Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teh ZepZep... that was.

If we're friends on FB, you probably saw some pretty Dramatic Dora/Debbie Downer posts coming from me this past weekend.  Well, it was kinda a bumpy weekend.

Teh ZepZep was euthanized on Monday.  Now, I'm sure that at least a few of my Gentle Readers are confused.  What?  Why?  Teh ZepZep was amazing!!!

You should know something about me before we continue...  When it comes to death and grief..  I'm a joker.  It's never intended to be hurtful, but its my own special way of handling difficult situations, and death is the ultimate difficult for me, so the jokes are almost never appropriate.  And the best part is that everything can be related to death.  It's the last time, won't have to worry about that now, type things.  There's probably a psychological explanation for it, but I just go with, its just me.

Teh BFF really didn't want to share Zep's problems with the world, so I respected that.  But now, all his problems are over (no joke intended), so I figured I'd try to clarify on some potential confusion.

Since I left for the Navy, Teh BFF has been ZepZep's primary mommy.  We did shared custody when I'd come to town, and she brought him for visits when I lived in VA Beach, but she was definitely his main mommy for the last 3 years.

The dark spots on right femur were
the first visuals of bad news.
In late September, as preparations for departing Bahrain began, Teh BFF noticed that Teh ZepZep was limping.  As I stated before, she's had Zeplen the past 3 years, so I trusted her when it came to this.  She took him to the vet, who did an xray which revealed a weird spot on his femur.  Since Zeplen was only 4.5 years old this was pretty weird.  Older dogs are usually the ones with the problems.  The vet suggested it could be the C word (cancer), so he wanted to do a biopsy to find out.  Teh BFF wanted a second opinion, and I agreed.  She found another vet who looked at the xray, said he thought it was probably bone cancer also, but he wanted to go in and remove the "bad" bone that was causing Zeplen pain which was causing the limp.

The "bad" bone was removed at the end of October.  By removing the "bad" bone, the vet pretty much removed most of Zeplen's left femur.  The idea was that scar tissue would replace the bone, thus enabling Zeplen to be able to use the leg again without pain.  The vet sent the "bad" bone that was removed for biopsy.  There was no crazy irregularity we could blame this on, it was definitely bone cancer.

Zep with a half bare bottom and incision scar from his surgery.
There was no way to know how far the cancer had spread without doing a chest xray, and if the cancer hadn't spread, we'd just be wasting money by doing the xrays to look for something.  So the vet told us to look for signs, like Teh ZepZep having no interest in eating, which would mean a turn for the worse.

Zep progressed well in Nov and the beginning of Dec, he was using his "bad" leg although he was kept to minimal physical exertion and was on an anti-inflammatory and mild pain killer, but he could go up/down stairs and jump on low furniture.  When I went home for Christmas, his leg had started to swell again and he'd been wishy-washy on using his "bad" leg more and more.  Teh BFF had noticed the swelling and heavier limping, so the vet prescribed an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and tramadol (a pretty hardcore pain killer).

Zeplen's days during my vacation.  He kept the air mattress warm for me.
And the pillow.  Spoiled dog.
While I was enjoying Zeplen's company over Christmas vacation, he seemed fine.  The swelling wasn't going down and he was getting more protective over his sore spots, but otherwise he seemed like any drugged dog would.  My last few days there he started to lose interest in eating, but Zeplen always had some super serious separation anxiety, so we thought that might be the case since he usually could sense when it was time for someone to leave.

Shortly after I returned back to MD, Teh BFF said he was using his leg less and less and the swelling had gone up considerably.  He'd also continued to not want to eat.  He was being bribed to eat with human foods, which had been a no-no until we were desperate to get him to eat anything at all.

Teh BFF called me and explained that sometimes it looked like he wasn't breathing, which was very concerning for her.  She told me, "I'm afraid I'm going to wake up and he's going to be dead."

