This is turning into a banner year for transitions here at the Engel homestead. First Janet and now Oscar has jetted on out of here. The little dude has been fighting so hard for so long. He has been seriously sick almost as long as Janet. I think his first serious brush with death was when his liver darn near quit on him close to 8 years ago. Since then it’s been major respiratory problems (kennel cough set this off), an enlarged heart and a murmur, kidney problems and finally three years ago he flipped diabetic. Turns out, true to his stubborn character, he is highly insulin resistant. Rather than needing 3 units of insulin with each meal for a dog his size, Oscar needed 15 units. By the time the vet figured out the proper dose, Oscar was pretty much blind due to cataracts. As with all his ailments, he simply adjusted and moved on. A powerful little package of inspiration in his own right.
So I’ve been doing puppy hospice here for the past week. Oscar stopped eating pretty much last Monday and he had missed a lot of meals the week before that. He continued to act like he was hungry and continued to remind me when it was supper time. But when offered food, he would turn his nose up at it. I knew a threshold had been crossed when he even turned down his all time favorite: sliced smoked turkey. Before this last week, Oscar never turned this turkey down. Good thing, too. I could count on wrapping his pills in slices of turkey and be assured he would slurp them down without issue. A visit to the vet this past Thursday, just to be sure I wasn’t missing something obvious, was completely useless. Vets, I’ve concluded, are completely clueless when it comes to palliative care. They all seem to be about the crisis rescue scene.
I figured Oscar wouldn’t make it past Friday. But he did. Then past Saturday. But he did. Late Sunday night he was still struggling to drop his little body. As many things as were wrong with the little guy, I had hoped any one of his chronic and serious ailments would just kick the bucket out from under him.
But by 2:00 AM today, it was pretty clear he didn’t know where he was or who I was. Extremely dehydrated, he would try and walk in fits and starts every couple of minutes. My sense was he was no longer able to get comfortable and was suffering considerably. My sense was also that this could go on for a long time so I decided we had all done enough suffering. I bundled him up in a basket and towels and headed out to the 24 hour animal hospital. At his heaviest and healthiest, Oscar weighed 24 pounds, Thursday he weighed 16.4 pounds and this morning he weighed 14.4 pounds. Still, it took three of us to hold him still enough to get a line in him. True to his style, it took twice as much euthanizing medication to kick him out of his little body.
Little Big Man has had quite a few parallels with Janet’s battle. Numerous times we thought he was checking out but back he’d come, waggling nub of a tail and all. And, as with Janet’s hospice experience, he was throwing up quite frequently this past week. Many people speculated, including Janet, about which one of them would go first. When Janet passed, most people figured, including me, that Oscar wouldn’t be far behind. Oscar seemed to be “my dog”, I gave him his name, took care of him and when he was in trouble he always came looking for me. But Oscar’s mission seemed to be to take care of Janet. I often wondered if he was somehow running interference for Janet, taking on some of the health issues for her.
I used to say Oscar was made of springs and wires. He had a stiff way of moving, but there was a profound bounce to his walk, even to his last days. When he was a puppy, he could jump to amazing heights. This is in contrast to his long time buddy Jasmine. Jasmine is made of elastic and rubber bands. She has a much smoother way of walking, a saunter almost, and is more flexible in how she moves. For the past six years I could count on coming home from work and being greeted by three barking puppies led by Oscar. The pack would be all lined up ready to jump on me once in the door. I shall miss this greatly.
I think Oscar died about 3:25 AM. He turned 13 just five days ago. Rock on, little dude…
[Last edited: 2005.08.06]