Where do I begin? While the past few months seem like a blur, many parts are still very raw. I know that some will say “It’s just a dog.” My heartaches for those people because I guess they haven’t been blessed to have known the love of a dog. For those pet parents that have been unconditionally loved by your pets – I know that you understand. No matter how many years pass, we will still miss our beloved pet(s). We can and should share our homes and love another pet. Each pet is different and can’t replace a previous one. The grief cycle is different for everyone, so don’t expect others to react a particular way or move through grief at a specific pace. I was still missing my dear sweet girl, Coco who crossed the rainbow bridge from a stroke in Jan 2018.
I was not ready for Patches to go! We are never ready, but when our pets get older and we see the slowness come on and the gray hairs appear, we mentally accept the cycle of life. Miss Coco was 12 when she passed from a stroke. We adopted her when she was 2. By then she had had a litter of 7 puppies and treated for heart worms. She later acquired Lyme disease and was treated for that only years later to have cancer in her eye and have that eye removed. The cancer never returned. What a survivor she was to have gone through all of that and live to be 12. We were so blessed to share those 10 years with her and have awesome memories of that time together.
Patches heart disease came as quite a shock as he was only 5 years old.
Initially I suffered from self-imposed guilt – that I could’ve or should’ve. If only… Why didn’t I know the signs! Why didn’t I do more research! Why! Well, you get the picture. But as I reflect back on Patches short 5 years, I see more clearly. He never had the energy the other 3 litter mates did. He was the only one of the 4 to have allergies.
During Patches agility training, one of the exercises was to get him excited so he would be ready to do the next task quickly. That was a struggle for him, but I never thought it could be medical – just stubborn coonhound – lol. Not to mention, by the time we drove to the training site, he was car sick. I would even arrive 45 minutes early to get his stomach to calm down. I didn’t realize that perhaps he just didn’t have the energy. I wish now that I had taken pictures and video of how easily he could perform the agility obstacles. He had no fear to run the dog walk, the A frame, the tunnel, or jumps. He really enjoyed those parts and I was so proud. Patches was not a fan of the teeter, but that is what happens when a well meaning, but hurried instructor rushes a dog. We were able to overcome some of his fear with practice on a small teeter my husband built. Weaves were difficult, but we were practicing. Then his allergies kicked into high gear. His neck and underarms were so raw from his scratching, it was difficult for him to wear a collar or harness. I continued to practice agility with all 4 munchkins in the back yard. Great exercise and problem solving by the way.
Because of Patches allergies, I didn’t expect him to live as long as the other dogs. I thought it would be Cushing’s Disease, some other autoimmune disease, or side-effects of the medications for his allergies that would shorten his life. But, never did I think he would pass so soon and so quickly or from heart disease.
Genetics. As with us, genes play a huge role in our health. For example, I am the only one in my family (including parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, children, and grandchildren) that has Crohn’s disease or Glaucoma. Another example, my senior lab Sugar has multiple fatty lumps (Lipomas). Her breed (genetics) tends to develop these more so than other breeds. I truly believe that genetics was the major factor in Patches health. Were there other contributing factors? Perhaps, but we can’t change our genes and the predisposition to health conditions. More research needs to be conducted on pet health and contributing factors to disease. That research should range from nutrition quality to processing to product sourcing to chemicals used on crops to soil depletion to insects and on and on. Yes, additional research needs to be done so we can help our pets live long, healthy lives.
Always work with your pet’s vet. It is critical to your pet’s health that you and your vet have a team approach to your pet’s care. If you don’t feel your vet is taking sufficient time to listen to you and discuss your pet’s issues – even with a waiting room full – look for another vet.
In my next article, I will go into more detail about Patches symptoms. When they began and what they were.
Thank you for allowing me to share my pet’s journey with you.