Goodbye, Abby

Abby

This summer, I said goodbye to my 14-year-old yellow Labrador, Abby.  As many of you may know if you’ve been following along on my blog, Abby was a big part of what I wrote about.  From her allergies to her lipomas and a few other things sprinkled in, Abby’s health issues and my treatments for them have been a common theme.

Abby’s backstory

While Abby wasn’t my first senior dog to live into her teens, her journey to them had definitely been the hardest.  My prior dogs, which were all mixed breeds, had all been healthy up until they were around thirteen.

Abby’s misfortune with health challenges started during our second year together.  Whether from poor breeding, just the Labrador breed, or bad luck, Abby and I’s journey to health was a winding road that I’d never been on before with any other dog I’d ever had.

As you may recall, Abby was my only ever non-rescue dog.  For my birthday in 2008, my parents surprised me with her.  While I’d always admired the breed and their popularity, I’d resigned myself to the fact that being the owner of one would never be in the cards for me.  Too many other dogs had come along over the years that needed a good home to even consider going out and intentionally buying one.

So on that day in mid-June 2008 when my parents tricked me into going to town with them, I had no idea what I was getting into.  A few hours later I would be returning home, still in shock, with the silliest dog I would ever own to date and an endless struggle to get and keep her healthy for as long as I possibly could.

Abby
Abby at eight weeks old.

The health challenges started early

Things were fine until at around two years old, Abby developed an oozy patch on her chest.  Having never seen anything like that before, I’d taken her to the vet.  Abby’s first sign of environmental allergies had begun with a hot spot.

Over the next 10 years, I would try so many supplements to stop the itching that plagued her initially, for just a few months in the summer.  Eventually, as she got older, the allergies became a headache for most of the year.  What worked for a year or two would stop and I’d go in search of the next recommended thing.

The start of the lipomas

One day, when Abby was nine years old, I noticed a large hard mass on her ribcage behind her front leg.  Horrified, I began researching what it was and how to get rid of it.  It turned out to be an intramuscular lipoma, a pretty common occurrence in Labrador Retrievers.  Instead of being the soft and squishy kind just under the skin, Abby’s was large, hard, and under the muscle.

Having never had a dog with a lump of any kind before, I researched what I could do to get rid of it.  In case Abby’s lipoma was a result of her body’s attempt to corral toxins, as I had read was possible, I switched her to a raw diet in hopes that that would make it go away.  It did not.  Instead, the lipoma continued to grow.  She also developed another one in the same spot on the other side of her body.

In 2017, Abby had two surgeries to remove them.  The first surgery was in February and a 12-pound lipoma was removed.  Since the one on her other side continued to grow as well, rubbing on her elbow as she walked, I decided to get it removed a few months later, in August.  It was four pounds.

As the lipomas continued to randomly suddenly appear on Abby, I tried numerous things to stop or reduce them.  A few of the things I tried included L-carnitine, arnica, and acupuncture.  Unfortunately, probably most likely due to her breed, nothing I ever tried made a difference.

When I switched Abby to RMF (Rotational Monofeeding) in December of 2020 at age 12, she didn’t develop any more lipomas, and the ones she had never grew any larger.  At times, it felt like the one in her chest was softer and maybe smaller, but the ones that really affected her ability to walk normally, the one in her armpit and also her thigh, never changed.

How the RMF diet helped turn around Abby’s pre-teen decline

I had found the RMF diet after taking Abby to the vet in Nov./Dec. 2020 to see about getting the lipoma in her thigh and armpit removed to make walking easier for her.  Being a large dog, and my back not getting any younger, I wanted her to be mobile for as long as possible.

When two blood tests came back with elevated liver enzymes, which resulted in an ultrasound to figure out what was going on, I was shocked.  Abby’s left adrenal gland was double the size it should have been, possibly affecting the bloodwork, and disqualifying her from surgery.

After years of raw feeding as the “experts” had claimed was the best way to feed, and numerous supplements, Abby was still struggling.  Seeing her like that broke my heart and crushed me because I had wanted so badly to find something to help her so her last years with me were good ones.  Now, what seemed like the only thing that would help her, removing the lipomas so she could walk easier, was no longer an option.

