Sam Update: We’re Getting Old, Mom

This is more a family post, and of course by “family” I mean “people I’d hug in an airport after having not seen them in a while” or “people I’d give a jovial pat on the back to – of course, from a respectable distance. You know, the ones I’d still have cocktails with while trying to dust the cobwebs out of my memory ‘how is… oh, you know…  him? That guy you’ve lived with for like 15 years'” (aka my “close” friends).  (To my friends: I totally know the names of your significant others except that one friend who switches them out so much that I can’t keep track; I’m just too old  – in your case, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve named the guy of the moment “Jeff” – seems generic enough, and I’m sure .01% of the time I might be right.)

Anyway, the rest of you are welcome to stay (who knows, one day I might hug you in an airport), but the post may get boring in bits.  For the rest of you, particularly Drew (Sam’s favorite long distance uncle), here’s the update:

After surviving 7 years of kitty trauma, a new beast has entered the house.  The smallish ball of fluff and claws goes by Quincy and appears to be easily amused by round things, tubey things, sproingy things, and all things Sam.  Sam is the best!!! Sam would like you to know that despite Quincy’s best efforts to extend the olive branch of friendship (which usually comes in the form of tail batting and Quincy desperately trying to rub his head against her chin) that she is onto his clever ploys and not having it!  Sam has explained in her disgruntled old lady way, on more than one occasion, that she’s wise to Quincy’s motives. He’s a cat. Sam would also like it noted that all of the food is Sam’s – Quincy’s food, the human’s food, food that may not be readily visible or in the house, food that may be a chef’s pipe dream – that’s all hers – move along.  The joys of a furry kingdom.

The not as fun bits – Sam is almost 13 years old, and as all the other pet owners at the vet who ask Sam’s age like to point out as they sigh dramatically, she’s practically at death’s door.  At Monday’s appointment a woman cheerily offered, “well, my friend’s beagle is 17 – of course, she’s blind and miserable – oh hey, good luck at your appointment!” Jay would say at this point, “that’s not exactly what she said,” but I have a blog, and well that was my take away.  Sam was at the vet Monday, because the previous week she had become somewhat listless – she’d completely stopped her peppy runs to get food, or to get snacks, or to see what we were up to (just in case food was involved – paws crossed – hey, she’s a hound).  Instead she walked slowly, face and ears drooped, and tail down. Normally, when she’s slowed down it’s due to a flare up of her arthritis (after two CCL surgeries she has arthritis in her knees as well as her hips and shoulders). I scheduled an appointment so we could get her pain managed – hooray for anti-inflammatories. However, right before we were about to take her in she staggered across the room, her legs went out from under her and she fell; this was a new symptom that was heartbreaking to see.  We arrived at the vet carrying her in a blanket as she shook uncontrollably completely unable to walk.

After her examination, which involved me having to jump in with things like “she had Horner’s Syndrome in both sides of her face, which is why she’s not blinking as quickly for your eye test” and “she’s had surgeries on both her knees, and has arthritis which is why she taking a moment to recover from her paw being folded over,” the vet came back with her diagnosis. The long and short of it is that Sam injured her neck. We’re not sure how, and the vet couldn’t tell us  if she had a spinal injury, a pinched nerve, or if it was muscle strain.  The vet said “to x-ray her I’d need to sedate her and with her kidney issues (she’s old) I’d rather avoid it since what I’m going to recommend is the exact same thing we’d end up doing regardless of what the x-ray showed.  This “exact same thing” equals more meds (steroids, muscle relaxers, and generic Pepcid to keep everything down), cold compresses on her neck, and neck massages.  All of this is added on top of her old lady meds of glucosamine, fish oil, kidney meds, and pain killers.

Sam’s current (daunting) daily med regimen – everything on the top row is just a normal day (minus the AAA batteries). The bottom row represents new additions. Note: “acid” is actually “antacid” – we’re not quite that cruel.

