20 June 2017

Getting used to it

It's the first morning of a new era here. We're making our best effort to get used to it.

Callie's food bowl has been taken over by Tasha now. That's sensible and the right thing to do. Tasha has also taken over Callie's beloved "tricky treat ball," which Callie showed her how to play with. It's a hard plastic ball that has a hole in it. You put some kibble or dog treats in it, and the dog learns to roll it around, making the occasional piece of kibble or a treat fall out. The dog gobbles that up, and rolls it around some more. Callie would play with it for the better part of an hour every morning. Tasha is actually better at it than Callie was. She has the ball emptied of treats pretty fast. Callie hardly ever emptied it out completely.

Callie yesterday morning, on her towel with her water bowl. She could no longer stand or walk.

I keep picturing Callie on our last walk and wondering why I didn't see any signs that she was suffering. I think she was. She had become sort of driven by our walks. She took them with purpose rather than as a fun activity. On that last walk, she walked behind me most of the way, keeping up, rather than running out in front of me.

A strange thing happened that morning that had never happened before. It almost feels like it was some kind of premonition, even though that sounds silly. After Callie and I had walked around the south side of the vineyard and through the little wooded area that Callie seemed to love to walk through, we continued along our regular path through rows of vines to the north side and then turned back toward home.

At a point on the edge of a kind of ravine — it's a dry creek except when we have heavy rains — and next to a line of trees a dead fawn lay on the path. I had never seen a dead deer in or around the vineyard before, but we had recently seen deer at this place several times. One morning a young deer suddenly jumped up out of a patch of tall grasses where it had been hiding, startling me and exciting Callie. Saturday morning, Callie actually saw fawn carcass — smelled it, probably — before I did. The poor thing looked to be in perfect condition, not mauled. It was very small, because the local deer, called "roe" deer, are much smaller than our North American deer. Callie sniffed the dead fawn carefully, almost tentatively, and I called her to leave it alone and follow me. She obeyed.

When you know how much Callie loved to see and chase a deer, you know how ironic it is that on her last walk in the vineyard she saw one that couldn't run away. I wonder whether, if we had seen a live deer that morning, Callie would even have been able to chase it, given her aching back. As I said, she was moving at a slow pace, and that probably meant she was already feeling a lot of pain. There's no way to know, just as we will never know if there was a specific event that caused her disability last Saturday afternoon, or if the condition had just gradually progressed to the point where Callie could no longer ignore it or function.

Callie in September 2007, six months old. Look at that long tail.

The vet yesterday said that the nerve failure had progressed more rapidly than usual. She did tests that showed Callie had no feeling at all left in her back paws, and explained to us what she was doing. She said that when she gave Callie's paw pads a hard pinch, the dog's natural reaction would have been to turn her head and look to see what was causing the pain in her paw. Callie didn't react at all. Also, Callie peed on herself when we picked her up to put her in the car for the ride to the veterinary clinic, she peed again when we took her out of the car to carry her into the clinic, and she peed on the examining table as the vet started to touch her. Since she had no bladder control left, squeezing her as I picked her up made her pee. And her natural fear of the vet probably made her pee on the table.

No bladder or bowel control, the inability to stand up or walk... those were the symptoms we noticed. There was one that we thought about only after Callie was gone. She had stopped wagging her tail. She would always flap and slap her tail on the floor when she was lying down and we talked pretty to her. By Sunday, she no longer had control over the happy tail-wagging bahavior that we all love so much in our dogs.

32 comments:

  1. From what you’re saying, it seems Callie’s condition was irreversible. You made the right decision, however heartbreaking it was, to stop further pain for the poor dog.

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    1. I'm convinced the condition was irreversible after Callie became disabled, and before that we had no idea how serious the problem with her spinal column actually was. We thought she had slowed down due to age and, recently, hot weather, but it was probably pain that was bothering her. She went to sleep quietly yesterday and is in a better place now, no longer suffering.

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    2. Ken, the difference in our situation was that Scarlet, although her back legs weren't working, began slight signs of recovery within about 24 hours. And she had some slight sensation down there. She is now on a litany of medications, even though she walks pretty well. However, she is not quite the same cat as before. I wonder often whether we did the right thing.

      Callie will live on in your wonderful memories of her.

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  2. I am so sorry to read about Callie. You obviously both loved her so much. A difficult time for you. My thoughts go out you

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    1. Thanks, L.A. I called an old friend in California this morning to tell her about Callie, and I was overcome by emotion and couldn't even talk for a few minutes. My friend waited patiently and then listened to my long tale of woe. She had never even met Callie, because the last time she came to France was in 2006, before Callie was even born. But she knew the dog we had before, Collette, and she knew Callie from our blogs. Tasha seemed to be searching for Callie out in the back yard this morning, and that breaks your heart. Too bad we can't explain it all to her.

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    2. Oh seeing Tasha look for Callie is so sad. Our Maybelle lived with her mother her entire life. Lucy would go out at night and Maybelle would wait on our bed for her to return. She had a sitting up stance for the wait. That first night when Maybelle waited in vain had Lewis and I sobbing. The first days of loss are the most difficult, remembering the good times and the tale wags help.

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  3. Vraiment désolée par cette nouvelle. Au fil de vos posts j'ai fait connaissance avec vous et j'imagine aisément le vide que Callie laisse. Je suis sûre que la petite Tasha vous apportera plein de joies.
    Bien cordialement
    Christiane, presque voisine près de Sancerre

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    1. Bonjour Christiane,

      Tasha (que j'ai décidé d'appeler MaTasha au lieu de Natasha, qui est son nom officiel) semble être très différente de Callie. Elle a une autre nature, et ça fait son charme. Heureusement qu'elle est là avec nous. Merci de vos aimables et intéressants commentaires sur nos blogs. Ken

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  4. Poor, poor Callie. I'm sure she had no idea what was happening to her. You and Walt made the compassionate decision for her, and I'm sorry you had to do that. Few things are harder. Will you get Callie's ashes and bury them in your yard? Is that done over there? Whether we have the body or ashes or not, we like to get a river rock marker commemorating our pet. We now have 7 of them in our yard. We've lived here a while now, and we've had a lot of pets. We are with you in spirit and friendship across the miles, sending love and support your way.