Since returning back to the US, the plan was for me to take Zeplen back as soon as possible.  I had to find a place to live that allowed pets, then Teh BFF and I would coordinate a time to either meet or for one of us to come to the other.  The earliest Teh BFF had vacation was the end of Jan, so we planned for then.  I hadn't told her about my Christmas surprise at that time, and since the Christmas surprise was also a birthday surprise, driving was easily knocked off the table, which also meant that bringing Zeplen back with me to MD after Christmas wasn't possible.

In the 2 weeks since Cmas, there had been more and more concern for Zeplen's health.  I was concerned about the substantial amount of drugs he was on (what kind of life is a drugged life?), Teh BFF was concerned that his swelling wasn't going down and he stopped using his leg all together over the last 2 weeks (he was obviously in a lot of pain, despite the drugs).
You can see how the left side was WAY larger than the right side.
Left side = bad leg.

Last week, Teh BFF took Zep to the vet, who said, the swelling is most likely the tumor returning (with a vengeance) and that all we could do now was make him comfortable.  The vet upped his tramadol dosage to 4 pills a day.  WOAH.  My brain about exploded when I heard that.  1 50mg tramadol pill makes me happy for an entire day.  Teh ZepZep is only 50 lbs and was taking 200mg a DAY.  Holy bejesus.

100mg of tramadol at a time made Teh ZepZep mostly a zombie dog, so Teh BFF gave him 75mg at a time instead, which meant a more functional, but not fully functional dog.

Teh BFF and I quickly decided that he was in too much pain, despite all the medication, and it was time.

It was a difficult decision because he was our ZepZep.  ZepZep was loved by everyone (except for Phoenix, Teh Sister's deceased dog, but she didn't really like anyone, so it was her loss).  Zep made friends everywhere he went.  He was a happy, excitable, super soft, kid-friendly, tail-whipping, asshole dog.  But, we knew it was inevitable.

Back in September when things were starting to happen, Teh BFF and I had a discussion, prior to confirming it was bone cancer, about our course of action if it WAS bone cancer.

We decided that there would be no amputation of the limb, no chemo, just the one procedure to remove the "bad" bone, that had solved the problems for "this one dalmatian" said the vet.  While quotes from He's Just Not That Into You reverberated through my head about the exception vs the rule argument, I let hope win out that maybe this procedure would also mean that Zeplen could live a long, gimp leg life.  Other than the single procedure, we decided on the keep him comfortable, for as long as possible path.  We also said that we weren't going to spend an exuberant amount of money trying to make him better.  1- Neither of us had/have the money, 2- At the end of the day, Zeplen was just a dog (which sounds way more cruel and heartless when you read that and don't know just how much Zeplen was actually spoiled like a child).

As long as possible finally happened this past weekend.  I had my first VX-1 watch on Sat, then Sunday I made the 8 hour drive to NC, so Monday morning I could make the trip to the vet with Teh BFF to have Zeplen put to sleep.  After the vet excursion and a quick first time oil change for Yurtle, I was back on the road for MD.

While Teh BFF was getting ready to go to the vet's office Monday morning, I got out of bed and went to snuggle with Teh ZepZep one last time.  I told him that soon he wouldn't have to hurt anymore and that he had been a really good doggie.  That it was ok to quit fighting.  Of course, just thinking the thoughts made me tear up, and saying them outloud made me cry, but to make me feel better, Teh ZepZep gave me kisses on my nose and let me pet him for a few more minutes.

The most difficult part of the process that morning was getting Zeplen in the car.  Despite 100mg of tramadol at midnight, by 7:30a, he wasn't up for moving too much.  Being the stubborn ass that he was, Zeplen stood up the entire car ride to the vet (about 45 minutes).  There was no coaxing him to sit or lay down, despite me telling him it was the last time he'd have to worry about it.

Once we arrived to the vet's office, Zeplen hopped his way to the front door.  He was familiar with the place by now.  We went in and told them it was time for Zeplen to be put to sleep.  While we were waiting at the front desk, another dog was not wanting to be brought into an exam room.  The vet's technician/assistant/nurse (what do you call those guys?) was trying to coax it into the room, at which point I said (not quietly), "It could be worse!" and pointed down to Zeplen.  Teh BFF smacked me on the arm, but she still at least cracked a smile.

