It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that Levi is now in Doggy Heaven. After a year-long diagnosis of mast cell cancer Anthony and I had to put him down at an emergency clinic early this morning.
When the original diagnosis came a week before Hollis was born we decided to aggressively treat the cancer with a lumpectomy and consequent radiation. Those radiation treatments were my first outings with Hollis as a new mom and I'll never forget them. In a way they were something very special; I was fighting for my beloved dog no matter what.
Levi came to dread the vet, a place he'd previously had no nervousness about. In addition to the cancer treatments, we were also going to get bi-weekly blood work done. The end result was that he would tremble with fear and agitation upon entering the door of the vet's. We began drugging him to help relax him, but it was little help. The treatments ended in late winter/early spring and the cancer seemed to have responded despite being the most aggressive type possible.
Then, on October 4th, exactly one year to the day when we originally found a lump on his belly, he came to us whimpering and limping. He had two huge lumps of swelling at the top of his right leg. By the time the vet's office opened his leg was blown up to three times its normal size and the lumps were bigger, too. The vet had no idea what was happening and sent us home with some antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. He seemed to respond well to both and the swelling went away within a couple of days.
But then on the 24th, while out front in the yard with Hollis I noticed more swelling and he was limping again. I immediately took him back to the vet where more tests were done and I was again sent home with antibiotics. Within a couple of days it was clear he wasn't responding and he was still in pain. I asked for pain meds and the vet gave me more anti-inflammatories. The meds weren't working at all it seemed, and this time, instead of edema in his leg, the swelling was concentrated along his ribcage and underbelly.
Friday night he was clearly in much more discomfort and so I called the vet yesterday morning to ask for pain medication. Overnight the swelling had increased twofold. He looked disfigured from one side and normal from the other. It was so sad. We knew that his time was near. I actually thought that maybe Monday would be the day so we kept our plans last night to attend a party for a close friend. At 10 o'clock my mom called to tell us that Levi wasn't doing well. We left for home immediately.
I had given my mom free license to give Levi as many pain pills as was necessary to keep him comfortable. Instead of the 2 per day the bottle instructed, I had already given him 2 as a jump start and within 4 hours of babysitting my mom had given him 4 more. When we heard that bit of news we knew...
We took him to the clinic and he was very calm. The drugs were definitely working and he wasn't in too much discomfort. The staff were incredibly kind and we got an exam room immediately. Techs came and went and a boy-faced vet came in to do an examination. From an ultrasound we determined that the swelling was fluid-filled and not a mass. And from a needle aspiration we knew that it was blood-filled and not pus.
At this point the prognosis was dire. After the trauma of cancer-treatment from a year ago and Levi's stress about needles and such there was no way we were going to do anything invasive to him again. He was 10 and a half years old, after all and a big dog.
So, it was with a clear conscience and sad heart that I knew it was his time.
Watching him pass from living to death was one of the most miraculous things I've ever been witness to. One minute he was warm and breathing and beside me and the next he was really gone. It was beautiful and peaceful and of course I cried my eyes out. Anthony did too, much to his own surprise.
Levi was an incredible dog. His energy was patient and sweet and he could adapt to any situation with that wonderful doggy essence that only they seem to have. He has known more people in my life than anyone else I know. He knew my dad, all my ex-boyfriends and friends. He knew all my old animal friends, too. He watched me struggle and he lived to see me succeed. He weathered my crazy hormonal shifts while pregnant and he molded to our new family composition with ease and happiness.
Absolutely everyone loved this dog. Everyone. Dogs, cats, people, babies, kids. And he loved them all back.
I'll end this with one of my happiest memories of him. For two and a half years Levi and I lived a block away from the green belt and Barton Creek. I was laid off and so every day at around 10 am Levi and I would go for a run on the cool, shade-dappled trails. I'd let him off his leash and he would run all over the place in reckless abandon. Ears flapping, tail wagging, sides heaving with sheer excitement. He'd run in and out of the creek, soaking wet, tongue lolling and then race to catch up with me. I could hear his wet paws pounding on the dirt behind me and then zip past me only to disappear behind a wall of bushes. I always knew where he was by the sounds of splashing from below the trail.
I imagine him chasing really slow rabbits in Doggy Heaven right now where there are no fireworks or baths and just lots of shade-dappled trails and cool creeks for him to run on... I miss him very, very much already, but feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to share his entire life with him.
Thanks so much for being Levi's friend.