Thursday, June 28, 2012

Farewell Sweet Bear

Today we said goodbye to our sweet bear, a 12-year old blind black lab that we rescued back in January. He was not in the best of health when he came to us - covered in dirt, smelly, swollen, mangy, slow and essentially without any spirit at all. We hadn't planned on another dog but when I saw him for the first time after rounding a corner and almost hitting him, I had to do something. Apparently, his owner had moved out, a neighbor was feeding him, and no one was really looking out for him. He was on his own - not good for a blind dog who can barely get around. My husband and I intervened, tracked down the owner, and asked if we could care for him. Thankfully the owner obliged without us having to threaten to call the authorities. We immediately proceeded to take Bear to the vet. The news wasn't great but a lot better than we expected. Apparently Bear had a stroke at some point and possibly hit by a car. We got him fixed up with meds, a bath, a new bed with comfy blankets, fresh food and water, and new collar to replace the filthy one that we had to dig out of his fur and skin. All he did is sleep for the first week and didn't respond to our cuddles and sweet nothings. We became very concerned that he was too far gone but he ate good so we tried to be optimistic. A few days later, we were rewarded with a tail wag. Then, he began wagging his tail when we called his name or came near. Within a month, he wanted to be wherever we were and was a true part of our family. He was getting around better and his hair had filled in again. He became an "inside" dog very quickly. He only went outside to take care of business and when he was done, he bee-lined for the house. So funny! He also loved being sung to so of course we had to come up with a song especially for him and he loved to eat. At first we thought he was deaf until we started preparing his food. Interesting how he could "hear" the dog food bag rattling in the next room. He would then start barking which was really a croak. Bear has always struggled with aspiring his food (regurgitating). We thought (and the vet too) it was because he eats so quickly. Not so. Apparently, he has been suffering from megaesophogaus which is a failure of the esophogial function. The food he eats sits in his esophogus or his chest cavity. For the last couple of nights, he has been really sick - vomiting and lethargic. This morning, I noticed that he was having a tough time breathing so I decided to take him to the vet. He could barely get up and I had a devil of a time wrestling all 92lbs of him into the back seat. The vet confirmed that he was really sick - his resting heartrate was elevated, he had a fever and he was laboring to breathe. The vet took a chest x-ray and gave us the "it's time" news. Bear now had aspirational pneumonia which explains his fever. His condition along with his other health issues namely his knees and hips would just further reduce his quality of life. So, we made the heart wrenching decision to let him go. His quiet presence was a comfort to us. He loved to be hugged and even now, I'm surprised by how much my psyche misses him. How I have to stop myself from seeking him out for a squeeze or a pat on the head. But I know he's at peace, chasing rabbits and swimming right along. My husband and I came to terms with it being the right thing to do but I can't help but be a little selfish. I miss the old coot.