Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Asha's two month update

It has been two months since our health scare with Asha. Two months ago we spent 5 days in the ICU. Two months ago we tried to prepare ourselves for a life without Asha. Two months ago we were fortunate enough to bring her home with us to recover.

We have spent the last two months watching her, evaluating her, medicating her and nursing her back to health. It has been a long road but it has gone so fast. I look at her now and find it hard to believe all we’ve been through in such a short time.
When Asha came home, she was still very sick. She was breathing on her own and taking all her medications orally. She took at least 20 pills per day. We also nebulized her 2-3 times a day for 15 minutes (nebulizing means holding a mask with a stream of medicated steam in front of her nose).

I was so nervous to have her home. I missed the comfort of 24 hour care. I missed having a medical professional there to give me an expert opinion. Without that I worried I would miss something. I was so concerned that she would go backwards. Considering how fast she got sick in the first place, I didn’t want to miss any sign of her getting sicker.
The first week Asha was home, we did not leave her alone for a second. I slept on the couch with her. She was still having her panic attacks at night since she had been off her anxiety medication for a few days. I knew it would take a week or so to get back to normal. When she has those panic attacks, she runs around and barks. She also hyperventilates. With her breathing issues, that really concerned me. She wasn’t able to settle down at all up in our bedroom, so we were back on the couch. Just like the good old days.
After a couple days, her anxiety leveled out and she was able to relax more at night. It wasn’t too long until we were sleeping upstairs again. It was so obvious that Asha didn’t feel like herself. She hardly moved at all during the day. She would go outside to go to the bathroom and take one step off the deck, do her business and come right back in to lay down.
We’ve worked hard to get Asha’s anxiety under control. “Under control” is relative. What that means is that Asha is still quite anxious. She doesn’t really relax very easily when we are around. She knows when we are home and she needs to know where we are at every minute. If we go upstairs and don’t let her know (we walk her over to the gate at the bottom of the stairs and touch her nose as we go up the stairs) she will pace the floor and bark uncontrollably. When we are downstairs with her, she will lay still for a bit but every so often will jump up, run and bark until we come to her.

Asha wears a leash in the house most of the time. That way we can keep her near and if she jumps up and starts to pace and bark we can pull her back in. For example, right now, I am sitting at the kitchen table and Asha is laying at my feet. I have her leash around my wrist. In the last 20 minutes she has gotten up twice. I pull her back to me, touch her and she lays right back down. If I didn’t have the leash, she would get up , run into the front room, pace and bark.
This is our reality, our routine….and we have gotten used to it. After Asha came home, she didn’t do any of this. She just laid in one spot, all the time.  As much as I have spent the last three and a half years wishing for peace and quiet, I didn’t like it one bit. It wasn’t normal. It wasn’t right.
We went back to see Dr Seekins after two weeks. Asha’s xrays showed improvement and we were able to decrease some of her medications. We stopped one and were able to start nebulizing 1-2 times a day. We were so happy that Asha was showing progress. As we started to decrease her medication I became even more vigilant about her breathing and her behavior. No one knows her like I do. I know every breath, noise and movement she makes. It had been such a crazy few weeks that I was starting to feel like I couldn’t even tell what was normal anymore. Her breathing had been so irregular that I worried I wouldn’t know what regular looked like!

During this time we were also making regular visits to see Dr Hope Valentine, Asha’s Chinese Medicine Vet. Dr Valentine is one of Asha’s favorite people so it was good not only for her body, but her soul to spend some time in her office. Asha was put on some different herbs to help her breathing and her organs. She also received accupuncture.
The days went by and with each one Asha became more herself. Soon she was spending more time moving around instead of just laying in one spot.

We went back two weeks later for another follow up. Asha would get so excited when we walked in the doors at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists. Her little nubbin tail would wag furiously until she was able to greet all her friends there. Her stay there was no picnic and so it was surprising to me that she still loved coming there.
I remember when the tech brought Asha back in the room after her xrays she said “the doctor will be in to go over the films with you in a minute, but I can tell you she smiled big when she saw them.” Sure enough, Dr Seekins came in to see me and was thrilled with how Asha’s lungs looked. We were able to again decrease her medications and move our next follow up to a month out. That was great news.

Now that Asha was feeling better, her personality was really showing. A month earlier, I had sat on the floor of the ICU, with a very sick Asha, and tried to explain to Dr Seekins all that this sweet girl meant to us. I am sure most owners tell her how special their pet is, but Asha is different. She isn’t like other dogs and I couldn’t find the words that day to express it. Now, Dr Seekins was seeing for herself and I loved that. Asha has a way of looking right through you, right into your soul. One of the great joys of my life with her is when other people see how amazingly special she is.
We headed home and we continued to monitor her progress. Asha was just starting to act like her old self. One day I was working at the kitchen table and Asha would not settle down. Just like before she got sick, she was getting up and pacing and barking. While we are used to this behavior and we have lived with it for years, it can still be incredibly annoying. Even though Asha is deaf, we still talk to her and sometimes even yell at her as if she was a hearing dog. I got up from the table and said “Asha, you are driving me nuts”. I stopped in my tracks. Then I sat down on the floor and hugged her while I cried. I had wanted Asha’s old self back for a while now. Ever since she got sick, all I wanted was her to act like “normal”. I cried tears of happiness because that time was finally here. Our girl was coming back to us. I have never been so happy to be annoyed by her!

I was getting ready to head out of town for a busy month of travel. I was happy that Asha was doing so well. We are blessed to have incredible pet sitters who I knew would keep a close eye on Asha. All has been well for the last month. Asha hasn’t coughed at all since we brought her home from the ICU. Her breathing has been steadily improving. Most days, Asha is her normal self.
Last week we went back for another follow up. Asha’s lungs again looked good but there is still some damage. It is hard to say if that is how they looked before she got sick (we have nothing to compare them to) and it is hard to say if this is as good as they will get. She may have some permanent damage to her lungs and she may always have a little more trouble breathing than before. But she is really doing great. Dr Seekins is very happy with her progress. We are continuing to decrease her medication. We will continue to watch her like a hawk for any indication that she is doing anything other than improving. Our next follow up is in 4 weeks.

We continue to take things one day at a time. Asha is the most amazing creature to me, as she has always been. I still look at her now and then and remind myself that she cannot see or hear. I am in awe of the life she lives, of the way she navigates the world with nothing but love and happiness. She has the most open heart and the most adventurous soul. It is like it never occurs to her that anything other than good exists in the Universe. I often forget how much she depends on Trevor and I. Her complete trust in us is humbling and my complete love for her is overwhelming. I didn’t think I could ever love her more, but with every passing day I find myself more in awe of her and her place in my world. I wonder who I ever was without her and who I would have become had she not come into my life.

If at the end of my life, I am judged only for the way in which I loved this girl than I will be content. She is all that is good and right in my world. She makes me a better person. She saved me from a life of ordinary. I am so grateful for every day that I get to see her sweet smiling face. I hope I get to see it for many more years to come.

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