Saturday, March 20, 2010

Goodbye to our dear friend, Bailey

I wasn't ready to discuss what happened to Bailey, but I'm feeling stronger now and am able to open up a bit. I love Bailey, and I miss her so much. She was a gift from my parents for my 14th birthday in 1996, and I was a very good pet mommy. I read books on how to train her, and I used nothing but love and patience to instruct her. She learned to sit her first day at home, and she was housebroken within two days. She loved to play fetch and to leap off of stairs. Mostly, she just wanted to please. She was very easy to train. Bailey was always a bit neurotic. She shook nonstop for the first week she was home, and she continued to tremble whenever she heard a loud noise or felt a storm coming. She wouldn't walk over manhole covers or other grates in the sidewalk. She liked to be invited up on the bed, even though she was always allowed up. Her favorite thing in the world was a belly rub. Also, she loved to sleep in the crook of my knees or balled up behind the small of my back. She guarded me in my sleep, too, barking at anyone who came near my room while I slept. She was my best friend.

This is the story of her final weeks.

Bailey had been staying with my parents for the last two months because it was difficult for me to try to care for her while caring for Oliver. I'd be holding Oliver while he was crying, and Bailey would cry for loving. When she had to go out, I'd leave Oliver in the house (often crying) to take her pee. At night, when I'd try to calm Oliver down enough to put him in his crib, Bailey would whine to be pet. It was a struggle for me, so I asked my mom and dad for help. They love her, too, so they said yes.

I still saw Bailey every Sunday when I went to visit my parents, and I saw her biweekly when I came over to work (I'm their cleaning lady). She was always excited to see me, but she was also happy living with my parents. I missed her terribly, but I felt a lot better knowing she wasn't being neglected.

About a month ago, she started coughing. It was a Saturday, and my parents took her to the vet. Bailey wouldn't cough for the vet (of course). My parents described the sound to him, and they insisted it couldn't be kennel cough (she's never around other dogs and is never boarded). He gave her a shot of a steroid. Bailey was like a puppy again! Her joints felt better, and she was prancing. She stopped coughing. Her hearing even came back a little bit! I came over the next day to visit with my parents, and I was greeted by a barking Bailey. That hadn't happened in about a year (since she'd gone completely deaf). It was so cute!

Unfortunately, the steroids also made her have to pee a lot. She peed in the house on Monday for one of the first times in her life (there was one other time in her life when she peed in the house, and that was when she'd had a bladder infection). I came over to clean on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I was able to let her out enough to keep her from messing in the house.

That was about the time I decided that Oliver was doing better. He was crying much less frequently, and he was willing to be put down for longer periods of time. I took Bailey home, and we did pretty well. It wasn't long, though, until she started her breathing problems again. I gave her the oral steroids (mixed with an antihistamine) the vet had provided for us in case the cough came back. After a dose of the steroids, I noticed she seemed dizzy. The following day, she started falling over (literally). She would be standing still, and then she'd fall to the side. I called the vet and asked him if it could be a side effect of the steroid/antihistamine. He told me it wasn't likely, but it was possible. He told me to discontinue the pill and to call him back the next day to report her progress. She continued to decline. As she walked down the hallway, she'd veer into one wall and then the opposite wall. She tipped over when she was standing still, and she face-planted when she walked. I hoped it was just a side effect, and so I decided to wait until the morning to see if she was better. That was Tuesday, March 9.

That night, I woke up to Bailey trembling and yelping. I drew her near me and pet her for a long while. At about 3am, I decided she couldn't wait until the morning, and it wasn't fair for me to let her be in pain. I woke Andrew up and asked her if he could take her to a pet hospital. He drove her to one near 285 & Santa Fe. There, they listened to her lungs (they sounded clear), and they did a blood panel and chest X-ray. Her lungs were perfectly clear, and her blood panel was perfect. She'd had surgeries in the past, and I've always been told her blood levels were perfect and that she's a very, very healthy dog.

Because she seemed otherwise healthy, they decided Bailey needed to see the neurologist. However, the neurologist kept regular hours, and Bailey wouldn't be able to see him until later that day. They kept Bailey, and Andrew came home. His boss let him have the day to spend with me, and I sat on edge all day.

