A trauma of dog ownership!

The following is copied from my book about Ray – “Who Said I was up for Adoption?” (Click book cover image in right column for more information).

To set the context: We had recently adopted Ray, and his first medical examination produced a positive test result for heartworm. Heartworm is terminal if not treated and, for a number of reasons, the treatment itself can be fatal. He had to be kept as calm as possible throughout the complete treatment period of six months.

** *** ***** *** **

Later that month Ray had his first deep muscle injection after he had been sedated, and watching that rather large needle being pushed through the muscle in his lower back was quite disturbing. I could well imagine that he was going to be rather sore later, but I was not prepared for the outcome. When we got him home, he went to his crate to settle down but clearly couldn’t. He got himself up with obvious difficulty and, making it clear that he was in pain, moved around to settle down again but, again, clearly he was not comfortable. It was very sad to watch our beloved Ray try various positions in order to get comfortable, with none of them offering much relief, and this was the pattern for the next few hours until we had to leave him in order to get some sleep ourselves.

It was terrible listening to him as he tried to get comfortable. I had never heard a dog sob before, but I shall not forget it. The following day he was moving around better and we both agreed that for the next two injections, we would request a pain killer for him.

It had also been recommended that he be put on Prednisone in order to reduce inflammation caused by the heartworms during the treatment process, however, we must be prepared for a common side effect: the need to pee much more frequently! The vet was quite correct as, every hour or so, we would hear the bell on the back door! It certainly became invaluable as one of us would hear it and stumble out of bed. Where did we put his leash? Where’s the pen and paper so we can record the time and whatever he did so that whichever one of us woke up to take him outside would know the history of his earlier visits and therefore know what to expect! We each have many memories of stumbling around the garden, and then standing around while Ray proceeded to pee, throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning. It did, however, give us a whole new perspective on our garden! I often wondered if anybody in our neighbourhood was speculating on our behaviour given that our outside lights came on regularly for two to three minutes at a time throughout the night!

You can probably imagine the atmosphere, after the treatment started, as we tried to keep Ray’s life as stress free as we could and yet maintain something close to his prior lifestyle.  He had already made it clear that he loved to visit OMHS to see a number of people there that were clearly important to him, but we had to curtail those visits as he would get too excited when he saw them. At the first sighting of another dog when on a walk, we would immediately make a detour so as to avoid any possible interaction. Similarly, groups of people, children, individuals with sticks, canes, skateboarders … were all prime stress candidates for Ray and were therefore avoided wherever possible.  Then of course there were rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife which Ray would love to chase given an opportunity.  It was our intention to prevent those opportunities from presenting themselves, which of course we could not always do, however, with Ray being so food motivated, it was not too difficult to distract him! Ray survived those first two weeks and so Carol and I settled down into a daily routine of protecting him as best we could which, of course, was going to be the pattern of our lives for the next few months.

The rest of the treatment program still had a high risk of a serious and perhaps a fatal outcome, so we really could not ease off on our efforts to keep him calm and as relaxed as possible. On the positive side, while we did not exercise him aggressively during these times, we did take him for short, slow-paced walks which Ray took full advantage of to exercise his nose! We were also able to work his brain quite hard by teaching him some simple commands so by the end of his treatment program in late August, he had quite the inventory of tricks, which would be happily demonstrated upon request, and with encouragement that tasted really good.

** *** ***** *** **

The read the full story, you will need a copy of the book … which is available in eBook, paperback and hard cover formats.

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15 thoughts on “A trauma of dog ownership!

