Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Reprieve for Charley

In the past, with dogs who have needed help to pass, I have always had a sense of certainty. Something told me the dog was ready to go, that it was time. With Charley, I did not have that certainty. Over the past twenty-four hours, in moments when her ears pricked up as I entered a room, or she rubbed her head against my knee, or pranced two or three steps toward me with a happy grin on her face, she wasn’t ready to go. And in moments when she stood pressing her head against the wall, or falling onto her side, or spread eagled on the kitchen mat looking at me with despair and helplessness, perhaps she was.

But for today, at this moment in time, she will continue to breathe in the summer air, to receive pats and cuddles, to be handfed if necessary and guided by my hand when she needs it. It may be that my vet will be returning for a final time tomorrow, or next week, or next month. But for now, it is not time.

My vet gave her a thorough check up. In all likelihood, Charley has a lesion/tumor in the frontal lobes. Her pupils are non-responsive to light (though she did flinch and jerk away when the light was shone in her right eye), and her blink reflex is negligible. She does track movement some of the time, but that may be in response to scent rather than sight. There are other signs of problems, too, suggesting a lack of connection between the brain and the body.  We took a blood sample to check for infection, liver enzymes, etc.  (I’ll have the results on that tomorrow) and she has been started on some medications for pain, infection, and diarrhea. Her last  blood test was only about four months ago, and it was clear. If nothing new shows on this blood test, then that will help solidify the frontal lobe lesion diagnosis. For that, the future is bleak.

There are some who will say I should have let her go – that a dog who staggers, falls down, is lost, gets trapped in corners should be released. Had I let her go, there would be some who would say there was no need to end her life, that it was for my convenience, that such problems can be managed. They are welcome to their opinions; may their certainty be present in their decisions with their own animal companions. But the decision that was made today is between my vet, myself, Charley and the Great Spirit. It is a decision the vet and I are comfortable with, and I think Charley is, too. In true Charley form, she was the only one of my critters who met the vet at the door and stuck around to say goodbye when she left! 

I have always said I would rather help a dog to pass a week too early than a day too late. May I have the wisdom to know when it is time, and not leave it a day too late.

Rock on, Charley girl, you are very much loved.


Anonymous said...

Jean, you will know when it's time. From my own experience, that is how it has always been for me. I have agonized, and worried and fretted, and in the end I always had a calm sense of certainty when it was, indeed, time to let go. I'm glad Charley's with you for however much longer that may be, and you will make the right decision when you know that moment has arrived. Till then, rock on Charley!!!

Deb S.

Pauley, the Mr. or the Mrs. said...

We are thinking of you & sweet Charley.

Julia Hones said...

Jean: you and your dog are the ones who know. Your vet may help but your heart will tell you. I was late with my Golden Retriever because somebody stopped me and, believe me, that same night she died choking because she was breathless. I will never forgive myself for letting somebody else stand in the way to do what she needed on that same day. Peace to you and good luck with every decision.

Anonymous said...

Life is precious.

I'm grateful that you will have more time together, no matter how long it is.

Wishing you peace, Jean.


Black Jack's Carol said...

I absolutely trust your instinct! Even an extra day means so much! Thoughts are with you.

Jen said...

Trust yourself and Charley. You both will know when it's time. In the meantime, I wish you lots of smiles as you hug and pet your girl and that she has chances to grin at you, prance a few steps and place her head on your knee.

Hugs to you and your dogs through this.

Jen and the Black Dog Crew

Sherri said...

So happy to hear Charley is still enjoying the morning sunshine with you.

I believe Charley will let you know, and if she doesn't then your heart will. I listen to my heart every day about the same decision for Jack. I hope I have your grace when the time comes, but I'm glad that both of us were able to say "not yet" today. One day at a time...

Keeping you and Charley in my thoughts.

Alphamutt said...

Only you and Charley will know when her time has come. There will always be people who have opinions about when and what you "should" do, but only you know your heart, and your beloved Charley's. I do not envy the decision you will have to ultimately make, Jean, but I know that you will do right by your girl. Shalom.

Anonymous said...

I tell people that I am always happy if they struggle with the question of when is it the right time. It means they value life and are being careful with it. My personal motto is quality of life and I think only those that live with the animal and know their quirks and traits can make that decision. That said, I also know that if we listen carefully they will tell us.
Charley, may you have many more happy days, enjoy the warmth of the sun and your mama.

King Survives 2008 said...

As usual Jean, you have stated everything so clearly. This is a decision that can only be made by 3.
The comments have already said everything I feel for you. My heart breaks for you each time I read these entries. I know that ultimately time ticks for us all.
Cherish these moments and build as many memories as are left to fill Charley's book of memories.

Hugs King & The Royals

Jean said...

Thank you for your kind thoughts, everyone. The bulk of Charley's bloodwork is back, and it is all normal - liver, creatine, bilirubin, white blood count, etc. etc. So her problems are not caused by bacterial infection or by liver failure or related disorders such as Hepatic Encephalophagy. We are waiting for one more test result which will take a few days, but her vet thinks it is looking more and more like it is a brain tumor. Indicators of cancer usually do not show up in blood tests except for bone cancer or lymphosarcoma.
That said, after a very bad night last night (why are nights always the worst?), she had a really good day today in which she almost seemed back to normal except for a few stumbles and bumps. She even managed to walk half a block down the road and back - she made it clear she wanted to go out, but also made it clear she was ready to turn back - what a smart girl!

Symptoms of brain lesions/tumors do wax and wane as the brain adapts to the damage.