Our little diabetic dog Sammy died suddenly today. When I let him out of his crate this morning, I could tell he was not doing well. But I had no idea how the day would unfold.
He had left some food in his automated pet feeder overnight, which was unusual. (We set up this feeder so he could have small amounts of food throughout the night, which helped keep him better regulated). Then, as he walked around the yard, I noticed he seemed disoriented, and he would sometimes shuffle from side-to-side, and other times stagger for a few steps before righting himself.
I took him into the house for his morning insulin shots and his breakfast, and although he sat still for his injections, he had no interest in eating. Usually he would do a whirling dervish-type dance while I got his breakfast ready, then wolf it down. Indeed, that's how he was last night -- just his usual, energetic little self. Not this morning. Something was definitely wrong.
It looked to us like he was crashing again, and we had seen this before. Several weeks ago Sammy had experienced the 'Somogyi effect,' when the body rapidly fluctuates between low blood sugar and high blood sugar. The wild glucose swings are too much for the body to handle, and it requires immediate medical attention.
Thinking that was what Sammy was going through again, I called our internal medicine specialist in Helena, Dr. Britt Culver, and said I was rushing Sammy into the clinic. I took this photo just before Sammy and I hit the road. By the time I arrived at the clinic, Sammy was motionless in his crate in the back seat. I pulled on his leg to try and get him to turn around, but he wouldn't budge. There was no resistance in his leg. I called to him, then reached in and pulled him towards me, and finally he started to stir.
I carried him into the clinic in my arms. Britt's colleague, Dr. Jennifer Rockwell, was waiting for us. I told Deana, the vet tech who took Sammy from me, "He needs help now. He's in bad shape." She said, "I know, they're ready for him," and she turned to take Sammy to the medical suite in the back. It was the last time I saw Sammy alive.
A few minutes later Deana returned and said Sammy had a temperature of 107 degrees and they were putting an IV in him to get fluids and antibiotics on board. Oddly, his glucose level was 116, which is right in the normal range. That was puzzling. Jennifer was also taking an X-ray to see how his chest looked. I knew a fever that high was potentially life-threatening, but I was still thinking we were dealing with a diabetes issue.
A short while later I was in the truck, ready to run some errands in Helena, when Deana came running out and asked me to wait. She said, "Jennifer wants you to stay around because it's not going well." Ohmigod. I suddenly got a pit in my stomach. I pulled the truck back into the parking lot and headed inside. I could feel the tears coming. Damn it.
When I walked in, Deana had just come back out from the medical suite and told me Jennifer was doing CPR on Sammy. I was dumbfounded. "CPR?", I asked, not sure I heard her correctly, or more likely just hoping I had misunderstood her. Yes, CPR. I stared at the wall, my mind just spinning, while I tried to process that information.
I went into an exam room, closed the door and sat down. Less than three minutes later, Jennifer walked in and said, "We lost him." I was incredulous. "Lost him to what?," I asked. Jennifer said, "I don't know."
By this time, of course, I was a wreck and in tears. Jennifer picked up a Kleenex box and handed it to me, then tried to comfort me. I held my head in my hands and cried. I just couldn't believe this little character -- who was with us for all of three months -- was dead. Sammy had spent almost half that time in the hospital.
Jennifer asked if we wanted to do an autopsy to find out what happened, and which might also help explain why his diabetes had been so difficult to regulate. I said yes.
Another vet tech, Jayme, brought Sammy into the exam room so I could be with him for a while. He was lying in a small white cardboard coffin, his head propped up on a rolled-up towel. I kissed his little face and told him how sorry I was, and that we would always love him.
Here's a link to a blog posting with a video of Sammy I made about a month after he arrived, when he seemed to be stable and we had high hopes for him. I posted this just before he began making repeated trips to the hospital for his diabetes. He came home from the hospital for the last time on June 30th, when I posted this item.
He was a wonderful little dog, and he was here for too short a time.
Sammy, we love you, sweetheart.