"She's passed."

Those were the final words that I heard from the nurse as he checked Paige for a heart rate with his stethoscope.  Nothing in what I had learned about life would have prepared me for this moment...because in less than 24 hours, I would lose my best friend.  This blog wasn't meant to be like the others I have posted.  This was meant as a part of my healing process...

08.04.2016 @ 1050pm

I was working on building this website that evening.  Everything seemed normal and the kids were in bed.  Kelly was preparing for bed as she leaves for work early in the morning, every morning.   My two dogs, Paige and Ariel, were presumably sleeping in their bed just like any other night.  Paige was the oldest (13) and Ariel was the smaller and feisty terrier (4).  As I was working on the blog entry, I hear one of the dogs vomit.  As such, I breathed a heavy sigh knowing that I had to clean it up.  Ariel came scurrying over next to me in a hurry, sat down, stared up at me and began to shiver.  She has never done that before. I got out of my chair and rushed towards Paige.  

I found Paige laid out halfway on her bed and halfway on Ariel's bed. I discovered what appeared to be blood and mucus coming from her mouth and a large puddle of the combination in Ariel's bed.  She just laid there...stiff as a rock but she was still breathing.  I called out to her but her eyes did not respond.  Since Paige was an older dog who was slightly deaf and blind, I waved my hand slowly across her eyes to invoke a reaction.  Nothing.  I yelled her name out.  Nothing.

Paige at 9 weeks old

Paige at 9 weeks old

Then, just like that, she snapped out of it.  She looked at me, looked at her surroundings, and then back at me.  She appeared confused and lost.  At this moment, I wanted to get her outside because her water bowl was out there.  So I called for her to go outside with me but she was struggling and couldn't stand up.  I reached for her and as I touched her, I noticed that her right side was stiffer than her left.  Her right hind leg was stiff.  I thought it was a muscle cramp so I massaged her body and legs to get her going.  Paige got up on her own but not with a few struggles.  She eventually made it outside.

Ariel accompanied Paige outside, sniffing her long-time friend frantically.  I watched over  Paige very carefully and noticed she was making small laps around our concrete pavement.  Very small 6 feet diameter circles...and I have heard that when pets are about to die, they walk along aimlessly in a circular manner before this happens.  

This was where I got nervous.  Paige did not drink one sip of water and went back into the house after making her circular laps.  Suddenly, she collapsed on the floor and went into a full blown seizure.   At this point, I called out the family to assist.

As the family came to help, I googled for a 24 hour vet.  I was NOT even close to being prepared when it came to pet emergencies. Absolutely not prepared at all.  A complete failure on my part.  

I called the first number listed on Yelp...closed.  

I called the second number...closed.  

I called a third number...closed, but it provided an alternate number for after-hours.  I called that number and  I found myself talking to a live person.  By now, Paige's seizure had subsided and she was panting frantically.  As I continued on my conversation with the front desk of this vet, Paige went into what I believe to be her third seizure.  The kids are panicking at this point and now afraid.  The vet urges me to get to their facility as quickly as possible and stated they will have staff on alert for my arrival.

I grabbed a moving blanket from the garage and created a makeshift gurney from it.  We slid Paige onto the blanket and carried her to the back of our minivan.  Just like that, I am off to the emergency veterinarian that is 12 miles away.  The drive felt like it was 120 miles away.  

Paige as a one year old pup.

Paige as a one year old pup.

08.04.2016 @ 1124pm

I finally arrived at the emergency veterinarian place.  The area was very industrial and very dark.  I wasn't sure if I was at the right place but I trusted that Google Maps had taken me to the correct location.   I rushed inside and told the front desk who I was.  At that moment, they rushed out two nurses with a wheeled gurney to the van.  I opened up the van and Paige was undergoing her FIFTH seizure...all within the past 30 minutes.  She had her fourth seizure during the drive here. The nurses picked her up and rushed her in.  The nurses turned to the front clerk and exclaimed, "She's going to be critical."  

Just like that...the doors closed and the silence of an empty lobby took over.  I stood there, staring at photos and paintings of pets on their wall.  The clerk at the front desk had prepared a small stack of paperwork for me to fill out.  I tried to clear my head as I filled them out.