The hardest thing is watching as she tries to get around – she stumbles, her paws cross awkwardly in front of each other as she does her best to remain balanced. Then there are the falls.  She’ll be fine, and then she’ll go over.  Thankfully, she prefers to lay down. The second hardest is her appetite.  She’s a hound! Sure, your dog may have an appetite – that’s cute, but you clearly haven’t met a hound.  Hounds are stomachs with legs and a nose. The vet warned before we left, “these steroids will make her hungrier than usual and extremely thirsty”.  I thought, “ugh, a perfect beagle storm”.  Sam will gladly recount the 2,685+ days that she’s been famished. Hey, what does it take to get some food up in this place?  It turns out the new meds not only have not made her more hungry (that would be too easy), they’ve made it so she now has a strong distaste for all of her food.  This includes all of the pill pockets we typically use to hide away the 100 pills she must ingest daily.  Carrots, which were something we might kill a new kitten over a week ago, are disgusting.  Food that had to be delivered in a slow feed bowl – disgusting.  Green beans, which we loved – disgusting.  In fact, she’s a little curious as to why we seem hell bent on insulting her with this garbage.  Attempts to hide pills in peanut butter (which we loved, but now hate), cheese (which is fine, I suppose, but only if flat and not in a ball which might be secreting a pill), or the Kong bacon/cheese whiz stuff (which used to be super delicious) are met with contempt and a firm patooey.   (Patooey’s always end with a happy wag that says, “you can’t fool me with your poisons! Silly mom!”) Then a light went off, “hey wait a minute, I can pill a 29 lb. dog”.  I mean, I’ve pilled cats and Sam is a lot easier than any of our cats.  Great thought.  Points to me for having it – oh sweet, delightful hubris – but you see when it comes to a neck injury, you can’t get that throat into the ideal position for pilling.  One small whimper reminded me, and we’ve been pilling as a last resort in the least ideal of neck positions.  Least ideal neck positions equal more patooey’s and some unnecessary hurtful comments about the less than ideal flavor of my fingers. Thank God for hot dogs, which still do the trick (most of the time).  As for food, we’ve also discovered that boiled chicken (YUMMMMMY!!!) and rice (meh) work.  They can also be blended, along with glucosamine, into a lovely paste.  How I miss the days I could simply put the glucosamine pill on the floor and it would be lapped up with a wag and a happy, “what else you got?” look.

As of today, nearly a week out from the vet visit, Sam is walking better, wagging more, and even trotting – maybe not as steadily as she can, but it’s a huge improvement since Monday.  Quincy has seen Sam’s injury as a real opportunity to become best buds,.  Proper bonding involves leaping out at her while she’s trying to get some rest, flopping down and rolling on his back in her path, extra sniffs, and sticking his head in her bowl while she’s eating (and not getting yelled at – at least not by Sam).  This is a super exciting time, and he figures they’ll be cuddling any day now.  Sam mostly pretends that Quincy is a hallucination and does her best to ignore him.

Over the past year we’ve had some serious talks with her about not getting old, but unfortunately she doesn’t seem to want to listen.  Still, despite the chatter of the other vet clients, she’s not at death’s door yet.  She’s just an old lady – a little slow, a little arthritic, but still our happy girl. (And happier each day as she becomes more and more steady.)

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2 thoughts on “Sam Update: We’re Getting Old, Mom

  1. I laughed. I cried. I read this post.
    “Sam mostly pretends that Quincy is a hallucination and does her best to ignore him.” “Quincy has seen Sam’s injury as a real opportunity to become best buds,” I can so see this all happening and have been through it. At one point I was cooking chicken, chopping, mushing with read/rice so much my daughter said, “Mom you are cooking more for the dog than us!” (Sibling rivalry)
    We have to watch Molly’s neck angle as her trachea was damaged by her first owner. Pills are a real trial. They make these little chicken sticks for toddler foods in the baby food section…you will try anything…
    Cheers for recovering beagle. Long may she wobble!

  2. Beth says:

    Thank you for the good thoughts and for the great tip! I’ll have to look for these chicken sticks. I’ve got another chicken breast ready to cook up later today. Last night we had a tiny improvement, but one that makes our world a ton better – Sam has now re-discoverd peanut butter. Clearly, you guys were giving me the wrong peanut butter; because this stuff here is the Beagle’s Bay! The conveyor belt to pill-dom reopened. Now if we could get her to rediscover old faves like carrots and, you know, her food that would be fantastic. But we’re still celebrating small improvements like the ears moving a little more forward, head slightly up more, legs a little more steady, and those eyes being a tad bit brighter as the tail sways through the air. (When I pull into the garage, Sam typically walks around the car providing the patented “beagle thump test” as she soundly wacks all parts of the car. These past two weeks who knows what has gotten in since she hasn’t been up to her usually quality thump controls.

    Of course all of that can wait since at this moment she’s looped out on muscle relaxers. She’d probably high-paw Quincy before she realized she accidentally acknowledged him.

    And let me say once again: I’m so glad Molly found her real home with great staff, great friends to visit and one “benevolent” ruler.

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