What I Did for Love

The things we do for love: I have an old friend who was feeling very anxious, so I got her Prozac. She had arthritis pain, so I got her gabapentin (Neurontin). To help with arthritis, I got her glucosamine.

She had a stomach bug and wouldn’t eat, so I got her baby food. When she didn’t eat for three days, I thought she was nearing the end of her life. She is, after all, 93, and not eating for several days could signal the end was near.

Trying everything

But I wasn’t going to give up. I cooked chicken and mixed it with rice, but she still didn’t eat. I gave her an appetite enhancer.

I hugged her and cried.

As a last-ditch effort, I microwaved a chicken and vegetable stew made with an easy-to-digest recipe. Would the delicious aroma entice her? I served it on my late mother’s best china. And I put it right under her nose while she lay on her bed. She lifted her head and, drumroll, gobbled it up.

My furry companion

Putting it under her nose might give it away. The old friend is my dog, Maddie, who is almost 15 as I write this.

The old age-ratio formula, seven years of dog life for every human year, isn’t used any more if you want to get a realistic approximation. The old way, she would be 105! Now it’s more generally accepted to do it by weight or breed size. The AKC explains that the old way isn’t supported by science, and they use this chart.

After that first plate of gobbled-up food, she started acting more like herself. She was hungry again. I don’t know what was wrong with her. On the first day of no eating and watery diarrhea, I took her to the vet. The vet said we could just treat the diarrhea or do expensive blood work to find out the cause. I hemmed and hawed. I said no blood work, yes blood work, back and forth. It would cost more than 500 dollars. I said, “OH, OK, let’s do the blood work.” Nothing came up.

A friend wondered why the vet hadn’t just told me that Maddie’s time had simply come. A Lab that won’t eat? But she hadn’t said that. The dog was still drinking and acting OK. Another friend said maybe she just had a stomach bug.

Also, I had changed her food, and I wondered if that was the cause. But the food change was weeks ago.

This might be too much info, but just to add, I also had stomach problems during this period. I looked up whether humans and dogs can have the same “bug,” and the answer seems to be yes.

The vet wanted a stool sample (from the dog). But it was so watery I couldn’t get it. As it froze onto the snow, I ran into the house and got a fork and tried to chisel some off. The vet tech said they couldn’t use it if was diluted like that. I threw out the fork.

The things we do for love.

Gratitude for the care of a dog

Many of us, both advocates and readers alike on Blood.Cancer.com, have written about how much our furry friends help us. I was so upset during this period that I took slivers of Ativan to calm down at night.

A while back, I wrote that Maddie is my best blood pressure medicine. The feeling of hugging her, and of playing with her or petting her, sends soothing vibes through my body.

I’m sure she helped me recover from my fourth and last stem cell transplant.

But if on a scale of 1 to 10, our love for our dogs is a 10, with 10 being best, then on the same scale, with 10 being the worst, their declining years and death is also a 10. (I understand that cat people feel the same way.)

A friend who lost a 15-year-old dog said that people said to her when her dog died, “You’ve had him for 15 years.” She said that she replies, “Exactly, I’ve had him for 15 years.”

I always have big dogs, and they have never lived this long. I know her time will come. But for now I’m going to go back to hugging her and walking her and making all those endorphins that help both of us in our time of need.

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