Watch Your Dog for Hidden Dangers
When loss becomes unbearable
September 11th is a day all Americans will remember until they die. We all know where we were that day and exactly what we were doing at the time the first plane hit the Twin Towers. But September 11th has another special meaning for me. It was a day I will never forget as it was the day my world began to crumble around me.
It's All About Black and White
She was the runt of the litter and the breeder named her Soot for her pitch black coat. When I saw the sparkle in her eyes, it reminded me of the stars in the sky, and so I called her Midnight or Middy. She was a mixed-breed dog - part Poodle, Lhasa and Shih Tzu. She was unbelievably smart and only had one accident on the floor before she was completely trained within two weeks of her arrival. As my Bichon was adopted, she had never quite gotten the knack of going potty outside. Not only was the potty issue a problem but her family had named her Freckles for the two spots on her tummy. I just couldn't call a solid white dog Freckles, thus I began to call her Punky.
The first few days, Punky was scared of the little black ball of fur, but as time went by they bonded almost like mother and child. Soon the two them became inseparable. They slept together and played together. They would tear through the house, barking and chasing each other until both would collapse from pure exhaustion. Although this white and black blended as one, Punky remained “alpha dog”. It didn’t seem to matter that Middy was almost double her weight. When Punky growled, Midnight backed down. And so together they grew into adulthood.
Punky seemed to have her health problems now and again – bladder stones, disjointed knees, and skin tags as she aged. Midnight, on the other hand, was never sick a day in her life. She loved the outdoors, playing in the yard for hours and begging for walks as often as I would take her. In the winter, she’d plow through the snow with joy, making a path for the little nine pound Bichon that followed closely behind. It was quite hysterical when Middy would run in the door all covered with snow, smiling and ferreting around the living room, pleased that she could bring the white wet particles into the house to share with everyone.
Some people don’t believe that dogs can smile, but of course they do. Midnight would smile when she’d greet me after a long day, yet tremble in my arms when the thunder rolled or the fireworks boomed. Loud noises were her only fear. She easily learned to dance, shake, sit, fetch, and heel. In fact, she could walk so well on her hind legs, she could strip a Christmas tree of its ornaments and ribbons in only a few hours. She loved stuffed toys and would prance around the house holding them in her mouth until dripping saliva forced her to release them.
Punky was a lover and the sweetest dog one could ever have, but unlike Middy, her talents were few. She had an affinity for the elderly and spent time as a therapy dog. Her calm demeanor gave made her invaluable in stressful situations when quiet time needed. At night she would sleep on my arm under the covers just like a baby. Midnight had fur and was always warm so she found her place by my feet. I thought it amazing how each dog though so different from one another filled a special place in my world and made a special place in each other’s world. As time went by, Punky became arthritic and Middy turned gray. Yet still they cherished each other while spending their days together.
My children had long since left home and for the first time in my life, I had two companions all to myself and the three of us became as one. Midnight was 11 years old in March 2009 and Punky would turn 15 in October. Middy was so young in mind and behavior, I began to worry that she would outlive Punky by many years and how would she ever survive without her companion.
I have a wonderful veterinarian who we all know as Dr. Judi. Not only does she care about the animals she treats, but she is the best at what she does. When she discovered Midnight had a slight heart murmur, Judi suggested we do a baseline echo. Of course, the cost was enormous so I decided to wait a few months to get it done. Judi said to watch Midnight for any coughing and bring her in right away if I noticed a change in behavior.
We live in a suburban area where the neighbors spend long hours working their lawns and keeping their homes beautiful. I had given up spraying my lawn for weeds as Middy and Punky had suffered some pretty sick stomachs due to insecticides. It was the first week of September when I noticed a horrible smell outside, almost as if insecticide was permeating the neighborhood. I knew neither of my close neighbors sprayed their yards and mine was fenced, so I didn’t even think twice when Middy wanted to spend her evenings playing outside as normal. Fall in Minnesota is a beautiful time of year when the leaves spring forth with their gorgeous colors and hold on for dear life before old man winter knocks them down with his gusts of cold breath.
Early the next week of September 11th, I noticed Midnight coughing and at first suspected there was just too much stuff flying in air. I had long forgotten about the horrible smelling insecticide of the previous week. I tried a dose of Benadryl, which seemed to take care of the cough. Yet in the back of my mind, I kept recalling Judi’s words about coughing. So in spite of Middy’s turnaround, I decided to make an appointment for the echo just as a precaution. It was scheduled for Friday morning, September 11th.
On Thursday night I arrived home about 6:00 p.m. Middy greeted me with her usual smile and dance and then proceeded to do her outside activities. She came in the house about 6:30 and I noticed her chest was heaving as she sat on the sofa. I ran to her side and tried to calm her down. I had given her a treat when she’d come in the door, but she didn’t have the strength to chew it. I put my hand in her mouth and panicked when I saw her gums were black! Oh, God, she wasn’t getting any oxygen! The sweet little girl kissed my face all the way to the emergency clinic even though she could barely breathe! I rushed into the clinic thinking I had waited too long for the echo, and we were in serious trouble.
I was sick knowing my appointment with Judi was the following day, yet her office was closed for the evening. The emergency doctor said Middy’s lungs were filled with fluid, and she would need to be in oxygen until morning. Then I could take her over to Judi for more tests. I had to sign a release and give them permission to resuscitate if necessary. Even that didn’t make me face reality. Heavy hearted, I left the clinic, convinced that Middy would be okay. She was, after all, the healthiest dog I’d ever had. I never dreamed that the worst could happen.
