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I still find it hard to look at Jasper

I’ve got a horrible sore throat and cold right now and I’m limiting my activities so it seems like a good time to try to catch up on the many sad and many wonderful things that have gone on since we got back from Florida in August. It still seems like just yesterday in some ways to me and in some ways it seems like forever ago…and here it is, almost Christmas!

I remember the day I went to the new West Valley animal shelter facility, a really nice facility, to pick up Jasper.  It was terribly hot.  I’d never have gone out if there weren’t a dog waiting to be pulled out of a shelter.  Lydia, who is involved with Iggy (Italian Greyhound) rescue had given me the heads up that there was a Sheltie in the WV shelter.  I always appreciate it when someone brings this to my attention.  It always seems like the staff says to me, “wow, we didn’t know we could call you to pick up a Sheltie or Collie.”  I leave them our business card and/or contact information but mostly it’s the same reaction.

Jasper had been brought in when a sister of his female owner called animal control to say that two dogs had been abandoned by their owner.  I don’t know if they’d been left in a house, yard, with the sister, or whatever.  I was told Jasper was 10 years old and as you can by his photo, he was a real looker.  So sweet and so cute despite being in a very neglected condition.  For some reason, Jasper and another dog that was a small mix of some sort  (possibly the second dog that had been abandoned…I didn’t know and didn’t ask but perhaps I should have), were being held in a isolation area.  I did ask about that and was told that the shelter was just out of room in another area.

As soon as I saw Jasper I could tell that he needed some supportive care.  He was panting in an air conditioned area and generally looked uncomfortable.  He had a huge coat and when I felt his body I could see that he was very obese for his size — no wonder he was panting.  I began worrying about bringing him outside into the summer heat.  I needed him to walk to the car because he was too big for me to carry him.  As it turned out he was close to 60 pounds.  Walking was difficult and painful for him partially because his toe nails were terribly long and curled.  We walked very slowly to the door of the WV shelter.  As we progressed I was wondering how I was going to lift him into the back of my Pathfinder.  I really should have made arrangements to get help before leaving the building but I didn’t.  So Jasper and I are standing at the back of my Pathfinder with the back door open as I tried to see if I could pick him up.  A gentleman pulled up in a vehicle and parked right nearby us…how convenient!  I asked if he could help me and he was very gracious about being willing but he was worried that Jasper would bite him.  (Silly boy!)  It actually took both of us to lift Jasper into my vehicle.  Once in, I thanked the lovely gentleman and handed Jasper some cooked, rinsed chicken breast as his first indication that life was going to change for the better.

On the drive back to the house I would turn and check him out from time to time.  I was worried about him…an obese senior, movement was painful, and I believed, without examining him more closely, that he was probably in desperate need of a dental (which turned out to be true).

As we neared my house I began to realize that we were going to have a problem.  When I pull into the garage, getting to the main floor of our home requires going up a flight of stairs. Even if Jasper could manage that it would seriously stress his heart.  I couldn’t conceive of doing that.  I also knew I couldn’t carry him up the stairs.  I thought about sitting on the stairs with him in my lap and trying to slide us backwards up the stairs but who knew if that would work.  I decided we would take a very slow walk around to the side of the house, up a gentle incline, through two gates, and into our backyard.  Then I’d have to run around back into the garage and up the stairs to open the sliding glass door into the backyard to let Jasper into the house (after giving him a chance to go potty).

That strategy worked!  Thank goodness — because Jim was out of town and I was on my own to figure out how to make things work.  I noticed that we had to walk a few steps and then pause to catch our breath and rest, walk a few more steps and rest for most of this little walk.  Over and over again I am so appreciative of the fact that we have a ramp for getting up to the sliding glass doors.  It was a huge help to Jasper as it is to so many other dogs that come here.  Which means it’s a huge help to us…not having to lift dogs from the family room into the yard and vice versa.  If you ever considered putting in a ramp, don’t hesitate.  You’ll be very glad you did for more reasons than you can think of now.

This photo was taken to show the state of Jasper’s coat and skin.  You can’t really see it but he had crusty bits on his skin which can be indicative of a skin infection.  You can see the dandruff-like flakes.  When I first looked at this photo to demonstrate the poor state of Jasper’s skin and coat I realized that it also shows the poor state of my skin and nails.  You’d never believe that I used to be someone who not only showered daily but also slathered myself in creams and lotions daily.  Looks like I need to reinstate some of those old habits.

So we brought Jasper into Cottonwood Animals Hospital which is our full-service, 24×7, ultimate care hospital with prices to match to have a senior blood panel which includes a urine test, thyroid test, and full organ panel in addition to the typical CBC (complete blood count).  Because of his panting and some coughing we did a chest x-ray too.  We also treated him as though he’d been exposed to kennel cough.

All tests came back good — not even a low thyroid count which just confirmed for us how badly he’d been neglected into order to get into this horribly obese condition.  His test results surprised all of us because they were so good.  An obese 10 year old who could barely walk, had difficulty standing up, and panted readily (now recognized as being due to his weight condition) hardly seemed like a candidate for good results on a comprehensive blood panel.  One thing that was clear is that he needed a dental.  Not so much because he couldn’t eat — clearly he’d worked out that problem if his mouth did hurt him but because he had a lot of infection in there that needed to be cleaned up before it spread and caused problems for other organs.  He was put on antibiotics in anticipation of the dental and a week later, Jasper had his dental.  All went well.  We were now well on our way to rehabilitating Jasper medically.

