loving a dog is risky

For the second time in fourteen days, we mourn the loss of a constant companion. With a second visit of the service that aided Comet, Dexter crossed over tonight, ending a week of silent suffering. For an unknown period of time, perhaps months, his kidneys were failing, and we only knew that for certain after a blood test confirmed his illness this past Tuesday.

As any animal-person has learned, furry companions may suffer any number of ailments in their lifetime. Leukemia and other blood diseases, cancerous tumors, degenerative bone and nerve diseases, blindness, and parasite-borne illnesses may all shorten their lifespan. For most people, protecting your animal from each and every potential threat, is a matter of balancing risk and cost. Licensing your pet is required – which can help reunite you with a pet after natural disasters or Independence Day fireworks. Protecting your pet and the population at large, from diseases like rabies, parvovirus, and Bordetella, are routinely required vaccinations. In regions where tick-carried blood diseases are common, again these are prudent precautions dog-people take. Yet the range of veterinarian-recommended tests, diets, examinations, and care plans when they fall ill, can bankrupt an animal’s care takers, no matter how noble the veterinarian’s intentions.

However, kidney disease was never on my radar. Dexter and Comet both got plenty of exercise and proper care. It seemed common sense to provide sufficient clean water and healthy food for the last 12 years; gallons of water particularly during heat that is generally year-round in Southern California. Having had generally healthy canine and feline companions for most of my life, it was not normal to consider euthanasia till old age issues like arthritis robbed their quality of life. Appearing outwardly healthy for years, Dexter’s lethargy for the prior few days to Comet’s passing last Saturday seemed only a factor of the excessive 2022 August heat.

What we thought were days of mourning Comet’s loss, was, in hindsight, probably the final stages of kidney failure. Dexter would not eat, couldn’t keep water down, and without antibiotic being digested, he was obviously suffering. Taking him to the vet for treatment daily, administering (the proper) antibiotics and fluids (which we also administered subcutaneously during the night), after five days, tests indicated no improvement. Comforting and aiding him day and night, we saw how exhausted he was. We felt it too. We made arrangements for our adult children to be present when the vet came to our home to administer the medication to end his suffering tonight. Second-guessing what might have been done differently, I read online a few accounts of excessive water consumption (he had that ‘habit’ for two years or more) and its links to kidney disease. But you cannot always assume ‘worst-case’. or we will never allow our animals to be outside or socialize with other animals.

And after having shared many tears over pets that have preceded me, my joy is remembering that I loved all my furry friends until their last days. Virtually all were rescues from shelters and strays that stayed put. I hoisted a glass of fine whiskey tonight with my family to toast the lives that made ours better. If you do not risk losing a companion animal, you will never risk loving one.

Dear reader, Grief and sleeplessness make for horrible writing partners. It was pointed out that we lost Comet not one but two, weeks ago. I apologize for any confusion this may have created. – es

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