Monday, May 5, 2014
Tribute to Lacey....
Meet Lacey! I am going to take a break from the OCD talk today to write a tribute about our wonderful labrador, Lacey. I have been thinking about her a lot lately and it is important for me to put her story on here! Unfortunately, Lacey passed away last November, at age 4, from ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). She was the most loyal pal you could have. My daughter is a big animal lover and she had wanted a dog for YEARS! Finally on her 6th birthday back in 2009, we gave her the news that we were going to get a puppy! A yellow labrador retriever. Lacey was born on July 26th, 2009. I still remember making the drive to get her, when she was 8 weeks old, t a small farm about 2-3 hours away from our house. My daughter was beaming in the backseat and sported a yellow shirt with a puppy (that looked very similar to Lacey) on it! When we arrived at the farm she was in a kennel outside the house, scratching furiously at a pile of shredded newspapers. We knew that she was going to be one determined girl from the get-go! She was such a sweet girl. Could definitely be naughty at times, but she was such a huge part of our family...and still is! I remember giving her baths at the beginning and she just hated water, which is not real typical for labs who are usually water lovers! She would hang her head and put her tail between her legs and just sit there while I bathed her though. Our walks were always an adventure. She loved to pull me around. Pretty much where she was headed....well, I was going there too, whether I wanted to or not! She loved to eat and was often found "counter surfing" in the kitchen or with her nose stuck in the trash can. She was a faithful friend, and really like a sister to my daughter. They were in about every picture together...birthdays, holidays, and just playing around outside! Lacey was a good sport and let us dress her up for Halloween, she wore birthday hats and New Years hats and joined in all of the celebrations with us. I've got the sweetes pictures of my daughter reading her books by the fireplace or on the couch and Lacey is intently wanting the story just like a child would! She liked to pay "visits" to our neighbors too! One time shortly after we moved into our new house, I took my daughter to a function and came back home and Lacey was just sitting in the living room where I had left her not ten minutes ago. A couple of days later our neighbor said "your dog paid us a visit the other day!". Apparently I must have not shut the garage door all the way and she got out, ran across the street and into our neighbors home (they were moving in at the time, so their door was open). She was such a spunky girl and wanted to make friends with everyone she met! She could deflate a soccer ball in 2 seconds flat! She was a pretty energetic girl until the summer of 2013. We had just moved into our new house then and she was approaching 4 years old. She was starting to look thinner, which we thought was a good thing because at one point she had weighed in at 90 pounds (which is huge for a female lab). An average female lab weighs about 55-70 pounds. My husband weighed her one night and she was about 65-70 pounds. I remember saying out loud, "that's not normal, she should not lose that much weight". But then the more we thought about it we realized that we had cut out almost all table foods for her. She had not access to our kitchen trash can for months after we moved in (because we have a hidden one in our kitchen cabinet under the sink now), so we thought she really was doing good and entering more of a "normal weight". She was also becoming a little less hyper, which we attributed to outgrowing the puppy stage. She wasn't lethargic by any means, just not going "full speed" like she had been. We had heard that labs take about 3-4 years to get out of the puppy stage and she was almost 4 so figured she was just starting to calm down a little. She also hadn't been eating well for a couple of weeks. It all started one day when in my tired state in the morning I filled her food dish, and then went back and instead of filling her water dish---I accidentally poured more food into her water dish (where there was already water). It soaked her food and made it spongey and it seemed like after that she didn't want to eat. We called the vet at that time and explained her not eating for a couple of weeks and they said she was just being selective about her food and to not offer her other treats. Well of course I didn't want her to go hungry so I fed her things like cheese and pasta and meat and she ate that all happily.
