Saturday, October 13, 2007

Malika's Big Adventure

This morning roommate Deb and I took the 15-year-old chow, Malika (whom we inherited from past roommates) on what I am pretty sure is only her second trip to vet in this millennium. It’s taken us quite a while to agree to take this step. Deb, in particular, was afraid that after examining Malika the vet would want us to “put her down” – and Deb could not bear one more loss in this year of so many. It’s been a tough year for her too: coming to terms with the fact that she may never be able to work again and having to tell everyone that, going on disability (due primarily to the rheumatoid arthritis that has afflicted her since she was a child), turning 50, being laid off from her job of 25 years when our ministry went out of business, and saying goodbye to some of her closest friends who moved away after the CP shutdown (see picture below of Deb and Nancy).

Back to the dog question… Me, I’m afraid I was thinking of myself. I wondered if the dog-lovers at the vet clinic might take one look at Malika’s degenerate state, and, declaring us unfit owners, take her away and lock up the two of us (probably in a plastic crate…)

None of these things happened. Deb had carefully explained over the phone that we did not want to put our dog to sleep. We wanted to get her a general physical exam, have what might be a skin condition examined and diagnosed, and get her shots up to date so we could seek out a brave grooming service who might take on her wild coat and claws (too much for mere mortals like us to tame). Oh, and to be equipped as hospice nurses so we could make her last months or years in our home more pleasant.

The verdict is that she’s lost a lot of weight – along with most of her muscle tone – has a growth on one foot that ought to be removed – and definitely needs to get rid of the way-too-thick, matted coat. Her teeth are quite bad; she’s got periodontal disease. In terms of her general health a prescription dog food, continued doses of glucosamine, and more exercise should help. The vet is also going to do some ‘blood work’ the results of which will determine if we have bigger problems, and show how risky it is to have her sedated for the grooming and teeth cleaning – neither of which she’s going to cooperate with otherwise. We’ll find out Monday. After these traumatic experiences she may be a healthier, happier dog.

It’s a relief to have this first step behind us. It’s going to take a couple more visits – and vet/groomer bills – to accomplish all that is needful, but today only set us back $198.

And how is Deb doing, you ask? OK. I think she needs continued help to live a healthy, not-entirely-isolated life, which is difficult when she’s in constant pain and tends to withdraw. Having things she’s expected to do can help her rise to the occasion but she can't help having to cancel about 60% of the plans she makes, when the day comes and she is not well. Winters are usually harder for her. So, there may be some difficult days ahead.

Deb and I are of course quite fond of and accustomed to each other and rather compatible, so unless my job situation takes me out of Colorado I expect to continue with our happy household arrangement for some time. It works well for us. And it’s economical too: how many people do you know who can get away with spending only 25% of their net pay on household expenses (including rent, all utilities, and phones), as I do? Pretty sweet deal. Much thanks is due our generous landlady, Amy.

UPDATE: The ol' D.O.G. passed her physical. After reviewing her 'blood work' the vet said 'she is in remarkably good shape for her age,' which praise Deb and I thought we'd be satisfied hearing - about ourselves, I mean. I'll swing by the vet's office tomorrow for the fancy-shmancy geriatric dog food he prescribed.


megan noel said...

audin's household has an old creaky dog who really seems to benefit from her heated dog bed. would malika like one of those?

Marti Smith said...

We bought her a (non-heated) dog bed / pillow a while back and while she will put her head on it sometimes she is largely indifferent. And being achy is a problem but being cold is not, since she is mostly inside and wears a very thick fur coat. But if, when we take her in to be groomed, she gets shaved, she may be cold. I'll keep this in mind!