About twenty-four hours ago, I sent Bill an email letting him know that Arran managed to jump up on our new “tall” mattress. I had just put a new mattress topper on the bed, making it taller than usual. Realizing that Arran, our sweet rescue beagle who had been battling lymphoma for the past six months, would have trouble navigating the new height, I ordered him some steps from Amazon. They haven’t arrived yet, but Arran won’t be able to use them. We lost him this morning.
Last night, after I showed Bill the new lighting I got for our bedroom and my office, we had a very ordinary dinner. Arran begged for some of our burgers and fries. Then he crawled under the table and fell asleep. When he got up awhile later, he was very dazed and moved slowly, as if he’d had some kind of stroke. Arran had some “seizure like” spells in the past, that he got over quickly. We took him upstairs to bed, and he slept mostly peacefully, with a few panting episodes. Bill spent most of the night being nudged to the edge of the mattress.
This morning, Arran didn’t wake up super early, like he’s been doing since he started his chemo. When I went in to see if he was okay, he gave me a weary look. I immediately realized that the downward spiral I had been anticipating was well in progress. I told Bill I thought Arran might need his help getting off the bed. Bill coaxed him, not wanting to pick him up, because he had a large tumor on his side that was hurting him. He finally jumped off the bed and slowly went downstairs and outside, where he took a long whiz and had some diarrhea. Then he moved very slowly back into the house and turned circles for about forty-five minutes, before he finally relaxed and laid down on his dog bed.
Bill and I had the talk we’ve been dreading… First there was the pragmatic. We have to go out of town next week, and the hotel where we’re going couldn’t accommodate Arran. As of today, the reservation is non-refundable. I didn’t like the idea of boarding Arran, since he had come to hate being boarded.
Then there was the obvious. He was at least 14 years old, and he’d been enduring chemo treatments since October. You can see from my posts that he did extremely well and fought very hard. And up until the bitter end of his life, he was very much enjoying being with us. He’d even started being nicer to Noyzi. But death is part of life… and I did not want Arran to suffer any more than he had to. He had developed another tumor on his belly, and the lymph node under his jaw had gotten bigger.
And finally, we just realized that he was very, very tired… and there was nothing we could do to make him better. Anything the vet might do today would only prolong what we all knew was coming. So we called her and brought Arran in… I had to carry him into the office, although he managed to walk out of the house on his own. He didn’t protest when I put him in or took him out of the car, and he was very patient as the vet took a look at him and agreed that it was time to let him go to the Rainbow Bridge.
Still, even up to the very end, he was fighting. The vet gave him anesthetic and remarked that he was a very strong dog. It took a long time for him to get sleepy, and like his fierce predecessor Flea (RIP 2009), he took some time leaving us. He did NOT want to die. Or maybe, he just didn’t want to leave Bill, who was his very favorite person. We stayed with him until he was on his way to see Zane… Zane died in the very same room on August 31, 2019.
We thanked our wonderful vet, who really did her very best for Arran. And then I gave him a teary kiss on the top of his head and said, “Goodbye…” Somehow it seems especially fitting that our wonderful dog, Arran, named after a gorgeous island in Scotland after we lost his predecessor, MacGregor, should die on St. Patrick’s Day…
Below are some photos from our ten fantastic years together… This dog, born of humble origins, and meant to be a hunting dog in North Carolina, got to move to Germany and visited France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Belgium. He loved every minute of being Bill’s very best friend… besides me, of course.
I think Arran has already given us a sign that he’s okay. As we were driving down the road to our house, R.E.M.’s song, “Shiny, Happy People” came on the radio. Yes, it’s kind of a sarcastic take on Utopia, but somehow, it kind of fits. If you knew Arran, you could easily understand why.
We’re going to miss him so much. There’s already a massive hole in our hearts… and our home.
It’s been two weeks since we lost our beloved beagle, Zane, to canine lymphoma. I’ve really missed him a lot. It’s been hard getting used to not having him with me all the time, as I have for the last ten years.
I usually get “signs” when I lose a pet. Often, the signs come in the form of vivid dreams about the recently deceased animal. For years, I have had dreams about my long deceased pony, Rusty, who was my best friend in high school. I also get other “signs” that trigger memories. A lot of times, the visits seem to come in the form of unusual behaviors in surviving pets. For instance, Arran was never a particularly gentle dog when we had Zane– or especially compared to Zane, who was extremely gentle– but lately, he’s been a little more Zane-like. Unfortunately, Zane hasn’t influenced Arran to be as well behaved as Zane was, but Arran seems to be trying harder lately. I took him to the vet yesterday and, for once, he was a perfect gentleman who didn’t shriek the whole time.
This morning, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We get them no matter where we are. The only place we’ve ever lived and missed out on JWs was when we lived on Fort Belvoir. And that was because it is a military installation, and JWs aren’t supposed to serve in the military. Religious proselytizing is also not allowed on military installations.
