I am simply overwhelmed by the wonderful emails, e-cards and comments…and am once again reminded of the caring and wonderful hearts found within this community of bloggers and book group readers. I would like to respond individually to each of you, but instead decided to post this collective thank you. Please know I am reading your loving words and it helps me with the pain of Caribou’s loss. Many of you expressed surprise at her passing because she appeared to be getting better…so I thought I would give a bit of an explanation.
Three weeks ago, Caribou fell ill – a visit to the vet provided no definitive diagnosis, but we were strongly suspicious of spleen cancer. Canine spleen cancer is horribly aggressive. There is no effective treatment to prolong the dog’s life and life expectancy is typically 18 to 28 days once diagnosed. Caribou survived 24 days.
A week ago Caribou had a frightening episode where she suddenly lost control of her hind quarters and fell down. She was weak and unsteady for two days and then seemed to rally and get better. In retrospect, this was the first real sign that her spleen had begun to hemorrhage and her collapse was due to a sudden drop in blood pressure. But at the time, I was hopeful. Perhaps this is a good time to say that in the last 24 days Caribou mostly enjoyed her life. She was not in pain. She played with her toys and even chased a couple of squirrels. She woke up every morning with a smile and “can do” attitude with which she always faced the world. It was easy to pretend all was going to be okay.
On Monday, however, I began to feel uneasy. Something was not right with my girl and I was growing fearful that there might be something I had not done for her. I contacted a wonderful vet – Dr. Jen – who is a certified acupuncturist and who had helped Caribou years ago when she tore a muscle. Our appointment was yesterday. Caribou woke up seemingly okay, but as the day progressed, she seemed not like herself. By the time we got to Dr. Jen’s office, she was very lethargic. Dr. Jen gave her a thorough exam and I agreed to a 10 minute ultrasound of Caribou’s belly which confirmed our worst fears. There was a large tumor on the spleen and Caribou was actively bleeding into the capsule around the spleen. Unable to make a decision, and shocked at how quickly things were changing, Kip and I took Caribou home…hoping we would get a little more time with her. That was not to be.
Caribou’s condition worsened. We had been told that eventually the spleen would rupture and this would be catastrophic, traumatic and painful for Caribou. I knew I could never allow her to be frightened or in pain. So we called Dr. Jen who drove the 30 minutes to our home to help ease Caribou’s passing. She was in my arms, laying on her bed and with all her toys and possessions around her. At one point, she looked at me and I saw she was ready even though I never would be.
It is so hard to lose Caribou – she was so special in so many ways…from being my partner in Search and Rescue, to being the reason I got out of bed each day during a period of very deep depression, to introducing me to Kip. She was my unwavering friend, walking by my side each day and accepting me for who I am. And in the end, I am grateful that she was able to die the way she lived – with dignity and peace.