Friday, December 16, 2011

A Sad Farewell to my Sweet Isabelle

I’m so very sorry to tell you that, Isabelle, my sweet Furgirl, died yesterday at the age of eleven.

This will come as quite a shock to some of my Facebook friends who were , less than a week ago, told she was suffering from nothing more than a “hurt toe”. In the end, though, it would be this misdiagnosis that would lead us to a much better close to Isabelle’s precious life than we might have had otherwise.

For this at least, I will always be eternally grateful.

It became apparent by the next day, Tuesday, that Isabelle was suffering from something much more grave than a simple hurt toe. Her limpness quickly became lameness and that spiraled into a complete inability to bear any weight on her left leg at all. I was able to help her walk when I needed to with the old sling/towel trick, but by Wednesday morning there was absolutely no question that she needed medical attention quickly.

The day was rainy and Isabelle’s steep decline had left her weaker than I could have even imagined possible just a few days before. The thought of loading her in and out of the car was more than I could stand for either of us and so I called a new veterinarian in the Paducah area, one that we’d heard had a practice that was entirely mobile.

Bonnie Jones of Purchase Area Mobile Vet Service was at my door just an hour and a half later. Isabelle, amidst a barrage of treats that included, to her great delight, Cheez Whiz, in her own soft bed, was quickly diagnosed with a likely torn or damaged ACL (an injured ligament deep within her knee where the upper and lower bones of the leg meet). Having had some experience with people and this injury, I immediately knew this, in and of itself, was quite a serious injury. But, more than that, I also knew in my heart, had known since I wrote this, that something else, something more sinister, was likely afoot. A dog as hyper exuberant as Isabelle would not normally be brought so low by even a useless knee.

There was nothing else to be done but run the tests that would give us the complete picture of her condition.

Early yesterday morning, Dr. Jones, her assistant and I carefully loaded Isabelle’s bed and Isabelle into the way-back of my Subaru. Just one more short night on earth had noticeably robbed Isabelle of a staggering amount of the ridiculously good health she enjoyed for mostly all of her eleven years. The faraway look, the look that started as just an occasional flickering shadow (did I really see that?) in Isabelle’s soft brown eyes had deepened. Deepened and spread to a point that almost seemed like a trick of the imagination, deepened to an extent that I wouldn’t have thought possible the day before.

As I waited with her outside the clinic while Dr. Jones cleared the way so the dog in her weakened state would have no wait, but a straight shot to the testing rooms, I reflexively snapped the last photo I would ever take of Isabelle with my iPhone. The camera, as it sometimes will, captured not only the look in her eyes, but the pain that was behind it. My girl was hurting, I knew.

And not from a blown knee.

Isabelle walked with much difficulty as I helped with the sling, into the clinic. She did this for the sole reason, I believe, that she knew I wanted her to. What I had been led to believe would be some pretty extensive testing was cut short when the true nature of Isabelle’s condition was discovered. Her lungs were being overtaken with the disease that was choking the life from her with a speed and ferocity that could not possibly be fought. Soon, it would leave her gasping for air.

We could not-- would not-- let that happen.

My heart was heavy and broken with the truth, but my brain—ever slow to catch on—kept babbling.

She is running low on her anti-inflammatory meds, I told Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones stared back at me.

Saturday, I said to myself. It must be done by Saturday.

We loaded Isabelle into the Subaru and I brought her home. I dipped her favorite treats in peanut butter and loaded them with what the doctor said was the maximum dosage of her pain meds. A dose so large that it made me weak in the knees to feed it to her. I covered her with my soft suede throw and then put my gently heated electric blanket over that. I grabbed the pillow off my bed and lifted her sweet furry head onto it. I could not persuade her to let me help her or lift her on to her bed. For whatever reason, she preferred the floor. And so that’s where she stayed. I lay down next to her, just as we did during the ice storm. I petted her head and stroked her fur and told her over and over what a good girl she is and that I love her.

It soon became obvious, even with the unimaginably large dose of pain meds I had given her, that Isabelle—a lifelong world class napper--could not rest. I could pet and soothe her into a fitful sleep, but it wouldn’t last more than a few minutes before she would wake with a start and reach blindly for me with her big paw, suddenly confused, and I would comfort her and soothe her into sleep again. I realized that pattern couldn’t go on until “before Saturday”, couldn’t go on until Friday, and that Isabelle should most certainly not suffer another night plagued as she was by the motherfucker that sought to engulf her.

My heart was broken and at the same time grateful, so grateful, that I could give Isabelle an end that would be dignified and devoid of more suffering and that I could rob her sickness of its last terrible victory. So grateful that Isabelle would be able to draw her last breath in her own living room, the very same room that she first came home to as a puppy eleven years before.

I called Dr. Jones and set a time.

Isabelle died late yesterday afternoon after she drifted off to sleep. She was surrounded by people who love her, friends both old and new. I held her great paw as her big heart stopped and whispered my last words to her, a phrase I’m happy to say she heard many times throughout her life,

“Mommie loves you.”

I stayed with her until the end and after. I loaded her precious limp body into the car and took her to the place that will turn her into ashes.

I’ve cried a thousand tears and I’m sure I will cry a thousand more, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. It could never possibly BE enough.

No one can ever live up to the heart of a retriever.


bj'smom1 said...

My heart breaks for you all, it really does. Were Isabelle to write a blog tribute to you, I think she would share the following: 'I loved you more than life, and you were the best Mom a girl could ever have. Thank you for sharing your life with me, and seeing me through to the end. I am at peace now, free of hurt and pain, and I will always be with you in gentle spirit, and I will wait for you. You will find me in many things you do, hear, and see, and one day those things will replace your tears with smiles. My journey to find my purpose was my life with you. Thank you for a wonderful life.' Thinking of you xoxoxox Caroline

Brenda said...

Beautifully written, sweetie. There are no words to describe what a wonderful dog she was.

Patience Renzulli said...

I'm so sorry Suzanne. The grief makes it hard to breathe at times.
I do know that the miracle of dogs is their ability to fill that HUGE hole in your heart after their loss with warm smiling memories, in time.
Your tribute is beautiful. I am soaking wet all over my face.


Anna said...

Just cried for a half an hour, again, actually haven't exactly quite stopped yet, over this video and over your post and your dog and you being sad and my cat, too. I love the part about you saying she was running low on her anti-inflammatory meds. I'll be thinking of you in these coming teary days.

Miranda Peterson said...

Ben and I are so sad for your loss of such a great girl.

JK said...

WAAA! I'm so sorry! Just read this or would've told you earlier.