(Note: Things have been so awful the last week or so that I’ve kinda lost track of the days. Please forgive me if I get any details of timing wrong.)
On Sunday morning, September 5, I got a call from a woman who has been supervising the ’round-the-clock care of my mother in Louisiana, saying that she believed the end was very, very near. I asked if Mom was awake and if Debbie could hold the phone to her ear so I could tell her one last time that I loved her. A few hours later, Debbie called back saying that Mom was gone, that she had simply gone to sleep and gradually stopped breathing. Mom’s instructions had been clear and legally recorded: she wanted to die in her own home, in her own bed, without any resuscitation. And she got her last wishes. Of course, then I had to start coordinating things with my niece, who was taking responsibility for the funeral, etc. In the end, we learned that the funeral would be on the coming Friday with a viewing held at the funeral home Thursday evening.
On Sunday evening, we got a phone call from the adopter of one of our very first puppy mill rescues, Ritzy. (She came to us with Simone, who died back in December 2009 of what is believed to be a massive stroke.) The adopter is a very gentle man who took a Sheltie frightened of all people and gently, lovingly brought her a long ways towards greater comfort around people. The essence of his phone call was “I think Ritzy’s dying and I can’t find any vet who will let me make payments so they can see her now!” We grabbed a bunch of supplies and raced over to his apartment, 15 minutes away.
Ritzy had been having seizures for a couple of weeks, starting while we were out of town, and this man had been trying the whole time to find a vet who would see Ritzy to help discover what was wrong, but unable to find anybody. Well, when we got to his apartment, Ritzy was just recovering from another, longer seizure and was not yet fully conscious. Barbara and I examined her, listened to her heart and lungs, did a few neurological tests, and observed that her abdomen was distended and very hard. Barbara quickly called Cottonwood Animal Hospital and talked to the ER doctor on duty that night.
The doctor was very helpful and suggested that, given the specific symptoms that we were seeing, the diagnosis was quite possibly a splenic tumor. Tumors of the spleen are operable if caught soon enough, but survival rates are low even then. The distended abdomen, the doctor thought, suggested that the tumor had ruptured and Ritzy was bleeding into her abdomen. After lots of discussion between us and Ritzy’s daddy, we decided that he and she would sleep together on the floor that night and, if Ritzy made it until morning, we’d take her to the vet, pay for it, and he would repay us over time. Barbara and I left at about midnight. At about 4:00 in the morning, we got a call from this gentleman saying that he had waked up and turned his head to see Ritzy, and that she was no longer breathing. Ritzy was gone.
On either Monday evening or Tuesday evening (I can’t recall which), our poor Jasper (see We’re baaaaaack…), was having some problems breathing. Barbara believed that a pill she had tried to get down his throat was stuck. While we worked with him, he stopped breathing completely! We tried a modified Heimlich Maneuver without success, we tried hanging him head down and shaking vigorously (not easy with a 60 pound dog!), we tried sticking our fingers down his throat, all without success. Finally, I started blowing hard into his nose (sealing his mouth first, of course) and finally felt the resistance give way and he started breathing again! OMG, that was scary. It was a very close call, indeed.
On Wednesday morning, I left Utah for Research Triangle Park in North Carolina (near Raleigh and Durham) for a meeting of the US National Committee that represents the USA to IEC, the International Electrotechnical Commission, one of three major international standardization organizations. I was to be given a special award at that meeting honoring my 25 years of work in data management standards. The problem was that the only flight that could possibly get me from RDU (the airport) to Lake Charles in time for the viewing left RDU at 11:30 in the morning, going to Houston, where I’d rent a car and drive the last 150 miles…and the meeting didn’t start until 9:00 AM. Happily, all went well, I received my award, made my flight, and arrived at the viewing only 30 minutes after it started.
After the funeral on Friday, I stayed another day to help my neice and her mother start going through my mother’s house to separate things that she’d said she wanted to go to specific people from everything else, organing her affairs, etc. On Sunday morning, I drove back to Houston, then flew to Salt Lake City.
Last night (Sunday), Jasper, who had seemingly been getting stronger and better with each passing day, started having problems breathing. His breathing was somewhat labored and “gurgly”, but that had been the case ever since he was admitted to the hospital while we were in Florida, so we didn’t think too much of it. Once again, Barbara thought that she’d gotten a pill stuck in his throat, so I stuck my fingers down Jasper’s throat to try to dislodge whatever it was. I thought that I had eventually succeeded. His breathing improved quite a bit, but he still gurgled a little bit.
This morning, as I came downstairs, Barbara shouted at me “I think Jasper’s dying!” I raced over to him, and it was absolutely clear that he was not breathing at all and that he was turning blue all over!! He was very weak and only partially conscious by then, but he was still trying to breathe, unsuccessfully. I immediately started chest compressions but nothing I did would force any air out of his lungh. I hung him head down while Barbara called the vet for advice, and a bunch of yellowish and reddish fluid poured out of his mouth. The vet told Barbara that we were doing exactly what he would be doing, but to lay him down on his side with his neck as straight as possible and try more nose-breathing. We laid him back down and I tried forcing air in through his nose, but nothing worked. By now, Jasper was completely limp, so I used a stethoscope to listen for a heart beat. There were a couple of very feeble beats, then nothing. Jasper died of suffocation while we told him how much we loved him. He absolutely knew that we were doing everything we could to help him. But we failed him.
Needless to say, we are devastated by this. Poor Jasper, neglected by a housesitter to the point where he became maggot-infested and pneumonic, had struggled back from the brink of death towards a promising level of recovery, had lost his battle and succumbed to what was almost certainly massive pneumonia. He literally drowned because of the fluid in his lungs.
Rest in Peace, gentle Jasper. We will always love you.