On July 22, I published on this blog a story about our Tibetan Terriers, under the heading Life is Merrier with a Tibetan Terrier. This is a sad update to that story.
On September 9, 2011, we took our beloved Waco to the Springhill Vet Clinic where a substitute vet (Dr. Weiss) was filling in for our regular vet, Dr. Mark Carter. Waco wasn’t eating, and was listless and tired. No blood work, x-rays, or lab work (urine or stool samples) was done. Dr. Weiss felt around Waco’s abdomen, took her temperature, and talked over us whenever we tried to explain Waco’s history or current situation.
Dr. Weiss said that giving our dogs Dallas city water wasn’t healthy because Dallas water contained both fluoride and chlorine, and that Waco was constipated and her arthritic back was sore. “Dogs don’t need flouride or chlorine, and it makes her gut work too hard when you give her food or water with chemicals in it. She needs a more natural diet,” Dr. Weiss lectured us. (The fact that our dogs usually exceed their life expectancy and enjoy happy, healthy lives well into their late teens seemed to be lost on her.)
The combination of bad water and the constipation resulted in a “mild GI tract infection”. She prescribed stronger pain pills (including Tramadol) and antibiotics, and said that Waco would be better soon if we gave her only “bottled or filtered water with no additives”, changed her diet to one of “garlic chicken and rice with tapioca pudding, yoghurt, and large curd cottage cheese” instead of dog food, and gave her the four prescriptions she wrote.
When I protested that if Waco was constipated that giving her Tramadol (generic Vicodin, which is known to cause terrible constipation problems) would only make the situation worse, Dr. Weiss said that the antibiotics would take care of that, and launched into a lecture suitable for a slow third-grader about the “good bacteria” in our “plumbing”. My husband, a scientist and retired science teacher, was polite, but he was grinding his teeth during the lecture. So was I.
We left the vet’s office feeling as if we’d been scolded for not caring for our best friends properly, but reassured that what looked like a sudden decline was “just a bacterial infection” that would soon be better.
Waco did not like the pills, and refused all food in which they were hidden, no matter how finely we ground them. She ate very little, and bit both myself and my husband more than once as we attempted to force the pills down her throat. An oral syringe proved to be the only way to get them in reliably. When we weren’t torturing her with medicine, she slept quietly, cuddled up next to my husband or me.
Dr. Carter returned from his own family emergency on Wednesday,
September 14, and we immediately took Waco in to see him. Not only were we flabbergasted at Dr. Weiss’s comments about water, food, and her generally dismissive comments about our care, but we felt that the medication was not helping and the process of forcing it was making things worse.
Sad to say, had we followed our gut instincts following our last visit with Dr. Weiss about six years ago when Dr. Carter was on vacation, and sought advice from another vet, the last week could have been much happier for the human and canine inhabitants of our house. Although we remain loyal to the fabulous technicians and vets at Springhill, the next time Dr. Carter is unavailable, we’ll go elsewhere rather than see Dr. Weiss again.
Dr. Carter immediately felt Waco’s stomach, took her into X-ray, and came back looking grim. What Dr. Weiss had diagnosed as constipation was, in fact, a large tumor on Waco’s liver. More than 27 tumors were visible in the X-rays, some small, some large. Nearly every organ was affected — liver, spleen, pancreas, stomach, lungs.
Dr. Carter has been our vet for more than 30 years. In that time, as one elderly canine friend after another has reached the last stages of their lives, he’s been honest with us about when we can make them comfortable and enjoy more time with them — and when it’s time to say goodbye. So we took his advice when he said that it was time to say good bye to Waco.
At the front of our property, under the shade of a big pecan tree, in a small garden filled with flowers in the spring and fall, we have a small family plot. Shane, Zoe, Freddie, Boston, and Bronwen — all of whom lived long, happy lives with us — are there. But Waco is not. In death, “her man” gave her what she wanted in live: a place of her own, with no other dogs around.
She’s buried up near the front of the house, shaded by shrubs, within sight of the study where I write. It was her her playroom and a favorite nap spot, and I like the fact that I can see her quiet resting place every time I go in and out the front door, or through the window as I write.
We are blessed with two remaining Tibetan Terriers (Dallas, who is nearing 18, and Raglan, who is barely 7 months old) and two mixed-breed rescue dogs: Jasmine (she’s a senior dog now, but we don’t know how old she is) and Jack (a four-year-old). They will soon stop waiting for Waco to join them at dinner time or when the treat jar is opened — the line of five happy sitting dogs will be just four from now on.
I am happy that they’re with us, and I will continue to enjoy their antics and company. But it will be a long time before life is merry at our house again.
Rest in peace, Waco Holland.