A week or so ago, my chocolate lab died after a very brief illness. Brownie, that was his name, was a great dog. Always friendly. Always looking to play. Always looking to go for a walk. Always willing to steal your food if you weren’t paying attention. Always there to greet you barking, tail waging and ready to lick your face off. Just a great dog.
So I knew something was wrong a couple of weeks ago when he well, just wasn’t his ole self. You have to understand Brownie, given the choice between hanging out and doing something, Brownie is ready to go. Say the word walk and he’s up and ready to go. Say the word hike, and he’s ready for a 5 hour hike in the woods. Brownie has hiked with me up and down the east coast — even had a nice swim in an sub alpine lake in New Hampshire one year. So a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Brownie just did not want to walk as far as we normally do. As most dogs go, Brownie had his territory in the neighborhood that we walked and he marked — if you know what I mean. Usually there was no stopping him from his rounds. But recently, he did not want to make the rounds. And he was puffing a lot more than usual. So I knew something was up. Off to the vet.
Cari, our vet, is our neighbors daughter and has taken care of Brownie since we got him. She knew him from being a patient and from the neighborhood. So when we brought the Brown Dog in — actually we had to carry him into the office in a doggie stretcher– she knew something was wrong. She took the history, did a physical, got some lab work and xrays. Not good. Brownie was profoundly anemic and had a very large spleen. We had to take Brownie for an ultrasound of his abdomen to further evaluate his spleen. Got that done and it look like he had auto immune hemolytic anemia. Although with a large spleen the potential for badness was still around.
We got a prescription for prednisone and well as prilosec and sucralfate to treat the anemia and protect his stomach. A couple of days went by and Browne started to perk up. He was still panting a lot and not walking as far but he was back to chasing the squirrels out of the yard and barking at cars as they drove by. His check up a week later was ok. He was still anemic and cranking out the nucleated RBC’s. So we continued on the same course. He was perking up. Back to stealing food and looking at you afterward like — “hey you left the cookie so I could reach it so it’s mine”. Then the next day came.
My wife and son just got back from a college trip the night before. That’s when the cookie stealing event occurred. That night Brown was all revved up. His people are home — running around like a maniac, barking like a fool, being a nudge, just being the Brown dog. Then the next morning came. Not the same dog. Just not looking right. He spent most of the day outside just laying around – not unusual – except he did not really move from the same spot all day. I got home from work, and got the “Brownie does look good” report from the family.
One look at Brown and I knew something bad was going on. He barely picked his head up to say “hello”. Normally he is running around the car barking when I come home. His belly was bigger than normal, his tongue and gums were pale – something catastrophic was happening. My clinical radar was telling me, whatever was going on, was a terminal event. My dog was dying right before my eyes. But that didn’t stop Brownie from being Brownie. As we sat next to Brownie and petted and comforted him he just kept being Brownie. He would move his head to the spot he wanted rubbed. Is we stopped petting him, he turn and look at you, as if to say:” Really, I didn’t say you could stop petting me. Rub my back now”. Over the next hour or so, Brown got significantly worse, his panting was getting heavier, his gums were paler and most concerning his belly was getting bigger — he was bleeding out probably from a tumor in his spleen that ruptured or eroded into a blood vessel.
Still, this was not enough to stop Brownie from being Brownie. One of my sons friends had come over. They came outside to see Brownie and sure enough, Brownie seeing someone new in his yard tries to get up and greet his visitor. Even as he was dying, his doggie brain is saying “Hey visitor, get up and sniff him and lick him. Maybe he can pet me as well.” Not too longer after that, Brownie put his head in my lap and passed away.
So what did Brownie teach me about living:
-always wag your tail when you see friends and family
-chase squirrels — it’s king of fun
-even if you are having a bad day — say hello
-steal a cookie once in a while — they taste pretty good
-go for a walk or a hike — if more fun to sniff the ground that to sleep the day away
-just because your sick doesn’t mean you have to be mean or nasty
-bark more when the people you love and care about come home
-if you want to get petted — just ask