Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Never Liked That Dog

I liked the previous dog a lot better. This one's predecessor was Raggs, a terrier-lhasa cross that was brave and true and, if truth be known, not all that clever. But I hold strongly to the belief that intelligence is highly overrated in dogs. Raggs was with us for 16 years, and when he came to the end of his run (and a good run it was), I got to take him for that last ride in the car to the vet. No question that it was time, but...hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

It was hard enough that I was seriously opposed to another dog -- but I got outvoted, and in the spring of 1995 Henry came to be with us. He's a bichon frise but we got him cheap because he's defective. The breed standard calls for an entirely white dog and Henry is a very nice buff/apricot color. Pretty but very wrong. So he was on sale at half-price, and so he came home with us.

About the name. It seems that the bichon frise clan was the preferred dog in the court of King Henry II of France -- well before the Revolution. So, Henry was named for his ancestral royal patron, and he quickly adopted a suitably Parisian attitude. Henry and I have had a cordial disagreement for fourteen years over which of us was the Alpha Male. He weighs twelve pounds on a good day but that doesn't impinge on his royal certitude.

He is not what you'd call a "nice dog". He barks at other dogs, regardless of size, he snarls at people who initially think he is "cute", and he has bitten me on a couple of occasions. His "mom", of course, can do no wrong.

Having Henry around has never been dull. He had his fourteenth birthday last March 15th -- we had a little observance, and he got a fraction of a cupcake out of the deal. But that's a long time in dog years. A while ago we were warned by Henry's vet that he had a heart "murmur" and that someday it would be a problem for him. Well, "someday" came around a week ago last Saturday. We had some folks over for a party, and our never-fully-socialized Henry got all spun up and suffered a severe seizure due to congestive heart failure. He lost consciousness and we really thought we were losing him, but he got up and shook it off -- albeit with very labored breathing. He passed a quiet Sunday and went to the vet on Monday. They kept him to administer industrial strength diuretics in order to clear his lungs, then sent him home with prescriptions for Lasix and a cardiac med.

Weird stuff happens. We were supposed to give Henry 1/2 a Lasix tablet each day -- but the veterinarian had intended that to be 1/2 of a 20 mg tablet but the pharmacy dispensed 50 mg tablets. So our 11 pound dog was heavily overdosed with the strong diuretic. After a brief improvement, he stopped eating and his condition deteriorated to the point where we brought him back to the vet Saturday in a state of despair over his health.

They did blood work and called us with "alarming" news -- Henry was suffering kidney failure. His BUN and creatinine numbers -- indicative of kidney function (or lack thereof) were very bad. Dehydration had taken a toll. This was a very hurtin' puppy. The ER vet explained that normally they would flush as much fluid through the animal as possible to wash the toxins out of the kidneys -- but this would probably push him into heart failure. All they could do was to start him on a slow fluid flush for 48 hours and hope for the best.

As I said to begin with, I never liked this dog. Didn't want him in the first place. So, would someone please explain why I was (a) continually on the verge of tears, and (b) spending enough money to make this the most expensive dog per pound in the Commonwealth of Virginia? I was in an advanced state of despair. Then my wife, the lovely Patricia, said, "Don't write him off yet...he's a stubborn little bugger." Right! That's our Henry. We would just have to see what developed.

We promised each other that if Henry didn't show real progress by Monday we'd let him out of here. I knew that was our final responsibility as his protectors. I tried to get used to the idea that he was going to die in my arms, but that wasn't going to make any of it any easier.

On Saturday, Henry's blood urea nitrogen (BUN) value was 180. Normal is around 45. Scary. When we talked to the vet on Monday his BUN was down to 96 and he was livelier and had eaten a bit. This is good! At noon today his BUN was down to 50. Maybe...just maybe...the immediate crisis is ending.

He is still an old dog. Maybe we've bought him a year. I want very much to see him enjoy this spring and the coming summer. I want him to warm his old bones in the sun on our deck. And if, six months or a year from now, his heart and kidney problems recur, we'll let him go.

Pat and Richard (our son) brought Henry home tonight. He seems alert. He is on three medications and has a number of follow-up appointments scheduled. One day at a time.

I never liked that dog...but I do love him.


Darley Newman said...

Sounds like experiences we've had with Kiki! Hope Henry is still on the mend.

Frank Van Haste said...


He's doing well, thanks for asking! As annoying as ever.

I hear (and see in the photos) that the Jordan/Turkey trip went well. I look forward to seeing the resulting product.

Regards to Chip; be well,