Glory Goodbye

Goodbye, my dear friend, Glory.  You weren’t here nearly long enough.

September 14, 1994 – September 9, 2002

Glory finally lost her battle with the immune reaction she had to her booster shots in March.  That initial reaction attacked the brain, putting her in intensive care for a week.  The immune reaction, diagnosed as “steroid-responsive suppurative meningitis”, caused swelling in the brain.  The initial reaction temporarily paralyzed her, but high doses of steroids were able to stop the reaction and reduce the swelling. All three of my vets swore that an ordinary dog would have died from the reaction, but Glory never knew the meaning of “give up”.  She had so much heart, so much courage, and such an intense joy of life that she refused to be defeated.  She walked out of the vet clinic under her own power, weak and wobbly, yes, but up and going.  She was left with residual nerve damage in the rear.  She couldn’t lift her tail up, although she could (and did!) wag it as usual.  She also had trouble lifting her rear legs up enough to travel correctly, dragging the tops of her feet slightly with each step.  At the first she wore deep sores in two areas on the top of the middle toe in each hind foot.  I rigged up a protection for those feet, so that they would heal and that she wouldn’t re-injure them.  I got a pair of men’s suspenders, clasped the two long ends together to create a “harness” that went around her neck and along the top of her back.  This enabled me to put people socks on her hind feet and legs and clip them to the remaining two pieces of the suspender.  This held the socks on her while she raced and bounced around in play.  The socks and suspenders also allowed her to frequently jump into the kiddie pool and lie down, a favorite treat during daily play sessions.

The high doses of prednisone, necessary to control the brain swelling, made her skin tissue thin, so that it looked like the skin of the people I visit in the nursing homes each week.  In June Glory got a terrible abscess on the outside of her right elbow joint.  She probably got cracks in the tender skin of the elbow callus from lying down so much because the prednisone also makes you feel miserable.  Bacteria or something gained entry into her elbow and caused the abscess.  We worked all summer to get it to heal, because one of the other side effects of steroids is that they depress the immune system.  It would heal over, then fill with fluids and break open to drain.  The vets even went into the joint and curetted the bone to try to get it to heal and quit weeping, but no luck.  Only if we could get her down to a very low dose or completely off the steriods would we ever get that wound to heal.

We slowly reduced the steroid dose, believing that we would be able to get her completely off of the prednisone is a few months, since the vet books said most patients have little permanent effects from the reaction.   It wasn’t to be for my Glory, though.  Slowly as we reduced the dose, twice we got below what she could handle and her brain swelled again, causing uncontrollable dizziness which would hit suddenly, making her lose the ability to keep her balance, causing her to fall and thrash around.  Immediate upping of the prednisone would control the dizziness, but it’s such awful stuff and has such serious side effects, we would start gradually trying again to wean her off.  The first dizzy spell came when we got her below 20 mg/day.  The second, when we dropped her below 10 mg/day.  I was giving her 10 mg one day, 5 mg the next, 10 mg the third, etc., trying to be very careful to go ever so slowly so that her own system would begin manufacturing the normal maintenance amounts.  No such luck, the brain still swelled.  It was so sad, because she obviously felt so much better on the lower doses, acted more like the character she had always been, wanted to play more–just enjoyed life much more.

The week that I was doing the 10-5-10-5 routine also happened to be the week I took Jubilee to Jackson WY to be bred (August 13-15).  I took Glory, too.  I’m so very glad I did.  She had so much fun!  She loved the traveling, especially since we went over two mountain ranges and stopped often at beautiful spots so that they could explore and sniff and enjoy their beloved mountains.  She hadn’t gotten to hike at all this year, since spring arrived after her reaction occurred.  She loved to hike, to use her nose on all the fascinating scents and to splash in the mountain creeks, seeing how much water she could spray everywhere.  Two of her grandchildren live in Jackson and all of us got together for a visit.  Glory thoroughly enjoyed being praised and spoiled and given her due as Queen Matriarch.  She wrapped all the people around her little toe as she has always delighted in doing, giving her “come hither” look to reel them in to pet her and make a fuss over her.  For the first time since her reaction, she was giving her “All’s Well with the World” look–striking a certain serene pose and sticking out about 1″ of her tongue as she beamed at us.  She also assumed her “Irresistible Pose”, lying on her back in a curved position, top of head on the floor but eyes boring into people’s eyes, a big grin on her face, waiting for someone to have to get down on the floor and give her a tummy rub.  I was so excited on that trip, seeing the old Glory, the shimmering personality that has brought me such joy over the years.  I thought then that we were going to beat this after all, that we’d get her off those awful meds that bloated her, she’d feel good enough and be strong enough to enjoy several more years of bossing everyone around.  I was so happy, because Glory was one of those one-in-a-million, totally special dogs that one so seldom is privileged to know.

