Minutes from being Euthanized, Hershey Dog Bounces Back – Enjoying Quality Bonus Life A Week later

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Over a week since we nearly lost Hershey – thank God our better judgement kicked in – it’s been a revelation with a very energized Hershey no where near ready to leave his happy place on earth. We had such a good time the first night celebrating Hershey’s first bonus day here at Skipolini’s Pizza in Clayton (you can’t see Hershey but he’s enjoying a healthy dinner of sliced chicken and mozzerella balls . Since then we’ve made it a plan to adventure to a different pet friendly place   nearly every nite, to Lazy Dog Concord In and Out Pleasant HIll ( which also caters to dogs with salt free meat patties only 75 c each) , Mel’s Diner and Crepes O Lait Walnut Creek. Also, a late night picnic in cold Heather Farms Park , W.C.  We only now realized how much hershey enjoys the night life – a real ‘swinger’ as they used to say. Below is Hershey with guardian Mindy at Crepes O Lait just before closing time …. Read full (wild) details below

 Mr Maple and Hershey enjoying second chances

Mr Maple and Hershey enjoying second chances

Labor Day, 2018

ANOTHER DAY:  Raising the Dead  or, at least,  Giving the Terminal

(Aren’t We All?) Another Chance – aka Hershey The Comeback Dog

 

    You’d never know by his demeanor, but it’s been a tough year for 13 year old Hershey dog.  He had been diagnosed with a heart murmur which developed into full blown heart disease last year. In February it was anal sac cancer  along with elevated kidney and liver levels. Earlier  here was an ear issue where Hershey’s ear would constantly balloon up with fluid , looking like a cauliflower- something that would repeat itself over and over until it finally calmed down after being drained.  In June, Hershey’s  cardiac issues became so bad he would cough every time he got up or lay down.  In between it was constant panting.    Fortunately, a regimen of 8-10 pills   calmed things down through the summer. Then, there were Hershey’s failing back legs. Talk about nine lives. Hershey was well on his way – and for a dog!  But then,  it took the ‘miracle’ drug, doxacyclene, and prednisone to calm things , but these only worked for short term.    In recent weeks Hershey got so bad his coughing and panting sounded more like a railroad train than a dog, and he would end up in emergency on numerous occasions.  Eating became eratic and getting the pills down him a near nightmare.          Hershey’s guardian, Mindy (as well  as friend and helper, Burt) turned philosophical , feeling   grateful to have had Hershey  as long as she did with so many issues, knowing full well Hershey’s days may be nearing an end. Then, on August 27 the fateful day came with Dr N in the room where Mindy ,Burt and Hershey awaited to euthanize  their favorite Labby .  Mindy had even signed the papers.  But, then Mindy suddenly noticed something about Hershey that led her to cancel the euthanasia – and Hershey remains with her , perhaps miraculously,  to this day!

Several months ago I purchased a potted Japanese Maple – my favorite shade tree – to live on my back porch.  My previous maples had all lived for many years despite beingin pots. But, this one – darn-  didn’t make it past three months.  Perhaps it was my fault for not sooner transferring the tree to a bigger pot.  I had fertilized and watered well, but to no avail. When I finally did transfer the tree to a bigger pot,  it was too late.  With not a sprig of green to be found left on the branches, I prepared to make history of this poor tree. I felt really bad and brushed up on ‘tree pruning  ‘ for one last  ‘miracle’ effort to save my new ‘friend.’  Never before had I pruned anything but I attempted to see if this might just bring ‘maple’ back to life though with little hope.

      During this time, another dear friend, Hershey dog  was not doing well. Diagnosed with heart disease some time ago, Hershey’s recent days were limited to  short walks accompanied by loud coughing and panting.   Even sleeping was  hard for him as he had difficulty catching his breath.  Even the ‘miracle drug’ (as the vet called it) – doxycycline – didn’t do much good after one week with limited success in slowing Hershey’s coughing and panting.  This was no life for a Hershey but he soldiered on as many pets often do, moreso than many humans.  Perhaps Hershey had lived longer than many dogs in the same situation, thanks to a stubborn determination and pet owners who would not deny him any possible advantage.  The finest foods, expensive heart medication, favorite short walks and car rides –    even an occasional trip to Burger King when nothing else would get Hershey to eat. Hershey had already been called a ‘miracle dog’ for surviving anal sac cancer, kidney and liver disease but now his heart had become so big  – in the bad way –   that it was rubbing against other vital organs causing the panting and coughing and obvious discomfort.  Late nights would find Hershey barking  constantly to make the pain go away; the only thing that seemed to help was constant attention and late night rides and walks until he would tire himself out so much that he WOULD finally get some sleep.  Some of ot the late night rides ended up at Hershey’s  24/7 vet . Yet  there was nothing else the vet could do. Even though Hershey was not yet officially labeled with ‘heart failure’ , fluids had already started leading out and it was but a  matter of time that that  huge heart – like a bursting dam- could no longer hold back the pressure of the blood building up.  Sadly, with a cooler September  only a couple days away,  The clock was ticking off what looked like final hours or even minutes for Hersh. Would he even see September?