As a typical conventional vet, Abby’s vet wanted to do more testing and put her on medication.  I wanted to find another way.  My research led me to the RMF diet.  While it seemed extreme and nobody was talking about it at the time, Abby didn’t really have any other options with her diagnosis.  Willing to do almost anything to help Abby have the life I envisioned for her in her golden years, I dove into the RMF diet head first.  She officially began the new diet on December 9, 2020.  I wrote about the experience here.

To my delight, after just a couple of weeks, Abby showed improvement.  She had more energy, was more agile, her eyes were brighter and I had hope again.  Maybe I had finally found the sort of ‘Fountain of Youth’ for Abby that would turn her health around once and for all.

The seizures start

Things were going fine with Abby until February of this year.  She was asleep on the living room floor, when around 1 a.m. she let out a loud toot, rolled over onto her back, made a whine-like groan, and went stiff.  Though I’d never had a dog have a seizure before, I instinctively knew that’s what was going on.  Will and I both quickly jumped up and calmly went to her and began comforting her.  The seizure lasted about 30 seconds and caused her to urinate.

Within the next two hours, Abby had a total of three seizures.  All of them were less than 30 seconds long, but still frightening to witness.  After the 2nd episode was over and while Will continued to comfort her, I immediately grabbed my holistic vet books to see what I could do to help her.  Rescue Remedy was recommended to keep a dog calm, so even though Abby was already calm, I grabbed my bottle and put some on her ears.

After that night, I began staying up with Abby later, making sure she didn’t have any seizures again around that time.  I also did research as to what could have caused them.  The answers ranged from liver and kidney disease, low blood sugar, cancer, toxins, and just some breeds, including Labrador Retrievers, being prone to them.

Abby was doing fine so I wondered if maybe there was something finally happening with her lipomas possibly dissolving that caused her seizures.  I also considered if it was from the quinoa and sweet potatoes she’d had that day, or even just another crummy card dealt with her breed.

Monitoring Abby while everything fell apart

Unfortunately, we had an awful February, with two of my cats needing to see the vet, including an over $500 emergency visit when the local vet clinic closed early due to bad weather.  The weather was horribly unpredictable that entire month and in addition to Abby, Riley, and Sissy’s health issues, Will had an accident trying to make it to work, resulting in the complete loss of his vehicle.

Luckily, Will wasn’t hurt, but the time and hassle of having to suddenly fight with an insurance company for a fair amount on his vehicle and the sticker shock of used/new vehicle prices, not to mention having to quickly shop for one, threw a wrench in everything.  Suddenly having an unexpected car payment and higher insurance put a damper on any rush to get Abby checked out.

The next two months were uneventful until once again, at around 1 a.m., I found Abby having a similar episode to the one she’d had nine weeks prior.  I quickly got down on the floor with her again, with a towel in hand to catch any accident this time, and started talking soothingly to her as I reassured her that everything was ok.  That seizure lasted about 20-30 seconds and was only one.

After having had a meat day prior to that second episode, I ruled out that Abby’s first seizure was possibly due to the sweet potatoes and quinoa she’d eaten that day.  I still wanted to believe the seizures were due to the healing effects of the RMF diet.  It made sense that her relatively light seizures could be from toxins being released from one or some or all of her lipomas dissolving, even if I couldn’t easily see any change.

Just a couple of weeks prior, I’d had to take one of my other dogs, Jake, who is around 8-9 years old and had never had a health issue up to that point, to the vet.  He had some swelling around his eye that wasn’t responding to my treatments so I decided to make sure he didn’t have something in his eye that I couldn’t see.  The vet did an extensive examination and found nothing.  When I asked what the next step would be if the swelling didn’t go down, she said it would be Jake seeing an ophthalmologist.

Attempts to stop Abby’s seizures

Four and a half weeks after her second seizure, Abby had another very short one at 6:15 p.m.  This time, I decided to try adding MCT oil to her diet.  Many sites recommended it and other dog owners had reported success using it.  Aside from losing control of her bladder and being sleepy afterward, Abby never showed any sign of having had a seizure.  She’d sleep it off and then act like her usual self.  MCT seemed like it was worth a shot to try on what was on the scale of things, pretty minor seizures.

