My dog, Asbjørn, will be 13 next month. It may have escaped the notice of some, but I love that dog like nobody’s business. He’s just a great, wonderful companion and my life is so much richer for having him in it. We’ve been lucky with his health and he’s been in pretty good shape, especially considering his age, but this ain’t my first rodeo and I know that, time marching on the way it does, our days together are not going to last forever. He’s been showing his age more in the last year or so, but he’s mostly been his normal self — easy-going, funny, and a glutton for just about anything resembling food.
I was quite unprepared, then, for him taking suddenly ill yesterday morning. Everything had been perfectly fine the day before and into the night, but at around nine in the morning yesterday he started throwing up. In the first go-’round something bulky came up, but I didn’t investigate too closely, assuming it was bread or something of the kind. He vomited another four or five times over the next couple of hours, as dogs are wont to do, but it was just liquid and bile. Not fun, but nothing we haven’t seen before.
When we went to take him outside, however, something was very clearly wrong. He sort of staggered out of the chair where he’d been lying and could hardly stay on his feet. Once out on the porch, he couldn’t even make it down the two steps to the yard and just managed his business from a pitiful half-squat on the porch.
As soon as we were inside I put in a call to the emergency vet, who said that she could see us in two hours. We packed the kids and the other dog off to Olof’s parents’ house, got ourselves ready, and made our way to town. By that time, Asbjørn was so weak that Olof carried him out to the car. At the vet’s waiting room he seemed a little better, standing and walking on his own, but I think that was mostly because he just wanted to get the hell out of there. Nothing makes a dog perk up like a trip to the vet.
When it was his turn to be examined, the vet expressed some concern over the paleness of his gums and the white of his eyes. His body temperature was also slightly low, and since he had been throwing up she recommended an ultrasound of his abdomen. We got him up on the table and Olof and I held him on his back while the doctor shaved his belly and fired up the ultrasound machine. She didn’t find anything of particular concern, apart from thinking that his liver might be a little enlarged. She then took some blood for testing, gave him a bag of IV fluid, and sent all of us home. She said she would call later with the test results, but at that point she felt it could go either way.
When she called, the news was not encouraging. His liver enzymes were startlingly high, and he was slightly anemic — the two things in combination didn’t bode particularly well and she said that there wasn’t any point in treating the liver issues as long as his red blood cell count was down. We were left, then, to wait and see. All of the stress and urgency of this situation was/is compounded by the fact that I’m due to fly to England on Tuesday for a three-day conference, and will be away from home until next Sunday. She suggested that we wait out the weekend, and that if he wasn’t substantially better by Monday, that we should strongly consider having him put down before I left, because chances were high that he would crash while I was away, and I couldn’t bear that.
Last night was rough. He was lethargic and extremely shaky when standing. In order to get him outside to pee, I had to pull/lift him to his feet, and he barely made it out and in again. He wasn’t at all interested in food or water, and just looked BAD. He remained responsive and tail-waggy when I talked to him, but otherwise he was so unlike himself. Olof and I talked and decided that if he was in the same condition today, we would let him go. It was just so hard to see him like that.
Then … today … he was better. A lot better. Not 100% better, but definitely what I would call substantially better. He’s eating and drinking and going up and down the stairs, albeit a little shakily. He’s got some more color in his gums and the whites of his eyes are pinkish instead of the dead white that they were yesterday. In fact, he’s acting totally like his usual self, begging for treats (which he is emphatically NOT getting), and even going so far as rolling over when I made that a condition for a handful of dog food. What. the. hell.
We talked to the vet this afternoon, and she was pleased (but surprised!) by his progress. She said that we can come in on Monday and get some food that’s good for the liver, but she doesn’t even want to see him again until after he’s eaten that food for a month or so. Apparently the deciding factor on that was that his color has pinked up (that seems to have been the most worrisome factor for her). Of course, we still need to keep a good eye on him, and he is still nearly 13 years old, but this time yesterday I thought his hours were numbered, which doesn’t at all seem to be the case now. I am just completely emotionally overwhelmed.
This picture that I took last summer puts me on the verge of tears, and I can’t tell if they’re of the happy or sad variety. Probably a combination of the two