Friday, September 28, 2012

The Sky is Crying

Me and My Girl in happier times

There aren't many things/activities I love more than watching the Yankees, but my family always comes first. And when I say family, I of course include our two Beagles, Virginia and Tinker.  Virginia was my couch partner during many a Yankees game, laying next to me as I petted her and cheered as Derek Jeter got one hit after another.

Our world totally changed this week and that's why I haven't seen much of the Yankees since last week. Yesterday was one of the saddest days of my life as we said goodbye to our Beagle girl Virginia. She was hospitalized with pancreatitis last Friday and was already suffering from kidney disease. She had been pretty stable until then, but she came home Tuesday in a very weakened state.

She didn't really want to eat so we syringe fed her to make sure she was getting enough nutrients and we loved her up as we always did. She could barely walk, but we figured she would regain her strength with some time. She had been standing with no problem as of Saturday night.

Wednesday night, however, my wife noticed something was glistening between the toes of her left foot and then we saw it was on her right foot as well. Thanks to a knowledgeable friend we discovered they were interdigital cysts. They looked nasty and by morning both had burst. We knew we had to get her to our local vet for some antibiotics and to get them cleaned up. We thought she would be coming home with us.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. Both her back feet were swollen with lymphedema and so was one ankle. She always had "dainty" legs and feet as a friend described her.  Now her feet looked like those of a larger breed dog. She was running a fever; her body clearly couldn't take any more. Talking to the vet and each other, we knew we had come to a point we never wanted to reach- decision time.

My wife and I had made a pact with each other and with Virginia that we would never let her suffer just so that she would be here with us.  I remember many years ago saying to someone that I would never want to be in the room when my pet was put to sleep. But I was there yesterday; kissing her, petting her as she compassionately passed from this world to another. My wife and I bawled our eyes out before, during, after, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

Virginia was the most beautiful Beagle we had ever seen. She was a surprise birthday present in 2000 from me to my wife, who had a Beagle growing up and loved the breed.  Virginia was a little over a year old when we got her from a Beagle rescue and we had her for 12-1/2 years.  She was very smart, very impish, and the queen of the castle.  She was an unbelievably fast runner and could jump incredibly high.

Her brother Tinker, whom we adopted four years after Virginia, adored his big sister. She was the straw that stirred the drink. So far we haven't noticed if it has affected him, but when Virginia was hospitalized in March, Tinker was completely depressed the entire time she was gone. He's normally a very active, lively dog and he was just not himself.

This is a pain that will last a lifetime and will take quite a long time to adjust to. Our dogs go everywhere with us, including on vacation. My Dad, brother, and sister consider our duo their dogs as well since they always got to spend vacation time with them on the beach. In fact, my Dad and brother were just recently in for a visit and got to spend time with them.

Virginia was a joy from the day we got her, even when we had to take her out at all different times of the night until she got used to a routine. At first, she was very timid, afraid of other dogs, and would constantly look back behind her as we walked (it was a little unnerving at first).

But we took her for training and socialized her and she blossomed. She learned how to play with dogs in the neighborhood and made up her own games ("nose hockey" with a food cube and "pick up and drop" with a treat filled marrow bone.)

When she was young she chewed the brim off my fitted Yankees hat, making it look like a Yankees yarmulke.  She chewed through two laptop plugs (the thin portions), which made for some awkward work conversations. ("I don't know what happened! This one just split too!")  She also messed up a suit jacket of mine...and you know what, I didn't care in any of these cases. They could all be replaced. Even if they couldn't have been, she could never be replaced.

When we got Tinker in 2004, she was like "who is this?", but she tolerated him. Never complained when he would constantly lick her ears, eyes, and face. They would wrestle a little until Tinker's back injury in 2005 ended that.  And Tinker was totally in love with her. Whatever she did, wherever she was, that's what he wanted to be doing and where he wanted to be. If he bothered her too much, she would do an "air bite" at him to tell him to back off or she would just jump on the couch or futon to get away from him.

Last year, VA, as we called her (among many, many nicknames), showed signs of a liver issue. Her test numbers had elevated year by year. Then in December, tests revealed she was in kidney failure. Unfortunately, with kidney failure, it's not discovered until significant function has been compromised.

After seeing a pet nutritionist, we put her on a special diet, and until March she was very happy eating dark  meat chicken and sweet potatoes. Then suddenly she didn't want to eat. Her numbers had gotten very elevated and we took her back to the specialist. They put her on IV fluids to "re-boot" her kidneys and it worked.

Then came the adventure of trying to figure out what she would eat. You're not used to a Beagle being finicky, they normally eat anything and everything. But then it was: "You don't want this? How about this? But you ate this yesterday." Meals became eclectic; liverwurst, chicken sausage, tripe (disgusting), regular dog food, rotisserie chicken, ground beef, cat food (dry and wet), pineapple, pretzel chips, cantaloupe, "doggie" Ensure. Whatever she wanted, she got.

And she had to get several meds a day, including Aluminum Hydroxide, which had the consistency of snot and probably didn't taste much better. But she was a trouper all the way and always stoic at the vet (though she trembled like crazy until she got into the exam room).

Virginia always suffered from raging separation anxiety and we had adjusted our lives around it. It got better when we got Tinker, but it was always part of her persona. Months ago when we had gone out, we took a video and laughed to learn that she was standing on the coffee table, barking.

She broke into refrigerators (which once led to a very "barfy" night) to the point where we had to put a child safety latch on our fridge. (Our initial reaction was to block the fridge door by moving the recliner into the kitchen).

She loved to lay on the beach. While Tinker was reactive to other dogs, Virginia would lay down, sometimes on my brother's shoes or bag, and snored within two seconds.

She was great in the car, never got sick once. She would get in her crate and go right to sleep, while Tinker whined and said "are we there yet?"

I could write/talk about her forever. I miss her so much. Our hearts are broken; we'll be sad for some time, but we will always have her love and memories in our hearts and will never, ever forget her.

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