  1. Hugs to you and Carol for making such a superhuman effort to keep Ray comfortable and stress-free. My dog Tailor has had various health challenges–knee surgery at 4 complete with cone of shame and many weeks of rehab, itchy skin, prednisone for a puffed up ear, treatment for mange caused by the prednisone (topical and shots), glucosamine tabs and periodic chiropractic adjustments for his arthritic back and hip, quite an investment. Despite all this, he is the happiest and most people-loving dog I have ever seen. Worth every penny. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your last sentence said it all! You might like this (from my book “Just Thinking”):

      “Skeeta’s Legacy”

      Skeeta was a Siamese cat,
      Of distinction, so we thought.
      She was rather unlike her breed.
      Friendly… and quite large;
      I had known a few Siamese,
      But… none had traits like these.
      ***
      She would travel in our car,
      On top of the front seats,
      And clearly enjoying the ride.
      Swaying forwards and backwards;
      Sideways on the turns;
      We would laugh… often until we cried!
      ***
      Then one day, she clearly had changed.
      Her clean toilet habits had gone.
      Something was wrong we were sure.
      She used to be meticulously clean,
      But a test revealed leukemia,
      With no treatment… no cure.
      ***
      After living with us
      For only three months,
      Dearest Skeeta was put to sleep.
      But she left her mark,
      Indelibly on my heart.
      Memories that I would keep.
      ***
      She went to a better place,
      To join her kind and be without pain,
      Where cats are happy and free.
      To be as I’d want her to be,
      But Skeeta left a legacy behind,
      Unbeknown at the time to me.
      ***
      Many years later when Ray moved in,
      He tested positive for heartworm.
      After only three months in our home,
      What were our options? What to do?
      A very serious condition,
      And he could not fight it alone.
      ***
      We could return him, or put him to sleep.
      We could do nothing, which would eventually kill him.
      What would make the most sense?
      For such a short and unhappy life,
      An expensive course of treatment,
      But… could we justify the expense?
      ***
      The treatment he may not even survive
      But… shouldn’t we at least try?
      For perhaps survive he would.
      Shouldn’t we give him a chance?
      A chance for his life to fulfill?
      To live out his life being loved?
      ***
      Euthanizing would give him peace,
      But he was not even three years old,
      And his earlier life seemed hard and alone.
      Surely even a dog has a right
      To fight for his life,
      In a warm, loving and caring home.
      ***
      To return him to the shelter
      Raised problems of another sort.
      Who would adopt a very sick Ray?
      Who would want his vet bills?
      Who would open up their home to him?
      Who would invite him to stay?
      ***
      During these dilemmas, an inner voice
      Reminded me of Skeeta long ago.
      With no hope of a cure in sight;
      How she was put down;
      Her future sealed by a disease,
      Which cheated her out of her life!
      ***
      But this time was different.
      Ray did have a chance
      If treatment was started right away.
      The decision just had to be made
      And then hope for the time,
      When once again… he could play.
      ***
      Ray will never know
      What influenced his future,
      Or how it came to be…
      That a cat… of all creatures,
      May have saved his life.
      That was Skeeta’s legacy!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, in a “heart-worm treatment” program, it is absolutely necessary. Excitement = increased blood circulation. As the worms are in the heart and spread to other organs, and the treatment is intended to kill them off, their bodies will break down and get circulated. An accumulation, or too much too soon, can result in congestive heart failure … which is the reason why the treatment program itself is often fatal. It is also the reason why treatment is spread out over months and very structured. 1. Prevent the female worms from reproducing. 2. Kill off the babes. 3. Kill off the adults. I really hope that dealing with Ray’s heart-worm condition was a “once in a lifetime” experience! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heartbreaking all round here Colin.
    I’ve watched, and heard, previous dogs trying to get settled when in pain and it tears into your gut as you can do nothing to help them apart from letting them know you’re there.
    So glad Ray is well now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That does sound traumatic, having to go to that level in order to keep your dog alive. The lost sleep reminds me of what new parents go through, taking care of an infant. This is a valuable story to read, for anyone considering dog ownership.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks TG. I like to think that the whole book (“Who Said I was up for Adoption?”) would be a good primer for anybody contemplating any dog. It recounts me and Ray, with the significance being that he was my first dog. What an education! I am continually surprised at people who invite a dog into their life, and then have issues taking care of it. I hope and pray that those people don’t have/never have children.

      Liked by 1 person

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