This past Sunday one of our dogs, Kenyon, appeared to be fine. On Monday he was throwing up mucus and pieces of grass. This type of throwing up is not unusual for either of our dogs. They eat grass when they are having digestive problems, like constipation. His vomiting continued intermittently throughout the day. I went to dance practice Monday night. On Tuesday morning my husband left me a note telling me that Kenyon hadn’t eaten Monday night nor Tuesday morning. He informed me that the dog had ingested part of a fish bone the previous Friday night and thought that I should take him to the vet. I was mad. Why couldn’t he take the dog to the vet? I had to cancel my whole day! Poor me!
As it turned out Kenyon was very sick. He was in the throws of kidney failure. The ultrasounds performed showed no signs of a blockage from the fish bone but his BUN and Creatinine were ‘gravely’ high. He was admitted to the Vet Hospital for fluid therapy and monitoring. Doug and I visited him in the afternoon. He was alert but obviously not himself. We took him for a walk outside with his IV clamped off. He peed. He would be staying for another night. We were asked if he had eaten any grapes, raisins, or had gotten into any antifreeze. The vet said that his kidneys had suffered tremendous injury due to some toxin. We went home and wracked our brains for what could have happened.
Boom – end of day one
Tuesday morning we were waiting to hear about Kenyon’s BUN and Creatinine levels which had been dangerously high. While in the grocery store parking lot about to pick up the final ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, the vet called. She reported that the kidney levels had risen even higher. She repeated the ultrasound and now he was showing distention in his duodenum – part of this small intestine. She said they did a blood test for leptospirosis, a bacteria carried by rats and other rodents in their urine. This bacterium can cause kidney failure in dogs.
We live in the Wild West. Our property backs up to open space and a state park. We have rats, raccoons, turkeys, coyotes, squirrels, ground squirrels, deer, birds of prey, and an Egret that likes to visit our goldfish pond. I never let my two ten-pound Papillons outside by themselves. I know at night I hear the rats scurrying through the leaves and under the deck. There are times when Kenyon, nicknamed ‘The Ratter’ unsuccessfully tries to chase them under the deck with his long beautiful white coat.
About a month ago, I let the dogs out and on the lawn next to one of the gardens was a skunk. Kenyon was about a foot away from it, growling. I screamed ‘Kenyon, leave it’ so loudly and so many times in repetition, he froze. The skunk scurried off. But then both dogs, as dogs will do, went around the yard sniffing deeply in the grass and surrounding environs.
In August while giving Kenyon his full moon bath, I noticed a puncture wound on his belly next to a red-streaked purple and blue abscess. He was treated with antibiotics and in two weeks he was better. At the September bath he had a huge abscess further up his belly. At that point he had surgery to remove the foxtail (a weed) that was burrowing up his abdomen. Again he was treated with antibiotics. Life is never boring. I’m so thankful that I regularly bathe the dogs or I would have never known. Kenyon is so strong and has such a great disposition, and because of this I also would not have known.
While still on the phone with the Vet in the parking lot the day before Thanksgiving, I asked if they do blood toxicology screens on dogs. She said they don’t have the equipment to do that. His blood test for leptospirosis came back negative but it was a ‘spot’ test so it was not really a good indicator. The strangest thing in all of this was that all of his other blood test results were normal. He didn’t even have a high white count. I asked if they do hemodialysis on dogs knowing that that could clear out the toxic levels building up in his blood. She told me UC Davis Veterinary School Hospital did. She now said that his prognosis was ‘extremely grave’. Her vet hospital was going to close for Thanksgiving and we would have to transfer him to another facility. I told her that Doug and I would discuss where to transfer him or whether we wanted to continue treatment.
Boom – Day 2
Doug and I were worried, grieving, strategizing, processing. We’ve been here so many times before in our long journey with cancer, we’ve become highly experienced as crisis managers. I knew what I wanted to do and fortunately Doug stated that he thought we should take the dog to UC Davis to give him his best shot. Two hours later we were in the car with Kenyon in bumper-to-bumper pre-Thanksgiving traffic to have him admitted to UC Davis.
Thanksgiving morning we received a call that his levels we continuing to rise. His blood pressure was rising but would be addressed with medication. He was going into acidosis but this was also to be managed. He hadn’t peed overnight. With Autumn and Kim at our home for Thanksgiving we conferenced over breakfast and scrubbed the Turkey dinner and made a Plan B. Doug and I would be driving to Davis to check in with the Vets and see Kenyon. They would rest and hang out at home but offered to do whatever we needed.
With Bailey in tow to see her littermate we headed for Davis. Doug was still wracking his mind trying to figure out what could have done this to our dog. I get it. I told him that I didn’t really think the ‘why’ mattered in the bigger picture. I believed that the real issue is: what is this here to teach us? Maybe it is to remind us that life is precious. We really don’t know what is going to happen at any given moment. Life can change in an instant. Never take anything or anyone for granted. We can’t go back and change anything. We can only go forward. In every moment we have a choice to say and do the right thing, or do nothing. In every moment we can be the best version of ourselves. We can choose to love or not. It all sounds pretty cliché. Nothing new. But we fall asleep and then this stuff shows up, too often. People ask us all the time “Do you guys ever get a break”? Apparently, we need reminders, lots of reminders. We must need our teachings raw, life and death, drama out the wazoo – WAKE UP! Remember what is important! It’s THANKSGIVING every day!
For me, I think, my heart has to be shocked, break, grieve and repair to heal and grow bigger. I’ve been sending my love and heart to Kenyon and Doug – all my love. My love is very big now, I realized – BIG.
Midday – Day 4
Kenyon is tough. Overnight he peed a tiny bit last night and can still stand for a short time. His kidneys are still producing urine albeit just a wee bit. They gave him sodium bicarbonate to correct his acidosis. His toxic kidney values are still increasing. Currently he is under anesthesia to put in a port, a feeding tube and do a partial dialysis treatment. Then tomorrow he can get full dialysis. Then he should start to feel better after clearing all these toxins built up in his blood and tissues.
The answer as to whether he will regain kidney function is up to his body and its ability to repair. We know we are giving him the best that we can give and are thankful we can do this.
Right now we are doing all right. Thank you for your kindness, good wishes and prayers. Once again a little dog, made of pure love, can show us strength, fortitude, courage, grace, perseverance and just how big love can be.