It is with love, and sadness, and anger, and an indescribable sense of loss that I sit down to write this post today. I don’t know how to say it, so I’m just going to state it: Last night, at about 9:30 pm, we had to humanely euthanize our dog Nyla.
For those of you that know me (and knew Nyla), you know how much she meant to me. She was my first dog, and I loved that little rat. I got Nyla not long after leaving college; I was living in a new town where I had no friends and was lonely. I wanted a dog, and since I was living in an apartment, it would need to be small. I had never had any particular draw to chihuahuas, but when I found Nyla online, I knew that I wanted her. I drove over five hours to pick her up, and she could literally fit in the palm of my hand. She was small, and sweet, and from that moment, has been my little baby.
Nyla was with me through health scares, breakups, and life changes. She has always been there to cuddle into a crook and offer comfort. Even though she was my dog well before meeting Nick, she loved him, and loved to cuddle him.
Nyla wasn’t a dog that loved hiking, or playing, going to the beach. Nyla’s favorite thing in the world was laying down on soft things. Whether it was a cozy floor mat, a stack of pillows, or lying in bed buried in my hair, she was at her most content in a state of half-sleep.
The majority of Nyla’s life she enjoyed being indoors. I’d let her out to go to the bathroom in the morning and she’d be back at the door in about a minute, ready to get back inside. When we moved here, things changed. First, it started with her yipping at night, all night, to go out. When we’d let her out, she didn’t want to come back in. So, we began leaving the dogs out at night to sleep. They loved it. Then, she decided she didn’t have any interest being inside during the day. She chewed her way to freedom out of two crates, so we began leaving the dogs outside during the day (on our roofed patio). She loved it here. If anything, I can confidently say that she was happy with her life right up until the end.
It’s hard to imagine life without the little Bean. It’s hard to think of what it’s going to be like to come home after work, and not see her running around in circles and hopping sideways, so excited to see us. To not have her cuddle up by me and give me stinky little kisses. For her to no longer be here, with me. There’s a dish of food sitting in her crate, waiting for her to get home, that I haven’t had the heart to throw away yet.
So, now onto the anger and burning rage. It appears as though Nyla was poisoned. Most likely deliberately. And I don’t know how to deal with that. In my head, I always thought that our dogs would go from old age (or complications resulting from it). I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that someone could have intentionally murdered my dog.
The sequence of events:
Nyla didn’t eat anything on Tuesday, but that is not out of the realm of normal-ness for her. On Wednesday, she didn’t eat breakfast, and while Nick was studying on Wednesday afternoon he called her out from under the couch (one of her favorite places to lay down) to sit on his lap. She came over, and when he picked her up, he noticed that she was wheezy.
We decided to take her to the vet. After looking her over, and doing blood tests that showed nothing abnormal, the vets kept her for observation for a few hours and then sent us home with her. Honestly, I kind of assumed she was pulling another Classic Bean Fake-Out. Thursday evening, she was still wheezing and not eating, so we let her (and Elly) sleep in the bedroom with us. We gave them them a variety of treats, of which Nyla wound eat none. We finally got her to eat a little peanut butter, but not much, and she was hesitant to drink water. She slept by my head that night, sounding like the tiniest little bellows you’ve ever seen stoking an invisible fire.
We decided to take Nyla back to the vet clinic at around 9:30 Friday morning. I took her in, and they began giving her oxygen, running blood work, doing radiography, and giving her a workup. They told me that other than an enlarged esophagus with a lot of air in it, there was nothing abnormal on any of her tests, but that they wanted to keep her to keep running tests. I went back to work and we waited.
That afternoon, they called. They had done a barium swallow, which had shown nothing. They said that something else could present, but given the symptoms, it was likely that she had been given a dose of Paraquat, a herbicide that is illegal most places, but is still legal here. It is used to kill weeds and is also, apparently, commonly used to poison dogs. There is no test for Paraquat poisoning; likewise, there is no cure. The symptoms include difficulty breathing, increased respiration rate, and, you guessed it, and enlarged esophagus.
Because of the lack of a test and the lack of a treatment, they continued to treat Nyla as though it may be something else. They gave her oxygen, they started her on IV fluids, they gave her antibiotics, and they gave her pain medication. We were hopeful.
And then Elly got sick. When we took Elly in with similar symptoms on Friday night, the vet said it further solidified the suspicion of Paraquat. They told us that they would keep a close eye on the dogs, and call us with updates.
We visited the dogs yesterday (Saturday) morning. They were in their crates, hooked up to IVs, and Bean had a cone on with plastic wrap over the top (with an open corner to let out CO2) pumping in pure oxygen. She was still breathing rapidly and forcefully, and was so tired. She would stand up for a bit, and then need to sit back down and rest. The vet indicated that they would be doing further radiographs in the afternoon to see if there was progression of symptoms. She said that with Paraquat, things can go from bad to worse very rapidly, and asked if we would authorize immediate humane euthanasia should it start to do so. With the kind of painful death the poison brings, we agreed, even though we wanted the chance to try to be there if it happened.
With nothing more we could do, we left, came home, and waited. The vet called about 8:00 pm, and the news was not good. Radiographs showed fibrosis developing in Nyla’s lungs, further indicating poison and a reduced chance of recovery. On pure oxygen, her oxygenation levels were at 97%, but she was having to put in a lot of effort to keep herself there. The vet indicated that one of two things were likely to happen: Nyla would no longer be able to keep up with the effort needed to keep oxygenating, or she would develop an esophageal tear, both leading to death. I asked her one of the most difficult questions I’ve ever had to ask – at this point, with this progression, would now be the time to consider humane euthanasia? The vet said that she fully supported that decision.
So Nick and I sat down and had a hard, tear-filled conversation about what we wanted to do. On the one hand, we wanted to hold out hope. We didn’t want it in the back of our minds that had we waited just a little bit more, she could have gotten better. But with the lung fibrosis, and all the research we had done about the poisoning, and all of the intelligent, thoughtful advice we had received from the vet clinic, we knew she wouldn’t. So, on the other hand, my biggest fear and sense of grief came from the thought of her dying alone. The thought of her rapidly declining overnight before we could get there, and then having to be euthanized with no one there that knew her, that loved her, the way that we did. I couldn’t live with that. The thought of her being alone, and scared, and passing. I wanted her to feel our love.
So we went to the clinic. We spent about fifteen minutes with her in a private room, telling her how much we loved her, and would miss her, and giving her kisses. She was happy, but obviously exhausted and struggling. When we were “ready” the vet came in and administered the succession of three injections that flushed, sedated, and finally, eased her suffering. We pet her and talked to her the whole time, and I knew immediately when she had left us. The dog that had been so full of personality, so full of love, so full of courage and compassion, was no longer there. We stayed with her a while longer, and then gave our permission for a full autopsy. Hopefully, the vet students can learn something from her case, or even more hopefully, they find something that will allow them to treat Elly in a successful manner.
In the end, I hope she knew how much we loved her. How hard we tried to keep her. And why, in the end, we had to let her go.