Reality, in the form of another dizzy attack the day after we returned home, brutally knocked both Glory & me to the ground.  I had to up the steroids again.  Even on 35 mg/day, she would sometimes show signs of a minor dizzy spell, eyes rolling a little, swaying gently on her feet for a minute or two.  I decided to leave her on that dose for a while to be sure the swelling totally left.  On Thursday morning, September 6th, however, a new complication arose.  She was fine when we got up.  I put her in her crate while I exercised Team 1 (Droll, Bless, Ashi & Bunny).  When I got her out for exercise (Team 2 was Jubilee, Glory & Bunny), she cried and collapsed.  Not another dizzy spell, I thought.  No, she wasn’t dizzy, she just couldn’t put weight on her right front leg.  I thought it looked like the problem was in her foot but could find no swelling, no external sign of injury, very mystifying.  The vet, called, recommended aspirin, keeping her quiet, and seeing what developed.  He thought perhaps she had a sticker or something trying to fester out, and we needed to let it develop.  I was afraid it was something worse, though, because my tough, independent Glory cried as I tried to leave for work.  The only time she had ever done that was during her spell in intensive care when I would have to leave her to go to work or when the clinic closed at night.  I ended up sitting on the floor with her (bawling of course) for 10-15 minutes before she was finally resigned to my leaving.  That happened to be a day of unavoidable meetings at work, plus two classes to teach in the evening.  She was very glad to see me when I came home, but upset that I only had time to take care of puppies, feed the big dogs, and sit with her for a few minutes.  I promised her that I’d be home the following three days and would take her to the vet the next day, when I was off work.  We did go to the vet, and the x-rays revealed a bone spur on the inside of the elbow joint, same leg as the abscess we’d been fighting for 10 weeks.  It was either pressing on the nerves of the joint, or on the synovial fluid which is full of nerve endings, each time she flexed the joint.  The x-rays also showed the two places on the outside of the joint where the bone was still weeping fluid, refusing to heal.  The vet suspects that the abscess and the bone spur might be related, perhaps caused by an injury to the joint during one of her dizzy spells.  We’ll never know for sure.  He added Rimadyl to her aspirin (and prednisone and glucosamine) and said to see if that alleviated the pain.  The only other option was cortisone shots into the joint, but they are only a temporary measure and are very painful to administer.  I could think about the options, see how the Rimadyl worked, and we would confer on Monday.  The Rimadyl didn’t help.  She was definitely in pain when she walked.  She would try to keep from putting weight on her front leg but putting more weight on her hind legs, but they weren’t quite strong enough to bear the extra load.

By Saturday Glory was telling me that it was just too much.  Having two weak hind legs hadn’t bothered her at all these last 5 1/2 months.  If she swerved and pounced and moved too fast during play sessions and her hind legs went out from under her, she’d just get back up and head after her Jolly Ball.  She had refused to let that minor disability depress her or stop her play.  Now, though, she told me as plainly as if she spoke English, that her courage and her heart had carried her beyond what her body could endure any longer.  If Eddie had been home to dig the grave, I would have put her down Saturday, but he was out of town for a wedding.  I decided to give the Rimadyl more chance to work, and wait until Monday.  I knew, though, that it wouldn’t, and told her I’d put her down Monday if no miracles occurred.

She seemed to understand what I was saying and almost immediately became more peaceful.  She still suffered, but she was no longer distressed.  We spent the weekend hanging out together, being as sedentary as possible, with me giving her lots of treats and her favorite foods (anything I was eating).  I’d put the other dogs in their crates and take her out when I fed the pups and played with them.  She’d lie in the puppy yard and let them crawl all over her, nibble on her toes, and look for milk.  Once she even did her Irresistible Pose for them.  She has always loved puppies, no matter whose they wee, and would constantly do the Irresistible Pose and invite them to crawl all over her tummy and neck and play with her.  She also, when one of the other females was whelping, had always laid outside the “gate” of the whelping room, crying plaintively that she should be in there helping, making sure that new mom took care of those babies correctly!  She hadn’t done that when Ashi’s K Litter was whelped August 6th.  She had merely slept in the hallway.  She had enjoyed the pups as they grew up but hadn’t been a pest trying to get to them.  That alone had struck fear into my heart this last month.