We immediately got our own exam room, where Teh BFF filled out all the paperwork.  While we waited on the vet to come in, Zeplen paced between us, letting us pet him.  Once the vet showed up and said he was going to sedate Zep, we decided it was time to leave so they could do their job.  I gave Zep one last kiss on his soft, bony head and went out with Teh BFF to pay for the services.  It took right around 5 minutes for the vet's assistant (VA) to come tell us it was done.  I had left my purse in the exam room, and she offered to bring it to me if I didn't want to go back in.  I wanted to see Zeplen one last time, for closure, so I walked back with her.

VA: He went under very easily, he didn't fight it.
Me: Are you just telling me that to make me feel better?
VA: No, he really didn't fight it.  He was ready.
Me: Ok then.

When I walked back in the exam room, he was laying on the exam table, which was covered with a towel, and he had a towel draped over his body.  For the first time since I'd laid eyes on him (August 2007), he was completely still.  While that's not really a surprise for a dead dog, for a once, very alive dog, it was extremely strange for me.  I'm not sure I can ever remember a time where Zeplen didn't wag his tail at seeing me unless I had been hanging out with him all day or pissed him off.  His eyes were open, and through my tears I told the VA, "His eyes being open is sooo creepy!"  She said that dogs weren't like humans in that they closed their eyes and told me to take my time with him and left the room.  I was grateful because approximately 1/4th of a second later, there was sobbing.

The asshole dog was gone.  No more suffering.  No more kisses.  No more tail whipping.  No more giving him "the look" which made him go hide under the bed.  No more using his food bowls as chew toys.  No more late night business trips (bathroom trips) where I was just outside to freeze my ass off.  No more soft fur.  No more grrrr.  No more baby dog.  No more Zeplen.

Since I hadn't been able to actually mess with his leg the entire time I've been back in the US, I took the opportunity to press on his swollen leg, which was completely hard.  Meaning the tumor was definitely, 100% back, which was the source of probably most of his pain.  When I told Teh BFF this, she said that had it been softer or movable, that it would have meant there was a fluid build-up, which they could have drained to alleviate some of Zeplen's pain.

After gathering his leash (more difficult than I was prepared for) and my purse, I went back to Zeplen for the last time.  I pulled his lips up into one final grrr face, which wasn't the same since his jaw wasn't completely shut, but still helped me smiled through the tears, kissed him on the head for the last time, and left the exam room.

Despite an 8 hour drive in holiday traffic, coming back into my empty apartment was the most difficult part of Monday.  Not that Zeplen had ever been in the MD apartment, but there was always the thought in the back of my mind, he'll be here eventually.  Never was it, if he makes it.  Now, there won't be an eventually, and that is abysmally lonely.  All the thoughts I'd had while I was cooking and dropped something on the floor of Zeplen coming to "vacuum" it up for me, the ideas of taking Zeplen on a run down the street, watching him sleep by the fire.. none of them to come to fruition.

I will probably get another dog in the next few months.  I've missed Zeplen's company for the last 3 years and while I know no dog will ever replace Teh ZepZep, having company in my apartment won't be a bad thing for me to break up the loneliness.  I discussed adopting a Greyhound with Teh Bear.  An adult that I don't have to potty train, an indoor dog, and not small.  Greyhounds are also quiet dogs that like to sleep a lot and just need to be exercised once a day (for a sufficient time/amount).  I feel like it could work out well.

But, for one last heart-strings tug.  The final photos of Teh ZepZep (while he was still alive, of course.. I'm not that morbid).

Zep's last car ride.  He had his head out the window moments before the camera went off.  Fully enjoying the smells.

The 'I don't feel good, Mom' face.


  1. You had a picture of that dog on your desk the whole time you were here. I don't know many peole who loved there pets as much as you. I'm sorry. Way to be strong though.

    1. I'm not sure why it says anonymous, cause I'm pretty sure I know who this is. Either way, I really appreciate your thoughts. Knowing that he's gone is definitely more difficult that being in GTMO/Bahrain and just missing him.


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