Today would have been Buddy the Wonderdog’s eleventh birthday. I am sorry to say that our beloved companion died on August 21st. It’s taken me a while to be able to write about it.
We had hints of the end five months ago when Buddy had two grand mal seizures, the first in the middle of the night. I had never witnessed a seizure before, so I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Was he just acting out a dream?
In the morning, I made an appointment with the vet who explained what they were. We decided to wait to see if another one happened. If it did, I would put him on anti-seizure meds. She said he could have epilepsy, or he could have eaten something that triggered it, or it could be cancer.
Buddy had a cancerous tumor in his ear, which easily could have spread to his brain or vice versa. I had chosen not to have it taken out previously (along with some skin cancer spots) because Buddy had a heart murmur. There was a risk that if we put him under, he might never wake up. I felt like he would have a better, longer life if we did not do any medical intervention.
His seizures did not return and during the five extra months we had, Buddy got to enjoy summer – swimming in lakes, riding in boats, two walks a day, playing with neighborhood doggie friends. And as you know, he discovered his true passion: fishing. He acted like the seizures never happened. Buddy also got to enjoy having his people with him all day, since I was working at home due to COVID-19 and Russ is retired.
On August 21, Buddy was fine until early afternoon. He was laying on the living room carpet, drifting to sleep when his first seizure happened. The event seemed to scare him more than before, and he stuck with me, wanting to be pet and comforted.
The second seizure happened a couple of hours later as he was drifting to sleep again. After this one, I called the vet’s office and got some anti-seizure meds. I gave him a pill right away, but it takes time for the medicine to build up to effective levels.
Buddy had two more seizures, each more severe. By that time, it was 8 p.m. on a Friday night. The vet was closed, so I called the emergency vet. They told us to bring him in.
Buddy was excited to go for a car ride and happy to hear we were going to the “doggie doctor”—one of his favorite places. He stumbled getting into the car and we noticed during the ride that he seemed to have trouble swallowing or he had a hitch in his breathing.
Due to the virus, we couldn’t go inside the office, but Buddy went without protest. The vet examined him and then called us as we waited in the car. He was pretty sure Buddy had a slow-growing brain tumor. He could treat the seizures with intravenous meds, but that would not fix the underlying problem of the tumor. He also said that Buddy’s bark did not sound normal – as if something in his throat was paralyzed by the seizures.
Things had already been ugly, but I knew they were about to get a lot uglier if we started hooking Buddy up to tubes. Russ and I made the hard decision to euthanize him.
Before the procedure, they brought Buddy out so we could see him one last time. I told Buddy that we loved him and would miss him. I explained what was going to happen. I cried. But Buddy seemed distracted, like he was eager to go back inside. So after a short time, I let him go. He knew what was best, too.
As one of my friends said, “To know Buddy was to love him.” He was such a large, exuberant presence in our lives. I’m still getting over the shock of having him here one day and gone the next. Of course, I’ve second-guessed our decision — should we have spent more time and money on his recovery? Ultimately, I feel like we did the right thing by him. We plan to spread his ashes along his favorite walking trail and his fishing spot in northern Minnesota.
One of my former colleagues recently wrote a story describing a University of Wisconsin-Madison study about the monetary worth of a dog’s life. The researchers surveyed hundreds of dog owners to see what they would be willing to pay for a hypothetical vaccine that would protect their dog from a fatal dog flu. Incorporating additional factors, they were able to come up with the value of $10,000.
We did not spend nearly that much during Buddy’s last day. But if some sort of procedure was available that could have reversed his brain tumor and cured his seizure damage, I would have considered it.
We are still dealing with the emotional cost of his absence. There’s no way to put a monetary value on grief.
Bye bye, big guy.