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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Because She's Worth It

Dammit. It's pancreatitis. We lost our Shanahan five years ago to what began as pancreatitis and progressed to more painfully tragic issues. It was long, and painful and many of you were with us through it. I'm still so grateful for your love in those awful days. Imagine my horror yesterday when the vet called and said that what he had hoped would be a negative on Ellie's pancreatic tests was, indeed, positive. It was only eight months ago that we had her in the hosptial for kidney stones. I really thought when we took her in on Thursday morning that that's what we were going to hear again. But her symptoms were so much different this time. The hours of vomiting were so reminiscent of our ordeal with Shanny. I didn't want to think it, so I didn't let myself. She wasn't lethargic like Shan, in fact, she was walking around, she wagged when one of us approached her, she licked our hands, but she was tired and very drooly. I left her with the vet, waited for a call, and prayed. When the doctor did call a few hours later, he said that she had what appeared to be a hairball in her stomach. Not common for dogs, but he wanted to keep her on IV hydration and see if whatever was in there would pass on its own.

When he called the second time and said that whatever was in her belly had passed, but that her test proved positive for pancreatitis, I lost it. I tried to be strong because I was at work, but my boss could tell I wasn't gonna make it the rest of the day, hugged me, and sent me home. I couldn't believe it. What is it with us, our dogs, and this damn pancreas thing? Our vet, who was with us throughout Shanny's short life, assured us that pancreatitis is not uncommon. Despite our best efforts at providing Ellie with the best diet, absolutely NO table scraps EVER, daily exercise, etc. in an effort to avoid what we had gone through before, here we were again.

I called Charlie. I was so afraid. When we put our girl down before, it was Charlie who held her, grieving quietly while Averie and I bawled our eyes out. "Never again." He said. "I can't do this again. No more dogs." We did all we could with Shanahan. Her treatment went on for nearly a month. When it was clear that no more could be done and any more lengthening of her life would only make her suffer, we agreed to let her go. When all was said and done, we ended up making monthly payments for nearly two years on a dog that was no longer with us. All I could hear when the doctor told me about Ellie's treatment and stay in the hospital was Charlie saying "Never again." You all know how long that lasted. Now, I'm worried about what he will say this time. So when he answers the phone, I simply ask him to please call the vet. I didn't think I could tell him without crying and I knew he would want to ask questions that I couldn't answer. He told me not to worry and he would call the doctor.

When Charlie called me back, he said; "Listen, Ellie's going to be fine. This isn't a Shanahan scenario. We caught this early, the doc thinks she's a very healthy, strong dog and she'll pull through. She'll have to stay in the hospital until Sunday, they will watch her, calm the pancreas down by not feeding her, keep her on IV fluids, and we will see. She hasn't vomited once since she's been there, she's alert and active. It looks good."

I asked him about the expense. He laughed and said; "I swear, you, the kids, you guys all think I'm gonna just tell them to put her down?" I told him I didn't, but money has been a worry. The kids have all offered to help us pay her bill. He said not to worry. "I love her, I told them to do whatever they think is necessary. She's going to be fine."

Last night, we did a ton of research. Learned more about what we should avoid giving her and what would be beneficial to the health of her pancreas. We both found recipes for diets for pancreatic dogs and decided that we were going to make her food from now on. This morning, we went shopping and got all we needed. I roasted two chickens while Charlie cooked 3 pounds of ground turkey. We boiled sweet potatoes, broccoli, and winter squash in fat-free chicken broth. I steamed 5 cups of rice. We found salmon oil and Vitamin E to replace essential fatty acids. We mixed, weighed, portioned, and when we were done we had 30 portions of three different meals:

Turkey, Rice, and Sweet Potato
Chicken, Oatmeal, and Squash
Chicken, Rice, Broccoli, and Cottage Cheese

Next time, we'll be doing some fish and lamb recipes. Change things up a bit for her. She isn't home yet. They tell us hopefully, if she accepts food today and is able to keep it down, she can come home tomorrow. When she does come home, we'll be ready. My fridge and freezer are full of homemade dog food. I'm tired. But it was worth it, because she's worth it.