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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