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    1. The vet asked us if we wanted to take Callie's body and bury it in our yard. We said no, have it cremated and we'll take the ashes. We've picked out a place out on the edge of the vineyard, in some woods Callie seemed to especially like to walk through and where she often saw deer, and we'll scatter the ashes there. We still have Collette's ashes in an urn. We're going to go scatter them, too, but in a different spot that we remember Collette particularly loved before she passed on in 2006.

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    2. It sounds like the end for Callie was a lot like what we went through with our cat last November. We brought her to a different vet for another opinion and to see if anything could be done, but we knew that was unlikely. So we had her put to sleep right then. Like you, we didn't want the body for burial, but we also didn't want the ashes. My condolences to both of you.

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  5. Doing the right thing is very hard. Not for the dog, whose pain and disability are no longer a worry, but for you and Walt. You will always ponder the "what ifs" but in the end you loved her enough to do the right thing.
    One of our poodles had to be put to sleep for a very similar reason.

    A former neighbour of ours had a German shepherd dog whose back legs had stopped working. They used to strap it to a trolley with wheels and we would see the poor thing being dragged around their garden walking with just its front legs. It did not look like it as having fun and to me that seemed like the wrong kind of kindness.

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    1. Somebody here commented that when it's no longer fun being a dog, people need to help the dog go. I do believe that, and after talking to the vet yesterday I'm convinced there was no better solution. Tasha is so different from Callie that we don't have to compare them, and "MaTasha" won't ever take Callie's place. She'll be her own dog. She's great and a comfort.

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    2. Ken, I like that thought.

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  6. Oh, my. I have been imagining since yesterday how your mornings will go now, without a long walk with Callie in the plans... until Tasha is ready for them, too. And, I wondered how Tasha was reacting to the confusion of not having her new favorite playmate and doggy mentor around at every step. It breaks my heart to think about it, and even more, of course, knowing how you and Walt feel. I won't keep saying it... but, every day, I will be thinking about this huge loss and huge change in your lives.
    Judy

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    1. I feel for MaTasha because her mother was whisked away, apparently, as soon as Tasha was weaned. Then she met Callie and she had a foster mother (even though Callie never had pupppies, she must have had instincts) for a few weeks. Tasha seemed to be searching for Callie this morning when it was play time.

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  7. Thinking of you both at this very sad time. Best wishes from Australia.

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  8. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  9. I have been in the same position on several occasions, and it never gets any easier. Console yourselves that you were able to do the right thing for your beloved girl.

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  10. So incapacitated and so quickly. Having seen two dogs and two cats out, I know what it is like. I am very sorry.

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  11. Norma and I are so sorry for your loss. It's very hard to lose such a loved member of the family.

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  12. The thing is, we don't even know how quickly this happened ... they are so stoic, they don't carry on over aches and pains, they just keep on going or adjust in little ways to manage .. Tate, my dog, was older, but had been in perfect health all his life. He was lying around the house more but he was older .. then walking to the park one day, down a city sidewalk, he just collapsed. I sat in the doorway of a building and held his head in my lap and we waited to see what he would do .. we were in shock and not sure how to go about fixing this .. gradually he got back up and as we walked to the park, he perked up and by evening, he was the same silly boy ...
    After seeing the vet, getting his scans etc .. we found that he had a tumor on his spleen. I was hopeful, we can live without spleens ... but not dogs .. not him.
    So we agreed that we would give him more time, he would know when the time came and the vet would come to our house.
    She said she did not euthanize but would bring a vet with her who did.
    Tate did things on his own schedule, in his own way .. he woke me while it was still dark, I had slept on the floor next to him that night, he was so restless, I knew he was in pain. I called the vet and she came right away, gave him massive doses of painkillers and I lay on the floor with him, until his heart just stopped.
    I weep as I write this because our hearts broke that day and after the losses I have had since, it would have been so nice if he had been here with me.
    Callie was a Good Girl. She will always be there in your hearts and memories. I hope my grandmother was right when she said they are waiting for us when we die and we will be together again.

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  13. after my "velcro dog" a schnoodle, died at 20 I felt like I had lost a part of myself....we didnt get any more dogs after him as we had 3 cats so it took even longer for the pain to fade....Tasha will keep you occupied, but as you know, Callie will live on in your heart

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  14. Thank you for explaining what all went on with Callie and what the vet said. It helps to soothe the suddenness of it all.

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  15. From your description, it sounds very much like what my dog went through. And I, too, didn't recognize the symptoms early, because dogs hide pain so well, and the changes are so very subtle. You absolutely did the right thing for Callie. Of all the decisions we people, as pet parents, make, that is I think the most difficult.
    Might it help Tasha if she has Callie's blanket, for the scent? At least for a while.

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  16. goodbye, pretty girl. you were well loved.

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  17. Not a poster, but a devoted reader. Just wanted to offer my sympathy to you. Losing a beloved pet is heartbreaking. Will miss your beautiful pictures of your beautiful Callie.

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  18. Thank you for sharing sweet Callie's life and passing. It seems that she knew you would not be alone now that Tasha is there. peace...

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    1. That's a very nice way to look at it. Thank you.

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  19. So sad. And dogs disguise the fact they are in pain so well.

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