Two weeks and one day ago, Bodhi died. Our beloved Black Labrador, only three and a half years old, was acting strangely in the couple weeks before he died. He seemed depressed, less tail wagging. A few days later, he was acting oddly with his food and water – he’d take water or food from some places but not others. We took him to the vet, thinking maybe he had a thyroid problem or perhaps he really was depressed (he lost his corgi brother a few months ago; depression didn’t seem that far-fetched).
We took him to the vet, where they diagnosed him with idiopathic acute hepatic failure (liver failure). The word idiopathic means “cause unknown”. Something, many months ago, perhaps over a year ago, had gotten into his system – that, or possibly he was born with copper storage hepatopathy. We wracked our brains, and the brains of some wonderful vets, trying to understand what toxin he could have ingested or been exposed to, and we came up with nothing. We’re left with a mystery.
We’re left without our Bodhi. By the time we found this, he was at the very end. His youth and otherwise good health made this undetectable until it was too late. When we discovered the problem, it was already finished. His liver function was down to almost nothing.
I don’t have the heart to write a big post about it, but I do want to note it here. In place of an original post, I’ve decided to just consolidate my Facebook status updates around his passing.
bo is sick. at the vet now. his liver isn’t working right. we may end up at emergency vet today for ultrasound.
This was earlier, at the regular vet. I just take pictures. It helps me.
at the Access emergency vet now, waiting for doctor. Bo’s abdomen is filled with fluid and liver function is off. Bilirubin high. We took both pups in to get looked at, finn is healthy and fine, got his shots. Bo is not okay. Finn is home, we took Bo to emergency vet. I,m repeating myself sorry. On ipad. walked in and just flashbacks, i can’t tell you. this is where ollie died. i can’t do this again. please pray for Bo. he’s the heart of our whole family. finn is worried about him, too.
i don’t know what to do. they say he’ll need to be here all day and we should drop him off, screw that, i brought my big backpack. i’m here with him all day. i’m never leaving a dog alone at a vet again. greg is here, he’ll go get us food and pick up miles later. jason is on his way home.
UPDATE. Hey everyone – we’re at home right now. Bodhi is still at the emergency vet. When we left, things weren’t looking great, but they were stable. He’s a very sick dog. Our vet thought pancreatitis, and when we left, she urged me to go with Greg, saying that Bo was totally stable and fine for now, and that in the next few hours, he’d be getting fluids, and an ultrasound. Also, that they had no rooms right now to put me, anyway, so if I did stay, I couldn’t sit with Bo anyway. So I’m home now, with Greg. Jason took off work and is home, too.
On the way home, we stopped to get tacos. The vet called us. She said the internist had seen all of Bo’s stats, and that at first glance, it looked to her like chronic liver inflammation, i.e. hepatitis. If that’s the case, the prognosis is poor. It means Bo’s liver would be shot, and there are no doggie liver transplants.
The other two options we still have on the table are pancreatitis, and lymphoma. The first one is bad but probably treatable, and the second is very bad, and we’d have to hope that Bo responded to chemo. So at this point, these are our three options. There is no option D, where Bo just gets better and is okay.
We are all in shock, obviously. I keep sort of bursting out weeping, and then capping it back up. It scares me, what I feel. The feelings are huge, intense. They’re feelings I would expect at the loss of a human family member. I don’t know how to cope with them. This is our worst nightmare. For all of Bo’s 3.5 years, we’ve joked that Bo is eternal. He will never die, he can’t possibly die, because he is perfect and wonderful and is never allowed to leave us. I can’t say anymore more about this. It just isn’t possible. We can’t do this. We won’t do this. I’m praying for a miracle. I think after Ollie dying, we should get one, but I know that shit isn’t up to me. I’m wishing so hard that I paid more attention to all the years of Buddhist mindfulness training and all those endless meditation books I read. Why did I read all of that if it wasn’t going to help me now? I don’t want to breathe through this, I want to move space and time and fix it. I want control again. Rinpoche would tell me I never had it to begin with.
So what’s happening now: all three adults are at home. Miles is at home. He handled the news pretty well. He’s down with Grammy now. Beth is getting out of school at 3:45 and will go to her friend J’s house for a pre-arranged playdate.
Bo, in the next few hours, will be getting fluids and an ultrasound. Some other blood tests will be performed. This evening, we’ll go back, and I’ll bring my sleeping bag and pillow and will be allowed to camp out in an exam room and sleep with him. I’m going to try and stay with him through the day tomorrow, if I can.
