bring him back today.

I took him home and tried to give him his meds -- he refused to eat.  He wouldn't eat his favorite cheese.  I offered him a cupcake -- leftover from Jill's bridal shower -- and he turned up his nose.  My heart shattered into a thousand pieces.  We loved on him all night as he alternately laid down, coughed, then got up and paced while he tried to get air during the coughing spasms.  He was tired, and didn't follow me around like he always has -- every step I take, he's always been right there.  He had to be coaxed up to our room when we went to bed, and he dropped won, exhausted from the stairs.  Mercifully, he slept all night without coughing.  I was afraid he was dead, but got up this morning, and coaxed him downstairs.

He still refused to eat.  I brushed him out, then decided to take him on a walk -- something that's always been difficult with him, as he always wanted to try to kill anyone or anything in his path.  I started to take him to the park, and instead decided on a nature preserve nearby, where there are rarely any other people, and where he could wander freely.  I figured I would only take him if he was enjoying himself, and if it didn't cause more coughing.  He sniffed and wandered, and mucked about in the mud, always looking back to make sure that I was only a step behind him.  We wandered out and walked back to the car.  He only had three coughing fits, and they didn't last long, so though I knew he was tiring, he wasn't any worse than usual.  He had trouble launching himself into the car for that final ride to the vet, but once he was there, he relaxed and laid down.

I had taken his dog bed with me, so when we got to the exam room, Boo laid on it till the coughing returned.  At that point, he hopped up and wandered anxiously, tongue and gums blue, until he could regain his breath.  The cycle repeated several times -- he couldn't lie down because the fluid in his belly was taking up space in his chest, so his lung didn't have any air capacity anymore.  His nose was running with overflow of fluid from his lungs.  He was drowning.  My heart broke.

He was gone before the vet even finished the injection.  Quietly, without a sound, with his head on my lap, he left this world and crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I'm sure that my sweet Timmy met him there, and he's already taught him how to play -- something he could never figure out in this world -- and he's made friends -- another challenge in a world where Boo thought everyone was a threat.  I like to think they're playing tug of war right now.

Boo was a challenge -- he was anxious, and scared, and scary.  We got him from a shelter three hours south of here -- something the ex never knew -- where they had found him running the streets.  As a result, he had a street dog's mentality.  He scavenged.  He wanted to kill anyone who made their way into our entryway, once even biting Dan's brother right on the family jewels (and drawing blood).  He broke one of our leaded glass windows, to the tune of $500 or so, because he though he could get through it and kill the nemesis of the canine world: the mailman.  He escaped the yard multiple times, and once even got run over on a very busy street.  He spent the night in the hospital, to the tune of $700 or so, and he could never quite lift his left leg to pee after that.  He'd alternately bark like he was going to kill you, then allow you to pet him all evening while his tail was between his legs.  And when Jim would fall asleep with his arm hanging off the bed, as he usually does, Boo would walk underneath it and rub his head on his hand for ten minutes or more.  He loved his people, and he loved them BIG.  And we loved him big, too.

I will miss my boy.  His heart was big in more ways than one, and in the end, it was simply too big for this world.  So rest well, my Boo Bear.  And tell my Timmy Dawg I love him.

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