It wasn't until 3pm that I heard from the neurologist. He explained that Bailey had a tendency to fall to the right more than the left, and she was slower to respond to stimuli from the right than she was the left. Based on that information and other tests, he said it's likely she either had a stroke or a brain tumor. Because of her history of breast cancer, he thought it was most likely a brain tumor. He told me the problem was in the occipital region of her brain, but he couldn't tell me exactly what it was or how bad it was or what could be done unless he could take an image of it. An MRI with sedation would cost $1800, and a spinal tap would cost an extra $500. We couldn't afford those tests. I told him I wouldn't do drastic treatment for cancer because of Bailey's age. He told me that they would then just treat a tumor with steroids to shrink it for as long as possible to increase her quality of life. He said that treatment would also be used for a stroke. I decided to take her home and start the steroid treatment. Bailey came home that night (Wednesday, March 10).

Bailey showed no signs of improvement at all the next day. She continued to fall down (about 3 times a minute), and she wasn't able to sit down or lay down herself. Also, when she tried to lower her head to eat or drink, it would cause her to fall over, so she had difficulty eating and drinking. I laid her in her bed so she could rest, and I put food and treats near her head so she could eat. We did OK. I told my mom that I understood I was keeping her alive for me and not for her. She wasn't in pain, and she was doing OK. And I wasn't ready to say goodbye. That night, when Andrew took her to the bathroom, she couldn't stand for a long while. Then she finally stood, peed, and took off running. Andrew jogged with her, directing her and keeping her off the streets, for about half an hour. He said she seemed to have a good time, and he took her back home.

The next morning, she threw up. It was the most vile, stinkiest vomit of all time, and she wasn't able to lift her head out of it. It covered her paws, her muzzle, and under her chin. It stunk. I didn't think it was safe to put her in the tub, so Andrew rinsed her over the sink. He told me later that he thought there was blood in her vomit.

She stopped eating that day. We bought expensive wet dog food, but she wasn't enticed. I offered her treats and mixed her food with rice, but she'd have nothing to do with it. She wouldn't even eat peanut butter. I sat on the floor all morning, offering her spoonfuls of various foods, crying, trying to get her to eat. Oliver cried, too. It was then I realized that Bailey wasn't OK, and it was no longer good for me to keep her with me. She still kept falling. The steroids made her have to pee all the time (every hour), and I wasn't able to get her outside frequently enough. She peed by the door. I held her and cried. I called Andrew, and I told him I knew it was time. I also told him I couldn't bear to make any more decisions in the matter and asked him to please handle everything. He's a wonderful person, and he did. My parents came to my house to say goodbye to Bailey and take her to the vet. I pet her for hours and cried. I couldn't imagine life without her, without hearing her jingle bells as she came prancing by. I couldn't imagine not hearing her bark anymore, or not having her sleep on my feet. There'd be no more games of fetch, no more jogs along the trail. She'd no longer help me finish my meals, no longer beg for scraps of food. This special dog, the dog I grew up with, wouldn't be by my side anymore.

I tried to be as happy as I could. I was very happy she got to know and love Andrew. I was happy she got to meet Oliver and know I was going to be OK. I said my goodbyes to her. I told her I'd be OK. I told her I'd miss her, and I told her I wish she could see me grow old. I told her about the first time I saw her and how I picked her out. I told her about training her and moving across the country with her. I described all the important events of her life. I told her how much she meant to me, of how I spent half of my entire life with her by my side. I could barely remember life before her, and now I was going to have a life after her. It was very, very hard.

My parents took her to the vet. He gave her the injection, and he said she didn't fight it at all. He told them she was ready to go. I knew it, but it was important for me to hear from them. She didn't yelp, didn't cry out, didn't struggle. She just went to sleep.

I kept her jingle bell collar. Bailey wore that collar year round. When she was going deaf, she couldn't hear much, but she could hear her jingle bells. If I'd take her collar off, she'd sit near where I placed it, and she'd cry at it. And so it came that Bailey wore her Christmas-y jingle bell collar all the time.

I haven't been able to think much about my loss. As soon as I start to think about it, I think of something else. I keep myself busy, cleaning, always working. I just can't hold on to the thought that she's gone.

Really, though, I'm doing OK. I have a loving family who is here supporting me, and I've heard from so many of my friends and family. I really am OK. I've got Oliver here to take care of, and I know if Bailey could think it and say it, she'd tell me to take care of him and be happy.

It breaks my heart that she was otherwise healthy, though. If it hadn't been for that stupid tumor or stroke, she'd be here. Right now, she'd probably be sleeping in her fuzzy pink dog bed, or she'd be at my feet, whining to remind me that it's bed time. I tell myself that she didn't suffer. She was sick for only a short while, and it wasn't drawn out. She was a happy and very loved dog.

Life goes on. I'll deal with the pain at some point, and the pain will eventually get easier. I'm glad Bailey got to watch me grow up and see my new family. She's a dear friend to me, and I'll love her always.

Here are a few photos of us saying goodbye.

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