When my phone rang at 2:30 a.m., I was stunned at the doctor’s words, “Midnight suffered a cardiac arrest. I’ve managed to revive her but the lungs are filling with blood. ”
I called my son. “I need help! Middy is dying and I have to get to the emergency clinic.”
I was panicked and close to hysteria by the time we arrived at the clinic at 3:00 a.m. It was longest half hour of my life. I ran to her side but they had lost her just minutes before. In agony I laid my head on her breast and wept bitter tears. They placed her in a room where I sat with her until her body grew cool. How could this beautiful, healthy dog die so quickly? How could this horrible thing happen? My son snipped off a piece of her fur and put into a plastic bag. We drove home in stunned silence. The shock of losing Middy had left me in a stupor. I just couldn’t believe it had just happened, but most of all I blamed myself for not getting her to the doctor sooner.
Punky was crying when we arrived home. I let her sniff Midnight’s fur and saw the pain in her eyes. She looked at me and turned her head away, then curled up in a ball to mourn her friend.
The next morning, Dr. Judi took me in her arms and assured me the heart murmur had absolutely nothing to do with Midnight’s death. Judi had looked at the records from the previous evening and explained. “Midnight died of a severe lung infection from something she ingested that poisoned her system. Even if you had brought her in the previous day, we wouldn’t have been able to save her.”
We will never know what killed my Midnight, but I will do everything in my power to prevent such a horrible thing from happening again to another animal. Even knowing I had not been at fault didn’t stop the pain I was feeling. I was devastated and so was Punky. She wouldn’t eat or even sit on my lap for almost two weeks. I guess she blamed me for taking her friend away. I tried to get her to snuggle at night, but she would only lay in Midnight’s spot on the bed and cry herself to sleep. She was never the same again. This was the beginning of the end for my little Bichon, and a new meaning of 9/11 for me.
Winter was soon upon us with strong winds and mounds of snow. Little Punky would fall into the snow and cry, unable to lift herself up to do her duty. There was no Middy to forge a path. There was no Middy to make things right.
Soon Punky was down to 7 pounds, and I knew was losing her too. In January, she fell off the bed and injured her leg. Dr. Judi said she was too old and frail for surgery and to tape it up was the best we could do. We gave her medication to keep her comfortable but the leg would not heal. I cleared a space for her to go outside, but she could barely walk and fell over when attempting to sit and clean herself. At night she would cry herself to sleep, and I knew in my heart it was time to let her go.
My son encouraged me to make the appointment, and on our last night together, Punky slept in my arms for the first time since Middy died. I felt her kisses on my face for the first time in many months. It was as if she knew the decision had been made and she was saying, “thank you for letting me go”.
Dr. Judi had barely put the serum in her vein, when she announced. “She’s already gone. She was ready.”
I was sobbing uncontrollably while Judi and my son brushed back their tears. Punky had been a special patient for Judi, and it was difficult for her too. I held Punky in my arms for a very long time that day. I knew once I let her go, I would have to say my final good-bye. My poor little Bichon had died of a broken heart.
As I closed my eyes and held her little frame, I saw her charging through the stream by the Rainbow Bridge as she spotted Midnight on the other side. Their tails were wagging and Middy was smiling. They licked each other’s faces and began to run across the grassy fields. There they romped and played until the quiet sunset paused them to rest and glance down the winding road, listening closely for my footsteps.
Don’t worry, my darlings, I will be along very soon.
Punky - A white dog named Freckles
An orphan you arrived all skinny and shaved
The gum you attacked put up a great fight
A tiny eight pounds of white dog named Freckles
We called you Frecky but that didn’t fit
It was Punky who wrapped herself around my heart
Snuggling in my arms under the covers all night
We bought you a companion – a little black dog
At first you were frightened but soon that all changed
The two of you became inseparable, two peas in a pod
Midnight grew bigger but you stayed Alpha Dog
You’d chase through the house and tug with your toys
The little black dog soon became your protector
She pushed through the snow to make you a path
As your tiny footsteps found you stuck up to your neck
Midnight gave you courage and the bond grew yet stronger
When she left you so suddenly, you mourned without eating
The snow was too deep and you cried to come in
Your heart it was broken; it just wouldn’t heal
You gave up and patiently waited for someone to help
And so I then knew it was your time to move on
To join your companion and feel young again
Now you are happy with Midnight by your side
Where you wait til I come to you
At the end of the rainbow – the bridge of life
Ode to Midnight
They called you “Soot” when you were born
With soft silk fur that matched your black eyes
That twinkled with mischief in the dark of night
Thus “Midnight” you became, it seemed just right
You loved to roll in the mud or the snow
And soon you were covered from head to toe
Then you’d show your teeth in a smile so proud
And skittle around like a ferret when called
You could wiggle right under a fence without trouble
Even the tiniest hole seemed like it was double
Yet, you’d always come back when we called out your name
Wagging your tail to say, “ah gee, it was all just a game
You soon grew up smart and obeyed all the commands
You’d smile, then dance and proudly shake my hand
Your ears were so keen, my little watchdog you became
I always slept well knowing you were up to your game
Then it happened so quickly that you became ill
Your heart stopped its beating and soon you were still
I held you in my arms and wept bitter tears
Saying good-bye to my friend was my greatest fear
I know that you wait by the rainbow bridge
Smiling and jumping just like a kid
Until then, my sweet Midnight, you live in my heart
Someday very soon we will never be apart.