When my husband and I bought our first house, one of the first things we did was get a dog. His best friend’s wife works at a place that trains and places helper dogs for the disabled, and Kiska, a golden retriever and yellow lab mix, was one of the flunkies from the program. Something like 90% of the dogs end up failing for various reasons–Kiska’s stated reason for failing was the inability to “stay.” And he’s never been good at that, but he’s a damn fine dog otherwise–doesn’t jump on the furniture or other people, is great with kids (the first time we met him, an 18-month-old girl was yanking his toy out of his mouth and he didn’t even bat an eye), and I can count the number of times he’s barked without prompting on one hand. Our daughter, who just turned two, adores him–every night she gives him a big hug before she goes to bed.
He’ll be 10 on September 11th (yes, he was born on THE 9/11) and he’s been slowing down a little bit, but nothing major. Until today. He was fine when he woke up, running around the backyard, then snoozing on his pillows. At about 3:00, he stood up, walked into the middle of the living room, and vomited all over the rug. It looked like he hadn’t digested much at all from breakfast. After that, it was with much reluctance that he walked at all. We waited about 30 minutes to see if it was just residual effects from puking, but when he didn’t improve, my husband took him to the emergency vet.
We expected…well, I’m not sure what we expected, but it wasn’t what we got. He has fluid on his heart. They put in a catheter and drained it. It was bloody. Google and a couple of vet tech friends (not to mention the vet herself) tells us that this is not a good sign. The vet says that since the initial drain, they haven’t gotten any more fluid out of the catheter, which is somewhat positive. He’s perked up a bit, even wagging his tail some. They’re giving him anti-nausea meds because he’s puked twice more since he got to the vet, and they put in a pacemaker (I think? I’m getting this secondhand) because he had a heart arrhythmia. At this point, we can only wait until he gets diagnosed by the doggy cardiologist in the morning, who will do an ultrasound to see if it’s cancer–that’s apparently the most common reason for bloody fluid around the heart. If it is, the prognosis is grim–he likely will have only a matter of weeks to live, and we’ll have to make the tough decision as to whether to put him down immediately or take him home and try to make his final days comfortable.
I hope this is all a terrible false alarm. I don’t know what to tell my little girl if he’s not coming home. She was asking about him all night.