Either tonight or tomorrow, he’ll see some internists who specialize in doggie internal organs, and they’ll figure out what they’re going to diagnosis him with, and what the prognosis is. I’ll try to post updates as they come. We just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Also, I’d just like to point out right now, that everyone should go out and get pet insurance. Go do it. It’s worth it. We thought Ollie’s experience was a crazy anomaly. I’ve had a mental note for weeks to call my friend Tric, who works at Trupanion, and get a policy on Bo and Finnegan. I never did, I just got busy and let it slide. When we left this afternoon, we put down a 2k deposit, with the estimate running between that and 4.5k for two days of care. Any more days of care or long term medication or chemo, will be extra, of course. Our vet said, when I talked to her about how I wished I’d bought insurance, “People who have pet insurance, their demeanor in times like this is a lot different. They’re calmer, even when they’re upset. The issue of money is basically taken off the table and they can focus more on tests and care.”
I don’t know what I’m focusing on. I ate a bowl of beans and rice. I’m trying to stay here, and not wander off into the realm of familiar grief that seems to be laying just outside my door. I’m worried about Greg. Bo goes to work with Greg every day. Their bond is, well, it’s what people write dog and boy stories about. I want to hurl rocks at something. Finnegan, who I didn’t think was old enough or sophisticated enough to understand anything, came downstairs when we got home, walked over to me, stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on my neck (I was sitting on the floor), and licked my face, very somberly. Then he climbed into my lap and licked my hand. No puppy crazies, no chewing on everything, just licking mama.
Thanks for all the well wishes. I’ve just read them all. I’d “Like” all of them, but I wanted to write this. Just consider everything Liked! Loved, even.
Oh, you guys. It’s bad news. We got a call. Tests show it definitely isn’t pancreatitis. His pancreas is fine. His gall bladder is also fine. His heart and lungs are also fine. Everything they’re seeing is consistent with long-term chronic liver inflammation. Basically, his liver has been slowly, over time, becoming fibrotic. He has very little working liver tissue. This is also consistent with his relatively mild elevated liver values. We all thought, at first, that his mildly elevated values could signify that whatever liver problems he had, we caught them early. In fact, we caught them far too late. His liver values are mild because he has so little liver left. And what’s left, is flickering out.
Bodhi won’t be with us long.
We’re sleeping at the hospital tonight. Tomorrow, we’re speaking to a specialist. I’ve asked to bring him home, to live out his last couple of days with us here. We are arranging a vet to come to the house for the end.
There are a lot of questions, obviously, about the liver issues. I’ll write more on that later, when I can.
From my Aunt Gretchen’s Facebook wall:
Please pray for my Seattle family.
My niece Hollie and her family are going through a horrible time. They will be losing their beautiful, loving Labrador Bo to liver failure. They lost another beloved pet Ollie the Corgi in January. Losing one pet is so very hard, but having both dogs leave you in a matter of months is unbearable. My heart is breaking for my family and I’m so sad.
Hey you guys. So, we came home last night. Sometime around 10pm it was just clear, after talking to the really amazing doc, that there was just no point in keeping him there overnight. The specialist who came in the morning would just be confirming the story we already knew, and he was so obviously not happy to be there. Of course he was gentle and sweet, but every time someone got up to use the bathroom, he would anxiously ask if he could leave, too.
So I made it clear I wanted him home. That there was no point in keeping him overnight, that he was clearly unhappy being here, that he’s a real pack dog and takes joy in nothing more than being at home with his people, where he can go from lap to lap, soaking up the love. He needs that right now.
And after hearing me out, the doc said, “You know, you’re right. I can do this for you. I want to do this for you.” I can’t tell you what this doctor means to me, she has been so wonderful. So she loaded us up with, like, 8 bottles of meds, painkillers and antibiotics and antiemetics and liver support drugs, and they taught me how to give him IV fluids (I’ve done this before and I’m not squeamish about it), and at midnight, we came home.
It’s kind of like having a human in hospice. We’ve been told we can feed him, almost literally, anything he wants. And what he wants, is SUGAR. Marshmallows make him absolutely CRAZY with happiness. He loves peanut butter toast. He wants nothing to do with his food and everything to do with what’s in my hand. Last night I snuck him an Oreo. I won’t do that again, I’m not sure how much actual chocolate is in those, but I had to just give him one, and he looooooved it. It was our little secret.
Jason is right now taking him for a walk. I’m going to take a shower, and then we’re heading to Omni with Finnegan for one last walk around his workplace. He’s been going to work with Greg every day for over three years now. He’s quite beloved there, as you can imagine. The kids went to school today. We offered to let them stay home, but they both had big end-of-year parties happening (Tuesday is their last day), and they both wanted to go, which was fine. It’s good for them to have something else to think about.
