(Linda Meikle photos)
Sheba 'poses' for what may be last photo session of her life this morning. (Notice the dribble on her chin.) The pictures that follow show how she really feels - unable to catch her breath and so weak she can hardly sit up.
Since last Sunday, Jim and I have shared a box Kleenex as we watch Sheba's labored breathing and gasps of pain. We thought last Sunday was her last day. Instead, she has been a fighter for several weeks now!
Last week, I called Sheba's vet and requested something to make her more comfortable, but she refused to order meds because I refused to bring Sheba in for blood work and/or x-rays. I explained that besides it being almost physically impossible to carry her in, if they would look at Sheba's files, they would see that the last time we brought her in, she was very upset and frightened even though I asked them not to do anything invasive at that time. (Not even her rectal temp!) I just wanted them to help me make her comfortable. But, as the vet explained, most vets (if not all) have a license to watch out for, and apparently they can't prescribe meds without eyeballing the pet - again!
Hubby and I have been taking turns getting up with her during the night, although Sheba prefers 'mommy' do the caring part. Last night at about 3 a.m., she was panting and making 'help me' sounds on my side of the bed.
"I just took her out and gave her some water," hubby murmured.
But, she wanted me to rub her tummy and put my foot under her head. So I got out of bed and sat on the floor beside her rubbing her distended tummy and petting between her hot ears. Every time I stopped, she extended her paw out for me to continue.
We aren't sure exactly what is wrong with her medically now because we didn't allow the testings again, but we know she is almost 13-years old, is blind, has Cushings Syndrome, and really badly deteriorated joints. We think she deserves to rest in peace now.
As I sit at the computer to write this, Sheba is sitting under the computer table leaning against my legs moaning and gasping for breath. She tries to lie down briefly, but discovers that she can't breathe lying down, so she quickly sits back up again.
About 6 a.m. she let me coax her outside where she sat on the cool, early morning frost-covered grass and stretched out her neck for oxygen enriched air. She actually pulled against the leash and used it to support her body instead of lying down. I let her stay outside until the sun started making her too hot.
She still eats a spoonful of cream cheese with her pain pill (from a couple years ago when another vet took x-rays of her hips and prescribed these pills) when we offer it as ordered about every eight hours. We also found an old bottle of the anxiety pills the vet ordered for her July 4 jitters. This does put her out for a couple hours. About a half-hour ago, I gave the last 1/2 pill of the July 4 med, along with the pain pill and hopefully, this will give her some rest - long or short - we don't know!
Last week, my friend at the office gave me the card of her vet who makes 'home visits'. I called them immediately and, while they were very nice, they informed me that this vet doesn't make emergency home visits and nothing on the weekend. They would come out if I made an appointment during business hours. Also, they said we live on the 'outskirts' of their 'area' (even though in actuality they are within 10 miles of our home), so they would have to charge an extra $50 travel fee, plus the exam fee, plus whatever the meds would cost. I told them we are only trying to make Sheba comfortable without actually putting her 'to sleep' (although that subject is constantly on our minds), but this apparently isn't cost effective for vets!
We sleep with our bedroom window open to give Sheba cool, fresh air. Even though it got down to 38 degrees last night, we turned on our electric blanket, and Sheba was able to rest a little under the window. She never stopped gasping and even yelping in pain every few minutes, but she did seem to appreciate the cool air.
I need to study, clean the house and cook meals, and sleep but Sheba takes all my time right now. She seeks me out if I don't stay close.
And, of course, there's the incontinence of bowel and bladder. We have placed floor coverings on the floors to try and protect the carpet, and Jim constantly runs behind her wiping up and scrubbing stains, but we already know the carpets will need a good cleaning if not replacement. Such is the life of pet-lovers.
A big worry is that we will be out of the house a lot starting Monday because my eight-hour clinicals take me to Lancaster, Ohio, that is an hour away! Hubby has the monthly board meeting to prepare for at work and a supervisor who knows nothing or cares little about being a pet lover!
I have dark circles under my eyes and a bad headache from lack of sleep, crying, and too much worry. Hubby is tired and sad, and still can't sleep. Sheba is begging for sleep.
We have found a 24-hour vet service called Med Vets who would perform the euthanasia services (for about $150), but we can't bring ourselves to do that at this point. We think she is still too alert and feels better at home, although there's a very fine line between what we think Sheba wants and what is being influenced by what WE want...
Every hour or so, we're trying to find a more comfortable spot for Sheba to rest. Or, we're offering water, or just petting her. Earlier, we put a big old soft chair in front of the open window hoping she would let herself relax and rest against the back or arm of the chair. After falling asleep for about one minute, she jumped (or almost fell) off the chair to the floor. I led her outside again where we started today's journey about ten hours ago. She sits outside with her neck stretched out trying to get enough air for the next breath. What more can I say or do?
A long journey ending...But not ended yet!