Saturday, July 23, 2011

Be careful what you wish for!

I like structure, predictability, a sense of certainty in my day.  While the unexpected magic moment of a beautiful sunset or animal sighting or colourful flower pleases me no end, generally I get into routines and stick to them. 

But as surely as washing my car is certain to bring rain, becoming complacent is certain to bring change.  Sadie's maladies aside, life with two old dogs was becoming too mundane for me.   Except for our short little walks each day, hours go by when I don't see Sadie or Charley as they choose to snooze away the day in the mudroom or bedroom or lying on the spare room futon.  At times I feel dogless -  such a change from  when Oliver, Belle, Caleb, or Lucy, all 'velcro dogs', lived here and followed me everywhere.  Even my recent guest, Sam, trotted around with me from room to room, being ever helpful in his own 'stay alert, don't trip over me' sort of way.  I miss that.  I even mentioned to several friends that life was too quiet and dull and slow now - I needed a dog who needs a bit more of my attention.

I should learn to keep my mouth shut. Or at least not to let the Great Spirit, or whatever cosmic force governs our lives, hear me say things as dumb as "I need a dog who needs more of me!"
I got one.  But it wasn't what I expected.  And it wasn't a cause for celebration.

Sometime Friday afternoon, Charley had some sort of neurological episode which has left her either unable to see, or unable to make the cerebral connection between what her eyes see and  what her body needs to do.

Charley, who had been doing so very well for the past several months, suddenly looked like a staggering drunk.  Her front paws crossed continually,  she fell over at the slightest attempt to redirect her, and she walked straight into walls and furniture and people and critters.  She was panting softly, her respirations were shallow, her heart was racing.  Finally she collapsed in a state of semi-consciousness, and there she lay.  I called my mobile vet, fully expecting that we would be saying goodbye to her.

By the time the vet got to me, Charley had rallied a bit.  She was resting comfortably, was very calm, took water and broth when offered to her, she even expressed interest in some dinner when I fed Sadie.    We decided to ride it out for a day or two.  The vet suspects she may have either had a stroke or, more likely, has a  cerebral tumor- given what appears to be a loss of vision and the lack of front end neurological control.   Or it could be something like Cushings disease,  or a rapid escalation of degenerative myelopathy  (Charley was tentatively diagnosed with this after a very mild but similar incident three or four years ago, and in line with her ever-weakening back end and dragging rear paws).  Unlike vestibular disease, she has no head tilt, does not turn in circles or hug the walls, and has no rapid eye movements.

Today, she is a bit more stable and more alert, but no more focused.  She is still crashing blindly (and sometimes with great force) into walls and fences and furniture, and standing with her head pressed against things, which the vet says may be an indicator of pain the the frontal lobes. She continues to eat and drink just fine (with help), and is on pain killers which seem to help.  She  must be led in and out on leash, helped to navigate the household obstacles, and frequently moved out of corners.  In many ways, she reminds me very much of Oliver in the very advanced stages of Canine Cognitive Disorder, except that this came on so suddenly. 

We shall deal with it  day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and make whatever decisions are in Charley's best interest.

In the course of twenty four hours, my life with the critters went from predictable and undemanding to high alert - needing to be constantly aware of Charley's whereabouts, helping her negotiate even the simplest of tasks (like guiding her head to her food dish), finding new ways to communicate with her.

So now I have one dog who has recently lost her hearing, and another who seems unable to see.  And I'm a slow learner - I keep using verbal commands with the one who is deaf, and hand gestures with the one who cannot see.  My life is challenging once again.

I should be careful what I wish for.


Note to Elizabeth:  I received your update on Zuke - thanks! - and emailed back for permission to post the photo.  However, your emails are bouncing back (mail box full perhaps?), so please email me if this is okay.  Looking forward to more photos, too! 


Anonymous said...

Charley, please be well. We're all thinking of you. As much as we know you can't stay forever, we hope you'll be with Jean just a little longer.

Hugs to you Jean.

Deb S. & crew

Anonymous said...

Oh Jean I'm so very sorry to hear what has happened with Charley. I does sound like she has lost her eyesight and is very confused about it.
Please let me know if you need anything.


Sherri said...

Oh Jean, how scary for you and Charley! I'm glad she seems to have rallied a bit. She's in the best possible hands with you. I'm sending good thoughts for both of you, and some extra butt scritches for precious Charley.

Karen said...

So very sorry to hear about Charley's problems.

Sadly we said goodbye to our beautiful old Lucy on Wednesday...she had a splenic tumor, and with her rapidly worsening hips and new back problems, we made the difficult decision to forego surgery.

Black Jack's Carol said...

Hi Jean,

I'm thinking of you and Charlie and sending my very best. Life has a way of reminding us every once in a while that we're not in charge, doesn't it? Please, may the powers that be choose to give you and Charlie some more "mundane" quality time together.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jean,

Sweet Charley is in my thoughts and prayers.

I wish we lived closer together so I could just come over and be with you and Charley right now.


Anonymous said...

Jean: So thinking of you..we went thru exactly the same thing with our wonderful Belgian..the best thing to think about is what a grand life Charlie has had..and if it were to end tomorrow no regrets..and hopefully if she gets to continue..that is a blessing..


Funder said...

Oh Jean, I'm so sorry! Poor Charley. Please give her (and yourself) a hug from me.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to read about CHarley. Head pressing and back end weakness can also be signs of liver issue. (Search Hepatic Encephalopathy or H.E) If blood tests indicate this, small meals, low protein and lactulose can help.
Finger crossed!

Jean said...

Anon - thanks for the heads up on HE. I had her blood tested about 3-4 months ago and the liver and kidneys were functioning fine, and she has had the back end weakness for several years now. However, when I google HE, she certainly fits the list of symptoms: "The symptoms of Hepatic Encephalopathy are behavioral changes, head-pressing, uncoordinated gait, disorientation, drooling, sporadic weakness, mental dullness, and stupor. Symptoms tend to come and go." (

The symptoms supposedly become severe after a high-protein meal - I haven't noticed this connection to her meals (in fact, she tends to become a bit more alert after them, I think) but it's certainly worth tracking.
She had a very bad day yesterday, but has rallied again a bit this morning. Her vet is coming to see her again tomorrow morning - assuming we don't decide to help her pass, I will have her do another blood test, with HE in mind.