Bo’s belly is very distended from all the fluid, and he’s tired, but otherwise he’s in good spirits. He’s still wanting to cuddle and love all the time. We’re all just taking turns with him. Taking turns loving him, and taking turns crying. I woke up at 9:30 and for a moment I thought, “It’s okay, he’s home,” and then I just lost it because I realized I’d slept in 90 minutes later than usual and that was 90 minutes I could have had with him. We cry a lot. I’m crying now. It’s weird how used to it I’m getting when it hasn’t even been a whole 24 hours since we found out. When we got the news it was fatal, last night, we were in the Taco Del Mar parking lot, and I was almost hysterical. Every time a sob would go through me, it felt like my stomach was vibrating and my heart was beating wrong, like something was trying to tear through my center. Now it just feels like I’m leaking, all the time. A slow leak. I’m deflating with grief. I prefer the slow leak, and I’m grateful for it.
I’ve read all the comments, and I love you all so much. I’m not kidding. So much. It helps me a lot to read them. I’m like Bodhi – I like to feel like I’m part of a pack. And seeing the comments makes me feel like all these hands are reaching out and just patting my back. That’s _exactly_ the comfort that makes me feel comforted, and it’s funny how Facebook, for all it does that’s frustrating, makes getting that kind of comfort from your friends so accessible and wonderful. And those of you who have told me that you’re thinking of me today – thank you, so much. I feel held by that. You’ve no idea. Or maybe you do.
I think we don’t have much time now. (Hoping he’ll last until tomorrow).
The appointment has been made. Tomorrow between 5:30-6. The vet we’re going with seems very kind over the phone and was well-reviewed by the ACCESS folks. I’m going to head offline until everything is done. Love to you all! Thank you so much for everything. It has meant the world to me, really, seeing all these little notes of support. Now to cherish the next 30 hours with our Bo and say goodbye.
We are doing a lot of resting today.
Last night. Beth and I are sleeping downstairs with Bo.
Just a couple of hours now. We are sunning on the front porch. He went for two short walks today but couldn’t do a third. But he still wants to be outside, so we are gathered on the porch, reading books, cuddling, having some love and sun and tears. Bo is definitely ready to go. We all agree that he was probably ready last night, but we wanted one more day and he has given us that.
Today on the porch, I took some time and whispered to him all that would happen. He got very peaceful, and seemed to meditate on things. I took this photo, then. He’s our sweet Bo. Jason said, earlier, “You always say how he’s the heart of our whole family, and I can now see how true that is. What will we do without our heart?”
I told Bo, during our talk, “I know we keep saying you can’t leave, but you can, ok? It’s okay to go. We will still see you. Everything changes, and this will change everything. But we will still feel you, and it’s ok to leave.”
He’s been sleeping since then.
Rest in peace, sweet Bodhi. He passed peacefully in our living room, laying on the purple down sleeping bag he loves, his head on my meditation cushion, surrounded by people who loved him more than words can say.
The vet was warm and kind, and he let me wear his stethoscope, and keep it pressed to Bo’s side while he did the final injection. Before it started, Bo’s heart pounded so loud and hard, like it was trying to get somewhere, anywhere else but here. Then he asked us if we were ready. I asked everyone if they were ready, and everyone said yes. He looked at me, and I couldn’t hear him with the stethoscope in, but I could read his lips. He asked if I was ready. I said, “Go ahead.” I watched the pink fluid move into the catheter. I listened very carefully, while Beth kissed his ears, tears streaming down her cheeks, and everyone told him what a good dog he was, what a sweet, sweet boy. Before we’d started, I’d leaned over, trying not to cry, and whispered to him, “Now it starts, you remember? We talked all about this. Two shots. Two shots, and then it’s over, and you get to go. And everything changes, but it’s okay.” I wished I’d remembered to tell him not to be afraid that we were all crying so hard.
When the vet had first arrived, I’d started to lose it. I was so upset at myself. We saw him pull up, and I pushed my face into Greg’s chest and said “Fuck,” over and over. And then, “I’ve changed my mind.” While I was setting up, I suddenly got nauseous. I had the horrible realization that I might not be able to do this.
But then I thought to ask for the stethoscope. And then the pink fluid is going in, and Beth is kissing his ears, and everyone is talking, but it’s all muted and all I could hear was that furious pounding. A few seconds went by, and I watched the pink fluid go down in the syringe by about half. Then everything changed. His heart stopped pounding. It just beat, quietly. I suddenly knew I could do this. This was Bo losing his sick, sad, painful and bloated body. This was Bo no longer uncomfortable, unable to sit still longer than fifteen minutes. This was Bo, going home, where we all end up, wherever that is.
