Turning into a baby again

I have been meaning to provide a health update for a while now. Bangsiri hasn’t been doing well, overall. Her mobility has really declined and she seems to be in some sort of distress most of her waking hours. As of her last monthly checkup, her heart health and most of her other test results were good—and I was surprised to learn that her “recovery” from heart failure wasn’t as unusual as I’d been led to believe. Her vet (the professor who follows her case) told me it happens this way in about 10 percent of cases—there’s a scientific explanation that I don’t think I can do justice to here. It has something to do with the shape of the valve, not with my love for her or the fact that I’ve posted so many pictures of her on the internet.

Despite the good news about her heart, she has other problems that aren’t getting better. She has intervertebral disc disease, arthritis, luxating patellas, and I think vestibular syndrome too. She has trouble keeping her balance, and lately she moves as if her body is made of spaghetti. She’s also getting treatment for a digestive problem that sent us to the hospital in the middle of the night over the Chuseok holiday. (The emergency vet didn’t think it was that serious, even though she was crying.) She still sleeps peacefully for hours at a time—but when she’s awake, there are episodes where she’s anxious or is having pain and when that happens, she’ll squirm around in a way that really scares me. Sometimes she falls backward or twists her neck around and I’m scared that she could really hurt herself. It’s hard for me to figure out how much of the problem is pain and how much is anxiety. She seems clingier than usual as if she’s developing separation anxiety after all these years.

Bangsiri used to be very reactive in certain situations—she’d bark at strangers who approached us on the street, often she’d bark at children, having anyone in the apartment was a big no, and she became very reactive to strange dogs around 2011 or so. Well, a couple of trainers advised me to be more protective of her personal space and it worked. The problem went away completely and she became the quietest, calmest dog for years. She hardly notices people and other animals now—but I’m not sure whether that’s because I made an effort to be more protective of her or if it’s the result of declining vision and hearing.

Anyway, until recently, Bangsiri never had any issues with separation anxiety. She was always happy to spend time with me, but when I left her all day to go to work she was fine. She spent most of her time sleeping. Earlier this year, because of her age and health issues and because I needed to get to work in the morning, I decided to take her to a hospital for day boarding (going to the hospital all day and coming home with me at night). At first she seemed fine—she slept all day just like at home. The hospital’s vet said she was adjusting really well and wasn’t anxious or stressed. But then I moved her to another hospital in a more affordable neighborhood, and after taking care of her for a while the vet told me he thought she’d be better off at home.

The thing is, I needed to work, and Bangsiri couldn’t even be left unattended with a water bowl anymore—it was a safety hazard. The few reliable pet sitters in town couldn’t take her on. I kept her in day boarding and then eventually the vet told me we’d have to find another hospital by the end of September. That meant packing all our stuff, canceling the lease I’d just signed, and moving back to our old neighborhood. All of which I was prepared to do, but then Bangsiri’s condition took a turn for the worse.

A little while before the holiday, the hospital staff started telling me Bangsiri seemed upset or uncomfortable, or didn’t eat enough, not every day but often enough to be worrying. She lost some weight. Over the holiday I could see that she was in a lot of distress on and off throughout the day, every day, and I realized I couldn’t ask a hospital to take care of her in that condition.

So now I’m home with her, and I’m struggling to make her as comfortable as possible. Often I can calm her down and get her back to sleep by cuddling her or putting her in bed close to me. Today she spent a big part of the day on my lap in a sling, and she seems happiest there—but if I get up and put her in her “room” (a fenced-in area with a blanket and some pee pads), she cries and barks for me.

I’m looking into getting her a wheelchair, and she’ll probably need stronger painkillers for her back. On the other hand, I don’t want to overmedicate her if pain isn’t the problem. I’ve talked to some trainers and one was super helpful, another less so.

The helpful trainer said, “(M)aybe she’s going through an adjustment and will settle down once she gets a wheelchair and learns to use it?”

That’s occurred to me too. I also wonder if Bangsiri is turning into a puppy again and needs constant attention? In any case, her regular vet thinks she’s unlikely to live more than a few more months, and I want to be her main caregiver for however long she has. So far my company is being extremely nice about the situation, which I didn’t expect, but I don’t know what will happen and whether I’ll end up having to exhaust my resources to be with my angel full time. But she is my angel, and I’m getting ready to learn more about geriatric dog care than I ever anticipated.

Please be okay, beautiful princess.

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