December 24th 2013 10:34 pm
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It's lonely here. I miss you my girl. I keep trying to get in the Christmas spirit, but it's just not happening. Nothing seems right. I had no one to inspect the tree, no one to help me organize ornaments, no one helping me wrap presents. All the presents have stayed nicely arranged and no one counted them. I hung your ornament on the tree, the one I bought in Jasper for you. You were so mad that I left you behind, but you sure cheered up when I gave you the treats I bought you. I hope you have a bunch of presents to unwrap, Shadow did good unwrapping her ball tonight. You taught her well. I expect this will get easier as time passes, maybe by next Christmas I will have learned to smile again.
Tomorrow I have to cook a turkey, did you remember to tell Shadow she has to taste test for me? I hope it turns out ok. I never realized how lonely I really was until you were gone. I would have given anything to keep you here, but I couldn't watch you suffer.
Shine bright my star, fly high my angel. Merry Christmas my beauty, I love you always.
December 13th 2013 2:36 am
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Degenerative Myelopathy, we were just at the vets for a routine exam the first time I heard those words. I had asked the vet about perhaps starting regular pain meds for Sabs hips as she had been stumbling and swaying a lot. After a few quick tests involving foot placement and balance, she told me she didn't think the hips were an issue. Sabs flexed her hips and showed great range of motion with minimal issues but failed to correct her foot placement. There is no proven treatment and no cure. She asked me to come back in a few days for further testing and a discussion about progression.
I left the clinic afraid to breath, and as soon as I got home I did what I do, I studied. I asked questions, I read, I sent emails, I called experts. I kept looking at my beautiful, brave girl and thinking there had to be an answer and for her I would find it.
Never one to take advice, Sabi carried on. She still walked with me and when she tripped she simply sat down and pretended that was the plan all along. If I tried to restrict her activity at all she would arch that eyebrow at me and stare me down. I got a third job and started taking her swimming, and for doggy massages. We did the swab test to diagnose and the vet recommended some supplements. But the overwhelming message that I got, from everyone, was that nothing would stop the progression. I was determined and so was Sabi, there had to be a way. For a while it seemed possible, Sabi was a tough girl and she had beaten everything else.
The winter of 2013 was cold and long. Sabi was deteriorating badly. Old injuries were coming back to haunt us both and forced confinement was making it tough to keep her active. Spring was a welcome friend and we both basked in sunny days and warm weather. But try as I might, Sabi continued to fade. She was tired, and having a hard time hiding it anymore. She fought valiantly to keep going, to make me smile, and through the sweet days of summer she almost succeeded. Then one night while standing in the living room, just standing still, she fell. My heart broke. I knew she would not survive another winter, and I started to recognize that she wasn't fighting for her life, she was fighting for mine. All her life she shouldered the responsibility for my happiness and my well being, and she would not stop.
I selfishly and secretly hoped she would just die quietly in her sleep, make the decision for me, but my girl had lessons left to teach. It had been her and I from the beginning, and it would be her and I to the end. A pact made in tears and laughter, joy and sorrow, through years of a partnership forged in triumph and tragedy.
The day I watched her battle fear and confusion to try and drag herself after me, I knew it was over. Sabi lived to be by my side, and a body that couldn't do that was a prison. Her back legs were almost useless, her tail now dragged on the ground and even moving around the house was a struggle. The dog who lived to protect me, was now weak and frightened. She hated me helping her, and despised being fussed over.
I cried, I raged, I lashed out and I begged. Take me not her, she deserves more then this. What a horrid way for a warrior to go out. What did she ever do to deserve this? But I made the appointment, and in the darkest hours of the night, when she and I had always been alone against the world, she answered my question. Deep in those ancient eyes, I found love and courage and strength. You can do this, she told me, because of all the people in the world you were the one I chose.
October 20th 2013 11:08 pm
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When Sabs was about 3 1/2 I had her spayed, I also had her hips x-rayed. She almost died on the table, we found out the hard way that she had serious issues with anesthetic. It took her days to shake the drugging effects and she went into shock. We also discovered that in all likely hood she was sterile to start with.
But the worst news was her hips.
She had severe HD in both hips and the prognosis without surgery was grim. My vet did not expect her to make 5. He was devastated to have to give me the news. Like everyone else she met, he adored her. The risks for her were huge with surgery, but without it things did not look good. Everyone I spoke to was fascinated that she showed no symptoms. No one was optimistic about her chances.
My decision was painful, and final. Even if she survived one surgery, she needed two. The lengthy recovery and forced immobility would devastate her. Things would play out as nature intended, I would deal with it when it became an issue.
Fortunately for me, no one sent Sabs the memo. She didn't know she was supposed to be crippled, she had no time for such nonsense. She had a job to do, one she took very seriously and the experts and vets had grossly underestimated this girls strength and determination.
We went through a few rounds of acupuncture, but essentially she never had any issues.
On a chilly January evening in 2011, she fell getting into the patrol truck. A few days later it happened again. My very accommodating boss switched us to a small car and I lightened her patrols, much to her disgust. A few weeks later she lost her balance and slipped under the car. She was panicky and upset, but I got her out and lifted her into the car. I assumed her hips were sore so I consulted with her vet and we made the decision to retire her. I wish I had known how very wrong I was. Sabi had done active patrol work until she was 9 years old, she really was a true warrior.
I noticed her stumbling and dragging her one back foot occasionally, but I knew her hips were bad and she also had a slightly twisted back leg. I never saw any indication of pain and I thought that was good.
In the fall of that year, I was outside talking to my neighbor when we noticed that Sabi was down and in a very odd position. She was stretched out flat on her side on the ground but with her feet facing the fence. I called her and she didn't move. Frightened I hesitantly approached her. Her eyes were moving but she wasn't. I crouched beside her and stroked her gently. After a minute she seemed to be struggling to get up so with my neighbors help we carefully got her on her up and then on her feet. She gave us a look and trotted off.
The next morning I opened my eyes to her yelping and whimpering. Sabi did not whimper. I was out of bed in a shot and she was laying stretched out on the floor, struggling to get up. I quieted her and checked her over. Then at her insistence I helped her up. She yelped and seemed a bit wobbly but wanted to pee and have breakfast. Her head seemed at an odd angle and she appeared dazed, but she only seemed in pain getting up or down. I put a bed in the kitchen for her and she stayed on it for the day. The following day she was no better. I reluctantly made a vet appointment.
The vet examined her and asked some questions. He thought she may have had a mild stroke the day in the yard but he was certain the symptoms he was seeing were arthritis, and we could help her. I burst into tears. Perplexed he asked me why I was crying. I sobbed that I had driven her all the way there thinking I would not be bringing her home. He gave me a hug and told me she would be just fine. Then he gave her some medication and told me to take her home and call in a day if she was not improved.
She woke me the next morning shoving at me with her head and licking my face. My girl had pulled through again. I was overjoyed and convinced that we would be together for a long time yet. In a few short months I would have the rug yanked out from under me and find out how little I knew and learn just how strong my beautiful warrior really was. Right now we had Halloween and Christmas to look forward to and I was on top of the world.