With every beat his heart took, it (and me) became softer, lighter, more peaceful. It calmed me down. I was focused. I was listening to Bo leave, and I wanted him to go, I wanted him to get out of that broken place. Finally, I couldn’t hear him anymore. I heard someone say, “I think he’s gone now,” and so I strained harder. I thought I should probably hand over the stethoscope now, but I didn’t, I just kept listening. It was so quiet, inside him. He’d done it. He’d left. Packed up his things, and gone. Just like I told him to. Good boy. Good boy, Bo.
I told him to go, because I didn’t have a choice. If I had, I’d have told him to stay, to fight, to never let us go. Because I was right when I believed that sending him off would create a terrible emptiness. It has. Afterwards, Greg and I sat on the back porch, in the sun, just the two of us, holding hands. We watched the trees sway back and forth in the wind. We started talking about Bo. I said, “It sounds so cheesy to say this, but it feels like a light has gone out. He was the most good-hearted creature, the purest example of unconditional love, that I have ever known.” I thought for a second. I added, “And this will sound even cheesier, I realize, but it’s the truth: I feel like I’m a better person for having known him. For having been loved by him.”
We all were.
I want to end by saying how beautiful the end was. He passed, and then we all got to sit with him for a little while. We hugged him and kissed him. The vet (who I keep calling “the vet” because his name is Jason and that’s just confusing) made the paw prints in clay. And then he got a small stretcher out of his car. He carefully placed blankets on the stretcher. At one end, one blanket was folded like a pillow, for Bo’s head. Greg and the vet lifted Bo gently onto the blankets. And then I knelt down next to him, and I helped the vet tuck in the blankets all around, and then I helped buckle him gently onto the stretcher. Then Greg and (our) Jason carried him out to the car, and slid him in. His head was uncovered. All seven of us took turns kissing his head and saying goodbye. The vet came over when we were done, lovingly rubbed Bo’s head, and then placed the blanket over Bo’s face. And then he said goodbye to us (we got hugs), and he was on his way.
In two weeks we get his ashes. They’ll sit in a cedar box, next to Ollie’s.
And in case you’re worried about Finnegan; it’s okay. On Thursday night, after we realized Bo’s case was fatal, we were standing in the kitchen, sobbing. I felt like I was going crazy. I pointed to Finn, and said, “This is crazy but can we give him back? I can’t love him, I can’t love him now, I can’t love him and then have him die. I can’t do this a third time. Can we just give him back?” Greg hugged me, and told me that yes, it was a little crazy, and no, we weren’t going to give Finn back, because we loved him and he was a part of the family, and it was perfectly natural to feel terrified to love another dog, and that he felt the same way.
A half hour later, I was sitting in a chair crying, and Finn was in my arms, licking my face, and I was telling him, “Don’t listen to me. I’m full of woe, baby. I didn’t mean it, you are never going anywhere, you are staying right here with me.”
Finn loved Bo right up to the end. He sat with him while he was sick, and licked his cheeks a lot. The vet said we should have Finn there when it happened, it helps them know where their friend went. And Finn did know. He came over and sniffed Bo’s head, after Bo had passed. He licked his nose, and then walked around, crawled over my lap, and onto Bo’s neck, and just lay there for awhile. Then he walked all around Bo, sniffing everything, then back to Bo’s head, to sniff his nose. Then he crawled back into my lap and whined for comfort. A few minutes later, he sniffed Bo again, and then ran under the dining room table. Greg got on his stomach and crawled under there with him, until Finn felt okay enough to come out.
Finn has been okay since Bo left in the vet’s car. He’s chewing on his teething toy right now. Sometimes he stops and looks up at me, like he’s saying, “Are you still writing?” Finn’s right. I should probably wrap this up.
Thank you so much, everyone, for all the love. The support means _everything_ to me. Pat, pat, it’ll be alright, and I’m right there with you. That’s how I felt, this whole time. You guys are amazing. Special thanks to Honora, who got to the emergency vet on Thursday night before we did, and sat with Bodhi and – I am not kidding – cuddled with him and sang him our Runes and Tunes songs until we got there. Thanks to Clarica for coming over Friday night and spending the night, after Beth asked for her. Thanks to Sonja for coming over to say goodbye and give Bo special loves. A gazillion thanks to T and F, who came over, ordered us dinner, brought us dessert, and cleaned our kitchen. And thanks to my mom, Katie for all your love and support, right up to the end (and after!).
May everyone know a love like Bo’s.
I wish grief were more predictable. It hits like waves, but from an unsteady ocean. The rhythm is all off. There are no tide tables. You’re just kinda fucked, until you aren’t anymore.