Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Heidi-Shaped Hole in my Heart

This is a post that I never imagined I would be writing at this time. What I did expect to write, on or about December 9th, is a post I had already decided to call, "A Milestone for Heidi". It would be written on my warm, wild, weird, woolly and wonderful Heidi's 12th birthday -- a milestone our former oldest giant dog, Tessa, fell 18 days short of reaching. It never entered my mind, with my frisky girl's only sign of old age being some stiff leg joints, that this is a milestone that God would likewise, inexplicibly, deny her as well, also 18 days short.

3 days ago, on Wed. the 18th, I'd left work early for a dental appointment and got home around 4:30. About an hour later, Heidi pawed at the pantry door -- her way of telling me she wanted some dog biscuits. I grabbed a few and put them by the dogs' bowls as usual. As Heidi went to retrieve one (she never did like to take one out of my hand), she slipped on the kitchen floor, as she did occasionally. But this time she couldn't stand back up. That had happened twice before, and we'd pushed her to the rug to get traction. But she still couldn't get back up. I was sure she would after a short while. When she still couldn't, I waited for Rex to get home and help her up, since I couldn't lift her. But she still couldn't keep her legs under her and would flop back down.

I began to panic, as this started to look like what happened when Colby's rear end had shut down 7 months earlier. I slept (or tried to) in my recliner the next two nights to be near her. She also had lost interest in eating or drinking water, and she was not peeing or pooping. Rex made an appointment with our vet for 2:30 yesterday, and I left work early to be with my girl in case this was as serious as it seemed. In the meantime, a coworker gave me hope that maybe it was just a bad case of arthritis and that a shot of cortisone could get her moving again. I then decided I would fight against Heidi getting that other kind of (final) shot unless our vet could confirm there was absolutely no hope. What he did say was he felt there was a small chance the pills could work, and I said I had to take that small chance. So we returned home with Heidi and the pills.

That night, she was her alert self and tried to fight Rex shoving the pills down her throat. She still was not eating, drinking, peeing or pooping. But she scooted on the rug to change her position till she was next to my recliner. She did a modified version of the usual swatting of my arm -- she slapped her paw on the rug to tell me she wanted to keep being petted. So of course, I did. I realize now that she was already fading and was using the strength she had left to say goodbye to her mommy and thank me for bringing her home and giving us one last night together. I didn't see it at the time; I still refused to believe she wouldn't recover. I also began squirting water or chicken broth in her mouth every couple hours with a turkey baster to get some liquid into her.

Today, she seemed to become less alert as the day wore on, and she mostly stayed in the same position. By the time Rex came home from work, she hardly fought him giving her the pills. Shortly after that, her breathing became labored for the next few hours, and stopped at about 9:45 p.m. I am writing this two hours later, and it doesn't seem real. We never saw this coming and I am left with a huge Heidi-shaped hole in my heart. After a rocky beginning when we adopted her in January '02 at age 4, she had become so very dear to me. I can't believe she won't be here to celebrate her 12th birthday, or even for Thanksgiving turkey. I am indeed thankful for 7 years, 10 months and 4 days with this wonderful girl and am thankful it happened at home with many hugs given throughout this sad day. Instead of a needle at the vet's office yesterday, we gambled that the pills would make her well and we lost. We only got to have an additional day and 7 hours with her. Mommy loves and misses you so very much, my "Swatgirl". I will love and miss you always.