Thursday, June 02, 2011

Our Little Man

As most of our friends and family know, our little man Celtic passed away early Sunday morning. Although we are very thankful for the almost four weeks we had with him after his diagnosis early last month, we are still incredibly heartbroken. I thought it would be easier knowing ahead of time that we were going to lose him, but I guess no matter how much time we have with our pets, it never seems to be quite enough.

Maybe this loss was more difficult than I thought it would be because of all of Celtic's ups and downs during the last month. On the day that we canceled his surgery, we thought for sure he'd be gone within a couple of weeks. He was so weak and lethargic, and his tumor was still growing rapidly. A couple of days later we started him on a new anti-inflammatory called Piroxicam that was supposed to help with his joint pain. When Dr. Layton suggested it, she mentioned in passing that it also had some "cancer fighting properties." Since she didn't make a big deal of it we didn't think much of it either, but after just a couple of doses, it was obvious that Celtic's tumor had quit growing and was actually getting smaller. In less than two weeks, the tumor's decrease in size was almost as dramatic as the increase had been in the previous two weeks.

We were so thankful for the Piroxicam, since it clearly improved Celtic's mobility and his overall quality of life in his last month. He took a short walk almost every day, had a good appetite and generally seemed pretty much his happy little self. In fact, on the Friday before last, when I was upstairs taking some pictures of 3-Day equipment to send to my friend and 3-Day teammate Amber, the little stinker came right up the stairs behind me, which he was not supposed to do. The entire time I was trying to take pictures he was either trying to steal the socks and pillow or get inside the duffel bag. He was so cute and just as ornery as ever.

It's just so hard to believe that this was just 8 days before he died. I actually started to write an update about him after I took these pics, and now I'm really glad I never got around to finishing it. I probably would have blamed myself for jinxing things when he took a turn for the worse just a couple of days later. It was so strange, because on the Monday after I took these shots, I was at our regular vet with Fresco, and he was somewhat surprised to hear that Celtic was doing so well. Dr. Coles thought maybe we should give Dr. Layton a call to reconsider the surgery since the Piroxicam might have given us a window of opportunity. I called Dr. Layton's assistant later that day and left her a message about how well he was doing and how we wanted to talk to Dr. Layton and get her thoughts on rescheduling. It was almost like Celtic heard the conversation and decided to nix the idea, because within a couple hours his mood and health had totally changed. Out of nowhere, he was completely lethargic and could barely even get up. The next morning, he could only walk about 3 houses down the block and could barely make it back home--the previous day he had walked almost a half mile with no problems!

Although he was a little bit better the day after that, his health and mood were up and down all week. By Saturday he really seemed to have improved--so much so that Chad had actually decided to go to Salina to hunt turkeys on Sunday. Celtic had such a great day on Saturday. He walked farther than he had in several days (and wanted to keep going) and ate a hearty dinner. After dinner he was super spunky and followed Chad all over the house trying to get a bite of bagel. Then about 8 p.m. that night something changed--he became very weak and despondent. We initially thought he would feel better after a good night's sleep. It took us several hours to figure out that this was no ordinary lethargy, at which point we assumed his tumor had finally caused internal bleeding. We hoped he would just fall asleep and pass peacefully, but he barely rested all night long and was clearly very uncomfortable. We finally went to the emergency vet in Topeka at about 4:30 on Sunday morning, and the vet confirmed that there was nothing we could except put him to sleep. By this time, it was obvious that Celtic was in terrible pain. Dr. Carder, who was the vet who attended to Steeler when he died at Stone House back in 2006, thought that Celtic was suffering from the same condition that killed his brother--peritonitis. Dr. Carder guessed that his tumor had actually spread far beyond his armpit and had actually ruptured his gastrointestional tract somewhere. As difficult as it was to let him go, once we realized how much he was hurting, we wished we'd made the decision to go to Topeka hours earlier.

I know hindsight is always 20/20, but I could just kick myself that I didn't recognize Celtic's lethargy on Saturday night for what it was--pain. While he was groaning a little and breathing strangely, he wasn't panting at all, which is usually the tell-tale sign that a dog is hurting. While we knew he was uncomfortable, we thought maybe the internal bleeding was just causing him to be extremely weak and tired. It just didn't seem possible that he could go from being so spunky in the early evening to near death in such a short time, and it never occurred to us that his cancer could have spread so far so quickly. We were anticipating that when it spread, it would spread to the area of his heart/lungs first--not that it would attack farther down in his poor little body. It just breaks my heart that he had such a painful last few hours of his life and we weren't able to help him sooner.

Although Celtic's great day on Saturday fooled us somewhat, we're also very thankful that his last day on earth was a good one. We imagined that his decline would be more gradual and painful, but as it turned out, he got to enjoy life right down to the last day--just like his brother Steeler. We are comforted knowing that they are now running and playing together in heaven.

In Memory of Celtic Bird Luce
June 26, 1997-May 29, 2011


amber said...

As always Kim, a well-written account. Although I'm sure it was incredibly hard to write, you will be glad you did take the time to reflect and record these thoughts. One of the first things I thought about once I heard the news was how funny those equipment pictures were and how glad I was that he had been so interested as you were snapping pics for me--all the way upstairs even! It was a neat way for me to see Celtic one last time, just as I will remember him. He was always the friendliest, most well-behaved dog, and a dream to dog-sit for those times I came to your old house to let the dogs out. Our prayers continue to be with your entire household.

Leah B said...

Kim, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. As a dog lover I know how hard it is to loose a pet, especially one that has lived with you for a lifetime. My heart goes out to you and Chad.