On March 2, I woke up and began my normal daily routine. I immediately let my three dogs out. The two boys, Astro and Luke, plow each other over trying to be the first outside. Lillie strolls out after them. The boys run around like crazy, chasing rabbits and doing God only knows what else. Astro barks a few times as he always does.
As I'm getting everything ready, my oldest son says, "Astro is having another seizure." It had become almost daily now that Astro would have one in the morning. I immediately got him some food with honey to try to bring his blood sugar up. The vet had told me recently that Astro most likely had Insulinoma, a cancer that causes blood sugar to drop dangerously low due to an overproduction of insulin. This is what was causing the seizures. I could usually get him some honey in his system and it would pull him out of the seizure. Lately, it hadn't been helping, but I was going to try anyway.
Astro seemed to stop seizing for a little while and I proceeded with getting the boys' breakfast and packing their lunches for the day etc. The next thing I know, Astro is panting ridiculously hard; he's drooling everywhere and then the worst comes. His legs stiffen and spread out to each side. He cannot get his grip and he begins to shake more violently than ever before. But what really haunts me even today is the howls he begins to let out. I try to comfort him, but nothing is helping. My husband comes in from the garage asking what all the noise is. He sees Astro and doesn't know how to respond. I bury my face into him and tell him, "It's really bad."
But it gets even worse. Astro end up on his side, still howling, and begin convulsing. He looks like he's trying to run, but I know he has no control over what is happening. And the howling won't stop. Astro releases his anal glands and has an involuntary bowl movement. I'm an emotional wreck at this point.
I rush the boys out of the house and into my car. I can't just leave Astro like this, but we have got to get the kids to school. My husband volunteers to stay with Astro as I take the boys to school. Astro stops seizing, but he's completely motionless. I panic because I think he's dying right in front of me. His eyes are wide open and he seems to be staring off into space. I hug him and leave.
On my way back to the house after dropping the boys off, I call the vet's office to see when they open. When I let them know what is happening, they tell me to get him there by 8. Once I'm home, I immediately ask my husband if Astro is still alive and he says yes. Astro can't walk though. We have him on a sheet and carry him to my car. I am crying the whole way because I know this is about to become one of the worst days of my life. I was right.
The team at my vet's office immediately brings a stretch and helps us get him into the room. Every single woman working the front office has tears in their eyes, and these are people who have only met Astro once before as we just recently switches clinics. They even bring a Spongebob comforter to put under him.
He still can't walk. He is conscious and is calm. His blood sugar, even after the honey, measures at only 30. 70 is low and is when they begin to get concerned. He was far beyond that. The vet talks to me and lets me know that everything he is experiencing is characteristic of the Insulinoma and will only become more frequent and more severe as his body cannot process the insulin and cannot handle such low blood sugar. She mentions that she thinks he cannot see after the seizure as he is not responding will to stimuli. This leads his to believe that he could possibly have a tumor on the brain.
Our options are either to go to a specialist to see if there is any possible treatment, though with his age and the rapid progression of his symptoms, she was pretty sure it isn't, or humane euthanasia.
While I knew this was coming, it's not an easy reality to face. All I can do is hug Astro and cry. And that's what I do. The vet tells us we can stay, but let's us know that dogs with seizures sometimes have strange things happen once the medication hits. They can seize as they pass, sometimes they have muscle spasms after the pass which can scare people. I decide I shouldn't stay as those would traumatize me. Ernest stays. We know Astro cannot be alone during his final moments.
I go out to the waiting room and have a break down. I know that my sweet boy is behind that door about to take his last breath. I hear Ernest talking, so I know it has to be done. I knock on the door and ask if I can come in. The vet says sure, looks and me and says, "he was ready."
They assure me he passed incredibly peacefully, no seizing, no nothing. He said Astro looked up at him, then began to close his eyes when the sedative took effect. After she gave the euthanasia medication, Ernest said Astro looked like he was sleeping. Ernest kept his arm around him with his hand on his chest until he could no longer feel it beating. The vet checked and said, "He's gone."
