Monday, June 01, 2009

Emergency Room Dog Story (updated)

A crisis! Unexpected hospitalization. May be terminal. This is what we are going through. Our family pet has been hit by a car. He is only a dog, but the emotions and practical considerations for family preparedness are as real as if he had been a human family member.

The first things we thought of were spiritual. Why is God mad at us? Have we paid all our tithe? What have we done wrong?

Then, there were financial considerations. How much is a mutt worth? He had been rescued from the dog pound. He apparently wasn't worth much to his original owner. The pound charges for shots and spaying, and you have to feed him, take care of his parasites, have him clipped, and treat his normal scrapes and strains. But the dog emergency room at the teaching veterinary hospital was estimated to cost us at least two thousand dollars, and up to four thousand, if heroic measures were needed.

I am sorry to admit that, when I heard those amounts, my inclination was to put him out of his misery. :( Another confession is that I don't have feelings. (Someone said I am not in touch with my feelings.) My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ. I made a logical choice and was ready to do what was logically necessary.

But all these other considerations paled into insignificance when a mother's love came into the picture. My wife does have feelings. Fraggles is really her brother's dog, but we adopted him when her brother took a job in Canada. Her brother also has feelings. She called him. Mr. Spock (what some people call me) just knows that all this sentiment over a dog is irrational. It does not compute. It is expensive.

Logic and emotion came to a compromise. We said, "Let him have a fighting chance--let him stay in the Emergency Room, tonight." Kaching! $1500. (I wonder if there are medical insurance policies for dogs.) "If his heart stops, should we intubate?" Illogically, we said, "Yes."

The phone rang. "He needs a transfusion," the voice on the other end of the line said, "It is $300." Kaching! He had internal bleeding, broken ribs, a broken leg and hip. "He is only a dog," I said to myself, but not out loud.

Another call just before midnight told us his heart had stopped and they had inserted the breathing tube and resuscitated him. We visited him. The vet was hopeful they had acted quickly enough to avoid brain damage. Fraggles lay there, panting and struggling against the breathing tube in his throat. He was alive. My wife rubbed his head and whispered sweet nothings into his ear. We were home again by 2:00am.

My wife answered the telephone the next morning about 8:00 am. They wanted permission to put him out of his misery. She asked for a call back in 15 minutes so she could discuss it with me. We prayed, but came to the conclusion that if they had asked, it must be serious, so we decided to give permission for euthanasia.

My wife said that Fraggles must have overheard the vet's and her discussing him, because when the vet called back, she was amazed that Fraggles had had an amazing recovery in those fifteen minutes. I keep telling her that Fraggles does not understand those big Greek words, but she is convinced the dog angel must have translated for him!

He is swollen because of the internal bleeding. The transfusion had enabled enough red blood cells to enter his system to keep the oxygen getting to his cells. He has a fighting chance. So we tell them to stay the execution. The Governor has said, "Clemency."

Are we allowed to pray for dogs? Do dogs have souls? My wife is full of questions. We pray as if the answers are affirmative. More telephone calls, more visits, and another transfusion. Kaching!

It has now been 48 hours. He is alive. He has been moved from the examination table to a cage where he is sleeping on a comfortable pad. He raised his head when my wife called his name. The doctor confessed she had never seen a dog whose heart had stopped, recover. Some had come back for a little while, but didn't make the full journey back to life.

Logic tells emotion she must be prepared to let him go. He insists if it were he, and not the dog, he would want to go on. But he didn't know if there was a heaven awaiting the dog. Mentally, he was writing in his living will, "DNR (do not resuscitate). Don't do anything insurance doesn't cover. Don't take me to a teaching hospital. (They might want to learn about a new procedure.)" Kaching!

Emotion uses some logic and calls a friend who has a back hoe. He listens to her tears and digs a nice hole in the cool spot under the trees where Fraggles likes to spend hot days. She says we can plant a memorial bush there if he makes it. The friend will not take payment for his services. Emotion is prepared for the worst.

We visit again, almost 48 hours from the time of the accident. Fraggles lifts his head when he hears Mama's voice. He is not so swollen as before. He may make it!

Another two days have now passed, and Fraggles is still hanging on, eating and improving.
Another emergency call: He may have a blood clot in his brain. Pray!
Fraggles was placed on a ventilator with 100% oxygen. He showed no improvement. He went to doggie heaven a little after 8:00 pm.

We will miss him!