I don't even know where to start. It's another Duke post. Let's admit it up front, people want to hear about your sick dog as much as they want to hear about last night's dream. It's boring and has no impact on them personally.
But I need to replay all of the events this week ... to remember, to not repeat myself, to process, to heal. Afterall, this is really a lifestyle blog, and this is what is consuming my life right now.
If you follow along regularly (and don't worry if you don't), you'll know that Jon and I brought Duke home with us last July. Let me back up a minute and say that we knew the conditions affecting French Bulldogs and set aside money to fix the various breathing problems that would more than likely rear their ugly heads. We told ourselves, this will be our only purebred dog because we wanted him so badly. Was it irresponsible to buy a brachycephalic dog? Maybe, but I don't feel like entertaining that question ... ever.
A heart murmur was not on the radar, but there it was. We brought him home anyway knowing that he had a minor heart murmur, according to the breeder and the vet that vaccinated him. When we consulted several vets and a cardiologist here in Virginia, we learned his murmur was much worse. It was severe, and it wasn't going away. He was diagnosed with pulmonic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the pulmonic valve and causes the right ventricle to work harder than normal and causes thickening of the valve as well. Our option was valvuloplasty, the closest equivalent would be angioplasty or balloon surgery for animals.
Once he turned a year old, we decided to book the surgery. There was much deliberation because many people cautioned us about the negative effects of anesthesia on Frenchies. So which risk do you take? Attempt to prolong your dog's life and relieve pressure knowing anesthesia isn't so great, or hoping they live until the age of five when they're predicting to suffer heart failure based on how rapidly their murmur is worsening?
On Monday, the surgery went great. Duke's gradient reduced by 65 percent and is no longer an issue. But that risk didn't pay off so well, and he suffered a stroke from the anesthesia. He couldn't use his left side for two days, but is trotting around just fine six days later ... and ... he is unable to see out of his left eye. The doctor's haven't given up hope that he'll recover from this, and we've noticed a very, very slow improvement.
He was ready to take home on Wednesday, one of the hottest days of the week, and I left work early because Jon and I couldn't wait to have him home. Duke came trotting out into the waiting room, bumped into my legs because his depth perception is off, and walked right by me. He had no idea who I was, and it was heartbreaking. We took him away from the other dogs as we checked out, I turned the air conditioning on full blast in the car, he walked 30 seconds in the 100 degree weather (no joke), got into the car, and couldn't breathe.
I thought if I just drove away, that he would calm down, but I didn't even make it out of the parking lot before he vomited, defecated, and urinated all over the backseat. I rushed around and carried him back inside. Thank god one of the techs grabbed him and ran. We are so indebted to this woman. I didn't know what to do, so I grabbed paper towels, and went outside to clean up the car in my nice new dress and shoes that were covered in puke and shit. As I bent over showing the world my underwear trying to sop up puke, a total stranger walked up and told me stop. I turned around, and she said, "You have to stop. You need a hug. Come here."
And I lost it. I was sobbing in this lady's arms.
We were so close to having Duke home and ready to deal with the setbacks and now this. As I sat in a room by myself after the doctor came in and told me they weren't sure he was going to pull through, I kept beating myself thinking how many things I did wrong. I should have asked the nurses to bring Duke into a private room, not the public waiting room ... I should have asked them to seduce him so he wouldn't be excited ... I should have waited longer before putting him in the car, but I didn't want to be that crazy dog lady. Plus, I have a huge problem inconveniencing someone, which comes with that Southwest Virginia upbringing. Couple this with my attitude that I MUST handle everything myself, and Duke didn't stand a chance.
Duke's temperature was 107, and he suffered heatstroke. 30 seconds! 30 seconds! He wasn't responding to the oxygen, and in a split second I had to make a choice. Let him die or put him under once again and go on a respirator until they could perform a tracheotomy. It could have been pure selfishness that I couldn't fathom Duke expiring so early in his life, or maybe it was the fact that he was fighting so hard the entire week, and I didn't want that effort to be wasted, but he went under again.
At this point, I had no idea how brain dead and blind Duke might be if he suffered another stroke from another round of anesthesia. Through it all, you may be asking, "Where's Jon?" He had to stay at work because he's just started a new job. We were on the phone the entire time, and I was so upset that I was in that room alone. He was so upset that he was in the bathroom at work alone trying to hold it together between the multitude of sales deals he was pitching that day.
Now here's the funny thing. The heatstroke had nothing to do with his heart condition or the neurological deficits he was experiencing. It was an absolutely isolated incident. Perfect timing, but 100 percent isolated from everything else. I left Duke on a table with a breathing tube down his throat after I stroked his head and held his paw until they told me it was time to go.
Another surgery was performed to correct Duke's elongated palate, deviated septum, pinched nostrils, and something else that I don't remember off the top of my head. So were the doctor's taking us on a run for our money? Are Jon and I absolutely crazy? Who knows, and I don't really care because if those are the only questions that someone may have, I don't feel like placating a money-driven, uncompassionate attitude.
Duke is finally home after six days. He didn't recognize Jon either. It's horrifying to see a huge open wound in your animal's throat from a trach tube and watching them stand shakily deciding where to step. Once I scratched his little butt like I always do, it triggered his memory, and it was so incredible to see my best friend's face light up for the first time. He won't leave my side. It's heart wrenching watching a dog that was so full of life have a look of sheer confusion on his face. Jon and I spent the day exercising his legs and holding him. This morning, he tried to jump up and lick my face, sat and stayed on command, recognized his name, and had a little more life in his trot. Each day will get better. The determination in this household is overwhelming.
I know many, many people are sick of hearing about it. Jon and I are both sick of talking about it, but it's our life right now and it drives our days. We both feeling silly caring about an animal this much. This week, we've gone out just the two of us or stayed home because we don't want people to know how much we hurt and worry. We've beaten ourselves up because we feel so stupid for a dog impacting our lives this much. I know that many, many people don't understand how we can love Duke so much. I also know people have talked shit, and that's not worth our time.
We are a family. Duke has brought a tremendous amount of happiness and worth into our lives. He is a constant reminder of the power of unconditional love. We did everything this week with the best intentions and will continue to do so as long as he is strong enough to be in our lives.