Saturday, December 22, 2007

How do you say goodbye to an old friend?

Ditka isn't just any old friend... he was my first dog. Well... the first dog I had for more than 6 months, and he'll be the first dog I really have to say goodbye to. He's part of our big pet family, and the littlest member, as shown above.

He was always my friend. I taught him bad habits, like getting up on the furniture and letting him sleep on the bed. He has a touch of stiffness in his hips and hasn't been jumping on the furniture much in the last year or so. But we bring him up sometimes so he can snuggle on the bed. This is a picture of him trying to take a nap in our new house, this year.

Before we had a pasture to let him run around in, we used to take them all to the dog park. Ditka would play and play until his little paws got cold, and then he'd give me that look, and I'd know the only way to get him home was to carry him. That's the only time Ditka has ever really shown discomfort... when his paws get too cold for the ice and snow. He still cross country skies with us, and still does his crazy little spastic running in circles game when he gets all excited outside. So why on earth would I have to say goodbye to my little fuzzy friend?

He was so happy this summer on our new farm. This is picture of him after he had taken a dip in the pond. We know he has had liver problems for several years... and I kept waiting for something. For him to whimper when we petted him. For him to slow down, or get stiff, or start crying in the night. Some kind of sign that I knew the liver disease had gotten to be too much.

And today, I still don't have those signs. Or am I ignoring them because I don't know how to say goodbye? (things get graphic and clinical here folks, so ignore if you don't want the dirty details)

2 weeks ago, we noticed blood in his urine. Not a lot, just a few drops. I took him to the vet. A urine sample didn't point out anything specific, like an infection or stones, so we put him on an antibiotic just to see. No temperature. Nothing else that was obvious something was wrong.
I went back today, because there is still blood in his urine. And he pees in the house all the time. Anyone who knows my little man knows he isn't one to want to go in the house. Now he does it more than once a day, right in front of us. So we went back to the vet. My rule with him right now is that I won't cut him open. He's 15. That's 105 to us. The vet suggested an ultrasound, which she could do right away. I'm ok with a shaved belly. So that's what we did. It couldn't have shown me anything worse. He has a 3 centimeter long tumor in his liver, and his liver is enlarged. His bladder has more tumor in it right now than there is bladder. One of his kidneys is almost disintegrated, and kidney tissue is also present in his urine. Sounds like he'd be bedridden. I know I would be. But aside from the peeing in the house, nothing has changed. He still runs around. He's still eating. He still plays with us. I know he's broken. But he doesn't seem to be in pain. S0 how do I say goodbye? How do I know when it's time?

This is Ditka when he was only 2. I was a junior in college, and we got in trouble for having him in our apartment. OOPS! Back then, he was "My Pretty Brown Eyes" and "Fuzzy Face". His eyes have long since clouded over with glaucoma. His hearing is limited. He's now "My Old Man" and "Baby D." In the morning, when he doesn't wake up with the rest of the pack, I will sit and watch and wait to see if he's breathing. He always is, he's just a slow breather. I don't wake him. He's an old dog. I always hoped he'd die quietly in his sleep. So, really, how do you say goodbye to an old friend?