A blog about dog training and dog breeding…and other sundry matters

Athena in happier timesIt’s no fun.  My blog has remained silent for perhaps two months.  Lots have happened during that time that killed all desire to train or write.  My beautiful girl, El Zima’s Celestial Harmony, aka Athena got very ill, and I nearly lost her.

It all began back towards the end of May.   Her tummy got distended.  She tested negative for tick fever and other illnesses; however, her vet found her liver enzymes high, and concluded that she had some kind of infection, a gall bladder infection, perhaps.

At the vet’s suggestion, I fed her a special diet for dogs with liver issues.  Science Diet used to have a ready-made prescription diet, but they no longer do business in Jamaica, so I had to cook.  Ye Gods!  That doG for grandmothers.  After over $8,000 in nutri-supplements in addition to her special diet and antibiotics, the liver healed.  Athena continued losing weight, however.

We replaced the liver diet with her regular dog food, but she would only pick at the food.

One night her sister and her were in the yard, and I called both for supper.  Her sister responded; Athena was nowhere to be seen.  I heard snorting in the backyard and saw that she was stuck in something.

I ran into the back yard and found her lying in a bush, choking.  I quickly pulled her collar, but as I was pulling it, I thought it odd that she couldn’t free herself.  She was gasping for breath, and when I pulled her free she ran some distance then collapsed on the lawn.

Her tongue was blue and I thought she might have an object lodged in her throat, but her throat was clear.

I lifted my precious dog’s unconscious body and placed in on my living room floor.  There was nothing I could do.  Her breathing was erratic, but she was unresponsive to any kind of stimuli.  She was unconscious.  It was 11:00pm and I called a vet whom I thought had emergency hours.  I left a message, but she never did call me back.  I was on my own with this critically sick animal, and I had no idea how she got into this condition.

There was nothing I could do but pray, literally.  I stayed up for the better part of the night with the dog with the Book of Common Prayer used in the Anglican church.  My mother sang hymns softly to the dog.

Four hours passed.  Athena’s breathing improved, but she remained unconscious.  I decided to go to bed because there really wasn’t anything more that I could do, and I would have a long drive ahead of me in the morning to get her to the vet.  I have a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel on long trips, so staying up all night not an option for me.

As I lay in the darkness of my bedroom, images of Athena as a playful puppy flooded my memory, and how she and her sister would run through the house into the backyard and back into the house.  I remembered how they both loved chasing each other around my round dinning table.  My thoughts went to the obedience trials we entered together, and how she learned the stand and 1 minute stay in less than a week.  I remembered how proud I was the day she made history in Jamaica by being the first White German Shepherd and the first clicker trained dog to win an obedience competition in Jamaica.  I remembered how it was almost impossible to house train her.

My heart broke that night, releasing a flood of tears.  I knew that I would have to have my baby girl euthanized in the morning.  I got up once more and stood weeping over the prostrate form of what was my friend on the ground.  I tried to tell her goodbye, but all I could do was repeat her name over and over, Athena, Athena, Athena….

I made my way back to bed once more, and shortly after I heard a commotion in the living room.  I rushed outside and saw Athena up and running around the living room, quite disoriented, trying to hide her face behind furniture.  Within a few minutes she gained some orientation, could recognize me, and wagged her tail at me.   A few hours later she drank a bit of water.

Next morning CBC tests at the vets showed an infection, although her temperature was normal.  She had swollen lymph nodes, but her spleen was okay.  Although the vet was unable to check for tick fever,  because the test wasn’t available at this clinic, she went ahead and treated her for it, but I had to keep and eye on her.  We increased her vitamin intake, and put her back on the liver diet.

Today Athena has made remarkable progress.  The antibiotics are done, and at her last check-up on Saturday gone, she got a clean bill of health.  Not only that, but she gained 5 lbs.  That’s a lot when two weeks before that this German Shepherd weighed less that 40lbs.

The bond we form with our dogs is a deep one, and one that isn’t easily explained by science.  The bond is especially strong when you’ve raised a dog since 9 weeks, trained it, competed with it, trust it, and it trusts you in return.  I know that one day I will have to say goodbye to her, but for now I’m just grateful to have more time with her.

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Comments on: "When your best buddy gets sick…." (5)

  1. I lost my beloved Rotti last October- Even now I cannot get over it. The week before he died, he exibited similar symptoms you described above, choking, panting, tongue white as chalk, and totally out of it and off balanced. I held on to him -(90-lb’er), (was no easy feat) to keep him up, and rushed him, crying like crazy (49 y.o..I think they felt sorry for me & him) to JSPCA. He seemed a litle revived when he got there..so they did all tests, and noticed blood count was Extremely low..by elimination and rectal exam they somehow were able to say it was a mass more than likely cancer of/around the liver/spleen area, but only could be sure with an op…Well after consultation about the possibilities,cost, and likelyhood that he would be ok, none of which were assuring, we went back home with him looking a bit brighter, after a shot of iron.
    I was really considering doing it in the same week, but I awoke early one morning to find him in the same position (almost seizure-like). Frightened like crazy again- with noone to help me this time, that early in the morning I held on to him again- until it passed…crying again..Poor thing..I remember him looking at me with those big soulful eyes (I use to call him ‘soul-brotha’), almost in an understanding way, knowing that I was doing the best I could with him. He got really weak VERY fast, I was afraid to move him, called JSPCA again- told them the symptoms..the op was the only way, and it was touch and go- and levelling with me, seeing his age, it was totally up to me..but one person said he wouldn’t recommend it..the prolonged suffering etc… Well he stopped eating, and drinking,I started giving him glucose water via syringe to the mouth, and liquid iron…soon he started vomiting everything that went down his throat…and only lasted maybe about 3 days tops after that…I was glad that it wasn’t long, I would have hated to see him suffer so much. In the last days I spent a lot of time with him just patting him, and I know he appreciated it ( I think if he could talk he would tell me 🙂 ) …
    I still cannot bring myself to get another dog even now.(and I am a BIG dog lover/never without one)..it is just still too painful. I am glad you still have your dog, and fully understand those emotions you had when she was ill..I was compelled to write, because the symptoms were just so similar the those mine had. I hope one day to get another Rotti or Dobe..but not just now… when they die it tears me up too bad….

  2. Hi Grace, I’m so very sorry that you lost your dear boy. Pets are such wonderful parts of our lives: they make their homes in our hearts, then they break them, though unintentionally. Unfortunately cancer gets too many of our dogs.

    Your dog was extremely lucky to have such a loving, caring owner like you, and I bet he is grateful for all your love. Dogs always are. Clearly you loved him a great deal and did the best for him.

    One day when the time is right another dog will find its way into your heart and home. I know that it’s painful to lose them, but we have our children, our parents, our friends whom we love. When they die we don’t simply stop loving and close ourselves off from others, because we have such a huge capacity to love. I think it’s the same with pets: we lose a pet, but that never stops us from loving another when the time’s right and we’re ready.

    I do hope you will find healing for your grief, which is evidently still raw. Thank you for sharing your story. I really appreciate hearing from a fellow Jamaican dog-lover. Better days are ahead and the pain will lessen.

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