On October 19th, 2013 everything started going downhill. I had let her out of her kennel in the morning and she was going upstairs and she stopped halfway up the stairs on the landing and just started swaying from side to side. Then she sat there for a moment and bounded up the last half of the stairs. When she got to the top she went into our family room and again started swaying back and forth again. She looked like someone who was drunk might look....staggering. Her head started to roll around and she thudded over on her side and fell against the wall. She had the most frightened look on her face. My daughter and I witnessed the whole thing and were shrieking and screaming. We called my husband and immediately rushed her to the vet. We weren't sure if she had a seizure (that is what it had looked like to me). The vet took some blood, told us she could have epilepsy or a form of autoimmune anemia that dogs can get. Gave her a steroid and said straight to our face, "I don't think its anything to where she won't live to see her 5th birthday". We went home and bought her some canned dog food. Through the weekend she started eating better and perking up. By Monday morning I really thought everything was okay with her, she seemed so much better--really almost back to normal with eating and her energy level. I wasn't too worried about it at that time and was thinking the vet would call us and tell us everything was okay. That morning I ran some errands and had a missed call on my phone when I got home. I remember being in our family room and listening to the message and watching Lacey in front of me as I listened to the vets words. She sounded like she had been crying or was crying as she left the message. She mentioned that she got the bloodwork back and it looked like a form of leukemia, but there were some options such as chemotherapy, but most dogs didn't survive for more than a few months. It was recommended that we take her to Kansas State University where they have a veterinary teaching school. This is where we could talk with a veterinary oncologist and have questions answered and decide how we wanted to proceed. I remember all 3 of us making the trip up there just 2 days after the labwork was back. She had a bone marrow biopsy done which confirmed the diagnosis of ALL. We were devestated. They told us that most dogs live for about 2-3 months WITH treatment and 2-3 weeks WITHOUT treatment, but that ALL would ultimately claim her life. They had some very rare circumstances where dogs went into remission a little longer, but typically this is a grave prognosis. My daughter vomited several times during the visit she was so devestatated. We were all crying and sobbing through the entire day of tests/discussions. We decided to go ahead and do chemotherapy on her, as they told us that most dogs tolerate chemotherapy fairly well with minimal side effects. It would help prolong her life and give her a better qualify of life for the time that she had left. We were all set in this plan and then the vet came back in and told us that things had changed....that her Hemoglobin level was only 3.9 (normal level is 12-15) and that they didn't think she could tolerate chemotherapy. That she was severely anemic and that she probably only had a couple of days left to live. I asked the vet if there was anything else we could do. They decided to go ahead and give her a blood transfusion, and I think that was because we pushed it so much that they finally decided to try it. They told us that normally they don't give blood to their oncology patients, but we could not just take her home and watch her die over the next 2 days. We wanted to give her every chance that we could. In order to have the blood transfusion she had to stay overnight in the ICU at the hospital. We actually drove back home that night and it was horrible leaving here there 2 hours away. Of course my mind was anxious already with being a nurse and with the OCD, that I was worried about everything that could happen to her while she was there. They called us a couple of times that night to let us know that she was doing okay. The next morning we drove back there and she got her first chemotherapy infusion and we brought her home. We were warned that the blood transufion would probably last for 2-3 weeks but the vet did not believe that was enough time to get her to start making her own red blood cells, and that in another 2-3 weeks we would likely be back in the same situation with the low counts and the urgent need for red blood cells. We found a vet in our hometown that does chemo and works with oncology patients (as her regular vet did not do this). We had not been happy with our regular vet and how everything was handled, so we were so thankful to find someone else that really knew what was going on and could help her in our hometown and correspond with the oncologist in Kansas. Lacey did pretty well for the first couple weeks of chemo. She seemed to tolerate it well, she ate well, and was super hungry from being on the steroid pills still as well. She even seemed back to her rambunctious self at times. I could tell on her walks that she didn't have quite the same energy level, but boy she did want to get out and try to walk--she still had the strength to pull me around for awhile. We had a couple of bad days/nights where we felt it might be coming to the end soon. She had a couple of nights where she breathed real heavy and would go off by herself and just pace around the house--moving from one spot to another to another. You could tell she was miserable to move around. Miserable to sit still too. It was a horrible feeling of helplessness. Her blood counts looked okay during that time though. Her RBC's were staying up and the cancer cells were coming down, so we kept fighting. The vet seemed hopeful that she was doing better--not that she would be cured necessarily, but that she was responding