My Dog's Illness Triggers Feelings From My Childhood

I wrote this two days before my dog's death.
Back in September 2012, one of our dogs fell ill after receiving of his vaccines. His first symptom was a high fever. More symptoms gradually emerged including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, poly-arthritis, neurological symptoms, lameness, and high fever. We received numerous diagnoses which were all incorrect and at the same time our dog was prescribed medication after medication without lasting improvement. At the same time, we watched our beloved family member waste away from the horrible disease riddling his whole body.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and researched online for a vet close to us yet in another city. A specialist was recommended and their business was over an hour one way from our home. I found a vet with a specialty in internal medicine and brought our sick dog to him that day. The vet took one look at our dog and thought of only two diseases which could cause his symptoms: Addison’s Disease and Ehrlichiosis. He tested for both diseases. After spending almost $2000 we had a diagnosis: Anaplasmosis Phagocytophilum, another tick borne disease or TBD with a much deadlier potential.

We left the vet’s office with a very sick dog who had lost over 30 pounds. Two days later we brought him back again, believing he was about to die. His gums, tongue, and ears were gray. The vet told us he thought our dog would possibly die before morning. He survived the night and limped forward for almost two more weeks.

Our dog’s condition worsened again and we decided to euthanize him. I could no longer watch our once beautiful, lively, and funny dog dwindle away. By this time, he had lost almost 40 pounds. I called the mobile vet in our town and told him about our dog. He asked several questions about the medicine our dog had been prescribed and told me he would get back to me later on that day. When he called back the first thing he said was the antibiotic dose was incorrect. Instead of 600 mg/day it should be 1000/mg a day.
After our dog died, I learned the correct dose should have been 600 mg twice daily. A lot more could have been done had we known how TBDs are treated. I told him we needed more antibiotic and he agreed to take our dog on as a patient. The vet visited later on that day and told us unless our dog was comatose he would not euthanize him. That was both a relief and scary to hear. By the time he came over to see our dog we had given our dog the increased dose.

After a day on the new dose of antibiotic and some medicine to help coat his stomach, our dog had improved in some ways and weakened in other as the disease took over more of his body and mind. Our has experienced bouts of confusion, not knowing where he is in the house; running into walls at times; his hind legs lacking function and he has collapsed to the floor before he can get out the door to go to the bathroom and numerous other problems.

Now after almost four days on the new dose, our dog’s pale gums, tongue, and ears are starting to look pink again. His diarrhea has started to change over to brown from blood streaked.

Sadly on Christmas Day 2012 our dog succumbed to this horrible disease. He fought hard and we fought right along side him. His life dwindled before us and we decided to euthanize him. I miss him so much. It was the worst disease to see a dog go through. No wonder it is called “doggy AIDS.”

On top of all this, the whole disease process and watching my dog dying triggered me. Throughout my dog’s illness I suffered with my own illness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. I felt hopelessness. It was the same feeling I felt during my father’s rampages. There was nothing I could do to help those children he kidnapped and nothing I could do to stop my beloved family member from dying.

The first times I suffered from PTSD was during the time I attended nursing school in 1977. Along with my best friend we visited the East Coast and her relatives. From the moment I stepped off the plane I was triggered. I was 25 years old. After returning to nursing school in the Fall of 1977, a teacher suggested I see a counselor.

I witnessed in nursing school what I had witnessed with my father, hurting and/or dying people. I became unable to function around those sickly patients and suffered from the same hopelessness as I experienced with my dog.

The disturbing images and intrusive thoughts which arose in 1977 and when my beloved dog was ill continue to haunt me months later. Over three months have passed since my dog died. The images come from the abuse I suffered and watched as others succumbed by the hands of my father.

Anxiety fueled the feelings years ago just as it does now. And below that feeling is terror. The same terror I felt while hiding under the basement stairs after my father killed a boy. I felt a complete hopelessness. I could not stop what my father had done. I would crawl into that space behind the stairs, trembling and hyperventilating. I curled into the tightest fetal position I could manage, trying to keep present and sane and pushing away the horrible images which were still there before my eyes.

When I have playacted I purposely hyperventilated to both relive and relieve myself of the horrors I saw when I was with my father. Hyperventilation caused anxiety and then I relieved my anxiety.
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