Zeus strolled into Cheryl's yard about 14 months ago.The average person might have reasonably run inside and called the police department, since Pendleton, IN does not have an animal control. You see, Zeus was not a small dog. Not even just a large dog. Zeus at 95 pounds of skin and bones was a HUGE dog. Luckily for Zeus, and for Cheryl, and for those of us at my clinic who got to love him, Cheryl didn't run inside or call the police. She took him in and fed him. She risked her spoiled pampered Persian cat becoming a mid day snack; took pity on the gentle giant, and brought him inside her home and her heart. It was impossible not to fall in love with Zeus. He was an older Rottweiler,not neutered, and as sweet and loving,and well mannered a dog as I have ever met. The vets loved him, the staff loved him, Cheryl loved him most of all, and Zeus loved us all back unconditionally, and never stopped being happy to see any human that came around. We first met him at PVC when he came in for a check up and vaccines. He tested negative for heartworms, and was put on preventative and scheduled to get rid of the undesirable boy parts he still had. He was taught at some point not to kiss, but he knew how to kiss like a person, without a sloppy wet Rottie tongue, and was free with his nose kisses and hugs which he did by laying his head on your shoulder.
When he came in for his neuter, he had packed on a bit of weight, and his bilateral (both sides) elbow displasia had gotten worse from carrying more weight, and he was pretty sore. Cheryl elected to take him to a referral surgeon for repair. The staff at the referral practice also fell in love with him, and got their fair share of Zeus lovins.
He came in this summer for his yearly tests and shots, and we discovered to our horror that he was heartworm positive. This could have been a product failure, but more likely was because he was infected prior to testing the first time, but not long enough prior for him to show up positive yet. My coworker contacted the company that made the product, and much to our surprise, even though he really didn't qualify for their guarantee, since he wasn't tested 6 months after being placed on the product, they agreed to pay for $500 dollars of his treatment. They did this because they read his history, saw that the incredible woman who had adopted him had spent so much money on him, for shots, surgeries, and pain medications, that they felt strongly that it was the right thing to do for her.
We took xrays of his chest and did bloodwork to make sure he was strong and healthy enough for treatment, and nothing other than a reasonable amount of lung damage from the heartworms showed up, and the bloodwork looked fine. Let me add that although a 145 pound dog is not easy to xray no matter how cooperative, he was an angel. He didn't struggle, didn't thrash around, even when we pulled his front legs out to get the view where he was laying on his back with his legs stretched backward. That had to hurt his poor elbows, and also the arthritis in his back, but he didn't complain, just gave us those sad puppy eyes that always seemed to say, "Really, you want me to do that? Well, ok, since I love you." He took the incredibly painful injections into the muscles along his spine with the same stoic, but eager to please attitude. He was the first dog we've ever had to do that was so big we had to do the treatment with two shots in each site. He came in for one treatment, then again one month later for one in each side a day apart.
About a week ago, Cheryl called the clinic. Zeus hasn't acted right since the treatment. He isn't wanting to eat, and it had gotten worse recently. When he came in, Cheryl told me that if anything happened to her, she wanted me and my husband to have Zeus, because she knew we would love him as much as she did. I was so touched, and hoped that wasn't an indication that she wasn't well. Zeus had lost weight and when we tested his urine and blood, he had an elevated white count, which indicated a bladder infection.
He had very mildly elevated kidney enzymes, but was dehydrated, so that is not terribly unusual or alarming. We started him on antibiotics. He didn't improve. In fact, he got worse. He started vomiting and had some diarrhea. When he came in on Monday his eyes were sad. He telegraphed his sadness as well as if he had been able to speak. As well as he formerly did his joy in being alive. Blood results were the same, except the white blood count had improved. Our doctors checked his xrays, and then since they weren't sure, took them to a radiologist to evaluate them, too. We placed an iv catheter. This was one of the worst experiences of my veterinary assisting career. The darnn things just wouldn't thread into the vein. He is a huge dog. It should not have been so hard, but i tried, the other assistant tried, the kennel assistant, who is actually way more than that, and a better blood person than most of our staff, also tried. Finally after the vet's fourth attempt, and about 11 catheters, the vet placed one in his back leg, and we got the fluids going. Zeus, in typical Zeus fashion, never even pulled away. He flinched a few times, but that was it.
Next morning, the blasted iv was out. The radiologist that had looked at the films said he really believed it was something to do with enlarged kidneys, and there were opaceties (Spots that can be tumors, or possibly abscesses) in the lungs, but he couldn't give a diagnosis, and recommended ultrasound. Even knowing that it was probably cancer, Cheryl took him down, on the outside chance that maybe it was abscesses from the dying heartworms, and that he could be saved. Unfortunately, the ultrasound showed horribly disfigured kidneys, and what looked like metastasized tumors, which means they had spread from another source. We don't know where. It could have been his heart, his bones, his intestines are a likely candidate, or his prostate. We just don't know, but since it had spread so much, we do know that there wasn't anything anyone could do to make him well again, or even better for a while. She could have had the referral practice put him to sleep, but Cheryl took him home, with a new catheter they kindly placed for us, and brought him to us. She knew how much our staff loved him, and wanted him to be surrounded by that love in his last minutes. He was surrounded, too. So was she. Every staff member present in the clinic went in, and sat, and cried with them while we did the procedure. I hugged Cheryl and told her I knew it wasn't very professional to cry, but there just wasn't any way I could stop, and I hoped she understood. She said that was why she had brought him back in to us. I was crying, but managed to keep fairly good control. Then we gave him an injection of sedative, and somehow, it seemed to clear his head for just a moment, and he looked at me, for all the world like he hadn't realized it was me, and nosed me three or four times. I felt like he was saying he loved me, and knew I was trying to take care of him, and didn't hold all the hurting we had done to him against me. I told him i loved him too, and he put his head down and went to sleep.
His passing was as easy possible, he didn't struggle or get scared when he felt the drugs, and he is now free of all the bodily pain he has lived with for so very very long. He died knowing absolutely for certain that he was the best dog ever, and that everyone loved him. I know, because I told him so. So did the vet, the receptionist, and the kennel manager. And his Momma. Never did a dog wander into better luck with a human than Zeus did. In 14 months, she did every possible thing she could to make his life happy.She spent thousands of dollars on a dog she didn't even buy. And she was apologizing to him while he went, that she couldn't do more. Amazing.
When you work in veterinary medicine, you see a lot of people who view animals as disposable possessions, and not worthy of investing love or money into. Sometimes you get very discouraged after having to euthanize a dog with a broken leg that you know could have been fixed, and you become disgusted with the human race. Then you find out how good people can be, how amazing a dog can be. Someone you knew was a good pet owner, who loved her Persian kitty and came in regularly, turns out to be a superhero to a dog most people would have run from. It makes all the rest fade, and makes you feel like you have the best job in the world. Even when faced with the horrible sorrow of saying goodbye, you are still grateful, because you were so lucky to have gotten to know and love him, and be a part of making his last year full of all the love he had missed in the first years.