I like to look at my pets lives as having seasons. In the Spring of their lives, they are pups, everything is fresh, new and vibrant. They are doe-eyed and ready to take on the world. In the Summer of their lives they’re settling into doggy teenage years. Still running around with a great amount of energy, but with more assurance and strength as they grow. Stepping into the Autumn of their lives – they begin to settle down. They’ve matured beautifully and live mindfully. Now, as I look at my sweet old gray-faced, Boxer-girl, Maya, I know she has moved into the Winter of her life. Her days are shorter, her body more delicate, and her demeanor more gentle.
The past few months have been mostly dedicated to caring for Maya. Maya is the last pet we have around from the 3 Amigos. She’ll be 13 in August.
From the beginning of her life, she has battled a laundry list of ailments, and always found her own clever way to work with whatever illness she had. She has been one heck of a trooper through it all.
- Several debilitating bouts with pancreatitis,
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Food allergies
- Removal of a giant tumor in her belly (among others)
- Eating garbage bags and many pairs of Reef flip-flops
- Stepping on broken glass
- Eating aspirin (almost didn’t make it out of that one)
- Laryngeal Paralysis
- Beating Mast Cell Cancer
- Getting attacked by another dog while she was sleeping
- Countless other vet visits that meant we were not going to be putting money towards a down payment on a house – but rather a down payment on unconditional love.
Last October, we headed to the mountains for our 3rd anniversary. Of course, our Maya-bear was with us, but when we got there, we noticed something was off. She began walking like a drunken sailor and tilting her head to the left. She also had become totally deaf. Gone were the days of having to spell out T-R-E-A-T, W-A-L-K, or C-O-O-K-I-E. We did however miss being able to say certain things to her that she would wiggle in excitement with. We attributed it to her lack of sleep, maybe an ear infection gone wrong… just getting old.
In December, we noticed this happening again, and with more frequency. She not only was off-kilter walking, but was having a hard time remembering how to get back in the house, disoriented – as our vet said, “like a curtain had been placed over her eyes” during these episodes. She would circle over and over to the left, and just seemed to be less Maya-like. Her eyes began to droop some, and her tongue wasn’t working as well as it used to. She went through good days and bad days. and neither outnumbered the other.
Over the holidays, we took her to visit the in-laws in Florida, and again she worsened. She’d occasionally start to fall over from losing her balance, have a harder time laying down and getting up, and her dizziness/ balance issues seemed to progress with more frequency. We’d use her harness to help keep her steady when she needed it. Her vet (and one of our heroes) called in a motion sickness pill, and we hoped that would help her. After much research and a few vet visits, her symptoms look like a vestibular disease in the brain, and possibly a cancer that has spread to the brain or tumor in the brain.
Because of her age and list of other health issues, we made the choice to give her palliative care at home, along with an increased dose of steroids to help reduce/ slow any inflammation.
She has had a tougher time eating, and I try to hand feed her when she needs help. I use the food processor to add organic carrots and celery to mix into her food. I also make her organic eggs, blueberries, sweet potatoes and brown rice to help her get the food down, since she can’t chew very well. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home most of the time, and be there to watch her, love on her, or help her get around the house and yard if needed.
It’s a tough thing to experience, watching the decline of something you love so much. I know that we are on borrowed time with her, and that soon the bad days will outnumber the good. So, for now, I’m cherishing each day we have left, here in the Winter of her life.