This is Cheena right before we took her to the vet. Even though she looks weak and unwell, she's still beautiful. Here is a long narrative, in case you want history and details of her passing.
Kachina- Oct, 1994-Oct, 2006. Written Oct , 2006
We took a nice long hike today with Rafiki. We went up to the Transfer camp above the Mancos River where there are splendid views of Hesperus Peak towering above us in the distance. Hesperus Peak is one of four sacred mountains for the Navajo and is the Northern boundary of their ancestral lands. We hiked down to the Mancos River through patches of snow and then along the River, back up to the ridge top and along the ridge back to our car. It was one of those brisk beautiful blue sky Colorado days. We thoroughly enjoyed and needed this hike.
We put Kachina to sleep this morning. She had been sick for several days and was getting worse by the hour. It started out with her not eating very much on Thursday and then vomiting several times. By Saturday morning she was not looking well at all so instead of going to Jazzercise we called the vet and made an appointment for 10:30 AM. In the car we had discussed the possibility of needing to put her to sleep and this is what the doctor recommended.
Here is a sort of history of Kachina, her life and our life with her- she was a wonderful dog, and gave us a lot of pleasure.
When Marilyn brought Cheena home from the Humane Society, December 15, 1994, she peed, pooped and puked in the car- the old Honda. She had a red ribbon on her neck, and when Bob saw her, he said, “What’s this? What’s this?”.
She was full of mischief as a puppy, rough and tumble. When Bob took her to first day of Puppy School, he came home and said, “She was the worst one there”- not well behaved at all, very hard to control. But by the end of the sessions, she was the best one. We took her to several levels of obedience classes and she was excellent.
When she was young, she would beat up on Dali, our little dog. This didn’t last, thank goodness.
Because she was so well behaved, Marilyn often took her to Fort Lewis College as a demonstration of operant conditioning in her Introduction to Psychology classes. She would sit, lie down, stay, come, fetch, jump over the pole, heel, etc. She was everybody’s darling.
She was full of affection, and loved to be petted. She would throw her head over and look up at us with those soulful brown eyes, and she was irresistible.
She was also a mischief dog- she would love to steal a sock or a glove and play keep-away. She would elude us as we “chased” her. She would shake the glove or sock, and we’d say, “Break its neck!” She loved this game.
When she was just a puppy, she was playing with a neighbor dog(Sasha)- Sasha got her teeth caught in Cheena's collar and could not get loose. As the two dogs struggled to free themselves Cheena's collar became twisted, acted as a tourniquet and cut off her air. While we were trying to separate the dogs, she quit breathing and lay motionless. Bob finally freed Sasha's jaw and Marilyn could just feel a faint heart beat on Kachina. So, Bob gave her mouth-to-muzzle resuscitation, she gasped and started breathing again. It was amazing; Bob saved her life.
She got old quickly- even when she was around 7, when we got Rafiki, she was slowing down. She withdrew, and it took some time for her to be herself again. When Rafiki was young, he would beat up on Cheena, just as she had done to Dali. Also, this didn’t last. She and Rafiki became friends. Rafiki would rely on her to go out together, and he would react if Cheena would woof. Sometimes we thought Cheena would woof just to get Rafiki to go out, then she would stay behind and have our full attention.
Cheena was a great hiker and, and loved running outdoors. For the past several years, she’s been more sedate on walks, and in the past year or so, we haven’t taken her on longer walks or hikes because she gets really slow and tired. She did go on some X-country ski trips with us this past winter, but not really long ones.
Around 2 years ago, her hip joints began to bother her and she couldn’t walk. She was diagnosed with both arthritis and hip dysplasia. Only the anti-inflammatory meds kept her going, along with glucosamine. Her hip joints were crooked and her right back leg turned in as she walked, and it was hard for her to sit down and stand up, but she was very brave and didn’t let that stop her.
Other than the hip problems, she was healthy for her whole life, but we had the feeling that she would not be a long-lived dog, and that she would have trouble with her heart and/or digestive system.
She was getting slower and slower, seeming older and older lately. But early in the week (October 22 on) she was “normal”; playing “keep away” with Rafiki on the living room rug, playing with her squeeker toys, stealing socks, eating, going on the morning and afternoon walk (although slowly) and overall, being just as she’s been for the past several months or a year. Then, on Thursday we noticed her having trouble pooping- her hips not able to hold her up, and her not being able to poop. She didn’t eat that day (although did eat treats that morning), and was throwing up. Seemed very lethargic. This worsened on Fri, although we did give her a ½ can of cat food with some stool-softener; we thought that might help her move her bowels. But Sat morning she was worse, hardly moving when we went outside, coughing up, eyes seemed tired, also disoriented, etc. Before our vet’s appointment, Marilyn had the feeling that this would be her last day. Marilyn took her outside and brushed her, which she really liked, and saved some of the hair. Inside, Marilyn smudged her and lit a candle and called for safe passage for her and relief of pain. We also took some dear and touching photos of her. Dr. Chris Bauer at Alpine Animal Hospital was very, very sensitive and nice, but said she “looked really bad”. He felt a mass in her abdomen, but no constriction. She was deep-breathing from her abdomen, which the vet said was about her not getting enough oxygen, and being a very bad sign- her lungs were not able to expand properly. Her heart was in arrhythmia and very fast. It looked like overall organ failure present or immanent. Her gums were purple in color and overall she looked weak. He said in older dogs they often went down very fast like this, and that even if we did tests and X-rays, we’d be at the same point, and that there was little that medicine could do. He kindly injected her while Bob and Marilyn held her, and we took her body to the Humane Society for cremation.
We took a healing walk outside of Mancos, with Rafiki, which was helpful and allowed us to think of Cheena as we hiked. We are both very very sad, but this is not a tragic event- we have provided well for Cheena, taking really good care of her, and there’s nothing we could have done to keep her from getting this debilitated. It was a kindness that she was maintaining normally until a few days ago, and a kindness that she didn’t suffer badly, or stay debilitated for long. We did the right thing by putting her to sleep, and we are glad we did. But we miss her, and her cute little ways, and her presence, and her sweetness and love, and we are grieving.