born 17 June 2000 — died 13 Decem­ber 2010

When I got home from work Monday night about 5:45 pm, the two malin­ois boys were all over me like a hot shower as usual, but once I got the boys out of my way, Saga and Baley stood side by side with their feet up on the crate in the kit­chen, wag­ging, and lean­ing into me for pets, com­pletely ignor­ing each other (both of which are a bit unusual).  Every­body just one big happy pack.

Derek and I chat­ted about some things like hav­ing him go see his Mom in San Diego over Christ­mas. The dogs chilled while I made a couple of pork chops and a salad, while Derek went and fed the horses. About 7:10 pm, I went down to feed the dogs, and was sur­prised that Saga didn’t make an appear­ance. Know­ing Derek was eat­ing his din­ner, and there were still cats about to be stared at, I figured she got sidetracked.

But when I got back upstairs, Saga was lying under the side table with rather labored breath­ing and look­ing very leth­ar­gic. I called her to me, and she looked like it was hard to stand up, but came over for pets. As soon as I stopped pet­ting her, she just lay down where she stood. I knew we had a ser­i­ous prob­lem, so called Sue, our vet. After listen­ing to a quick (for me!) syn­op­sis of the symp­toms, Sue recom­men­ded pet emer­gency care, as they could do blood­work and everything on the spot.

So I got a leash on Saga (who now was look­ing really out of it) and got her to get up and come down the stairs with me, and out the front door. She flopped down in the snow as soon as I stopped mak­ing her move and this time it was really hard to get her back up. I lif­ted her into the car and took off for the clinic. On the way, I could hear her labored breath­ing in the back, and I noticed as I was get­ting off the free­way that it was smelling like poop in the car. By the time I pulled up to the clinic and opened the back of the car, she wasn’t breath­ing. I moved her as fast as I could and per­haps got a breath or two out of her before get­ting to the door of the clinic. By the time she was through the door, her bowels and blad­der had let go, and there was no pulse on the table. They were pre­pared to do epi­neph­rine and intub­ate, etc., but it seemed clear it was point­less, so I made the decision to stop their efforts and just leave her in peace. I didn’t lose it until I real­ized I would have to explain all this to my poor wife, who was 1500 miles away in San Diego.

The techs (none of whose names I got) and vet (Rick Woods) at the clinic were great, very sup­port­ive, under­stand­ing. But they had another patient at the time too, that looked touch and go, so it was bet­ter they focused on that one, anyway.

We ini­tially thought it was prob­ably spleenic her­man­giosar­coma, unfor­tu­nately com­mon in Ger­man shep­herd dogs.

Sue did a post-mortem on Saga, and said her stom­ach and all intest­ines were empty, spleen and other organs, liver, kid­neys, etc all nor­mal, so toxic sub­stances and pois­ons are ruled out as well as many other pos­sib­il­it­ies. Con­sid­er­ing the speed at which this came on, she is sure it was a blood clot to the aorta or one of the pul­mon­ary arter­ies – noth­ing we could anti­cip­ate or fix.

While all of this has come as a shock to us, Saga was 10 years old.  She was actu­ally look­ing pretty good these days, and had occa­sional fits of sil­li­ness, which are pretty amus­ing in such an oth­er­wise ser­i­ous dog.  Life was good, all things con­sidered.  But I guess in some ways, this was bet­ter than some long drawn-out ill­ness.  Of course we all wish we had had the oppor­tun­ity to do more that we did, and that’s cer­tainly true in her case, but she had a good life.  We’ll all miss her.

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