Monday morning she was no better.  Eddie was back home and could dig her grave.  I called the vet and asked him to come that night to the house to put her down.  I gave her an extra dose of Rimadyl before I left for work, to make her comfortable.  When I got home, I took her out to play until the vet arrived.  She always loved to carry her Kong and chase the Jolly Ball, “killing” it with the Kong when she caught it, then waiting for me to kick or throw it again so that she could again pursue it.  Even though she could barely put weight on her front leg, she pursued the Jolly Ball.  the vet, when he arrived and was her, thought she was much better, but I told him he was seeing her will overcome her body, that she had been lying and panting with pain when I got home.  She didn’t want to stop playing when it was time to put her down; I had to grab her as she limpingly bounded by in pursuit of the Jolly Ball.  She soon, though, was ready to lie down and rest, keeping the Kong in her mouth as she did so.  As the anesthetic entered her vein, she made one last “NO!” protest to the unfairness of pain and the injustice of shots that are supposed to protect you and instead kill you, before she died in my arms, Kong still in her mouth.

Glory, my love, I miss you.  I miss your incorrigible spirit, your teasing personality, your clever manipulations to get one more treat, one more privilege, one more tummy rub.  I miss your commandeering of my chair and holding it hostage until I gave you a treat.  I miss seeing you show off, moving across the yard with that breathtakingly smooth floating gait that only you had.  I miss your gorgeous ruff that I could lose both hands in as I hugged you during your thorough kissing sessions.  I miss your devious mind, which always amazed me.  I’ll particularly miss your spin-off of your retrieve lessons:  you quickly learned that bringing your dumbbell earned a treat, so soon you were bringing me anything and everything you could pick up.  You especially enjoyed bringing empty food and water dishes, bowls and pans I had put on the floor to be licked clean.  Never before or since have I had a dog who so consistently adapted training exercises to her own benefit.  Of course, I never had a dog with quite your food drive either!

Going to dog shows will never be the same now, with you no longer sitting in a chair at ringside, fixing your penetrating stare on people walking by until they laughed and had to come pet you.  I’ll even miss the frustration of training you–you loved to learn new things (since I used treats to train!) but got so bored if we tried to polish those exercises in order to get titles.  I miss not being able to finish your CDX this year like we planned (well, I planned anyway).  I’ll miss the suspense if you’ll deign to qualify (like you did, getting your 1st CDX leg last summer and placing well enough that Front & Finish was willing to recognize your accomplishment).  I’ll even miss the times your didn’t qualify, like last year, the day after you placed in Open, when you jumped the high jump, retrieved your dumbbell, jumped back, then veered away from me to offer the dumbbell to everyone at ringside plus the judge before finally bringing it to me.  You had such class, even when you were being terribly naughty!

I’ll miss our visits to the nursing homes, you sitting in the wheelchair as I wheeled it down the hall, waiting for people to notice you, laugh, and come over to admire you.  I’ll miss your love and enjoyment of your grandchildren.  We never got to have that last litter together, that last time of knowing you were pregnant the day after you were bred because you were oh-so-tired, and how could I expect you to do anything like work or obey any rules when you were pregnant.

I see glimpses of you in your two daughters, Ashi & Jubilee, and in your granddaughter, Bunny.  I’m hoping that one day I’ll find a special puppy, an impossible imp just like you, will appear in one of their litters.  Not too soon, though, because I would place too many unreasonable expectations on them.  There will never be another you.  I have to come to terms with losing you before I can open my heart to one who might be like you.  Until then I’ll enjoy those who carry your genes while I let this big hole in my heart, that you tore out when you left me, heal.

I can only be grateful that you graced my life for nearly 8 years.  And that, good or bad, I enjoyed every day of the time we had together.  You rest at the edge of our play area so that you will be with us forever at our early morning exercise sessions.  I can only try, now, to wait patiently until we meet again in heaven, and hope you aren’t driving everyone up there crazy as you wait for me.

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