I thank everyone for their well wishes, thoughts, and prayers over this past week for our dog, Gus. Unfortunately, we made the difficult decision to let him go after seeing his latest test results. As I mentioned last week, he had been eating less and less, and there were several other little differences in his behavior that a trip to the vet was warranted. When he came to us on December 7, 2009, we knew that he was heart worm positive. What we didn’t know, was that he was also a victim of of irreversible kidney disease and Ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne disease that can further damage the kidneys. We found all of this out when he was in the staging process for his heart worm treatment, which he never had because his kidneys wouldn’t be able to handle the treatment. Luckily, the x-rays showed that his heart worm wasn’t terribly invasive, so we allowed him to lead a normal life, running and playing, without worrying that his heart would be affected by physical activities. It’s quite possible that his deformed kidneys were there since birth, but we’ll never know.
Gus was our third German Shepherd rescue dog, and he came to us from a shelter in DeKalb, Georgia. He was found running loose through the streets, and he was less than two years old. He was underweight at 72 lbs., afraid of every sound, and would cower frequently, leaving me to wonder if he’d been abused. He craved love, and it was obvious that he hadn’t received nearly enough. He adapted easily to our cats and other dogs, and he was a quick learner. He claimed his place as the leader of our pack early on, and was a gentle giant. He had no idea that a dog of his size wasn’t meant to sit on laps. He was the most loving and affectionate dog that we’ve ever had the honor of owning, and the way he would press up against you and nuzzle his face wherever it would fit, could soften even the coldest of hearts. All of our dogs love attention, but after a while, they give you the “enough is enough” look if you snuggle with them for too long. Not this guy though. Looking into his soft brown eyes, you could see that he was just so thankful and happy that someone loved him and cared about him.
He was easy to love, even with all of his health problems. Once we started to successfully maintain him both inside and out, he looked and acted like a perfectly healthy dog. And was he ever stunning. We got his weight up to 85 lbs., and he had the most beautiful shiny black hair. In the sunlight, it had a touch of deep purple. He was our first black sable, and though we’re not ready for another one yet, we know that we want another black sable when the time is right. There are so many positive words that I could use to describe him, but if I could only choose one word, it would be sweet. This photo was sent to me by one of the Southern Cross Rescue workers when he was still in Georgia. She told me this was his reaction when he found out that he was coming to live with us. I told you he was sweet!
When we took him last Wednesday to see our dear Dr. Hecht, I think he was as shocked and disappointed in his test results as we were. He was amazed that outwardly, Gus looked so good, because the test results showed an entirely different picture. His red and white blood counts were completely off, there was something off in his pancreatic readings, and his kidney numbers were so high, that the machine didn’t read that high to assign a number value to them. The CBC blood panel is a maze of dots, and ideally, everything should be in the center column and be black in color. His did have some reading that way, but it also had many clusters of red (low readings) and clusters of green (high readings) in many of the key areas. His kidneys were gone, and everything else was beginning to fail as well.
We took him home, and did everything we could to make him comfortable. Dr. Hecht said we’d know when it was time, and of course my sensible side understood that nothing I could do would change the reality. My unrealistic side kept me hoping against hope, but after a rough Thursday night, we knew that we needed to let him go. Heartbroken and devastated, I made the call. I knew Dr. Hecht was off on Friday, but thankfully his partner was readily available. With truly compassionate care, Dr. Sobaski and his assistant Dee Dee gently and lovingly helped Gus to leave his life with dignity. I stayed with him until the end, letting him know how very much he was loved.
This isn’t the first dog we’ve lost, and it won’t be the last. It’s always hard to lose one of our four-legged kids, but man oh man, this one is the hardest ones so far. In 25 years, I’ve never seen my husband so heartbroken. I think what makes the loss of Gus so difficult, is that it all happened so quickly, and that he was only three years old. He’d made such progress in his two short years with us, and while we’re so happy that we had the opportunity to give him a well-deserved good life, we’re just so saddened by the fact that nothing could be done to allow that happiness to last a little longer for him. I know that we were good to him, and I know that we went above and beyond what many other people would have done to keep him healthy as long as we could, so I do find some small comfort in that.
We don’t just rescue dogs to give them a better life. We’re selfish, you see, and we also rescue them to enrich our lives as well. So for as much as it may seem that we give to these dogs, each and every one of them has given us so much more. This is a magnet I have on the refrigerator, and it basically says it all.
Rest easy, our sweet boy.