Purple Dinosaur is in pieces. Bleu and Bevie, our two puppies, had their way with him and now we must say goodbye. I know that he is just a stuffed dog toy, but having to put him in the trash was heartbreaking. Those of you who are my friends on social media, you have seen lots of pictures in the past of our sweet boy, Major, with his much loved Purple Dinosaur. Last March, after a long illness, we had to make the horrible decision to put him down.
I realize that some of you might still wonder what happened and how he got sick. There were times while it was happening that I considered blogging about the whole thing. I wasn’t writing much of anything at the time. Emotionally I was too all over the place and my worry and concern for Major had zapped most of my creative juices.
It was a rough 8 months that started with a simple limp. Major had been limping for a couple of weeks and it only seemed to be getting worse. We headed to our vet who then referred us to a specialty vet. Little did we know we would get to know all of the doctors in multiple departments at Animal Speciality Group (ASG) very, very well.
First diagnosis was bilateral hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears (like an ACL tear in humans.) Both are common in Goldens and for Major his issues were with both of his hind legs. Surgery would be required. Multiple surgeries. We debated and worried. These surgeries would cost a small fortune. But Major was only 2 years old and these kind of issues were common and very fixable. The CCL issue was worse than the hip dysplasia, so we opted to go with that first. His first surgery was set for the end of August.
Surgery went well. I knew that the recovery of a 80 pound Golden Retriever wouldn’t be easy, especially since once he recovered from the first it would be followed by a second. His recovery seemed to be going slow, but surely that was normal.
Then one Sunday night while we were eating dinner, I glanced over at Major laying on the living room rug. I noticed a big black spot on the carpet near his nose. I got up to check it out and sure enough, his nose was bleeding. I’ve owned dogs my entire life and this was a definite first. We couldn’t get the bleeding to stop, so at 10PM I decided to head over to the 24 hour emergency vet.
Long story short, they couldn’t find anything wrong. They shot a steroid up his nose to stop the bleeding and told us to come back if it started again. Went home somewhat relieved.
Two days later he was bleeding again. This time it was coming out of the other end. I panicked, not sure what was happening but knowing whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
Long story even longer, we ended up back at ASG. Major was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Immune-mediated Thrombocytopedia (ITP). Basically, his immune system was attacking his platelets. If it isn’t caught in time, dogs can bleed to death. Hopefully, we had caught his in time. No one knows what causes ITP. It’s just something that…happens. It had no relation to his knee and hip issues, by the way.
We battled his disease for months, traveling to ASG in Glendale (a 30-minute drive in L.A. without traffic, which of course in L.A. never happens) every other week for blood work and medication. It was getting extremely expensive and emotionally exhausting. At any minute, he could relapse and start to bleed again. And don’t forget, we still had the hip and knee issues, but now with having an autoimmune disease, he would never be able to have surgery. At least not easily. And we also discovered that the spot in his knee, where he had surgery, had not only developed an infection but the screw was actually in the wrong place. The whole thing was becoming a huge veterinary cluster-you-know-what.
Side note: His surgery was not done at ASG, by the way. We opted for a cheaper surgeon, clearly a huge mistake on our part. A mistake that still hurts my heart to think about.
We were on such a daily up and down with his health. I had grown abnormally attached to this dog and his illness had only made that bond stronger. I was the one at every vet appointment. I was the only one who knew exactly what medications he needed and when. I have personally never fought a major illness, but I felt the responsibility to do all of the fighting for him. I was going to do whatever was needed to keep him alive so I spent a good amount of time researching online, trying to learn all I could about ITP. Really what I was searching for was hope.
Dogs can live a long life with ITP, but there would always be issues of one kind or another. We loved Major so much we would do anything for him and obviously we were. But there comes a time when you have to consider the quality of life for everyone involved. And Major’s quality of life and his future didn’t look happy or healthy. He had a lot of different issues. I mean, a lot. Physically he was a total mess. It’s hard for any dog to have hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia and CCL is really rough. Hip dysplasia, CCL, and ITP? Forget it. But like any Golden, you’d never know it. We had to ask ourselves the hard question if we were fighting to keep him alive for his sake or for ours.
He was only getting worse. He had aged so much and the illness was wearing on him. He was miserable even though he would never, ever let you know it. After much discussion and tears and heartache, we decided to say goodbye.
We all went to ASG to say our goodbyes. He was on some good pain meds that made him pretty loopy which actually made it better on all of us. If he had been his happy Golden self, I’m not sure we could’ve made it through the whole thing. We took our time loving on him. Bentley wanted to take pictures with him. Palmer wanted us to all hold hands so he could say a prayer. Then Derek and the boys left the room and I stayed with my Major until it was all over. It was horrible and gut-wrenching and so incredibly peaceful. And that is all I’m going to say about that.
But that’s not the end of the story.
To be continued…
Post Script: I have to take a minute and mention how wonderful the entire staff at ASG was during our 8 months there. Even though it wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, I will always be grateful to them. They loved Major almost as much as we did and it showed. They were professional and loving and took the time both on the phone and in person to answer all of questions and concerns. And after it was all over, through my tears I smiled and said, “I mean this in the best way possible, but I hope I never have to see you guys again.” They laughed and hugged us goodbye one last time.