We lost Mickey on Tuesday. After a torturous decision, we decided it was the right thing to do and we put him down. Losing a dog like Mickey is one of the hardest, most emotional things that I have ever experienced.
His pancreatitis came back with a vengeance and last Monday morning he began to get sicker than he’d been two months earlier. A trip to the vet on the Thursday prior and a quick ultrasound turned up nothing, but we were sent home with antibiotics to combat a potential urinary tract infection. (Ever since his first pancreatitis and gall bladder attack in June, he developed a nearly insatiable thirst for water. And although he became a prodigious pee-er, he never went in the house.) A Monday afternoon appointment got him a camel back of fluids and some pills for back pain by the #2 vet at the office whose bedside manner was like a scolding nursery school teacher. A few hours later, after not eating, throwing up twice, he barely moved. Hardly the Mickey we know. He didn’t want to go on a walk. I struggled to get him to walk a half a block, and after he went to the bathroom, I had to carry him home. And then he followed us wherever we where and flattened his body against the cool surface of the floor. Poor little guy, so profoundly uncomfortable.
Shelly took him to the emergency vet in the evening. She left him in their care for tests, more ultrasounds, and a date with the specialist. He had become so nauseated that he was drooling. Tests the next day uncovered nothing but bad news. His pancreatitis was back and his gall bladder problem had gotten much worse, even with his new diet and all the meds he was on. And as an aside, they don’t know why they hadn’t caught it before, but they had discovered a heart murmur. A mild one, a two on a scale of ten, but a heart murmur in any case. So, they wanted to remove his gall bladder before it literally burst. An option that we had discussed back in June with the doctor, but because of his age, around 15, and his other internal infections she didn’t recommend it. So, here we were two months later, with a different doctor and opinion who told us that she would have had it removed then and his chance of making it through the surgery even now was about 80% because he was such a strong dog. However, the surgery was no guarantee that the very painful pancreatitis might return. So, quality of life, logic, gut instinct, and everything else raced through our minds. The price tag for the surgery, between $5,000 and $8,000, was also a concern.
The decision was made and then the painful realization of figuring out how, when, where. Do we bring him back home? Could we get someone on short notice? Shelly called one person who made house calls like this, but her lack of, shall we say, compassion and bedside manner, ruled her out. “Where you at?” was her first question, and it was downhill from there.
We made the painful drive down to San Leandro, paid the necessary bills, and then joined our little guy in a room. The step by step here is too raw to recount, so let’s just say that his wagging tail and little cry when he saw us, didn’t help make things any easier. Shelly wanted to see him completely out of it so she could come to terms with our decision. I just wanted to see the Mickey I know. And then we did a crazy thing and had the doctor bring him some food and water. He had to be pulled away from both because by now all the pain meds had kicked in and he was feeling better. I was there until just before the final moments. Couldn’t go through watching the whole thing. Just couldn’t.
The days since have been numbing. To make matters worse, Frances has been completely unfazed. She’s almost giddy. Yes, Mickey had been the alpha. A little 25-pound tough guy to her 75-pound wuss. She’s now back to being queen bee and seemingly enjoying every minute of it.
He graced our lives for nearly five years. It would have been five years this November. Back then, Frances was still recovering from IBD and the eating problems that came as a result. Our vet told us another dog might help snap her out of not wanting to eat. And then, that summer, in our neighborhood, Mickey appeared. He showed up nearly every morning at an intersection, just around the corner from our house. He was off leash, but very cute and inquisitive, so naturally I tried to befriend him and find out his story. Over the course of a few weeks, he came to expect us, and on few occasions, crawled into my lap for a treat. Frances was excited to see him and one day he followed us around during our walk. And most important, Frances would eat treats when he was around. I figured out his name from a handwritten collar. One day, I noticed him following a woman around and asked her what kind of dog was he and how old? She said she didn’t really know because she was watching him for a friend and she was thinking of taking him to the pound because her friend had decided to move out of the state and didn’t want him back. I immediately replied, well, before you take him to the pound, bring him to my house and we’ll place him.
A few weeks later, as we were leaving the house to go see a Sunday matinee of “Lost in Translation,” up drove the woman, complete with Mickey, a dirty bathroom rug, and a huge bag of store-brand dog food. And boom, he was in our house. And boom, he was in Shelly’s lap, and boom, 15 minutes later Shelly declared him placed.
And Frances went from a timid, skinny, spoiled only dog to a more loving, sometimes fat, spoiled second-in-command dog. We later found out that we were his fourth family. He grew up in east Oakland on 82nd (I think he was named for Mickey D’s), and his first owner died and a family next door adopted him. The family then moved and left him, and the person who eventually left the state and him behind, adopted him.
Mickey changed our lives and we will miss him forever.