We had put Jasper on a diet from day one.  I can’t remember all the details although I could look at the very directions I left for our pet sitter.  For dogs that are seniors with sensitive mouths I like to use, if they can eat it, Royal Canin Senior Special 27 small bites.  It’s an easy kibble for seniors to eat and it’s meant to be easy to digest, highly palatable (for those that are reluctant to eat).  The kibble is shaped in a way that’s easy for even sore mouths to break up.  I always add in some canned food with each meal of kibble.  I also frequently add in some human food.  The following is for those folks who don’t yet know that the seal of approval on bags of dog food means almost nothing.  It actually means only that a small sample of healthy dogs eating that food for 10 weeks or so, didn’t die.  For those who think the kind of food they feed their dogs doesn’t matter or who feed foods like Dribble and Fits, remember, that except for the ultra premium pet foods, that bag or can of dog food says “not for human consumption”.  Why would it say that?  Now feed it to that beautiful spirit who adores you without a guilty conscience.

So, unless Jasper developed a heart problem, cancer, or some other disease process we might possibly be able to give Jasper an end of life where he’d be loved, nurtured, and as comfortable and spoiled as possible…possibly for the first time in his life.  When we can achieve this, hopefully in tandem with an adopter, it’s a real joy for me.

This photo and most of these others were taken while Jasper and I were at the vet’s office…which I think we visited the very first day I brought him home.  I felt that there was no need to wait to get his rehabilitation started especially given that I could see how much discomfort he had.  Even on that tiled floor in an air-conditioned room at the vet’s office, Jasper was panting.  To me, he looks uncomfortable in this photo.  It may also give you a better view of how overweight he was.  Despite all of this though he was as sweet-tempered to people and other dogs as you could ever hope a dog to be.  And it’s easy to see how beautiful he is too.

I was so glad to find these photos after Jasper passed away — photos of when I first brought him home.  Before we had that awful struggle to bring him back to life for two weeks in September, after he’d spent about 3 weeks in the vet’s office. When I first brought him home, it was a very hopeful time.  Not that I wasn’t hopeful and dogged and determined to pull him through in September.  It’s just that in September I knew I had made a huge mistake for which Jasper was suffering.  The mistake of hiring that particular pet sitter, Cintya Romero.  My anger toward Cintya and everything that had gone wrong at her hands fueled the energy with which I went about trying to fix everything that had been put awry, including Jasper’s health.  My life was pretty much dominated by that anger then.  But at this time, when Jasper first came to us, that anger wasn’t with me and I could look at him with hope and happiness and love without that dark cloud hanging over me. I had hired the person that was behind Jasper’s demise and ultimate death.  No getting around that.  Don’t anyone try to say that this wasn’t my fault.  It was.  Even if anyone can be duped, and certainly I can be, by someone who acts like they’re going to follow directions and follow all the training I’d done with her, it doesn’t change the fact that I hired her and made a huge mistake.

Here’s a photo of one of the first times Jasper looked directly at me.  What a beautiful boy.

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4 comments to I still find it hard to look at Jasper’s photos – part 1

  • Aw. I’m so sorry. I just lost my 10 year old Sheltie, Jackson, to cancer. We had to make the very hard decision to put him to sleep, after confirming with the vet. We knew it was time, but it didn’t make it any easier. I miss him terrible, there’s a pain in my heart. Such a void they leave!

  • He was a beautiful boy!  But don’t beat yourself up.  You did what you thought was going to work, and had no way of knowing the pet sitter was uselss, well, worse than useless!  At least Jasper knew you were loving him…you can tell he was feeling pretty happy being with you even though he was at a vet, generally a scary place for any dog!

  • BluvsJ

    Hi Nell!  Thanks so much for sharing Jackson’s story.  You’re right…they do leave such a void.  On our Application for Adoption we ask people if they were with their dog when they had to let their vet euthanize them.  We’re looking for people who’ll hold them until the last breath.  It takes time to get over such a painful loss.  You never forget them.  So many people have told me that holding their dog for this last procedure is the hardest thing they’ve ever done but they wouldn’t have done it any other way.

    Did you ever find out what kind of cancer Jackson had?  Knowing just when to say goodbye is terribly tough.  Our hearts go out to you on your loss of Jackson.  – Barbara

  • BluvsJ

    Dawn…you are so wise…there’s nothing to be gained from beating myself up…you’re right.  That’s why we’re thinking about a nanny-cam now.  People can lie and we just have to find ways to know what’s going on here regardless of what the pet sitter is saying to us by phone.  Yes…Jasper did know that we loved him.  When I first saw him at the vet’s office after we returned from Florida his reaction said it all…he was really glad to see me and didn’t want me to leave without him.  But I had to get the house cleaned up before I could bring him home…luckily that was the next day.  September was a rough month.  I feel like I’m still living back then instead of being in the middle of December!  – Barbara

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