Baxter was a rescue dog, so we are not sure exactly how old he is but the vet thinks around 11.5. He has been slowing down lately and last week we stopped taking him with us when walking the kids to school. He was tiring out about halfway through the trip and walking very slowly.
Friday night, M. let him out before he and the kids left for the ball field. When he called him to come back in, Baxter would not get up. M. thought that he was being stubborn and nudged him to come in and Baxter started to shake. It was very scary and my husband thought that it was the end. Finally he was able to get him inside and texted me at church to let me know that he was worried.
I did not know what I was coming home to. He was alive, but very lethargic and shaky. The next day, we debated about taking him to the pet ER but he was up, eating and feeling better. And then on Easter Sunday, he was just about back to his normal self so I waited and took him to our vet on Monday. The news is not good, but it is not bad either.
Baxter has Olddogitis. He was diagnosed with heart disease and arthritis. His heart is very enlarged on one side and the cough that we thought was allergies is actually fluid in his lungs. He has hip dysplasia also. She sent us home with three medicines but also cautioned us that he has less than a year left with us.
We were not surprised because a basset hound's average life expectancy is 11-12 years. We were afraid that he had cancer and we would have to put him to sleep Monday. Arthritis and heart disease are both normal occurrences for old dogs. At this point, we are just trying to give him a good quality of life for these last few months.
Even though we were not surprised, what did surprise me is that M. and I were an absolute mess Friday night. Even though we knew that Baxter was reaching the end of his journey, we were not ready for it to end. I could not go to sleep and M. woke up at 4:30 to check on him. We have lost a basset before - early in our marriage, our first basset hound Jake died from a brain aneurism when I was pregnant with Big Kid. He had been given a good prognosis from the vet and was only two years old, so it was a huge, sudden shock to find him in the backyard. It was awful.
With Baxter, we have time to say goodbye and to pamper him a little bit. He is rarely on the furniture, mainly because he can't get up there himself with his short, little legs, and he was too fat for me to pick up. He has lost weight and I realized yesterday that I can easily pick him up now. That is a side effect of heart disease.
He has also decided to stop eating his dry food, which is probably more stubborn houndness than anything, but I have started mixing his dry food with soft food to keep him eating. We talked about when it would be time to put him to sleep and the vet said that as long as he is eating and wagging his tail and participating with the family, the hopefully the medicine will work and give him a good quality of life for now. Last night he went on a very short walk and was happy.
I don't know how I feel. I have been sticking pretty close to him, staying home and making sure that he takes his medicine. He has given us so much happiness in these last ten years that I feel like it is my turn to make sure that he is as happy and comfortable as possible. He is my dog. I love him.