Our little survivor made it as far as he could go. And today his body finally gave out. It happened so fast I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye.
Yesterday Teddy had been his usual happy self. He was eager for his dinner, and had been barking at Alayne in the kitchen to hurry up with the feeding. Last night he had been breathing a little heavier than normal, but nothing we hadn't seen before -- especially on a warm evening. Yet just to make sure he didn't have a fever, we took his temperature and it was normal at 101 (38.3 C). By the time we put him up for the night, his breathing had subsided.
But this morning when we got up Teddy had very labored breathing, with his mouth open and head pointed up. This was the same thing that sent him back to the hospital almost a month ago to the day. After a week there, our vets could find nothing in the imaging or lab results to explain the breathing difficulty. He quickly recovered from it and came home in great shape.
Still, we were concerned by a repeat episode, so Alayne and I tested his glucose level and it was at 283 -- pretty low for Teddy. But his temperature was now 98.9 (37.1 C), too low for comfort given the other signs we were seeing. Just to make sure there wasn't a problem with the thermometer, a few minutes later we took it again ... and it had dropped to 98.6. Uh oh.
I called our clinic's emergency number, and our vet, Dr. Brenda Culver, soon called back. Alayne was already preparing to rush Teddy to the clinic, and I told Brenda that Alayne would call her as soon as she got over MacDonald Pass and near Helena so she'd know when to meet her at the clinic.
I took Teddy outside so he could pee while I went to get the truck ready. When I got back to the house, Teddy was sitting up next to the wall of the house, soaking in the early morning sun, but panting heavily. I picked him up and started carrying him out to the truck. About halfway there, his body went rigid, his front legs paddled furiously, and then his head flopped over to the side. I dropped to my knees on the drive to cradle him, and yelled to Alayne to hurry outside.
Teddy's body lay limp in my hands, and I thought we had lost him. Then, to my astonishment, he regained consciousness. He picked his head up and put his legs down. I set him on the ground and he stood on all fours, as if nothing had happened. At that point Alayne came up, and I said, "I thought he had died but he came back. We're running out of time."
We rushed over to the truck parked in the vehicle shed, but as we got there, he went limp in my hands again and his head fell over. I cradled him once more, but this time he didn't bounce back. I got down on my knees and held him in my arms. I told Alayne, "We've lost him." She started crying. "Oh, Teddy, no! Please!" She scooped him up so she could hold him against her chest. A few seconds later, as she was holding him, she said, "Wait! I can hear him breathing!" And sure enough, he had just started to breathe again. We were incredulous. He was still fighting.
She threw her things in the front seat of the truck while I wrapped him in blankets and laid him in the back seat. A minute later, there was a cloud of dust as Alayne raced down the road towards Highway 200.
I called Brenda to let her know what had happened so she could be prepared.
I headed out to the barns to do morning chores. About 20 minutes later the phone rang. It was Alayne calling from the truck. She said, "We lost him about Helmville. He just stopped breathing altogether." (Helmville is a little town like Ovando, south of us on the way to Helena.) Alayne had kept reaching into the back seat to check on Teddy, and that's when she realized she could no longer feel or hear him breathing.
We decided there and then to have her continue on to Helena so Brenda could do a necropsy -- an autopsy -- to find out what happened.
Brenda did the necropsy this afternoon and emailed me with her findings.
Brenda said she "found very little on the gross level to explain his sudden death. I have submitted multiple tissue samples for histopathology which will give us more definitive answers. On gross necropsy (those changes visible to the naked eye), the liver appeared enlarged and the pancreas was discolored...changes consistent with diabetes and not necessarily specific explanations for his death this morning."
She thought the series of events "can be consistent with a thromboembolic accident ('stroke'). The histopathology will help to determine if this is the possible cause of death as well as any other pathologies involved."
Brenda said we should have the full necropsy report by the end of this week, and she'll let us know if the results come in sooner. For background she had written, "In order to get the necessary tissue samples, I used routine surgical approaches and delicate tissue handling for optimal histopathology results. His body was treated with the utmost respect while performing this procedure."
At the clinic, Brenda had told Alayne that diabetes takes a systemic toll on the body, and the older the patient is, the harder it is on them. She said, "We know he was already old, but he may have been even older than we thought." In which case, she said, "his little body could have just worn out."
Still, it seems so danged unfair. Here he went for so long with untreated diabetes, which blinded him; then he was nearly starved to death; and finally he was dumped out on a curb to fend for himself -- only to be rescued and brought to us, where he was able to get the best possible medical care and as much love as he could handle. We had Teddy for just over 10 weeks -- and four of those he spent in the hospital, where he underwent major bladder and gallbladder surgery.
I guess that's what seems so unfair ... late in life, his luck finally changed, but he didn't get to enjoy it for more than a few weeks. And he had been doing so well recently! He was spunky and bossy and loved his new life here.
Teddy had a particular attachment to me, and followed me around the house so he could stay close. He loved nothing more than lying on my lap. On those evenings when I had time to sit in the recliner in the living room to read, Teddy would come over, stand up on his hind feet, put his front paws on the edge of the chair, and look at me with this quizzical expression that said, "Well? Here I am!" I'd reach down and pull him up so he could sit with me while I read. When I was working in the office, he'd come in to sleep on one of the beds in here. Often he'd come over to the desk chair, stand up on his hind feet, and demand to be picked up and held. It didn't matter to him whether it was a recliner or desk chair, all he knew was that I was sitting down ... and that meant my lap was available.
I kept thinking I needed to get a photo of his scruffy little face appearing over the edge of my chair ... but I never did.
So just over two months was all we got with him. Bless his little heart.
We love you, Teddy. We miss you already.