I’ve written before about our Westie, McKenzie. She came to us in 2005 the year after we lost my Mom and we lost our Akita, Teddy. It was me who said I didn’t want another dog after we lost Teddy, but the house seemed so lonely, no one to greet me when I arrived home from work. A person I worked with owned a Westie (West Highland White Terrier) and told me how wonderful the breed was. I located a breeder, she came to our home, and approved us as parents for her puppy. That is how McKenzie became a family member.
McKenzie turned 13 in June of 2018 and she had begun to show her age. She didn’t walk well anymore, slept more than she had before, a senior dog for sure. However, I was not prepared for what transpired last March.
One Saturday last March, we woke as usual, she seemed to be alright, breathing a little labored but nothing to warrant any paranoia. She was due for her shots and I was planning on discussing her breathing with the vet during her yearly appointment. I fed her breakfast as usual and took her out for her morning walk. She did her business on the snowy grass, I picked her up moving her to the sidewalk where the snow had melted, it was too cold on her paws, then I placed her down. She took several steps sideways, to the left, and promptly fell over. I picked her up two more times, only to have the same horrifying event happen again, each time. At this point, I began to panic thinking she might be suffering from a stroke. I picked her up, quickly walked into the house, tears streaming down my face, and called my husband at work. He told me to calm down and call the vet. I did as he said, their office was not open yet so I left a message, for them to call me as soon as they opened, which wasn’t for an hour. I called my daughter who quickly came over and waited with me.
After many hours at the vet’s office, they did blood work and X-rays then came in to speak to us. They said they found something unusual on the X-ray taken of her chest, it was of concern and the Dr. wanted a radiologist to look at the films. Once they received the report back from the radiologist, they would call me for the consultation. My daughter and I left their office and waited a few agonizing hours for their call. Upon arrival our second time that day, Dr. Lori explained that she originally thought it was worse then what the radiologist’s report said, she thought it might have been cancer, the report said it was congestive heart failure. Her heart was enlarged and fluid had filled her lungs and that’s why she could not breath. She explained that we could see a cardiologist and have them run tests to pinpoint exactly what had happened, but if we decided not to, she could treat McKenzie with heart medicine and a diuretic to relieve the fluid in her lungs. They gave her a shot that afternoon, which relieved the fluid in her lungs, giving her much relief.
She had been on that medicine since March, her breathing returned to a more normal state, she seemed to be doing much better. She still could not play much anymore, she slept often but she was holding her own. There was no guarantee how long the medicine would continue to work, but she wasn’t in pain or distress and seemed to be doing well considering her condition.
Shortly after the problem with her heart, she began having trouble walking. I guess somewhere in July, we began noticing that she could not put pressure on her right leg. Once again, we visited Dr. Lori, she concluded that something in the vertebrae in her back was wrong. She was put on more medicine, we were told to give it two weeks and call them back. Dr. Lori explained that this condition could be quite painful, most times they must put the pet to sleep. That was nearly six months ago, and over these past months she had taken a turn for the worse. The dreadful decision, every pet parent fears making had to be made. Brian and I made the decision, not without much thought and many tears (crying as I write this), in the end, we felt it was best for her, she wouldn’t be in pain anymore. She wasn’t the dog she had been for so many years, even her woobies could not comfort her any longer. Her quality of life had drastically diminished.
This brings me to the title of my blog, KNOWING . . . is it better to know or not know? As humans we have the capability to understand and know what is happening to us. The what is understandable, perhaps not accepted, but we certainly understand what is happening and what the prognosis is. As a dog, a non-human, they cannot understand the what of a situation, they look to us to understand for them AND to do what is in their best interest. So, again, I ask, is it better to have the capacity to know or is it better to not know what is happening. Sometimes, I think it might be easier to not have the capacity to understand situations, put our faith in someone who has been entrusted to care and take care of us. Then another part of me cannot image NOT knowing and therein lies the beauty of being a non-human, you wouldn’t know any different. You would only feel pain and then you wouldn’t.
We had so many good days with McKenzie and then this one very bad day. She went peacefully, with both of us holding her and petting her. She is now in a good place and not in anymore pain. I hope one day we meet again.
My apologies for the lengthy blog this week, until next time . . .
Copyright 2021 Debra Nancy photography
A visual storyteller. I use flowers, tea cups, cake plates and various props to tell still life stories. I grew up in the city, but I have lived in the suburbs for over 30 years. Living close to the beach and a local small village has given me the opportunity to tell my story through photographs.