Twelve years ago this past Wednesday, Trouser sat with me on my porch swing after I saw American Airlines Flight 77 plow into the Pentagon.
On Wednesday, I sat with Trouser and held her paw, pretty much all day, while her vet tried to figure out what is wrong with my sweet old girl.
Trouser—who usually stirs after the urchins and I have finished breakfast—wouldn't budge from her bed that morning. I poured food into Liza and Trouser's bowls, which tends to light a fire under Trouser's bottom, but nothing. I wiggled my toes under her. (The girl dislikes feet intensely, so, usually, such an egregious act would send her bolting from bed.) No response.
Connor boarded his bus. Natalie and I returned home. Trouser was neither up nor about. I served her breakfast in bed. She turned her face from the bowl. I presented a heaping spoonful of peanut butter, expected an "Am I dreaming?!" response. Trouser turned away again. Her eyes looked vacant, dull.
I sent Jim another text and called the vet.
When it came time to make our way to the vet, things got real: Trouser couldn't stand. She'll be 13 years old on October 31, so she's been on the decline for some time, but this overnight change was devastating. I tried to lift her backside, thinking that she just needed support. She collapsed.
Trouser's bed is in the far back corner of the house: Too far for me to carry her to the front door and out to the driveway. I did the only thing I could think to do: I scooted her on her bed, across the living room, down a hallway past the bathroom and office, to the front door. Trouser does not stand for anyone to scoot her anywhere. She stayed put the entire time.
I called Jim and told him through tears that he needed to come home, now.
Somehow—I don't remember how—I got Trouser out to the truck. A neighbor helped get her in, and I drove the short distance to the vet.
Natalie insisted on walking Trouser into the vet, and Trouser rallied the energy to do so, but once we were inside, she collapsed on the entry mat. I cried again as I tried to tell the receptionist that Trouser couldn't stand to walk over to the scale. A vet tech carried Trouser over. She'd lost 5 pounds since July.
In the exam room, Trouser, who often pants excessively when she's anxious, just melted to the floor. She tolerated the thermometer with nary a pucker. (She had a 106° fever.) She slept through the rest of the exam.
The vet mentioned possible canine influenza, cancer, pneumonia, Addison's disease, thyroid issues. She and a vet tech took Trouser to another room for bloodwork and X-rays.
Natalie, who had been coloring and drawing this whole time, spoke up once the vet left the room. "You know, Mommy, maybe Trouser went outside and some heartworms latched onto her low-hanging fur and, now, the heartworms are living in her heart, draining all of the life out of Trouser." Heartbreaking.
Quite some time later, the vet led Natalie and me into the X-ray room. Trouser lay eerily still on the table. Two techs stood by, somber. I glanced at the X-rays on a monitor, and, noticing a big, dark spot, I braced myself.
That dark spot turned out to be Trouser's heart, which, the vet said, wasn't enlarged at all, but unexpectedly small. "The heart can decrease in size when the body goes into shock," she said. (When she reviewed X-rays that Trouser's vet in Texas sent, we learned that Trouser's heart may have always been that size.) The X-rays showed no evidence of cancer, but possible pneumonia or changes to the lung lobes.
The doctor set us up in a quiet room, which I suspect is where the clinic lets families gather around pets facing euthanasia. The room had a comfy chair, a couch, and two pet beds. She spoke vaguely about end-of-life options, tearing up when she said that if Trouser's condition didn't turn around in the next 24 to 36 hours, we should expect her to deteriorate rapidly and be prepared to say goodbye.
A tech gave Trouser an antibiotic injection, a Vitamin B12 injection, fluids subcutaneously, and Pepcid AC. Trouser slept while we waited for the bloodwork results.
The results came back normal, save the eosinophils count, which was low.
(Low EOS count, it seems, can be due to alcohol intoxication—Trouser? Need to confess something?—or overproduction of steroids.) The vet wasn't too concerned about it. After some discussion of various scenarios and treatment, Jim carried Trouser to the truck, and home we went, with no diagnosis; a lethargic, listless Trouser; and the thought that, if she doesn't improve soon, this is it.
Jim slept in the living room near Trouser that night to keep a close watch on her. She vomited twice early in the morning.
Later that morning, Trouser slept soundly while Natalie, Connor, and I went about our morning activities. Just before we left the house for the bus stop, Connor hugged me and confided, "When I woke up this morning, I went downstairs to sit with Trouser. I petted her fur and cried."
Trouser has been there for Connor from Day One.
Once Connor was off and on his way, Natalie and I returned home, lifted Trouser, and took her outside. Her limbs were like Jell-O: Wobbly. Unsteady. We gave her broth and her meds, and then, we hoped for the best and ran two errands that we hadn't been able to do on Wednesday.
When we returned home, Trouser was not on her bed. She had managed to haul herself off her bed—wobbly bones and all—and across the living room to lie down near the couch.
We gave her love and whispered sweet nothings and fed her broth. Each time she had licked the bowl clean, she looked at me for more broth, and, when she'd finished her last serving, she heaved herself up, walked to her food bowl, and looked at me as if to say, "Breakfast? You haven't stopped serving it for the day, have you, hon?" I brought her a bowl of rice, and she downed it all. Victory.
Outside, we girls—Trouser included—mustered smiles.
Our sweet old girl was perking up.
Then, it was back inside for a little Animal Planet and another nap.
I stepped out at one point to get the mail and returned to this smiling face:
The smile turned sour when Liza sidled up and smooched her big sister.
(Liza has been envious of the broth and rice and Gerber Stage 2 baby food that Trouser has been eating. We've had to remind her more than once: "Remember the centipede that bit you in August? Remember the full-body rash? The all-over swelling? The pills that we tucked into peanut butter for you? The Benadryl? The anitibiotic? The steroids?"
She gets over it until the next go 'round.)
So, long story, short—it's about time for that, no?—Trouser has some mysterious illness. She has light in her eyes again, and, today, she wagged her tail. She has trouble standing and walking, and her collar dangles loosely from her neck.
She and Liza are back to their conspiring ways:
(Winner of the caption contest that I held in my mind for this photo: "It was the goldens in the library with the one-legged, destuffed rooster toy." (I was the sole entrant. And the sole judge, so it was, admittedly, tipped in my favor. I tried.)
Things are looking up, if only for a little while.
These last two days, when we have walked Trouser out to the front yard, she takes care of business and then she just sits for 30 or 40 minutes and watches and listens, soaking in all the world. The breeze. The rustling dry leaves. The cicadas. The neighbors walking and biking and skateboarding. People driving home from work. The birds.
Trouser used to love to sit on our balcony and spy on the neighbors when she was a pup. Life, I suppose, has a way of coming full circle.
I miss this girl:
sweet old girl
the tail end
fresh ink: sweet old girl