Saturday, February 16, 2008
The above three photos all capture specific aspects of Haley's personality - her physical expressiveness, from her jackal-like ears to the regal look of her sitting in the green brush to the love of life shown when she is at play.
Sara and Haley - partners in crime for 15 years ever since Sara kidnapped, er, rescued Haley from the streets of West Philadelphia. Sara's re-telling of Haley stories from those early days was great comfort to us during the week we knew her end was imminent.
The above photo was taken during a visit to Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York. Haley had a great weekend. She ran through this water with her mouth open against the current of the water, scooping up as much as she could. This weekend, in retrospect, was also the beginning of her neuropathy (see also this posting for more on this weekend).
This was the cabin we stayed in on the visit that weekend. At night, rather than join in the bed, Haley insisted on squeezing under the bed to sleep. Anyone who knows Haley knows that this was odd behavior indeed. She loved sharing the bed, couch, wherever with us. For some reason, in this cabin, the floor under the bed is what worked best.
We awoke one night in Ocotber 2006 with a thrashing Haley on the bed. Her eyes was vacant and her legs were twitching uncontrolably. I picked her up, with my hand on her heart to make sure it was beating and we raced outside to hail a cab to bring us to the 24 hour animal hopsital. Haley had a seizure. No reason was found for why she would have one. We began rehab right away. Above are two photos from her early days at Animal Medical Center where she was craned into a pool for therapy. It was in these weeks directly after this episode that haley showed us her true will to live. She wanted to walk again and she did.
Haley and Leo. Fast friends right from th start. In her waning weeks, when Haley's body betrayed her, she remained alert and lively in spirit. She loved having Leo climb the couch to pat her legs or grab her front harness and pull himself up. He always greeted him with a lick. Friends or babysitters, strangers to Haley would not be allowed near Leo without a bark or two (or three or four...). It seems our brining Leo home had given Haley another reason to live.
On Thursday, February 14, 2008, we said goodbye to Haley, our wonderful companion and, by all accounts, The Greatest Dog That Ever Lived. Haley battled old age, neuropathy, and a strange seizure in October 2006, before we decided that she had fought long enough. Coincidently, when Sara first rescued Haley, she backtracked her birthday, based on the age estimate the vet gave her to February 1992. Haley's unofficial birthday was always Valentine's Day.
Since October 2006, when Haley suffered a seizure in the middle of the night, we've had home visits by a veterinarian who specializes in electric stimulation and acupuncture. The seizure had left Haley totally nonambulatory. We began an intensive rehabilitation program. Thrice a week visits from the vet, weekly swimming at the local dog pool. We stood her up, zapped her with a hand-held stimulator on the days the vet didn't come. After a few days, she began to use her front legs again. Soon, she was able to sit up. Shortly after, she began moving her hind legs. The day she, Bambi-like on the ice, stood up on her own was one of excitement and joy. With the aid of a harness for her hind legs, we started taking her on proper walks. Just a few months after the seizure, she was walking up and down the block again, with very little assistance from the harness.
Unfortunately, she also suffered from a neuropathy that strikes Shepherd dogs (Haley is assumed to be part Shepherd) making her hind legs weak as her spine is unable to send signals to those legs (or something like that). As time went on, little by little, her hind legs got weaker and weaker. Around November 2007, a full year after her seizure and subsequent rehab, her walks had diminished to short distances with some dragging of the legs (especially the left hind leg) and with considerable struggle. At home she stopped getting around on her own. We were able to guide her when she needed it, but frustration set in for Haley.
Still, we continued her visits from the vet, now bi-weekly, and we continued walking her three times a day. Some days she looked forward to the walks. Other days, it was a struggle. Others, she looked forward to going out, but struggled once there. In late January 2008, it became a struggle on every walk. She stumbled and dragged. Her head hung low. At home, she slept or panted heavily. She barked at every stranger in our home, every buzz of the intercom, every ring of the bell. She was guarding us, we knew, in her now limited way. Her appetite remained intact throughout, a positive sign as we saw it. But after consulting with the vet, we decided to put her down before her full deterioration set in, before she suffered.
Thursday, both Sara and I stayed home from work to give Haley a relaxed and comfortable final day. I had bought apples and Tofurkey slices, two of her favorite foods, to spoil her through out the day. Later in the evening, the vet and an assistant came to our house. We sat next to Haley and stroked her head. The vet gave her a sedative and we continued to stroke her head while she got sleepy. Her eyes got glassy, her tongue stuck out just a little, as was her habit when sleeping, and we said our final goodbyes.
After she passed on, the service to pick up her remains arrived at our house. The buzzer buzzed then the doorbell rang. The vet, her assistant, and the driver were all in the house. There was no barking. Our house felt empty. It will take a while, I suspect, to get used to this silence.
Sara and Haley were together for 15 years. I knew Haley for about 6 years. Leo knew Haley for 9 months. Haley and Leo got along swimmingly. Leo loved to climb her back and Haley loved to lick food from his hands and cheeks. She will be missed and will always be remembered.