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Circling, circling, circling

Circling, circling, circling until she would collapse, that is how our beloved pet spent her last five days on this earth.

Last Wednesday we took our 13 year old shih tzu to the vet for her annual check-up.  Other than some heinously bad breath, sweet little Maddie was a healthy, happy, blind as a bat, little dog. Well, the doctor told us that her tooth was infected and a mass was growing on her gum.  The tooth needed to come out and the mass removed.  The doctor explained that dental work on a dog requires anesthesia, but it’s pretty routine.

Thursday morning we brought Maddie to the vet for her to have her dental issues taken care of and some tartar scraped off of her teeth.  I anxiously carried my cell phone close to my heart all day (I have a tendency to stick my phone in my bra), waiting for the call from the vet saying everything was OK.  Finally the call came.  The procedure went well, the mass was easily removed.  Maddie was awake, but agitated.  We picked her up early thinking that being at home would calm her down

When we arrived at the vet’s office they brought Maddie to us.  Normally she would greet us with her tail wagging frantically as she would squirm out of the technician’s arms to get to us.  On this day, she seemed disoriented.  We figured the anesthesia hadn’t worn off and the pain killers were kicking in.  We took her home and figured she would sleep for the rest of the day, after all that’s what she would do 20 hours a day on any other day.

Maddie didn’t sleep during the day.  She wandered aimlessly around the house and began to circle.  We thought when my husband came home she would settle down a bit.  That wasn’t to be.  She didn’t even seem to recognize him.  That night we went upstairs to bed and brought Maddie with us as we always do.  Sleep completely alluded us that night.  She whimpered, whined, and cried all night.  Could she be in pain?  We knew she had a pretty heavy duty pain killer in her system, so she she shouldn’t be in pain.  Every time we tried to settle her into bed with us she would squirm and whine.  She wanted to be on the floor.  She wanted to circle.  All night we did this.  Eventually she collapsed in my arms for 30 minutes of rest, but it wasn’t enough.

Back to the vet we went.  No, she can’t be in pain.  The painkiller is pretty heavy duty and truly the dental work hadn’t been that invasive.  The circling seems to indicate that she has a neurological problem – a blood clot or a brain tumor.  Perhaps it’s an allergic reaction to the medication.  We tried benadryl but with limited effect.  The whining stopped, but the circling did not and she still wouldn’t sleep.  We spent another sleepless night with our circling dog.  She always circled to the right.  Starting with big circles and spiraling inward  finally reaching the center point when she would spin without moving her rear legs until she’d collapse.  After a few moments she’d pick herself up and start with large cirlces again.

During the day she would circle.  At night she would circle and whine and cry.  It would break our hearts to hear her.  Our dog who slept 20 hours a day hadn’t slept in days.  She wouldn’t eat.  She wouldn’t drink.  She couldn’t smell.  She didn’t know us.  She was just a circling dog.

On Saturday my husband went back to the vet to pick up a prescription for doggie valium.  We thought, if she would just sleep she would feel so much better.  Again the circling continued during the day and she seemed almost calmer.  That night she started the crying again.  We tried the valium.  She ate some turkey.  She drank some water.  We had a glimmer of hope.  My husband brought her outside since she drank so much water.  He called to me – “You have to come see this.”  Our sad little doggie was having the time of her life prancing around in circles on our lawn.  Yes, prancing.  She couldn’t have been happier it seemed.  Her body, fed and watered, seemed ecstatic.  But the tell tale signs that all was not well were still there.  She was prancing in a circle – always to the right.  Her tail was as low as it could go.

We thought after all her running outside, the food, the water, and the valium she would sleep.  No.  We spent our third sleepless night letting her pace and circle.  She whined and cried all night.

On Sunday we saw the vet again. She had never seen a dog come out of anesthesia like this before.  She could send us to a neurologist, but Maddie still might not recover.  By Sunday afternoon the morphine-like pain killers wore off and Maddie was finally able to rest some – 20 maybe 30 minutes at a time.  Again that night was the same as the other nights – the whining and crying, the pacing and circling.

Monday afternoon we flew to Boston with her.  The trip had been planned for months.  As of Wednesday she had been scheduled to stay with our friend for the month we would be gone.  We brought her with us because we needed to be with her as much as she needed to be with us.  Somehow we managed to feed her a McDonald’s hamburger with the valium.  Not the healthiest food to feed a dog, but it was calories and valium inside her.  Calm as a cucumber she was throughout the entire flight.  We were so grateful.  We had hope.  If she’s sleeping maybe she’ll be better.  Monday night was the worst night.  She was almost inconsolable despite the medication we’d given her.  She whimpered and whined in my arms squirming to get out so she could circle the floor.  The compulsion to go clockwise seemed to overwhelm her.  A few times she turned into a corner and got stuck.   She’d cry and cry pushing against the furniture hoping it would budge so she could continue on her path.  She wouldn’t turn to the left.  She was happiest outside, running in circles so that’s where my husband spent the night.

We decided to call a local veterinarian Tuesday morning.  Maddie wasn’t getting better, in fact she seemed to be getting worse in some ways.  Yes, she was prancing around outside – but always in a circle.  She was refusing to eat.  She hadn’t had much to drink.  And while she would rest, she wouldn’t sleep for much longer than a cat nap.  She couldn’t smell.  She didn’t know who we were.  Our happy, loving dog was no longer with us mentally.  The new vet did not have much hope for us either.  There were a few more drugs we could try, but we said no.

My husband said good-bye to Maddie and ran outside.  This was so hard for him.  The doctor gave her a sedative to calm her down.

I sat there in the office with my Maddie, holding her, petting her, kissing her.  I told her about all the wonderful memories we had of her.  How everyone loved her and thought she was the cutest dog ever.  How sweet and kind she was.  How much she loved our boys when they were born and would watch over them.  How she stole Obi’s binkies.   How she would stow away in the basket of the stroller not wanting to be left behind for the afternoon walk. How she watched over them.   How she loved to pose for pictures with them.  How much she loved going to the beach and digging under our friend’s chair for shade.  How she would run and run and run on the beach, occasionally stopping to look back at us making sure we knew where she was.  How she HATED going in the water and would walk just above the water line parallel to us as we strolled on the beach.  How she loved the snow which would cling to her coat in huge clumps, but hated the cold.  How she would curl up in bed every night with Charlie snacking on popcorn and sunflower seeds with him.  How popcorn was her favorite and it was almost impossible to watch a movie and eat popcorn when she was around.  How she would get so excited to see us, she would pee.  How she would wait at the door for Charlie to get home.

I told her what a sweet puppy she was – what a good puppy she was.  I told her how very much we loved her and how much we were going to miss her.  I told her how very, very sorry that she had to suffer as she did the last five days.

I stayed with Maddie as the doctor administered the drugs that would stop her heart.  I had too.  Maddie loved our family so much. After watching her maniacally circling for five days, I needed to see my adorable, sweet puppy at peace again.


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