08.04.2016 @ 11:45pm

The nurse came and brought me into one of the guest rooms.  She advised me they had controlled Paige's seizures by means of medication and IV.  So now the questions came as far as Paige's medical history...which was squeaky clean.  For a 13 year old dog, she has had no major medical problems, and just a few checkups here and there.  The questions went on for a while and moments later, the doctor came in.  She gave a lot of information (about possible reasons, future treatments) and what I could remember would be that a neurologist will come in the morning and assess Paige.  I filled out some more paperwork, including a form that talked about resuscitation.  I read what my eyes could see at this point, checked the box...for a DNR...and signed it.

I requested to see Paige and they brought me to the back room.  It was fairly loud with other animals in there but it wasn't like I was at the SPCA where pets are barking at the top of their lungs to get your attention.  These were sick dogs, just like my Paige.  They just laid there, barking occasionally.  The room was fairly large with different cages on the perimeter of the room.  The medical desk was located directly in the middle of this room so whomever is 'manning' the station has full view of all animals in their cages.  

Paige playing with her best friend, Joy.

Paige playing with her best friend, Joy.

Paige's cage was on the left hand side of the room, bottom row, second one in from the left.  She laid there on top of blankets and underneath another.  I could tell she was breathing but sleeping.  The nurse opened up the cage for me and I reached in to pet her...but she didn't know I was there.  She was drugged up completely.  Her nose didn't twitch at my presence nor did she open her eyes.  She just laid there and slept...which, made me feel slightly better that she wasn't seizing.  As the nurse closed the cage door, I saw her name tag on the cage.  It had her name and her breed, "Collie X", and in a big red sticker, it had the letters DNR.

08.05.2016 @ 0103am

I finally leave the vet and on the drive home, all I could think about was:  What could I have done better?  Would Paige be in this situation if I reacted even quicker?  How much is this going to cost?  Did I mess up and not buy pet insurance?  What are the kids thinking?  Is Paige scared?...because I am.

08.05.2016 @1100am

I received a call from the neurologist and he told me that Paige has had two more seizures since I left.  One at about 3am and the other at about 830am.  He said that the medication worked as it had prevented those seizures from occurring too close to each other.  As he explained, the seizures itself will not kill her...its the secondary problems that could be fatal., These problems can include organ failure from the seizing or the rise in internal body temperature.  

So the 'cluster' of seizures Paige experienced would have been fatal had I not intervened earlier because her body temperature would have risen too high.  He mentioned two things that might have started these seizures:  1) Paige had a stroke or 2) Paige has a tumor in her brain.  Without having finances to pay for a $2800 MRI scan, we opted to treat her as if she had a stroke.  

At this very moment, there was high expectation that Paige will come out of this okay.  Euthanasia was not recommended at this point from the neurologist since he believed that Paige's treatment is working.  The neurologist asked  if I wanted to stop by to visit Paige today and I told him I wanted to bring the family along as well.  He encouraged that idea and advised me to call him once I made a decision. He told me he will call me later in the afternoon for an update on Paige's condition.

Paige grooming and caring for Joy.

Paige grooming and caring for Joy.

08.05.2016 @ 445pm

I didn't hear from the neurologist all afternoon so I decided to call him.  When I heard his voice, I knew something went horribly wrong.  My heart sunk before he even had to speak about Paige.  He told me that Paige has now gone though a variety of smaller seizures...and while they were not 'grand mal seizures', they are still considered threatening because they were in clusters.  He had to inject three different types of medicine to help control it...and then some more.  The neurologist said Paige was considered 'out of it'.  The neurologist doesn't believe that Paige is aware of her surroundings nor was she aware of being in the present.  

He advised me that Paige will need to remain at the hospital for one more night.  However, he was aware about my financial situation and told me that the bill rise pretty dramatically.  He did not anticipate that we would be in our current situation.

08.05.2016 @ 600pm

We arrived at the veterinarian as a family and requested to see Paige.  This time, they moved her into a 'meeting' room.  As we walked in, she was laying on the floor on some blankets.  One blanket was folded over 4 times to be used as a makeshift pillow...and a purple colored tinker bell blanket was used to cover Paige on top.  Everyone sat on the chairs in the room but I sat on the floor in front of Paige.  Her eyes were open but she was trembling from the effects of having so much medication.  I reached out to her and started petting the top of her head and rubbing the bridge of her nose.  Her eyes remained opened but she never saw me.  During this time, we had many discussions with various staff members, nurses, emergency technicians about quality of life, caring at home, etc.

