Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Read Part Four here.
i went back up to the U clinic the next day to see Toby. the receptionist told me to follow the footprints that were painted on the tile floor; they led me down a hallway hung with photographs of the veterinary school graduating classes (there's our neighbor, craig! looking so young!) and toward the back of the building.
toby was in the critical care unit, a bright, small room filled with cages and kennels of various sizes. i saw him immediately; he was in a glassed-in cage in the far side of the room. there was a small bowl of water on the floor, next to an untouched bowl of kibble.
our eyes met, and he clambered to his feet and wagged his tail.
the vet came over--a kind, brisk woman. i'm sorry i never asked her name; my eyes were only for toby. she explained that they had drained fluid from toby's lungs and he was breathing much better. he was on Lasix now, a diuretic that should help prevent the buildup again. they wanted to keep him in the oxygen cage overnight, because his heart rate was still pretty high.
with its glassed-in walls, it looked more aquarium than cage to me. it had a little door on the front that opened down; it was just wide enough for two hands. she told me i could reach in and and pet him, if i wanted. toby never took his eyes off my face. he was wagging as hard as he could.
so i opened the little door and buried my hands in his fur. i was so glad to see him, so relieved that he seemed to be OK. his breathing was much better, and until he had seen me, he'd been lying down with no trouble. the tears started dripping down my nose but i couldn't wipe them away because i couldn't let go of my dog.
the vet was busily attending to the other patients in the room--other dogs, and a gerbil of some sort, and--but after awhile she noticed my silent sobs. "oh my goodness," she said. "would you like to take him out?"
she opened the cage and carefully lifted toby out, cradling his back legs in the crook of her arm. his back legs had been giving out a little lately--she explained that it was from lack of blood to the muscles. with his heart beating more weakly, the blood didn't circulate as well as it once did, and the muscles farthest away from the heart suffered for it. in a dog, that's the back end.
she set him down on the tile floor and snapped on a leash.
i had brought a tennis ball for toby, and i tossed it gently toward him. he didn't have to move much to catch it--just a tiny skip--but the vet gasped. "this dog is very very ill," she said. "we need to keep him quiet."
chagrined, i took the leash and slowly led toby out of the ICU to the back door. he did not let go of the tennis ball. there was a little garden back there for the patients, and he squatted almost immediately and took a long pee.
then we sat in the chilly sunshine together for a while, my old dog and me. i rested my hand on his head and scratched his ears. he leaned against my leg, just a little.
if you shut your eyes and felt the weak spring sunshine and the golden dog next to you, you could forget about the hospital for a few minutes, and about all the sadness yet to come. you could almost imagine that we were back in duluth, sitting by the lakewalk in the fresh minnesota air.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Read Part One here.