A very confident woman who spoke perfect UK accented English announced to Bill that she wanted to “talk about the Bible”. Bill interrupted her and launched into a diatribe about an angry conversation he’d had with God regarding Zane’s recent death. Without giving her a moment to collect herself, Bill told our unexpected and uninvited German religion peddling visitor a story that probably rattled her sensibilities. I don’t know this for sure, but I have a feeling that even religious Germans have a hard time swallowing “Rainbow Bridge” talk about animals and their souls. Most Germans strike me as being much too practical to believe in animals having that kind of a connection to God… but, of course, I could be wrong about that.
Bill told the JW that when it became clear Zane was going to die, he’d told God that he was pissed off that, once again, we were going to be forced to euthanize a much beloved family member. But then, Bill got an “answer” from God, reminding him that euthanasia is ultimately a gift. We would have some time to make sure Zane was comfortable. I could take many pictures of his last days. We’d be there to ensure that he didn’t suffer, and he would not be alone as he took his last breath.
As Bill was relating that story, I could hear his voice raw with emotion. I knew he also had tears in his eyes, because I’ve seen and heard him like that before. I could hear the JW lady trying and failing to steer the conversation back to her pitch for the JWs. But Bill resolutely continued on with his thoughts on God and our dog’s recent demise. The JW’s male partner was silent the whole time, probably thinking they’d run into a nut.
The JW finally broke in and asked if we had a Bible in the house. Bill said we did. But then she concluded, “But you’re probably in a hurry, aren’t you? You’re too busy to talk to us, right?”
“No, actually, I’m not.” Bill said.
So they spent a few more uncomfortable minutes talking, and I could tell the JW was non-plussed about how to deal with this man who was controlling the conversation, talking about his recently deceased dog. It was pretty funny, and I could just picture the ghost of Zane defending the family, just as he always has, in his noisy, but offbeat, way.
Finally, she said, “Thank you.” and took off. I have a feeling she won’t be back. Although Bill might have gotten the same results if he’d just told her he was a Mormon and offered her a Book of Mormon and a stimulating discussion about religion, I am tickled that Zane’s spirit showed up just in the nick of time. He always was a very faithful and loyal dog who would protect us and the home with his life… or, in this case, his death.
Thanks for “visiting”, Zaneykins… Mama misses you. <3
Sorry for not writing much on my travel blog lately. If you know me personally or have been following my main blog, you might know that the last week has been unexpectedly sad for us. I haven’t really been doing anything fun that I can write about. I’ve been too busy tending to one of the less pleasant aspects of life. We’ve been living in Germany this time since 2014. I knew we’d lose at least one of our dogs during our time here. I wondered if it would be like it is in the States. Yesterday, I found out.
Last Saturday, our beloved beagle Zane was unofficially diagnosed with lymphoma. At the time of his diagnosis, he had swollen lymph nodes under his jaw and behind his knees. Since Zane had also had mast cell cancer since 2016, the vet was pretty sure lymphoma was causing the swollen nodes, lethargy, and mild anorexia Zane was experiencing. Our local vet recommended getting him an appointment at the oncology department at the Tierklinik Hofheim.
I first heard of the Tierklinik Hofheim from our vet in Herrenberg, who had taken care of Zane and Arran when we lived near Stuttgart. She had told me it’s one of the best vet hospitals in Germany. At the time, we lived several hours away from it. Now, it’s a fifteen minute drive.
The local vet decided not to start Zane on steroids, since she wasn’t absolutely sure he had cancer. She just strongly suspected. Bill tried to get an appointment for Zane, but they are fully booked until September 20th. By Monday night, I knew that would be too late. Zane’s nodes were swelling so much that he could barely open his eyes. Bill took him to the Tierklinik Hofheim’s emergency department, where a vet aspirated his lymph nodes and the lymphoma diagnosis was official.
We started him on Prednisolone, which is supposedly easier on the liver than Prednisone is. He tolerated it well and enjoyed a couple of good days. I took many pictures, including a few in which he looks pretty normal. He ate lots of people food, enjoyed the warm, sunny days, and slept a lot. We even managed to take a couple of walks. Wednesday and Thursday, he went his regular route. I knew his time was borrowed, but I thought maybe he might make it to September. Yesterday morning, I realized it wasn’t meant to be.
Zane woke up so weak yesterday. He could barely stand. He’d get his haunches up, but his front half was stuck to the floor because he was too exhausted to get into a standing position. He managed to eat and do his business outside, but his bowel movements were dark and a bit bloody. He also had one accident in the house, although he was kind enough to do it on some tile flooring. Zane was extremely well house-trained and hadn’t had an accident in many years.
And then I noticed his belly. Part of it was distended. He resembled a lactating female, as part of it hung down like a teat. We had to wait until 9:00am to call the vet’s office. One other nice thing about being up here near Wiesbaden is that our vet regularly offers Saturday hours. In Herrenberg, different vets were on call.
Fortunately, the same vet who saw him last week answered the phone. Bill explained what was going on, and told her that we felt it was time to let Zane go. She scheduled our euthanasia appointment for noon, then asked Bill questions about what we wanted done with Zane’s remains. Since we move so frequently, when our dogs have died, we’ve always just had them cremated and don’t pick up their ashes. The ashes don’t mean anything to me. What matters to me is the special memories and the great love we shared.
