Since I received the recommendation from our veterinarian to put Jazzy down, I had a lot to deal with. A lot to think about. A lot to process.
German Shepherds (some might call her a White Swiss Shepherd) are notorious for their health issues. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, pancreatic problems, Degenerative Disc Disease, Degenerative Myelopathy, Panosteitis, plenty of skin problems, Epilepsy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and on and on it goes. My only complaint for a long time was the amount of dog hair that would come off of her, even when I brushed her everyday and it wasn’t shedding season. I’d just finish sweeping when I’d see more clumps of fluff tumbling down the hall. I wish that was all it was, but for the past 3 years she has been suffering from chronic perianal fistulas that are very painful and very frustrating to treat. Round after round of antibiotics, prednisone, and $400 tubes of topical creams (not kidding) would heal things for a while, but as soon as the medication stopped, they’d come back.
I knew they had returned when the usual symptoms occurred. She is a long-haired G.S. so that means that she’s so dang fluffy and furry that it’s hard to even detect anything is wrong until it’s already gone way wrong. This time fecal incontinence happened simultaneously, and the vet told us that since that has happened, the P.F.’s would more than likely never heal and everything would only get worse from there. And apparently, it looked like she was suffering from arthritis too. At this point the only “humane” thing to do was to put her down. I wanted to wait. I wanted the weekend and a day or two after that to prepare myself and my family.
Upon receiving the news of what loomed ahead, my heart grieved while I cooked up her favorite food; boiled chicken & rice. Nothing fancy, just chicken breast and white rice. She’s always been a very finicky eater and never one for table scraps. She’s the first dog I’ve ever met that would spit out bacon, turn away cheese, ignore hot dog slices, or never bother with begging at the table. She simply knew that if she did, that she would get sick.
She’s been on several different novel protein diets over the years because the dry chicken and rice food didn’t seem to settle well on her tummy. We tried everything from salmon to buffalo, duck, and kangaroo. Lamb was what seemed to be working for her the best, so we stuck with that. But really, her ultimate favorite cooked food is the chicken and rice.
So that’s what I made her. I cooked up what I figured would be enough for her final days. I chopped the chicken up fine, hand-mixed in the rice and fed it to her warm.
I massaged her muscles, let her snuggle with me in bed, even sang to her, and all the while my heart ached. I bathed her gently, brushed her, and when I would cry she’d lick away my tears. I made poultices of comfrey and lavender, and swept up the dog hair without a grumble. I was more than happy to do so, for as long as I could.
And she never once made a mess in the house.
Monday came and she was dropping her favorite toy at my feet. She started chasing the cat, and following me around the house like everything was normal.
I kept looking at her smiling at me with those bright sparkling eyes of hers until I finally got it. This was a dog that still enjoyed doing things. In fact, she seemed happier than she had been in months. This wasn’t a dog that was ready to die. This wasn’t a dog that I was simply going to throw away. I still had hope because she held that hope for the both of us in those soulful eyes of hers. I cancelled the appointment to have her put down and contacted a different veterinarian.
Today she saw her new doc. They sedated her, and as she swayed like a drunk, I gently coaxed her to lie down on the blanket they had placed on the floor for her. A few seconds later her head dropped in my lap like a stone. I pet her and soothed her as the vet and her assistant sat on the floor opposite me to see what could be done. They clipped the hair underneath her tail close, flushed the wounds, and assessed the damage. She would be okay. A completely different outlook and a slightly different medication route. She will more than likely have to stay on the steroidal medication for the rest of her life. I’m okay with that as long as she is.
I asked helplessly, what else could I do? She smiled and said I was already doing everything I needed to do, I followed my instinct. Feeding her the bland chicken and rice was the best thing I could have ever done. Feeding it to her calmed her angry intestinal tract and ultimately saved her life. She wasn’t incontinent, her body was just finally reacting to the expensive dog food!
And to think that I almost extinguished the light in those eyes makes me angry and hurt. But I will be forever grateful for the time I spent reflecting on all the things Jazzy has taught me over the years. Patience, unconditional love, perseverance, and then more of that unconditional love stuff.