All of this helps my heart a little, but as I lie down next to him and pet him, my heart breaks as I keep his face one last time. I look at Ernest and squeak out an, "I don't want to go...I don't want to leave him here." Ernest just helps me up and we leave together.
Leaving my beloved dog behind in that room is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I know some people don't understand, but he was not just a dog.
You see, we picked him out at the humane society when he was only about 6 weeks old. Astro and his siblings had been dumped on the side of the road in a cardboard box. Luckily a mom at the humane society had just weened her puppies and took on Astro and his siblings to feed.
Astro was initially named Houston by the humane society. He wasn't the puppy I actually wanted, but Ernest wanted a chocolate lab and Astro looked just like one. So, we got him. To make matters even more sad, Astro's leg was broken by a large trash can falling on him. It was not reset properly, and he started having some serious issues later. I had him X-rayed and the vet said we could do surgery to input a pin, but it would go through the growth plate and could cause issues with it growing properly. So we opted, instead, not to, but to put him on high quality food and joint supplements. Luckily, he healed well. He had a knot where it fused together improperly, but it never caused him issues.
I will never forget the day I brought him home from the humane society. My husband was my fiance at the time and lived in Houston. I was in Corpus Christi where I was teaching at the time. I was living with my parents until Ernest and I were to get married. I tried to put Astro in the kennel that night and he cried and cried. So I moved it further into the laundry room hoping I wouldn't hear him. I still did. So I moved him into the garage. He still cried. I can hear my dad telling me, "Jenn, he's had a traumatic day. He was taken away from him family and is in a new place. Maybe you should let him sleep with you." I did. He didn't wake up at all that night and he cuddled me. Astro potty trained really well. He rarely had accidents. As a matter of fact, I can remember him holding it until he was literally dribbling.
Astro moved with us to Katy once we were married, along with my Boston Terrier. They were best pals. Astro was scared of loud noises though. When I was VERY pregnant with our first child, we had an unfortunate incident happen. It was Halloween night and the church behind us shot off fireworks. I had taken the dogs out front to potty, but Astro spooked, wiggled his way out of his collar (he was on a leash) and bolted. My heart was broken. He was gone for 3 weeks. The day I brought my son home from the hospital, I got a phone call. Someone had found him a week ago and had been taking care of him. They met us at a gas station nearby. I will always remember when their truck pulled up and I saw his head pop up in the back. I lost it. My baby was home. He was skinnier and a little banged up, but he was so happy to see us.
Astro used to climb on the back of the couch a lie there behind Ernest's head as he watched TV. When my son was in his cradle and would cry, Astro would go check on him and then come get me. He loved his humans.
He barked at everything. As a matter of fact, he lost his voice while staying out in the country with my Aunt while our house was being built. I mentioned how he was afraid of everything. He hated thunder storms and could always be found in my closet whenever one came. He escaped from our yard several times by scaling the fence (I still don't know how he figured this out). He alerted us when there was someone at the door. He made me feel safe when I was home alone with the boys while Ernest had to travel for work.
Astro was a lover. He slept on our bed between my legs. I never realized how much I loved feeling his body press against me until I no longer felt that. He was also a talker. He would come up to you and just talk. You could even talk back and he'd continue. He got really excited whenever it was time to eat. He loved chasing rabbits. He rarely ever did anything wrong. He never chewed up things. He didn't dig. He didn't get into things he wasn't supposed to. When I say he was a good dog, he really was.
There's a huge void that he used to fill up. I feel it when I walk in the front door every day and don't have him there to greet me. I feel it when I feed Lillie and his food mat is still there, but there's no bowl and no one there howling at me to hurry and feed him. Or when I'm watching TV and he's not sitting right by me anymore. I feel it when I have to look a picture now in order to see his face...
And my heart misses him so much more than I ever imagined.