Two weeks later, Abby had another seizure.  I wasn’t sure if she hadn’t been on the MCT oil long enough or what, but the seizures continued to only last around 15 seconds and she was always fine afterward.  I debated taking her to the vet, but I honestly wanted it to be the last option for her because the last time we’d gone, I had to wait in the parking lot as the vet took her in and Abby balked.  Abby never balked while on a leash, so that gave me a bad feeling about the situation and what went on “in the back”.

I’ve had plenty of bad experiences with vets and misdiagnoses over the years, so if I didn’t have to put Abby through that on top of hundreds of dollars to be told it was due to her age and/or breed, I wasn’t going to.  Aside from the time between seizures decreasing, which I hoped the MCT oil would help, Abby was still acting normal and there was no indication of anything being seriously wrong.

Instead, after her next episode, I continued the MCT oil, but also added the homeopathic remedy Belladonna to her preventative protocol.  By this time, Abby was barely making a sound when she had a seizure and while she was still urinating during them, they were still very short.  My ears were constantly listening for any unusual sound from her in case I needed to comfort her and catch any accident.

During this time and while trying to figure out what was going on with Jake’s face after ruling out a food allergy, I ran across information on using MMS (aka Jim Humble’s Master Mineral Solution).  According to testimonials, it has healed a lot of people and pets of a lot of health issues.

With Abby having seizures and Jake having something odd going on with his eye area, I decided to start adding half of the two-part mix to their water bucket.  I felt like with everything I was doing, something would get us back on track soon.

Abby
One of Abby’s last pictures.

More challenges for Abby

The morning of June 21st, Abby coughed up a date she’d eaten the prior afternoon.  Her appetite had been lacking on her non-meat days, but I had chalked it up to she was just tired of bananas and sometimes the dates.  Besides the seizures, which I was hoping were coming to an end with the MCT Oil and Belladonna protocol, Abby was doing fine otherwise, other than slowing down.

At fourteen, and every dog being different, it’s hard to know what’s “normal” for that age, and what should be a concern.  I’d decided when she started losing weight over the last few weeks that it was due to her not eating much on her non-meat days and decided to add another meat day to her rotation.

The following day was meat day and Abby ate nearly all of her meat, except for two pieces.  As I have done for years, I squatted down beside her elevated food bowl and hand-fed her the pieces of meat.  I was surprised she’d indicated she was done when she still had two pieces of meat left, but when I offered them to her a minute or so later, she went ahead and ate them.

Later that night as we were sitting out on the patio, Abby began to make a light cough/gagging sound.  At one point, those two last pieces of meat she’d eaten came up.  Not liking the sound of that cough/gag, I stayed up with her overnight to monitor her.  She had regurgitated some liquid and by morning, it had gotten worse.

After some research, I had Will help me get her outside and lie facing uphill to help her be more comfortable.  I set the fan up to keep her cool in the shade and brought a chair over to sit by her.  I eventually got a towel and rolled it up and put it under her head to keep it elevated as I tried to get her in for a vet appointment to determine what was going on.

The vet that she had seen numerous times over the recent years had left the clinic and they had no openings until the following week.  I was eventually able to track down the vet at the clinic she’d gone to, but she was booked all day and also couldn’t see Abby until the following week.  As the day wore on, Abby continued to be lethargic, refusing to move on her own or get up, even with assistance.

In desperation to get Abby in somewhere, I tried my local vet clinic.  They have very limited resources, but I hoped we could at least get a blood test and possible x-ray done to see what was going on.  I got their answering machine all three times I called.

Will and I had been staying in touch throughout the day as I tried to get Abby in somewhere.  Finally, after so many disappointments and Abby getting worse as the day went on, we agreed we needed to get her to the emergency vet.  In Abby’s declining state, there was no way I could load her by myself, so Will took off work early to come get us.