After breakfast, which ordinarily Zane would have shared with us, he went to the front door. Bill said, “He’s expecting us to take him for a walk.” I doubt Zane would have made it very far, but he was a very routine oriented hound. He wanted us to get up and go to bed on a schedule, feed him and walk him at certain times of the day, and give him time in the yard. If something wasn’t done routinely, he would protest, usually in the form of soft whining.
Since he was so weak and exhausted, we spent a couple of hours with Zane out in the yard. He’s always loved sunning himself, and we had great weather for it yesterday. At one point, just before we clipped the leash on him, Bill looked at Zane in the eyes and told him how much he loved him.
We arrived at the clinic at about 11:45. I helped Zane out of the car and he gave a little yelp. It was the first yelp I’ve heard out of him since this ordeal began. In contrast, his predecessors, Flea and MacGregor, also died of cancers and theirs were much more painful. I’m grateful Zane’s last days were full of exhaustion and weakness rather than agony and excruciating pain. As cancer deaths go… at least in Zane’s case… canine lymphoma wasn’t so horrible. I would definitely take it over the prostate cancer that killed Flea, or the spinal tumor that killed MacGregor.
Zane greeted the vet with a sniff and a slight tail wag. Then we walked into the exam room. Zane got halfway on the scale, which amused me slightly. He was always such a good boy. Bill lifted him onto the table, since the exam room didn’t have the kind that raise electronically. The vet checked Zane over and drew blood, noting that it was kind of “watery”. She saw his belly and said she thought his spleen might have ruptured. It was good that we brought him in yesterday, because the vet felt he wouldn’t have survived the night. He likely would have gone into shock within hours.
I let Zane lick liverwurst flavored paste from a tube while the vet explained what she was going to do. She didn’t really have to, since we’ve been through this a few times. In fact, my first job was working for a veterinary hospital. I witnessed dogs being put down as part of that job.
Our last three dogs were euthanized in the United States. All three of the American vets sedated our dogs before giving them the shot that would end their lives. The German vet did not do that, but it also didn’t seem necessary in Zane’s case. I also noticed that the medicine she used was clear, rather than pink. I read somewhere that in the United States, euthanasia meds are colored pink so that they’re less likely to be given by mistake.
Bill put his arms around Zane and felt his heart. He does this whenever we lose a dog, so he knows when they are free of pain and sickness. I stroked Zane’s head as the vet administered the medication. It was over in seconds, and very peaceful.
I am so grateful to Dr. Glenn. She was very kind and compassionate. She chatted with us for a few minutes about Zane and we told her a brief version of his story. She gave me a big, sincere hug, and even shed a couple of tears herself, even though she really didn’t get a chance to know Zane like our old vet in Herrenberg, Dr. Schube, did. I’m grateful we didn’t have to ask Dr. Schube to end Zane’s life. They had a bond. Much like his predecessor, Flea, Zane was very much a canine ambassador. He never met a stranger.
Dr. Glenn told us they would send us the bill and we were welcome to spend as much time as we needed. Bill and I stayed with Zane’s body for about ten minutes, then went home to Arran, who seemed confused and upset about being left home alone. He brought us a toy and ran around the house frantically, until he finally settled down and hung out with us all day. He seems little unnerved about being the only dog now, although I could tell he knew that Zane wasn’t feeling well.
We usually get another dog soon after we lose one. I think this time, we’ll hold off on it for awhile. Arran is himself about nine or ten years old. He’s still vital and likes to play, but he doesn’t share well. He gets jealous and picks fights. I’ve also heard that Germans don’t like to let Americans adopt, thanks to the jerks in the military who dump their dogs rather than taking them with them. We’ll see what happens.
It seems to me that our dogs that have passed have inspired me to find new ones… In a lot of cases, it’s almost as if that dog was sent to us by his predecessor. When we got Arran after we lost our dog, MacGregor, we noticed he did some things that were very much like MacGregor. It was like MacGregor was sending us a sign. The same thing happened with Zane and his predecessor, Flea, although Zane and Flea had totally different personalities. As Zane got older, I’d swear I’d see glimpses of Flea coming out in him. I know it sounds like a lot of woo and it probably is… but it’s a comforting thought, just like the Rainbow Bridge story is.
Anyway… now I know. German style euthanasia is much like American style euthanasia. It sucks either way… although I’m grateful for a lot of things that made yesterday go better. Ultimately, I’m grateful that our sweet dog is no longer suffering and that we had each other for almost ten years. Although all of my dogs have been special in their own ways, I think Zane’s imprint on my heart is the most indelible. The next days are going to be hard as we adjust to life with Zane’s leadership. He kept everything on a schedule.
Edited to add: On September 13, we received the final bill for Zane’s euthanasia. In all, it cost about 230 euros for the procedure and cremation. We also received a “death certificate”, which I thought was kind of odd. However, the certificate listed Arran as the deceased dog, so we’ll have to get that corrected.I have really been missing Zane a lot. He meant so much to me… and for many reasons, his death has hit me particularly hard.