to the treatment. There was also several times that she would have trouble putting her paws on the ground and they would kind of hang limply in front of her. We weren't sure if she was having bone pain or nerve involvement. She kept pushing through though, and we felt that just maybe she would be okay for another few months. For the last week of her life, things kind of started going downhill every day. She was less mobile and had less energy. When I took her outside to walk, we only got one or two houses down and back and she would lay at the end of the driveway or in the garage. I let her outside downstairs one evening and when I went out on the deck to call her up, she was standing at the foot of the stairs like she couldn't move. Eventually it got to the point where my husband had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom (she was never incontinent during this whole time). She would pick herself and walk about a foot and thud down on the floor. Her ears were hanging down and she was not her perky self anymore. She looked sad, her eyes looked sad. We took her to the vet for another lab draw and this time it showed her Hgb was undetectable on the lab register. The vet told us that she only had a couple of days left and her recommendation was to take her home and spend all the next day with her and bring her back that next evening to be put down. Being put down--what awful words to hear about your friend. We did spend the whole evening with her, and that night she again got dizzy in the garage. We spent the whole next day with her as a family--talking to her, petting her. Telling stories about her. Feeding her a cheeseburgher for lunch. I remember as the time approached to take her to the vet, it was the most horrible feeling. To know that in 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour, 30 minutes, our friend would be gone from this earth. As my husband picked her up and carried her to the car, it was just feeling that when we returned home she wouldn't be with us. I am crying right now as I write this, as it evokes such emotion in me. She sat in the backseat next to my daughter the whole way to the vet. It was hard to look at her in the rearview mirror, but I couldn't stop watching her. She always perked up when we got in the car, she was looking outside. Carrying her through the door of the vet, we had brought some packaged ham lunchmeat to feed her up until the end. She ate up until the very end. It just kills me inside to know that she was happily lapping up ham not 1 minute before she died. I asked the vet to draw her blood before the procedure--I just had to know if her Hgb was still undetectable, or if there was a chance that just maybe it had gone up. It hadn't. I felt horrible having them draw blood again, but I just needed to know for peace of mind that she truly wasn't going to get better. If we hadn't had her put down, she would eventually gone into shock or her heart would have probably stopped. We of course didn't want that to happen, so we knew we didn't have a choice, but it doesn't make it any easier. Some might read this and disagree with the steps that we took with our friend. Some might even say that we made her suffer too long, but I don't think so. Up until those last few days, she still seemed happy. We felt that her quality of life was still well. As with all labs though, they aim to please. They just want to make their humans happy. We have no doubt that she was probably suffering more than she let on, and that she kept hanging on for us. We have no regrets about doing the chemotherapy . After she died, we took her out to my in-laws farm and had her buried under a large tree. My husband made a coffin for her, and we read some poems and said some prayers. It is hard to have her gone--she has been gone for 5 1/2 months now and there are some days where it still doesn't seem real. We miss her here on Earth, but know that she now lives in Heaven. God has made all sorts of beautiful creatures, including animals and pets. We will all be reunited someday. Lacey joins our angel baby in Heaven too, who died as a result of a miscarriage in 2006. I know that they are playing together in Heaven. I know that Lacey is cancer free now and is not suffering anymore, and that gives me peace. We still talk about her every day. Not a day goes by that she is not thought of. Her picture stands on our fireplace mantel. In fact I accidentally call out "Lacey" when I am calling out our new dog now. I only want to make one comment about OCD in this story. No matter what kind of day I was having or how stressed out I was about the OCD on any given day, Lacey was always my faithful friend. OCD can be so isolating socially. Currently I do not go out with friends at all and avoid social gatherings with family even. I do have to go into work occasionally, but for the most part I work from home. When I do leave the house it is to take or pick up my daughter from school, or go to the grocery store or church (which I have been doing online recently through live stream services at our church). I used to be able to go outside and do things in our yard, but I'm finding myself increasingly wanting to be in my home anymore. I wasn't at this point at the time of Lacey's death, so we still experienced lots of walks and playing outside in the yard. But even if I had to go wash my knee off after Lacey licked it, or even if I yelled at her and became irate beause she got up on the counter and "maybe" licked a dish, or a piece of food on the counter,etc. (and I threw away lots of dishes/food because of this), she never held anything against me. She was always happy to see me, and she heard everything about my OCD--she was my "talk therapist" in a way. She was a good listener and a great friend. Lacey, I miss you so much and even though it is hard not having you here, I know that we will meet again someday. Until that time, run free!!!!!