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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 8 December 2003 Issue

For The Love Of Gypsy

The piece about CRF in a cat was timely (Animals In Print,11/26/03). My beautiful Gypsy, a 2 and 1/2 year old Bernese Mt. Dog, died of kidney failure three weeks ago tomorrow. She had never been sick a day in her life. We walked in to the vet one day for get a hands on check, o.k., and rabies shot. The next week, an odor from her mouth, we go to the vet, mouth ulcers, needs to clean teeth, put her on antibiotics first. That done, the next week, does blood work and I am told she is in kidney failure. I was in shock for weeks.

He kept her to put her on ivs and x-rayed her. The next day he said it appeared her kidneys were too small and he referred us to an internal vet clinic for a sonogram. That wonderful vet let me be with Gypsy and see, and her kidneys were too small for her. I stayed all day there and she kept her on ivs and a blood transfusion, and set her up in the reception area, so Gypsy could be beside me.

I knew going in that kidney failure is a death sentence. But Gypsy didn't look or act ill so I decided to do what I could to maintain her comfortably. Gypsy had to stay on ivs so we transferred her to an overnight emergency clinic where they could maintain her until the next morning when we would go back to the primary vet where we began. She was three nights away from me and had never been away from me since I had her. I visited her that night to take her one of her soft toys and my t-shirt to put in her cage with her.

On the fourth morning the vet called and said her bloodwork was no better. I wanted to bring her home but he said another night, so he can do another test the next morning. I agreed but almost immediately after hanging up was terribly upset, just knew she needed to come home. It was a Saturday and when I called back he had left and the recording was on. So I went over there to get her, fortunately work was being done on the flooring so his day people were still there. The girl said she had to call the vet at home before I could take her. I spoke with him on the phone and told him I was taking her home. He said we had agreed on the next morning and if they unhooked her I would be making her suffer. (Yet when she is unhooked from ivs in 18 hours she would not "suffer"?) I had earlier asked him if when the time came he would come to my home to put her down and he said he didn't know, no yes, no no. When I asked him this time he said absolutely not.

I saw the girls bring Gypsy from the back and put her on a table to unhook the iv tubes. When they put her on the table, I barely recognized her, her head hanging down, she looked like a ragdoll, so I asked if she had been sedated? (She had been earlier due to the type of medicines they gave her.) They said no, and Gypsy heard me, she looked up, grinned that Bernese grin, and her tail began to wag so fast I thought she'd fall off the table. I knew then I made the best decision to take her home.

On the next Monday we went back to the internal medicine clinic and began medications and treatments we could do. She was severely anemic as result of the kidney failure. Trying to get her to eat was a big hurdle. Over the next weeks she was given canned kidney failure dog food she was supposed to have, senior canned food, then any canned food she'd eat. My wonderful boyfriend boiled chicken breast, tenders, liver, such as that. When I could get her to eat and mix rice with it I would, but she was picky. We even got baby food, rice cereal and jars.

She had medications I had to give her three times a day; ultimately I had to give her SQ fluids at home once or twice a day. My refrigerator, when opened, was full of bags of cooked food, cans that had been opened and not eaten. When she did eat she ate by my hand feeding her or feeding her canned food from a spoon. I bought a bottle of epogen, a drug people with cancer use, that could possibly help the anemia and help her have an appetite again. It coat $300 for a tiny bottle to give an even tinier amount by injection three times a day, which they showed me how to do. She had to have numerous trips to the internal medicine clinic to check her bloodpressure, which had been high and it had to be monitered three times a week on that medication.

Through all of this Gypsy was hanging in the, still being her loving self, accepting of all the shots, temp taking, bloodpressure taking, etc. When they'd have to take her in the back to draw blood she would sit by me and wouldn't budge, so I would have to stand up and walk with her to get her started through the door. This all went on for 8 weeks.

She was with me on my 60th birthday on Oct. 4, and for the annual Blessing of the Animals at Holy Cross. But on the third week, she had three seizures, coming out of each wagging her tail as if nothing has happened. On Monday, Nov. 3, she threw up, which she had not done before. But she did eat that day. However, on Tuesday, she threw up again, and she didn't eat. I tried everything, and that was a lot of stuff, to no avail. She got the SQ fluids twice. Wednesday was the same and I knew then I had to make that decision.

The week before we visited a vet who believes in home euthanasia. I was determined she would be put down at home. I called her and she was not able to come Wednesday night so we set it for Thursday morning.

Gypsy was feeling sick, drooling, nausea caused by the kidney failure, one reason she just couldn't eat and I was not going to force feed her knowing that. Even so, that last night she followed me everywhere in the house as she always did. We went to bed late and she got onto the bed with me - she always slept beside me, against my back - until it was time to call and find out what time the vet would be coming. We just stayed in bed until she got there, around 10. There Gypsy stayed while her life swiftly slipped away...I had my arms around her neck, was telling her how brave she was and how much I loved her, said some prayers, then it was done and when I let go her head laid on my pillow. My boyfriend wept, I wept and thanked the vet for coming to the house, so grateful, Gypsy could pass to the Rainbow Bridge from where she felt most comfortable, safe and secure.

She is buried in the backyard near Esther, my Bernese who died at 8 1/2 in May, 2001, and near Pandora, my Bernese who died at 12 in Aug. 2001. It has been a very difficult time for me.

As the piece said, I was exhausted and worn. I went off of my own medicines because all I thought of was caring for Gypsy and keeping her comfortable. I barely went anywhere those 8 weeks except to the vets with Gypsy. Financially, no I couldn't afford it, I'm on SS Disability. But she was only 2 and 1/2, I felt she deserved every chance. I charged it on credit cards, paid the $300 for the epogen by taking it from my savings for property taxes, local animal groups and friends contributed $1,000. I won't say what is left but hope to have some help on it from a Bernese group that does help owners in high emergency situations.

I have cried as never before, when Gypsy died, she stayed in my heart, but a part of me died with her. Gypsy was a rescue from Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition Inc. - they formed several years ago to get some of the Bernese off of the auction market so they wouldn't be in puppy mills - since 2000 many have been imported from Europe so go to Wheaton, Missouri and be auctioned off mainly to puppy millers. Gypsy was born in Moscow, Russia. Painfully thin and like a skeleton when BARC got her, six months old and 39 lbs., even when I got her almost two months later, I had to feed her extra food to fill her out before she could undergo spay surgery.

But Gypsy was wonderful and never left my side. She even went into the bathroom with me. Losing her so early in her life has had me reeling. I still can't believe she is gone. Bernese is a very precious breed to me, I have had 4, including Gypsy, since 1980. Not having one suddenly after 23 years has been a shock. I have cats and a 7 year old Aussie, but there is a special bond with Bernese. BARC is taking donations from other BARC members to get me a new girl. There is a 1 1/2 year old female, bred when they got her at auction, she lost her puppies a month ago. I lost Gypsy. She and I need each other. I hope it comes to pass that I am able to get her.

It is like I missed half of Sept. and all of Oct. caring for Gypsy. I would do it again. If I could do it all over again, knowing she would die early, have her or a different Berner, I would have Gypsy. She was a joy the whole 2 and 1/2 years of her life with me. I loved her dearly and will carry her in my heart forever. Someday I will be able to talk of her without bursting into tears, but it is all too fresh right now for that. I hope and pray for another Berner in my life.

Thanks for listening, Jeri Holloway

Return to Animals in Print 8 December 2003 Issue

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