Saturday, April 21, 2012

Puppy tales

I have never felt so helpless in my life.

I was lying on the floor, looking into what were supposed to be the eyes of my best friend, my most faithful companion, my fourth child. But her eyes weren't there. They were rolled back in her head. And all I could see was white.

My baby, my girl, my Lollee Sue was having yet another seizure of some kind. and I had no idea how to help her.

By my count this was her seventh since April 7, the day I took my almost 10-year-old standard poodle to the vet for routine shots and to have him check out her front leg. The last time we had gone for one of our walks to the park, I noticed that she had a slight limp. Not in the paw, not in the "elbow" joint (if dogs have an elbow), but in the shoulder area. I told all this to the vet.

"Oh, she told you that, did she," he remarked, with a little bit of sarcasm.

"Yes," I replied. "She pretty much did."


I know my dog, dude.  She's only my most loyal and faithful friend. My companion. The guardian of my house, my yard, my child and the squirrel the other dog tries to catch. The one soul who can always make me feel better, no matter how bad a day I've had. The one who never gets mad when I rub my feet on her.

My girls

We got her in the spring of 2001, the weekend after I had made the heart-breaking decision to put, not one but both of my dogs down.

 Lucy Lu, the crazy mutt, had escaped from our yard and gotten hit by a car a few years prior. We spent more than $1,000 putting her shattered pelvis back together, then I got to teach her how to walk again. I can honestly say that one of the happiest moments of my life was the day Lucy stood in the back yard on her own, without my help. Marty and I cheered.

But she got older. Arthritis set in. And by now Lora was learning to walk. Lucy could not get out of the way fast enough. Most times she didn't bother to lift her hips off the floor, but just dragged them behind her.  And she often left little trails.

I didn't see it, but one day a visitor took one look at my dog trailing her legs and said, "Oh, that poor little dog." I realized it was time.

But in the meantime, my 13 year old standard poodle, Laycee, crashed. Laycee who lived with me in my tiny little Uptown apartment, who loved to play fetch with her orange rubber ball,  who ate a loaf of bread once, and an entire box of donuts without leaving a single crumb or speck of sugar behind,  who had to spend caterpillar season with my parents until I found her dog shoes - ReBarks, who went with me to a bar in New Orleans, who only wanted a kid to play with her whole life. Who probably  saved my life just by barking at the stranger who knocked on our door one night.

All of a sudden she stopped eating, stopped moving much, and began licking her front paw constantly. Her fur got rough and dull and her eyes lost their sparkle. It was time.

On that Friday we carefully lifted Laycee into the car for the ride to the vet. I stayed with her, held her head in my hands and told her I loved her as the vet gave her her last shot. Then we took her home and buried her in the front yard with the orange ball that was her constant companion. She could spend hours playing with that thing. She would simply drop it in your lap, back up, sit and wait until you decided to throw it to her. Sometimes for hours.

The very next day I took Lucy on her last ride.

That week, one of my mother's friends took pity on me and offered me a puppy. Her dog, Sammy, the brother to my mom's Lula Mae, had sired a litter and offered us her pick. We picked Lollee, and named her for a then-coworker whom I forced to sign a waiver declaring that she was not offended in any way. She wasn't.

Since then this dog has been my faithful companion for nearly 10 years. The dog I walked to the park. The dog I taught to sing. To say my name.(I swear she says "Lolo.") Who sometimes will tell me what's on top of my house ("Roof") or how sandpaper feels ("Ruff).

 The beautiful dog who used to accompany me to area nursing homes and hospitals to bring a little cheer to those in need of it. Blessed with only a dog's patience, she would stand next to beds for as long as anyone wanted to pet her and look at me with eyes that seemed to say, "I'm doing good, aren't I, Mom?"

That's one way to do it.


She was doing great.

At one facility we frequented, there was a pair of ladies who sat in the hallway every Sunday. They would see us coming.

"Oh! Look at the dog!" they would exclaim.

Lollee and I would visit with them for a while. They would pet her soft, snow white fur and marvel over her hot pink toe nails (which I did just for them). They would ask her name and how old she was, just as though she were a child. Then Lollee and I would mosey on down the hall to our next residents.


On the way back, we'd see the two ladies again.


"Oh! Look at the dog!" they would exclaim. And we would repeat the process all over again.


Lollee was the perfect dog for that job. Me? Not so much. The toll became too great on me. Hearing the sobs and cries of the resident who constantly called for her Mommy, seeing familiar faces one month but not the next.

Lollee also is the smartest dog in the universe. Yes, she does say "Lolo." She also knows the words "walk," "leash," "bone," "outside," "car," "Lora," "bed," "bus," "Skittles," and "bread." She knows that "cuddle" means she gets to lie on the sofa by my feet as we take a nap.  And yes she can sing.

Watching the world go by.


But she hadn't done any of those things for the past two weeks.

Eventually the vet agreed that my dog had told me she was in pain, said she had arthritis and gave me a HUGE bottle of pills to give her, plus a smaller bottle of pain pills if she needed them. Then he gave her a rabies shot.

"That'll be $265."

And that should have been that. I took her home. Gave her one of the arthritis pills and a Milk Bone, then headed off with Lora Leigh who needed a hair cut.

When we returned about two hours later, Lollee came limping into the living room to see us. She didn't look good and was drooling profusely. I figured the pills had upset her stomach. I apologized to her.

That night Lollee was sound asleep with Lora Leigh on a futon mattress on the floor when Lora woke with a start. Lollee had relieved herself in the bed and was thrashing. We comforted them both as best we could and sent Lora up to her bedroom for the rest of the night. That was our first indication that Lollee was having seizures.

Sunday afternoon she had one in our back yard. She was walking toward the house when, suddenly, she dropped and began thrashing. It scared the hell out of us. And her, I'm sure. It took her about five minutes to come out of it completely. We could tell she didn't know what had just happened to her.

 She had another one Monday morning.

So the vet gave me phenobarbital, the common drug prescribed for seizures in both humans and animals. The seizures stopped. But by Wednesday, she could not stand up. Her hind legs would split on my hardwood floors. She started to look like a bobble head dog.

I stopped the pills on Thursday. She had another seizure on Monday. The whole past week has been one giant experiment. Give her pills, don't give her pills.  She seemed to be having smaller seizures, but more frequently. One day she had four seizures within about three hours. She didn't eat for three days. We finally got her to drink some chicken broth on Wednesday.

We put her back on the pills. On Thursday she could barely stand up and could hardly walk. Her eyes rolled back in her head. I was waiting for her to take her last breath.

On Friday morning Marty took her to the vet. They've run tests, taken X-rays and put her on an antibiotic. Today they say she is better, but still "heavy" in the hindquarters. Today the vet mentioned that it might be meningitis (which would make a whole hell of a lot of sense!).

There's a 50 percent chance that she'll come home.


Waiting for the bus with Pappy.

So I sit and wait, picturing her alone and in a cage, wondering why this is happening, wondering where I am. I'm here, second-guessing every decision I've made over the past two weeks and trying to figure out what to do next.

And if I'm ready to say good-bye.

Just a few weeks ago I cried my eyes out reading A Dog's Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. It's the story of a dog who lives many lives trying to find his purpose in life.  In the end, he does and knows that he was a good dog.

And  it gives me hope that Lollee has found hers and that she knows that she is the best dog ever.

Lollee Sue, Best Dog in the World




UPDATE:  On onday morning (4/23) Lollee Sue was alert, walking, eating and even singing. She has had no more seizures (knock wood). And she got to come home. We have some more time.