Meanwhile, Hershey’s plant connection, Mr. Maple, was showing no improvement either. As  I prepared to make the sad trip to the mulch pit, I did one final time look for ANY signs of life. I had found Mr. Maple at a friendly driveway sale in Walnut Creek, where he was purchased for a song –  all of $25 for a grown tree that would normally go for closer to $100. Perhaps you get what you pay for and it was again my fault for perhaps taking on a ‘defective’ tree.  However,  upon closer scrutiny , I did manage to find the smallest of green growth emanating near the tree’s base. . But only this one sign of life. I didn’t get too hopeful, figuring I’d give it another day or two just in case.  And, lo and behold, two days later saw a second  green sprig emerge.  Another couple days  passed my next check found at least four new  areas of growth, one higher up on the branches. I was overjoyed, especially now dealing with Hershey.  I didn’t need DOUBLE DISPLEASURE.

Back at the Vet, Dr. N had been away for the long final weekend  of August and our emails and calls   had been put on hold.  On Sunday night August 29, we could wait no longer. Hershey’s  coughing worsened and at three in the morning I was summoned to help  get Hershey to the vet.  The doctor on call gave us little to hang on to.  Hershey’s heart size had increased greatly since last month’s xray and ultra-sound.  We agreed it might be best to leave Hershey, {who was hyperventilating, panting and coughing)  at the vet until Dr N came in five hours later.

Finally, as Hershey was sinking, we heard back from  Dr N  to go ahead and try giving Hershey another dose of ‘Dox’ and, if that failed, there was still predisone to try- or so he/we thought.   He said to call by Friday, Aug 31 to consider whether or not to start Hershey on predisone. But, sadly, it never got that far.   When we  picked up Hershey from the vet  only hours later, now Monday morning, after Dr N had a chance to see Hershey and the xrays, it was a different story.

Hershey now   had a much enlarged heart AND  cancer growth on it, along with fluids leaking from the heart. Though Hershey wasn’t officially in ‘heart failure’ at this point, it was ‘only a matter of time,’ according to another vet. We knew Hershey had   serious issues which were multiplying.

That satisfied feeling after devouring a teriyaki chicken rice bowl at Jack in the Box

LOOKING BACK:  HERSHEY ‘THE COMEBACK DOG’

In February, Hershey  began to ‘fall apart.’ First had been diagnosed with anal sack cancer along with advanced heart disease – the hatter we had known about. After recovering from the anal cancer surgery, he would be diagnosed with Laraginal Paralysis (or LarPar).  One of the reasons he was coughing and panting so much is that is airwaves were blacked by ‘lazy’ flap that would close up in larynx.  We weren’t sure anything could be done but learned that there was a surgery that could tie  back one half of the protruding flap that would open up the airwave for Hershey to breathe.  We quickly opted for that big surgery, which went well land did allow Hershey yet another lease on life.

But then there was also the heart. We didn’t know that his heart had enlarged. Prior to that he had had numerous growths removed  , none of them cancerous.   Well, Hershey bounced back from all the above    but he was the coughing and panting was back, now due  largely to his enlarged heart pressing on his vital organs. He also had elevated kidney and liver enzymes. He was put on predisone and other heart medications.  He had as many as eight pills and pieces his mom , Mindy , or I had to ‘get down’ him  . Hershey was now limited to short walks which upset him very much – and he let us know by beginning to demand bark.  We felt sorry for him and wanted to make what appeared perhaps his last days tolerable if not somewhat  enjoyable. It didn’t help that we were in the peak of summer, where days in Concord could  hit triple digits – and did for long stretches.

With Doctor’s permission we began taking Hershey for ‘burger runs’ at nearby Burger King as hamburgers were about the only thing   in which we could camouflage the pills that Hershey would eat.

fourth bowl for Hers at Lazy Dog 9-2-18

fourth bowl for Hers at Lazy Dog 9-2-18

Hamburger Hershey, Miracle Dog’   and Burger King to the Rescue

Normally, Hershey had a pretty good appetite, like most labs, but these were no longer normal times. The only sure things were fresh cooked chicken and rice. Normal dog food was hit and miss. And there was no sure way to get the pills into Hershey-to be sure that Hershey ate all the pills. Even pill pockets didn’t always work – even with cheese or peanut butter. Burger King to the rescue. We were able to ‘bury’ Hershey’s pills between the hamburger meat and bun. This has been a regular morning routine for the past month or two, preceded by short  walks a our favorite local parks. Then there was the issue of getting Hershey back into the car when he either didn’t want to or wasn’t able to. Fortunately,  80 lbs. was within Burt’s lifting regimen.  Hershey’s back legs were no longer working as they once did , though once Hershey got into his rhythm you’d hardly know he had bad hips.