Untitled photo

The biggest draw was finances.  If she stayed one more night, this bill will skyrocket uncontrollably.  If we take her home, how will we feed her?  She can't stand let alone sit.  What if she goes back into the clusters of seizures again?  But what if she doesn't?  What if she gets back to normal?  What if the clusters had already brain damaged her?  What if she does in fact have a tumor?  What if she doesn't?  If she does have it, how many more years does she have?  What if her age prevents her from having a full recovery?  

What if...what if...what if....We cried over these questions.  I didn't think I would but I did.  My oldest cried but the two youngest (8 and 5) didn't understand.  They were focused on the cremation boxes on the table and were discussing what color they like the best.  At the end, we made a decision together as a family...and opted to send Paige to Doggie Heaven.  

Paige moments before she went to doggie heaven.

Paige moments before she went to doggie heaven.

The staff came in and had me sign more papers, talking about cremation and authorizing euthanasia.  It was quick...nothing drawn out.  The staff even told me to call them on Monday so we can discuss billing...because this time is meant for us as a family to spend with Paige.  I truly appreciated that.

When the time came, the nurse walked in with the syringes.  Having seen them before, I was scared because I knew immediately what they were.  Kelly decided to stay for the whole thing...the kids were waiting in the lobby because they didn't want to see it.  Just before the kids left, my oldest (11) went to Paige with tears streaming down her face.  She leaned in and kissed Paige on her forehead and told her 'goodbye'.  The two younger ones verbalized their goodbyes and they walk out of the room together.

As this whole thing was about to happen, I chose to lay in front of Paige and I placed my head over her head and hugged her as much as I could.  I saw the first syringe go in, to which I saw Paige's eyes open up for the first time in hours.  She opened up her eyes so wide...and for the first time in YEARS, her eyes appeared so clear.  Her cloudy eyes seemed to have disappeared and I was able to see Paige...as Paige!  Just like when she was a puppy.  For that split second, I wanted to stop the whole thing because Paige was back!!  She's Paige again!!

But I knew that wasn't reality.  Paige was out of it...and the long road to recovery might not even happen.  That was when the second syringe went in.  

I cried...and cried.  Tears rolled off my face and landed on her cheek.  I kept saying, "Im sorry Paige.  I'm so sorry."  I could hear Kelly crying behind me as she told Paige she was sorry as well.

Just like that...Paige's eyes closed halfway and the cloudiness of her eyes returned.  Paige's breathing slowed to the point where her body wasn't moving anymore.  The nurse took out his stethoscope, reached under her chest with it to hear a heartbeat.

"She's passed."

He leaves the room and both Kelly and I are sobbing at the death of our beloved Paige.  Kelly left the room but I remained with Paige alone one last time.  I thanked her for being a part of the family.  I petted her one last time and told her that she was a good dog.  I took my hands and helped her close her eyes and reached for the blanket and covered her body.

I stood up and stared at the room, and then stared at the lifeless body of my dog, who minutes ago was living and breathing.   I will never forget this moment...a purple colored Tinkerbell blanket covering up the body of a 13 year old puppy who bought so much happiness to our family.  I laid back down behind Paige and hugged her from behind before bidding a final farewell.

I got up and reluctantly walked out the door.  I starred back into the room though the glass window and I see a room without life.  On those brown tiles lay the body of my best friend covered in a blanket.  I walked out to the lobby where there rest of my family was.  We all gave each other a large group hug and walked out the front door.

Paige's bed.

Paige's bed.

Life after Paige will be difficult.  I still second guess what I did was the correct thing.  Playing that 'what-if' game is very exhausting.  It hasn't been easy and we have been dealing with it as a family.  All of us, including Ariel, have been affected and we are trying to frantically find ways to fill in that void.  I know time heals...but I can only hear that so much before it becomes meaningless.

Paige will always remain with us and no other dog can ever replace her.  The only comfort that I can take with me is that she is in heaven with our two other dogs that passed previously:  Hazel and Joy.

But I'm selfish.

I want Paige back.

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