Max (8 weeks), left and Syrah, on the right
Our older dog Syrah (right) has been with us since 2003 when she was 8 weeks old. She is a Shepherd mix that we adopted from a local shelter. She has always had such a way about her; she’s very loving, very protective, silly, stubborn and any other adjective you can throw in there. She’s great – plain and simple! She’s like the nosy neighbor positioning herself on the chair so she can look out the window at the passersby on the sidewalk across the street.
When we had our daughter in 2004, Syrah (we pronounce it like “Sara”) always stayed close by and kept tabs on her. If I was in the kitchen and Anika would be in her crib or bassinet sleeping, as soon as she woke up; Syrah would alert me by barking – as if I couldn’t already hear her :). Or if Anika was playing or laying in her baby papasan chair, and she pooped, Syrah knew it and she’d go over, sniff and let me know.
Syrah was my first dog, so I never knew what to expect as a dog owner. She has exceeded all of my expectations and then some. She got to know my mother-in-law and brother-in-law very well, and now even mentioning their names gets her tail wagging and she barks with joy. Sometimes if my brother-in-law is on the phone with me, and he’s feeling down, I will mention his name, Syrah will get excited and bark and it makes him laugh.
In February 2012, she was getting lethargic and not herself. We took her to the vet on a Sunday morning (yes, they’re open for a few hours on Sundays). After doing some tests, and an X-ray, they suspected that she had a tumor on her spleen. I was told that typically this type of tumor has a very high malignancy rate (about 80-90%), so after drying my eyes, I asked the vet what our next step would be. Surgery to remove the spleen and the tumor. After they biopsied the tumor we got a call saying that it was BENIGN! My husband and I (and the vet) couldn’t believe it. We were so happy. The vet called her the ‘Miracle Dog’.
So, months went by and she had the spring in her step again and it was so great. She was 9 years old and still acting like a 4 or 5 year old dog – not as much energy as a puppy….
Then around the end of November, early December, she again started slowing down, drinking a ton of water, peeing all the time – including in our bedroom – which she had never done – EVER! I’m sure by now, you know what the diagnosis is… yes diabetes. We were shocked! She always had plenty of exercise, was never overweight, ate natural dog food, we couldn’t believe it.
I asked the vet what to do now. He said go home talk it over with your family and we can get her started on insulin injections. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about cost, I was just thinking of getting her healthy again. I went home and my husband thought about the cost right away. We’d already been having financial troubles, so another cost to add to the pot was not what we needed. We discussed (loudly) for a bit about what to do. I was pro-injections and he was pro-saving money. He does love the dog, but he was realistically concerned about our “fiscal cliff”. This was a Thursday night and I had to bring her in for monitoring the next day. That was our next ‘discussion’. I had to come right out and ask, if he was leaning towards putting her down. I said very firmly, that it is NOT what I wanted. She is perfectly healthy otherwise, and once she gets regulated, she will just need the injections twice a day, that’s it.
He said he didn’t want her to have to be put down, but he was still very concerned about our money – or lack of it – situation. So, I took her back the next night and got the lowdown about how to do the injections, etc. Got the insulin and syringes at Walmart (the costs are very low).
Skip ahead a few months. It’s the end of February 2013. We can see clouds of grey in her eyes, she is having trouble getting down the stairs. So we took her back. She now has cataracts, and is mostly blind. Seeing her steadily going down hill has been very hard for all of us. They upped her dose of insulin to see if she can get regulated, but she’ll always have the cataracts. She can still play with Bella, who is almost 1 year old, and Max almost 4 years old. But she barks more now because she can’t see when they are coming at her to “attack”.
She is still hanging in there, to which I am very grateful. But if for some reason, she becomes insulin intolerant, and continues to steadily decline; we will have to make a very hard decision. One that most pet owners never come to lightly. I hope that it doesn’t because I cannot imagine for one day that she would not be with us any longer. To not hear her sighs as she falls asleep, or if we are all laughing too loud when she’s trying to sleep, or when she barks when we tell her that ‘grandma’ is on the phone. Or even when she’s done eating and she comes over and nudges your leg as if to say, ‘thank you for the food, it was yummy’.
Pets are not disposable, no matter how hard situations become. When you bring an animal into your homes and lives it should be forever, not until they get too big, they get their fur everywhere, or they bark all the time. Dogs are our best friends that won’t judge you if you’ve eaten too much Java Chip ice cream. They are our confidants. And most importantly, they give you their unconditional love, and all they ask you for in return is your time and commitment to be there for them when they need you.