Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Most Difficult Call...

I just made what is possibly the most difficult call of my adult life: the call to schedule an appointment for Java to be euthanized. I'm sitting here with Java at my feet, crying while I type.

Java in the past year has has a number of medical issues: A huge mass in his abdomen, the baby-wipe swallowing incident(s), some type of gastrointestinal issues which caused a large case of the "vapors" emanating from either end and now, diabetes. The diabetes came on suddenly just before the end of the year. One day Java started looking thin, then we noticed he wasn't eating as much, then he wasn't eating at all. He was drinking excessively, and urinating excessively too. He was up at all hours of the night wanting to go outside, probably to drink and pee. We tried feeding him different food, more food, more different food, but he wouldn't eat enough to sustain himself.

One trip to the vet told us he had severe diabetes and was acid ketodotic. His glucose numbers were off the chart. Java has been on insulin since the 2nd, with his doses steadily increasing. We've tried twice now to get a glucose curve to check his response to the increasing insulin doses. These have been to no avail, his numbers are still off the chart. Java is now below 60 pounds, a shell of his former self, all skin and bones. He's now nicknamed "Kate Moss" for his lithe figure. Its easier to laugh about the situation than it is to cry over what we know is coming.

Java can no longer run around, walk up and down more than a handful of stairs and often has trouble getting up off the floor by himself. He spends most of each day in his bed, which has been moved downstairs since he can no longer go up to the bedroom. When he does get up to go outside, its a slow process as he carefully makes his way down the front steps and, sometimes, back up them. The past few nights I have carried him upstairs so he could sleep with us in the bedroom as he has always done. I have also been awaken by him each night to carry him downstairs and outside so he can "do his stuff."

When I picked him up at the vet yesterday we spoke about Java, this treatment and possible outcomes. He's never going to be the same dog again. We can continue to treat him and try to get his diabetes under control, but what else is wrong? What caused this sudden onset of diabetes? At 12 and 1/2 years old, he's a very senior dog. The average lifespan for a lab mix is 10 years.

Last night I knew what the next step should be. Steph and I discussed it ad nauseum, but it wasn't until this evening that we finally were able to make the decision.

The past twelve years have been great. Java has been my companion, my friend, my chick magnet (when he was a puppy!) and a part of my family. He's given me unconditional love, something we all need to learn a little more about. He's been with me as I was a struggling graduate student, trying to find my way in the world. As a grad school dropout, falling into computers and programming. He's been there through many (ex-) girlfriends, a wife, a new dog (Lucy) and the birth of Maya. He was Maya's protector when she was a newborn. I had hoped he'd be around as she grew older, since he is so well behaved with children...

I know I am doing what is best for Java, even though it feels like I am betraying him by failing to take care of him when he is most in need. He was always there for me when I needed him, I feel like I can't do the same right now... This would be so much easier if nature would take its own course, rather than forcing me to make this choice.

We've had a tradition for many years now. On every birthday Java gets an ice cream cone. First it was from McDonald's, later we found that Brewster's Ice Cream does a "dog bowl" which includes a small dog treat. Later this evening I'll be headed to Brewster's to buy Java one last cone. A big vanilla waffle cone, just for him. One last treat for my friend.

May peace be with you Java. You always be with me in my memories.


Cameron said...

I remember first meeting Java when you lived by Emory. It's a sad decision to make, but it sounds like what's best for Java. My thoughts are with you and Steph and with Java.

heder said...

I'm sorry. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

So sad to read this post. I know how much he meant to you and Steph.


Anonymous said...

Dean, I'm sorry to hear your bad news. :(

My parents got a dog when I was about 2 - he was a Brittany Spaniel named Sampson. This dog and I were best friends growing up and my parents always tell me funny stories that I don't remember from when I was young. He lived quite a long time, until I was about 14 or 15. We had moved to a new house about three years prior where we had acres of land and no fences and he was the happiest dog in the world. He basically ran non-stop for three years getting into everything.

And then he started slowing down, he had glaucoma and he became a bed ridden dog in a fairly short period of time.

My parents made the decision to put him down but in a classic "we think we know best" moment, they did it while my brother and I were at school. We came home to find that he was no longer with us and that we didn't have the chance to say goodbye to our friend and confidant. Even though we knew it was coming, we were crushed.

Enjoy your last ice cream cone. It's hard to lose anything or anyone, but especially tough to lose a best friend. I hope your sadness is soon replaced by fond memories.

Shawna said...

I'm sorry. :(