I took this picture on Wednesday afternoon through the filthy glass in the back door. I did not know, at the time, that it might be the last opportunity to get a picture of Roscoe.
Roscoe threw up a little bit late Tuesday evening, which was the third time in the past couple weeks that he's thrown up. One or twice, given his age, ailments, and meds, not a big deal. The third time, coupled with him acting entirely abnormally, that got me concerned. He wanted to stay outside all night, which he NEVER does. I stayed outside with him for an hour, just sitting there in the dark, petting him and letting him know that Freckles and I were going to take care of him. He was drooling and slobbering all over himself, and shaking, and laying in little puddles of his own vomit which again, he never does. Eventually, I had to carry him back into the house so we could all go to sleep.
I emailed the vet Tuesday night before bed to let them know what was going on. I can't say enough great things about Dr. Brittney at Hillside Animal Hospital.
Wednesday I woke up at 4:15am to get ready for work, like usual, and let the dogs out. Roscoe was the first one out the door, which NEVER happens. Then, I couldn't get him to come back in - he wanted to lay in the grass again - I told work it'd be a work from home day for me so I could keep an eye on him in case things got worse, left Roscoe outside, and went back to sleep. At 6am I woke up again, got dressed, went outside to find Roscoe, and couldn't. That was alarming.
I eventually found him curled up in an obscure, random part of the yard he NEVER hangs out in, and that's when I knew something was significantly wrong. The vet responded to my email and told me to bring him in, which I did at 1:30pm on Wednesday. By that point, Roscoe was refusing food and barely drinking any water.
At the vet, they drew some blood, took his temperature (it was crazy high) and asked about doing some lab work. I guess some people make pet healthcare choices based on the dollars involved, so the vet started giving me the rundown of lab work pricing, not knowing that I couldn't have possibly cared less, and I told her to do all the lab work she wanted or needed to do. She told me it'd take about 25 minutes, so she got some helpers and they carried Roscoe into a back room.
She came out about 3 minutes later, looked a little distraught, and, long story short, told me that his liver wasn't functioning. He was suffering through liver failure.
She explained that there were a couple options. Because the situation would not fix itself nor was it really treatable through medication, I could do nothing, Roscoe would suffer through painful organ failure, and he'd pass away after a few days (if I didn't elect to have him put down first). The other option was to take him to a more specialized animal hospital for an ultrasound and emergency surgery, although with surgery there were no guarantees that the surgery would work, and there was a decently high chance that he'd either pass away during surgery or shortly thereafter.
She called the recommended animal hospital, got some pricing on the surgery, and we talked it over for a few seconds, although there wasn't much to talk about -- I simply wanted to make sure I understood what was going on. Without any real hesitation I elected for the surgery option and started to figure out the logistics of carrying Roscoe out to the truck while also stopping at the front desk to settle up for the work Dr. Brittney had done. She told me not to worry about it.
I got Roscoe in the truck, pulled out of the parking lot, turned north on Macklind and by the time I got to Oakland a couple blocks away, the information I'd just received from the vet started hitting me. Hard.
There have been times, recently, when I've thought about what Roscoe's last days, or last day, would be like. It's hard not to, given how much his quality of life has deteriorated relative to his first 10 or 11 years. And I've been really, really pissed at myself for having those thoughts and not getting upset. Like, how dead inside does a person have to be to think about life without their best buddy, their hiking companion, their meal partner, the house guard dog and personal caretaker, their sidekick for 13+ years, and whatever suffering he may be going through and not get upset?
Turns out, there's a difference between sort of envisioning a scenario that hasn't happened, and then actually living through it when it does.
The drive down Oakland was rough. By the time I got to the highway, I was a mess. The entire trip down 40, then 270, then Manchester, I was a wreck. An absolute, fucking, wreck.
We got to the second vet around 3pm. They poked around for a bit, tried to learn a few things about Roscoe, and then the vet guy - a classmate of Dr. Brittney, both Mizzou grads I believe - came in. He wanted an hour or so to run some tests and do the ultrasound; the techs came back in with a gurney and they wheeled Roscoe into a back room. I waited in the lobby.
After 75 minutes passed I was called back to talk with the vet. He had news.
On the one hand, he didn't think surgery was necessary but that was only because they really couldn't figure out what was causing Roscoe's current condition. Roscoe's been like that for the past year...stuff goes wrong, and it's sort of a medical mystery as to why. Like, the cause-and-effect things don't line up like they do in most other dogs. What's not working should be, and what is working shouldn't be, stuff like that. No reason to do surgery if they can't figure out what surgery is needed to make Roscoe any better, and because they couldn't detect anything noticeable, the vet couldn't rule out that the underlying issue might be a simple virus or infection.
The other chunk of news was that while they did detect some problems (that Dr. Brittney had already discovered in previous vet trips) with his insides, they saw signs or indicators of him having cancer and thought that might be the issue. But because they weren't initially looking for any cancer, they didn't do all the tests and whatnot to find any.
The end result is that I wound up leaving Roscoe at the animal hospital for an overnight stay. They're going to do more tests, get him an IV to rehydrate him, give him some antibiotics, and see what happens. I was told that he may not make it through the night and even if he does, given his condition, he may not live more than another couple days. And they'd be painful days.
We didn't even talk about what might happen if they find any cancer.
I don't like Roscoe not being at home, or being separated from him knowing that I may never again see him alive. But I had to make a decision, and going this route seemed to give him the best, albeit slim, chance of survival. It's a roll of the dice but once the options that led to certain death were eliminated from consideration, it was really the only choice I had left.
I left the vet and drove home, eager to see what Freckles, who's not at all used to being home by herself, had chewed up. I should have known better; she was laying on the couch when I pulled up to the house, the same spot she was in when I left. She did good.
And that's why I took the picture. Earlier in the day, when Roscoe was struggling with anything and everything, I told Freckles she had to help me take care of Roscoe. When I left them both outside, I told her to watch out for brother and that's exactly what she did: everywhere he wandered off to, she followed. Where he laid down, she laid down. They're so far apart in age they don't really spend much time together, but it's pretty neat to see them circle the wagons when one of them is in any kind of distress. The picture won't win any awards, but it'll always make me smile to have that reminder of Freckles, who's still growing into the dog I'd like for her to become, watching out for her big brother.
Tonight, when I got home from the vet, my neighbor was outside and I told him about Roscoe. He went through the same thing with his dog Oscar not too long ago. Both Freckles and his little puppy Molly were outside, so he brought Molly over to run around with Freckles. Like any good neighbor would do, he also came armed with beers and whiskey and we spent a few hours bullshitting about old dogs, young dogs, dogs no longer with us, and how wild of a ride it can all be.
I don't know what will happen from here. I'll go to work in the morning, and the vet is supposed to call with an update sometime before lunch. I guess I'll have a whole new round of decisions to make, but right now there isn't much I can do or even think about. There is no part of me that's ready to say goodbye to Roscoe but if this is it, what an amazing 13 year journey it's been.