Since I last wrote about Bangsiri, I’ve received some alarming news. Bangsiri has a painful back problem and a red swollen front paw. On several occasions over the past two months, I was honestly afraid that I was about to lose my best friend.
When Bangsiri had her monthly checkup on March 15, Dr. Hyun said her left atrium was much smaller than it had been in February.
“This is good news,” he wrote in a Kakao message. I was still at school, and Bangsiri was with Dr. Hyun at the Diana Animal Hospital.
But when I went to the hospital that evening to pick her up, he informed me that the change might not be good news after all. He said many animals show signs of improvement just before they die, and there’s no scientific explanation for it. He said she’d been very tired at the hospital and had slept much more than usual that day. He advised me to spend more time with her because the end could come unexpectedly.
I didn’t want to believe him, but I was scared. Bangsiri had bad diarrhea that night, and for the first time in six years she made a mess in her pouch while we were still on the subway. I cleaned her off as best I could once we got home, and she cried afterwards. I didn’t know it at the time, but I realize now she must have been in pain.
Bangsiri took medicine for her diarrhea and I switched her to canned food from soaked kibble. Her digestion improved, and within a few days she seemed healthier and more energetic.
Then on March 29, her breathing didn’t seem right. I took her to May for an X-ray and sent the X-ray images to Dr. Hyun on Kakao Talk, but there was nothing wrong. No fluid in her lungs, no changes to her heart since her checkup.
On April 6 Bangsiri started limping, and a few times she cried in pain. Lifting her onto the bed seemed to hurt her, but later that day her symptoms went away. Then they came back a day later. She had a walk in the park and enjoyed it, but she seemed uncomfortable in her pouch on the way home.
Dr. Hyun provided assistance via Kakao Talk. After discussing her symptoms with him, I decided to bring her back to the hospital the following Wednesday.
But after midnight on the Tuesday of that week, Bangsiri started acting strangely, as if she couldn’t lie down comfortably. Again, she cried in pain when I tried to lift her. She seemed better in the morning, but her symptoms came back and I took her to Diana a day early.
Dr. Hyun explained to me over Kakao Talk that Bangsiri had herniation of the spinal cord—two of her vertebrae had fused together and were compressing one of the nerves in her spine. She had to stay in the hospital overnight, and Dr. Hyun examined her the next day. Initial advice was to wait and see, because it wasn’t clear how bad the problem was and if it would go away on its own.
The pain came back on and off, and one day it was so bad she refused her heart medicine because she lost all interest in food (even the peanut butter she loves). At that point, Dr. Hyun recommended acupuncture to help control the pain—Bangsiri was already on the maximum dose of painkillers, and some kinds were off limits because they might interact with her heart medicine and put her kidneys at risk.
Bangsiri had to spend a few nights at Diana during the month of April. I’d travel twice a day from my place at the north end of the city to Gangnam, where the hospital was. I’d give Bangsiri her medicine and her meals, and I’d cuddle her for a while before going home. Each time she saw me, she’d get excited and bark for attention—she didn’t understand why I had to leave her.
April 26 was the final day of a heavy school term, and I had to submit a difficult take-home exam. I went to a café to work on the exam the day before it was due, and Bangsiri seemed comfortable when I left, but when I came home her paw was bleeding.
At first, I thought it could wait. It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that I realized her toes were hugely swollen and purple. I sent a message to Dr. Hyun and asked if Diana could take Bangsiri early that morning, before the hospital’s usual opening time. Dr. Hyun called the head vet, Dr. Choi, and I brought Bangsiri in.
I found out from Dr. Hyun that constant toe-licking is a side effect of one of the drugs she takes for her heart—but because the drug is keeping her alive and there’s no alternative, we have to live with the problem. Her paw was bandaged for weeks, and the bandage finally came off this past Friday when she had her last acupuncture treatment.
Right after the diagnosis, Bangsiri’s exercise had to be restricted. She wasn’t allowed outside at all for two weeks. Now she’s allowed one short walk a day. She also got a sturdy carrier that supports her spine and allows her to lie down while she’s in transit. (I found out the soft pouches I was using for years were hurting her because they forced her spine into an awkward position.) And she can’t sleep in bed with me anymore because the bed is too soft and too high off the floor. I bought a Korean-style yo (floor mat) so I could sleep on the floor with her, but the yo is too uncomfortable for me.
I think acupuncture has helped Bangsiri; she hasn’t shown any signs of severe pain since the treatments started. There’s still no way of knowing how long she’ll live, and she may be older than we first thought—maybe as old as 15. Dr. Hyun said at one point that he thought she could live another year or so.
The past few weeks have been stressful. I hate making Bangsiri sleep on the floor, and I feel bad that I can’t take her to as many places as before (because travelling too much might hurt her back). I’m still getting used to her new carrier, which is big and bulky and not cute like a kangaroo pouch. But more than anything, I’m relieved that this is a manageable problem. I’m hoping for much more than a year with my little princess, and I’m looking forward to our next big adventure together.