Happy Valentine's Day
Oh my heart. From broken to unexpectedly full. Four days ago I was preparing to put down my old dog, Griffin, to stop the suffering of his sudden and rapid decline. Unable to walk more than a few steps without gasping for air he had to be carried up the 3 stairs to our house. He stopped eating and like most labs, he lived to eat. All the signs were there, he was dying, and he was so uncomfortable it was breaking my heart. I didn’t understand the suddenness of it, but I had taken him to the vet and his labs, X-rays and exam were unremarkable. Still something had to be wrong, his trajectory down was so fast. In a last ditch attempt to understand what had happened, my veterinarian booked him into an unexpected open spot for an ultrasound. If I could see a cancer at least then I would know and would, sadly, relieve him of his pain.
I brought him in at 7am and I cried. It took three of us to get him out of the car and into the hospital, then devastated I drove home, sobbing the whole way. The day dragged by, until finally the text came: “severe pulmonary hypertension which could explain everything. He’s ready to go”. For just a moment I thought he was telling me Griffin was done, it was over, he was ready to go over to the other side, in a strange and unclear euphemism. But a moment later came a 2nd text “home”. Admittedly I was still confused, thinking we were going to delay the inevitable, but he explained that we were going to try a course of a medicine called Sildanefil, in fact Viagra, which had originally been studied for pulmonary hypertension where it was discovered to caused erections in the men in the study, leading to its far more lucrative use in erectile dysfunction. It was effective in pulmonary hypertension also. I thought it unlikely to help. Griffin was just too sick, but agreed to give it a try.
So we picked Griffin up, exhausted, short of breath and barely able to stand, and began his treatment. Snuggled into bits of peanut butter three tiny white pills every eight hours. I watched him closely sure nothing would change, and then much to my complete surprise, slowly, little by little, he started to improve. At first it was small, a tail wag. The next day, he managed to get up the stairs himself. Then slowly, he ate a bowl of food. Two days later he went out and lay in the snow, and gave a sort of half roll, and came back and up the stairs and then and then and then and then today; he barked at dinner time, wagged his tail when I came home from work, played with a new toy and followed us around looking for food. It is nothing short of miraculous. I had lost hope and I was wrong. This little miracle and the magic of modern medicine put my Griffin back on the planet for a little while longer. It is the valentine I could not have expected.