Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scarlett O'Paran



Over the past month or so we had noticed Scarlett's health declining.  She could no longer lay down comfortably and we would place her front paws and head on a pillow to help her sleep better.  Her breathing was labored at best, and it was increasingly difficult for her to walk just about anywhere.  We attributed this to her deformity (she has a chest shaped like a handle which has shoved most of her internal organs out of place, including her heart) and her heart issues.  But she had just come back from the Cardiologist Vet back in March with a clean-ish bill of health.  The doctor even said she was not due for meds yet based on the fairly good EKG.  We thought we were safe.

Last night Simba walked right up to Scarlett and began to sniff out the side of her as she sat on her bed, breathing heavily.  He stayed there for a few minutes, checking her out.  On a whim, mom decided to check her out.  Immediately she felt something wrong with Scarlett's abdomen which was incredibly swollen.  Jake quickly found that it was filled with some kind of fluid.  I started looking up possibilities---liver cancer, heart failure, some unknown abdominal tumor...none of the possibilities were benign for fluid in the abdomen.

Mom called the vet this morning at 8am when they opened.  They told her to bring Scarlett in immediately and that they would begin running tests on her to see what was wrong.  About an hour later the technicians called mom back to say that they had already X-rayed her and saw that it was indeed fluid and that it would end up being one of the two options that I had read about -  cancer or heart failure.  We hoped it would be heart failure since the vet had told us once before she would not be a cadidate for surgery due to her preexisting conditions (heart & deformity).

The vet called us back this afternoon to say that it was right sided heart failure, which was something I had already read up on.  This was the absolute best outcome we could expect and I was glad it was not a mass.  The vet said they drained over a liter of fluid out of her abdomen and that they had given her a sedative so she could sleep comfortably.  They also said that they had called an ultrasound tech to come over later and do an abdominal ultrasound on Scarlett so that they could confirm this diagnosis.  It was agreed that mom and I would go pick Scarlett up around 6pm right after they had done the ultrasound.

At 5:30pm the vet called us.  It was bad news.  What they thought was right sided heart failure was actually liver cancer that had metastasized and spread throughout the stomach up through the heart.  It was literally everywhere, involving the lymphatic system.  They had to drain another half liter of fluid from Scarlett just so that the ultrasound tech could see during the procedure.  The vet also told us that unfortunately Scarlett was beginning to hemorrhage and there was nothing they could do to stop it.  They recommended that she be euthanized right then and there.

We could not believe that just yesterday she was out chasing birds and squirrels in the back yard and "protecting" us while we were swimming in the pool.

Mom, mom's sister Vicky, and myself all went down to the vet at 6:00pm tonight to be with Scarlett.  We were lead into a typical exam room, one we had been in with both Scarlett and Shadow for their routine check ups and vaccinations each year.  The door opened and in pranced Scarlett.  She immediately walked over to mom and was noticeably excited that "her people" had finally come to get her.  Then she walked over to me.  I was able to take some video and pictures of her and she looked remarkably well, especially compared to how she looked the last week or so.

Her stomach was totally deflated, as it should have been, and she was able to walk much more easily.  Her breathing was 200% better, although still labored.  Scarlett continued walking around the room, greeting everyone over and over again.  The vet explained everything to us once more and reached down to show us Scarlett's stomach.  As she pulled up her massive amounts of fur, you could see (where the shaved her underside) black, blue, and red as though someone had totally beat her up.  There was fluid leaking from where they had drained the excess fluid, but aside from that she looked just like the Scarlett we all knew and loved.

They first administered a sedative, and Scarlett was a perfect lady during the entire thing.  She did not, however, want to lay down next to mom.  She wanted to continue walking around the room visiting "her people."  Finally mom coaxed her into laying down next to her.  She got pretty sleepy, but never closed her eyes.  Mom said that when Shadow was put to sleep at this point he did close his eyes.  Scarlett was different, however.  She knew that she still had "work" to do.  We spent about 25 minutes with her while she laid down.

Then the vet came back in with the lethal injection.  She checked Scarlett one more time to see what her stomach looked like---sure enough it was still the same, if not worse.  I held her left paw and the vet administered the shot in her right paw.  She was gone before the vet even got to the halfway point for the shot.

I am glad that I didn't have to see Shadow go through this a few years ago, but I am also glad that mom didn't have to put another dog to sleep on her own.  Scarlett was much too young to die, and Rhett is already lost without her, but I know she is finally with Shadow again.

Scarlett O'Paran
May 8, 2003 - June 3, 2010

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