I woke in a cold sweat because I heard Phaedra screaming downstairs. I threw off the covers and jumped out of bed and started running to the stairs.
Tom asked, “What?”
“Phaedra’s having a seizure!”
Tom was right behind me running down the stairs.
Our thirteen year old mixed black Lab was on her dog bed in the family room in a full blown seizure. She’d had a couple of episodes a month ago; our vet assumed she had a brain tumor that was causing swelling. He put her on Phenobarbital to suppress seizure activity and that had worked…until now. It’s unbelievably horrific to watch our dog in the throws of this struggle. Frantic paddling with her legs and snapping at the air, screaming and pissing herself. Now she was stiff and arching her neck and lunging on her side.
Tom said, gently, “You’ve got to pull the plug on this, Carol.”
“I know. I know. I will. But we can’t move her right now, she’s too sick.”
Tom and I put our hands on Phay and talked to her gently as she thrashed around. It’s such a helpless feeling. Previously, she had come out of the seizure after only a few minutes and then it was a while before she recognized us. Now it seemed like it was going on…and on…and on. Many, many minutes went by as Phay screamed, sending spittle flying. All we could do was gently keep our hands on her to let her know that we were there. I kept thinking she would eventually come out of it like before.
This was not meant to be.
What she did do was when she recovered enough to be able to walk— she started marching. Manically marching, around and around the room, circling the perimeter of the room, panting anxiously. Around and around, a hundred times. Tom sat down on the daybed. I tried to hold Phay to get her to stop but she would break free and kept marching, rubbing against the outer walls.
I said, “Oh my god, this is like The Yellow Wallpaper.”
“Only worse,” Tom said.
Every so often, during one of her loops, I would hold up a bowl of water and she would drink thirstily. After several rounds of water, she squatted down and peed what seemed like a gallon of urine. Phay’s eyes flew open in fear that she was going to be reprimanded, but I smiled at her and gave her permission to do whatever she needed to do. It was only an oriental rug—it could be cleaned.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Phay started to get tired and I got her to lie down on her bed. She was still panting anxiously. I started to massage her and this seemed to begin to calm her down. I dimmed the lights way down low. I heard a gentle snore and looked up to see that Tom had fallen asleep. He was too long for the daybed so his legs were hanging over the end, but he was fast asleep.
I rolled up in a blanket and lay down next to Phay and started massaging her hind end. She seemed to really enjoy this and she kept moving her butt toward me to get a better angle for the massage. I knew I was lying in urine and her fur that was shedding as I rubbed was sticking to my urine soaked arms, but I didn’t care at this point. I just kept thinking she’d come out of it.
As her labored breathing eased a little bit, I was at her head and Phay laid her white muzzle on my chest. She looked me square in the eyes and she raised both eyebrows. I knew what she was saying to me. My throat was almost too tight to speak, but I did.
“Okay, Phay, I know it’s time to let you go. You’ve been a great dog. I remember when Kudra and I brought you home from the pound. You were so afraid of people that you wouldn’t get in the car—do you remember that? Now being in the car is your favorite thing in the whole world. But that day, you tried to strong-arm us; you wouldn’t bend your legs. Kudra and I had to lift you—stiff-legged—into the back seat and you rode the whole way home standing straight up. And then you didn’t know how to go up stairs. Wow, that was a long time ago, Phay.”
Phay closed her eyes and started to rest. I must have dozed off with my hand on her shoulder. That’s when I felt the first jolt. It felt like 1000 volts of electricity jolted through Phay’s body.
This time her screams were agonizing. Tom jumped up.
“We are out of here!” he yelled. Somehow, he grabbed Phay in her whole bed and carried her to the door. I ran ahead of him and opened the back hatch of the Jeep and he placed her in the back. I flattened the seats so I could be with her. Somehow, our other dog, our fifteen year old Newfy mutt, Gladys, was standing beside the car. Tom scooped Gladys up and put her in the front passenger seat and we were racing to Caves.
I was riding backwards as we transported Phay to the hospital. I was holding her as she thrashed. She just would not give up. I kept talking to her softly, telling her it wasn’t going to be long now. Every so often I would stick my head up and see the route backwards, St. Paul’s School, Concord Hospital, Concord High School. This made me dizzy so I only looked down and stroked Phay. HURRY!
Tom called Caves on the way to tell them we were coming in. It was 6:00 AM. When we got there a vet and a vet tech were waiting with a stretcher. They took Phay away to sedate her with IV valium and left Tom and I to sign the euthanasia consent. Tom and I sat numbly waiting in the waiting room. We were staring straight ahead, holding hands. Tom said he felt liked he’d been hit by a bus.
The vet tech took us to a side room and then they wheeled in Phay. She was pretty out of it but I know she recognized us. The vet asked if we wanted more time. I said, “No.” The vet skillfully injected two syringes of clear fluid and Phay was gone. They wheeled Phay back to the car and put her in the back. She looked like she was sleeping. Gladys saw Phay and her eyes got huge. She definitely knew that Phay wasn’t “sleeping.”
We drove the long way home. Tom had big silent tears rolling down his cheeks. When we got to the Long Pond reservoir, we pulled over to the side of the road. The sun was rising and it was a glorious spring morning with the early light sparkling on the water. I laced my fingers in Tom’s calloused hand and we sat quietly as the morning unfolded.