Hershey looked forward to his morning stops at Burger King, after our walks. He would get to eat half a burger in the parking lot and the rest at home, with his pills ensconced within.  So, a fun routine began to develop. They began to know us a Burger King and knew our order the moment they heard my voice and Hershey’s barking on the drive-thru speaker what we would order.

Now Twice Daily Wallks

Knowing that things were touch and go with Hershey,  I decided I wanted to do everything I could from this point on to help make my best doggie friend’s remaining days the best possible. So  I began coming around  to   Mindy’s house to take out Hershey for walks and fun now TWICE A DAY instead of just In the evenings.  Though I wasn’t getting much work done- work could wait- I enjoyed our morning walks and later ‘breakfasts’ with Hershey in Mindy’s back yard after we got back from our walks at various favorite Concord area parks – our favorite being  the lush Markham Gardens, followed by Hillcrest and nearby Baldwin Park.  We would also do monthly, or so, ‘wash and walks’ at/near the Pet Food Express in Pleasant Hill.

I think this new regimen gave not only Hershey a new meaning and purpose as it did us – that being to keep Hershey happy while perhaps extending his life. I  immediately noticed a new spark  in Hershey with the  twice-a -day visits.  One man with a 15- year- old collie mix who we ran into just yesterday at Markham, told us of his similar situation  and how he thought the extra walks kept his ‘guy ‘ from being bored at home where one could be ‘too’ careful NOT giving an older dog enough attention. Even if something bad WAS   to happen at least these ‘guys’ were living out their lives with zest, as they would probably prefer ,  rather than   stuck at home with  of an over-protective guardian.

Yes, there were times when Hershey wasn’t able to jump back into the car on his own power and there was the occasional mess in the car – but no problem. We were there to help – and Hershey didn’t seem to mind, maybe he  even appreciated. Fortunately, as necessary, I was able to lift  the 80-pound Hershey and help him in the car. But , most of the time Hershey was still able to jump into the back seat, especially when I parked the car next to an elevated curb which gave him a  head start.

Full, Quality Life Despite All the Medical Issues

Even with the medical issues, One wouldn’t know Hershey was nearing around 13 or 14 – nearly as ripe   an old age Labrador retrievers get.  This gave us some solice knowing that whatever now happened to Hershey, he had already lived out about as long – and full-a  life as a lab could ask. Still at his ‘playing weight’ when Hershey got going he still had a bounce in his step and would outdo most other dogs his age. However, people did wonder about the strange-looking ‘head-dress’ that kept out the foxtails he had been so fond of eating and which may have  contributed to some of his earlier medical issues.  So, paying attention to these extraneous issues – and with preventative (and more) top medical care – Hershey has been able to live out a pretty full life even after so many serious medical issues.

 

DAY OF RECKONING- AUGUST 27, 2018

So, we are back LIVE with Hershey being kept overnight at the vet hospital after a frantic night of panting and coughing.  The only reason we left there is that Doctor N would be back in the morning – only hours after we dropped off Hershey – plus, they promised to give Hershey some sedation to calm the heavy breathing which had been confounding us – and Hershey .

Dr N would be calling us in the morning after he came in and checked on Hershey’s xray.  We were hoping the Predisone option would still be available since the ‘Dox’ medicine appeared NO LONGER an option.  We hoped modern medicine would come through once again – though we tried to prepare for anything.  As my personal belief goes:  PREPARE FOR THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST.

 THE CALL 

Around 9 am- only five hours after leaving Hershey at the vet hospital-  my phone rang. It was Dr. N on the other line. He had not been able to reach Mindy, who slept through his call to her.  So, I was the one to get the BAD NEWS. Dr N was very blunt, telling now of not only Hershey’s VERY enlarged heart but also his new cancer and fluids leaking from the heart. He did the proverbial  ‘If it were my dog…’   The writing was not only on the wall but all around me.  HERSHEY WOULDN’T SEE SEPTEMBER. IT WAS APPARENT TODAY WOULD BE HIS LAST DAY.  Doctor doubted Hershey would be able to live more than another day or two on his own.  The expected plan was for Mindy and me to come to the vet later that morning and say our last goodbyes to Hershey.

I listened to Dr N with my own broken heart to the news I did NOT want to hear.  At least poor Mindy wouldn’t have to hear this blunt facts directly. I would later try to filter it a bit so as to break the blow.