Abby gets a diagnosis

At the emergency hospital, x-rays showed Abby had a large mass either on or next to her spleen.  The mass was large enough that her intestines had been pushed to the side.  She was also diagnosed with megaesophagus and pneumonia from aspiration.  The Dr. said that possibly the mass was cancerous and that’s why Abby had started having seizures.

Stunned, Will and I were left alone in the room to discuss the shocking diagnosis and what we wanted to do.  It was all so bleak and none of the proposed options were good ones.  I was in complete disbelief and my head was spinning.

No matter what we did, how much, if any of it, would improve Abby’s quality of life?  We decided that even though it would devastate us and the dynamic at home without her, we would let her go.

The weight of the situation and the end of our routine

The shock of the reality began to set in.  When we’d left home, I had no idea that would be our last trip together.  While I was prepared that one day I’d have to say goodbye, I really didn’t think it would be THAT day.  As Abby was wheeled into the room we were to say our goodbye in, she raised her head up once she saw me.

The last year or so Abby had become very aware of where I was at all times and wanted to be close.  As she’d lay sleeping on the floor in front of me in the living room, she’d wake up, look back to see if I was still sitting nearby, to which I’d wave at her and say “I’m right here, baby.”.  She’d then lay her head back down and continue sleeping.  I didn’t want our routine to end.

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye to Abby was one of the most brutal goodbyes I’ve ever had.  Because my parents had given me Abby as a gift and my Dad is no longer alive, Abby was the last connection I had to him.  All of my memories of Abby’s antics over the years, and there were many, were flashing through my mind.

In her final moments, I told Abby how sorry I was that this happened to her and that she was such a good girl.  I told her she didn’t deserve those stupid lipomas and how sorry I was that I hadn’t found a way to get rid of them for her.

As she was being given the meds, Abby looked up at the empty wall in front of her like she saw something or someone in the distance.  I want to believe that she was seeing my Dad or the other animals I’ve lost, or maybe all of them, and they were welcoming her home.

Final thoughts

It’s easy to get caught up in looking back and questioning if you made the right decisions and if you had it all to do over again, what you would have done differently.  It can be brutal and I know every pet owner goes through it. Was I complacent because I thought the RMF diet would prevent Abby from getting cancer, so my mind didn’t immediately consider it when I read about it being a potential cause of her seizures?  Yes.

Could I drive myself crazy thinking about what I’d do now, knowing what I know a few months after I let her go?  Absolutely.  So I don’t.  I did the best I could and while I learned some valuable lessons I will carry with me into the future, beating myself up won’t bring Ab back.

In all honesty, I tried writing this post back months ago shortly after saying goodbye to Abby.  Unfortunately, Jake’s health issue escalated in July, which I’m still battling, we had a water leak that threw us into a state of havoc in September, and going back and reliving what I’d written and the pain from all of it, wasn’t high on my priority list.

As you may have noticed, 2022 has been a tough year around here for all of us.  Some years are smooth sailing, while others test you to the max.  This has been one of the years of testing for sure.

Even though Abby is gone, I’ll still be sharing things I discovered during our time together and continue to discover that may have helped her or can possibly help others.

 

 

 


For my list of favorite things I (mostly) own and/or recommend to fellow pet parents and occasionally random strangers, you can visit my Amazon store page here, https://www.amazon.com/shop/savingscatsanddogswhilesavingcash.  I’ve included little notes about the products also.

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4 thoughts on “Goodbye, Abby

  1. Being an animal parent is hard… because even the cats ‘ lives are short. I have a box turtle … a rescue, if course… with me over 50 years now. But.

    1. It definitely is, Marina. No matter how long you have them, it’s never long enough. Fifty years and counting is amazing. No doubt that will be a hard goodbye as well. Until then, I wish you both good health and happiness.

  2. Dear CC –
    My deepest condolences to you and Will on the loss of your beloved Abby. Oh my, she was such a beautiful dog and it sounds as if her personality was equally beautiful. You and Will did every thing you could for her and Abby knew how much you loved her. She felt the loving care you showered her with every single day and I’m sure that Abby wags her tail in heaven every time she thinks of you and Will. God bless you both.

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