I am writing this the day after. I don’t know if I am going to be able to get thru it. This may end up short and I will write more later. But for now, everything is still just *raw*.
We had to say goodbye to Butchey yesterday morning. Things took a very quick turn for the worst on Sunday night. I lost my Dad to cancer 12 years ago. He worked a full day on a Friday and was gone by 4:00 am the following Monday. All of a sudden everything just sped up. It was the same with Butchey.
An update on what happened since our last post in July. The front right leg limp that had developed in July had troubled him since then. It started the beginning of July, and was sporadic. Within a few weeks he would not bear weight on that leg. Balancing weight on two left legs proved difficult and his rear left (his only rear leg) starting twisting in. His oncologist did X-Rays on the front right leg. Nothing. His primary vet palpated his entire front right leg and shoulder. Nothing. He would not wince, would not flinch, not a growl nor a whimper of pain. Nothing. Arthritis was ruled out (maybe slight, but not enough to not want to bear weight on the leg). He had full range of motion of his neck and legs. Everyone was perplexed and by ruling out everything else, it was thought to be a soft tissue injury. Which would have made sense, because he could be potentially re-injuring the area where he had no right rear leg to compensate and rest the front. He did have muscle atrophy in the front shoulder. So we took him to aquatic therapy for nonimpact exercise. Same evaluation there, no showing of pain what-so-ever. But Butchey got to swim, which he loved!! He stopped doing stairs at all, even with assistance, and we resorted to putting sod out on our back deck which was only one step down from our kitchen for him to use as a potty area. (We did this before when he was recuperating from amputation surgery.)
He had already been on Deramaxx as part of his cancer treatment. We put him on Tramadol. Then added Gabapentin for a nerve blocker. Then took him off Deramaxx and switched to Metacam for an NSAID. His holistic vet added in a TCM treatment of Yunnan Baiyao. Things seemed to improve a little here and there.
Saturday, August 31, he started with this weird breathing thing at bed time. At first I thought it was reverse sneezing, which he had done before, but it continued way too long (about 2 minutes) and it was different. Whole body movement, but he never lost consciousness and it eventually subsided and then he would do one every 10-15 seconds or so until it stopped. He had another episode of that the following week, but it didn’t last nearly as long and wasn’t as much with the full body movement.
Then the following Tuesday, he fell down half a flight of stairs. My mouth opened in horror but no scream would come out. He had started doing stairs again but still needed assistance to get down the stairs in his harness. But he either forgot or really had to pee and went charging down before I could grab the handle on his harness. I was horror struck. A call to vet, extra Tramadol and iced his legs and shoulders. We had to cancel his aquatic appointment, which was a huge disappointment because he had done so well after his last appointment. But by the next day, he was up hopping around, begging for food at dinner table and seemed to be getting around okay.
By Saturday he had gotten a little less mobile, however. Taking more to his dog bed, just outside our kitchen. (Still had to be near and close to the center of activity, of course!) Then on Sunday, he was real subdued in the morning. Sunday afternoon is when he took the first seizure. At first I heard an odd bang from where he was lying down and went running in and discovered him in full body gyration and foaming at the mouth. I’ve never seen a seizure before, and at first I wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought I was losing him right then and there, but then he came to. With a total WTF look on his face. We called the ER Vet and gave his background. The vet on call said the cancer had most likely spread to his brain. They said he might not have another, or it might be a few days before had another. But the time in between would eventually get shorter and shorter. But either way, time was short, we would have a decision to make and to spoil the heck out of him for now. Little did they know how spoiled he already was, but if there was room for more spoiling, then giddy up we were game.
We were stunned. Stupidly stunned. Of course I started googling and remembered what I had read on Hemangiosarcoma before and that seizures were there as a symptom. It just was never on anyone’s radar. We had mainly focused on the lung mets. We always figured that is what would be the tipping point. His cough had subsided after the two chemo treatments in June and July and then it was back again. We knew Oscar and Felix were growing, and growing more quickly than before. They had become Chemo resistant and the last two rounds didn’t do much. We would watch and see how often he would cough and if anything came out of his mouth. Last Saturday just after his dinner, he coughed something up on the floor. I wiped it up and thought it looked like blood, but he had JUST walked away from his food bowl and it could have been food juice. I couldn’t be sure, but nothing more came out of his coughs on Saturday night or on Sunday.
My husband went immediately to the local butcher shop and we ALL ate like kings and queens that night. King Butchey had a huge NY strip steak and a half for dinner, entirely fork fed. We enjoyed a romp in the back yard and he even chased a ball around, which he had not done in quite a while. Ironically he was getting around pretty well, putting more weight on the front right leg than he had. We planned a call to vets for 1st thing Monday morning to try to figure something out before the next one hit, which we stupidly thought might be a couple of days. Wrong. 8 hours later another one hit. This time we saw it from the start. It started with a quick head snap and teeth bared and air snapping. It lasted about 2 minutes of full body gyration and then another 2 minutes or so of open eyed unconsciousness. After our shock wore off, we agreed we had made that awful decision. If these were going to continue like that, we could not let him live like this and that it would need to be done in the morning. He had another seizure, his third, about 5 hours after that. We placed an emergency call to his oncologist, who concurred with the ER Vet. Seizure medicine might do something, but no guarantee. Especially given the sudden and quick onset. We left for our regular vet calling them in route as they would just be opening by the time we got there. We just needed to stop his pain before another seizure hit. He never had the fourth seizure.
Afterwards his vet reminded me that Gabapentin is an anti-seizure drug. So perhaps that slowed the onset. We wondered if the cancer had spread up the spine to the brain and perhaps that had something to do with the front right leg limping. After we left the office, my husband & I recalled the so called reverse sneezing incident. We will never know. And did it really matter? Our boy was gone now, he was free from his pain.
I guess I did write a lot. My reason for detail is part catharsis and part hope that these details might help another dog and their owner in their own journey. Especially at the end, where it is obviously the most difficult.
It has been said that Butchey Hudson had a lot of heart. In the end his heart was the strongest. We cannot believe our sweet boy with his amazing soul is gone. We cannot believe we will never kiss his face again, or rub his ears, or rub his belly, or scratch his bum ever again. Time and death make fools of us all. We all knew this day would come. We had accepted it, we had planned for it, but it never makes it any easier. Even all the anticipatory grief I experienced over the last 2 years or so doesn’t make this grief any easier. He was here one moment and now he is gone forever. I know the bond lasts forever, I know the love never ends. But all we feel right now is a whole in hearts the size of his amazingly huge Golden goofy spirit.
And now that is all I can really write at the moment. I can give you the details, but I can’t do the emotions.
October 15, 2004 – September 9, 2013
26 months of ampuversaries
We will love you forever