I gave Mindy another hour of sleep before calling her, what after a harrowing, short/long night. I wasn’t able to sleep much, myself,  after getting the news.  When I did call Mindy she was inconsolable.  So much so that she had to call  Dr N, herself, to make sure this news was really true. Not that she didn’t believe  me but just to make sure before embarking on that final, devastating step.

AT THE VET – FINAL MOMENTS WITH HERSHEY?

        After a tortuous night and even worse morning for us, Mindy and I agreed to meet at the vet around 11 am to say goodbye to Hershey.

After what seemed like hours of waiting in the little cubicle at the vet, a tech came in with the ugly elements which would be used to euthanize (hard to even say the word) Hershey.  We would have to sign off and agree to such and such…. It was very difficult but we were doing what we were TOLD was best for Hershey. They said his quality of life was gone and this was the humane thing to do.

And then, the tech brought Hershey in the room. He suddenly bounded in, smiling, and appeared very glad to see us. He immediately drank the water Dr N later told us they could not get him to drink.

Then, as we had nearly filled out the paperwork and Dr N appeared, Mindy said something startling.

“It is NOT time for Hershey to go. Look at him. I thought he  was going to be dragging in here but  he looks like he did before all this happened – full of energy and life.’

It woke me up , too.  This was not a dog ready to be euthanized. I agreed with Mindy to stop the proceedings and take Hershey back home.  A rather surprised Dr N agreed, noting Hershey might live another day or two or three, possibly more.  Well, it’s already been more than SIX days and we’re , again , SAVORING every moment.

 

In all due fairness to Dr N, and staff,  they may have just been going along with what their patients have wanted in the past. After all, pets are still at the mercy of their owners (we prefer the word ‘guardians’).  Sadly, some people likely may take the premature route, instead of making the extra effort to care for an older pet with issues. If only they knew what they would  GET BACK  by investing a little extra effort during which they could enjoy more BONUS DAYS as could their pet WITH QUALITY LIFE. A little work , yes, but ALL WORTH IT.

 

ANOTHER  DAY(S)!  – Daily Adventures with Hershey

     We’ve ramped it up! Ever since Mindy ‘s ‘wake up call’  we have truly been savoring the days – all SIX of them so far- with Hershey.

On Thursday, August 30, Hershey  – NAPA   We  took a nice morning ride with Hershey to Hillcrest Park with a stop at  Burger King for a burger (in which we could hide Hershey’s pills). Of course, he would get his favorite , healthy daily breakfast of cooked chicken and rice in broth. That afternoon we ventured to Napa and Jamison Winery where we had a wonderful visit with some very nice, accommodating folks. There we would give Hershey his afternoon meal, which we brought with us. Hershey was in his element, walking well and even climbing up and down 10 stairs before relaxing high up  on the beautiful patio, overlooking  Napa valley.

FRIDAY, AUG 31  SKIPOLINI’S PIZZA, CLAYTON – We celebrated the LAST DAY OF AUGUST AND IMPENDING NEW MONTH OF SEPTEMBER   with Hershey at this wonderful family-and-pet-friendly pizza parlor.

SATURDAY Sept 1 – MARKHAM GARDENS and jack in the Box Teriyaki Bowl  We all got in the car and ventured out to Hershey and our favorite park, Markham, followed by a visit to  Jack in the Box for a healthy rice and chicken and veggie bowl. OK , so the teriyaki sauce had a lot of salt in it. At this point why worry(?) though next time (hopefully) I will get the teriyaki sauce on the side.

SUNDAY SEPT 2 and into the future– WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAVE IN STORE? Tentitively, it will be LAZY DOG in Concord – another favorite pet friendly dining experience 

 

 

God  Given ‘BONUS DAYS”  Make  A Difference

It’s almost as if God says ‘ I’m  going to give Hershey a few more days. Use them wisely.’

And I think we have. Not everyone gets the chance. The last dog, Stormy,  was put down the same day he was diagnosed with  stage 5 cancer; it took months to get over that one.

With Hershey I think it will be much easier when the time comes to say good bye for good, after knowing we did the right thing parlllaying these ‘bonus days’ into some of the best days of our lives. Too bad people don’t have the same sense of urgency before bad things happen.   With Hershey’s guidance I will continue doing those ‘extra’ things we didn’t do before, enjoying the moment NOW rather than putting things off for a time that might never come.

 

NOT SO FINAL THOUGHTS

So, it’s September and Hershey is still with us. Call it a miracle or just enjoy it. Each moment. Every one of them counts.  Whatever and whenever it  happens now should be easier to accept. But why dwell on that and just savor each remaining hour and moment  we have with Hershey. Hope  you can do the same with your dog or pet when the Day of Reckoning comes for you.



SPOIL YOUR DOG with BARK BOX

– You May Never Get Another Chance

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1 Comment

  1. Great story and photos to describe all your efforts and Hershey’s determination to live.The best to you all! Thinking of you, Helen

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