I’ve been blogging about my dog a lot. I will move onto other topics, but please bear with me for the time being!

Monday morning, Jan. 25.

Mike: Oh no!

I run down the stairs to discover Sassy’s watery vomit all over the floor.

We clean it up and I email her vet. She hasn’t been eating, so the vet says to try cooking her some chicken and rice. Mike walks to Acme, buys chicken, and makes her a delicious meal. She inhales it.

Wednesday, Jan. 27 through Friday, Jan. 29.

She seems to be drinking water and peeing excessively. She wears a diaper all the time, and even though I let her out throughout the day, she still soaks four or five diapers per day.

I start Googling her symptoms, and get enough information to convince myself that she’s in kidney failure.

Sunday night
Sunday night

A test last year hinted at possible kidney trouble, but the vet needed to collect the urine in a sanitary manner to confirm. During the same visit she also said she might have a heart condition, so I opted to put the kidney test aside and get the heart thing addressed. And, $500 later, her heart thing is nothing.

So the kidney thing is back, I tell myself.

I read more articles.

Shit, renal failure is a leading cause of death in older dogs.

Should we euthanize her soon?

I search my soul, talked to Mike, talk to friends, and make an appointment for Monday, Feb. 1.

Given her dementia and all her other problems, I thought, maybe this is the best thing to do. After all, we waited too long to say goodbye to our cats Callie and Scratch and they suffered. And Sassy is 16. Come on.

List five things she used to love, an article suggested. Now cross out the stuff she no longer cares about. If you cross out too many things, her quality of life might be so poor that euthanization could the compassionate option.

Walks, food, treats, running around in the grass, spending time with me and Mike, running around the house after a walk, chasing the cats. That’s seven, and she pretty much all likes these things still.

She maybe cares less about walks, but she seems happy once we’re outside.

She now loves Acme chicken and brown rice with chicken broth poured over it, heated up. She dances on her back legs when we get it ready.

She doesn’t like normal dog treats anymore, but she loves cocktail pups from Trader Joe’s.

She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas running around Mike’s parent’s yard with her mouth wide open and her tail in the air and didn’t want to come in.

When neither Mike nor I are downstairs with her during the day, she howls.

The video below shows she still loves to run around the house after a walk.

And chasing the cats remains her favorite passtime.

Then again, she gets into these states where she just stares at the wall. She still paces for hours. She walks under our small dining table and needs help finding her way out. Sometimes she ignores an open door and instead stands at the hinge side and we have to physically move her body into the door opening. And we still have to carry her up the stairs.

She’s still her old self in lots of moments, but the light inside her is dimmed.

So, completely confused yet convinced her kidneys were failing and it was time to say goodbye, we try to give her a good weekend. I cry and tell my friends she will most likely be euthanized Monday.

Lake Tahoe, 2004, two months after her adoption
Lake Tahoe, 2004, two months after her adoption

Saturday, Jan. 30.

At Trader Joe’s, Mike asks if we should get the large portion of chicken for Sassy or the smaller one.

“Chances are she won’t be with us after Monday,” I said.

We buy the smaller portion.

Monday morning, Feb. 1.

My heart is heavy when we walk into the exam room at the vet office. But then! The vet says she doesn’t necessarily agree with my suspicion that she’s going through kidney failure. She’s still eating, she’s still excited about some stuff in life. The symptoms could have many explanations.

And her excessive water drinking and peeing isn’t a daily occurrence. It happens most days, though.

Mike doesn’t want to put her through what his Scratch experienced — he had kidney disease and medication didn’t work, and he had a long illness.

Is anything really wrong with her, though? We just had suspicions but no data.

I opt for a blood test and urine test to find out what’s going on, exactly what Mike and I agreed not to do. But I’d feel better if I had more information.

We’re supposed to get the results today or tomorrow. From there, we’ll decide what to do. But if there is something really wrong with her, I don’t want to put her through more tests and medications and vet visits.

Feeling like Sassy just won an 11th hour reprieve, we bring her home, something we didn’t expect to be doing.

I feel like I emotionally manipulated myself. I was prepared to say goodbye and, gratefully, she’s still here.

Last night I wasn’t sure we did the right thing, but with some distance now, I see that I was most likely jumping the gun, wanting so desperately to prevent her from suffering that I was actually preventing her from continuing to experience joy. She’s still capable of it.

Monday night, Feb. 1.

Mike: We’re almost out of this Trader Joe’s chicken.

Jen: I’ll walk to Acme tomorrow and get more.

Mike: You might as well just buy her a whole chicken.

I guess optimism has won.

Grand Canyon, 2006
Grand Canyon, 2006

Addendum: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 11:30 a.m.

As I was about to publish this blog post, her vet, Dr. L., called. Sassy is, in fact, experiencing kidney failure. At this point, she is at stage 3, with stage 4 being the terminal stage.

She listed the treatment options, including subcutaneous fluids, more meds, weekly monitoring in the vet office and blood draws.

“I don’t want to put her through all that, but I don’t want her to suffer. What do those options look like?” I asked.

Dr. L. said to give her Pepcid AC, which could help her feel a bit better. She added that that’s a completely reasonable route, given her other problems: dementia and glaucoma.

Sassy most likely feels okay now, she said. The first sign that she’s getting really sick is her first skipped meal, and vomiting.

She stopped eating last week and vomited, but now that she’s interested in this fancy Acme chicken, she’s eating again and the puking stopped.

I’m glad we didn’t euthanize her yesterday because she still has some pep in her step and she is taking joy in things. Look at this video below, which I took right before we left for her appointment!

But who knows how much longer we have with her before she starts to suffer and it’s time to say goodbye for real. Days? Weeks? Months?

Despite the bad news, it’s still a relief to know what’s wrong.

With my heart a bit lighter, this afternoon I’ll walk to Acme and buy her a whole chicken, along with some Pepcid.

Optimism still wins.