Scarlett – The Puppy Years
In the Fall of 2006, I was a recent college graduate. My roommate at the time was allergic to cats so I had to leave my childhood cat at my dad’s house (he was keeping him while I was in college). I’m not sure now what made me decide to get a dog but I do remember researching hypo-allergenic dogs (even though they don’t actually exist) and found that shih tsu’s were supposedly. I found a breeder in the newspaper, met her in some random parking lot, and paid her cash for the new puppy. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever did that because it would scare me to death to meet someone in a parking lot with cash now…was the world so different 10 years ago?
Scarlett was born on September 10, 2006. I got her at the end of November (I think? For some reason I don’t have record when I got her!). She was the cutest little thing and definitely an ankle biter when she was a pup. She barked, had accidents and chewed up furniture. I remember thinking “what did I get myself into”.
I met my husband a few short months after getting her (in March). He told me that he almost didn’t call me back after meeting Scarlett. She was definitely a handful in the beginning! Luckily, he stuck around and grew to love her as most people did.
My Love Bug
But over the years, she grew up and became the sweetest (well she was always sweet), well behaved love bug. It took a few years but her accidents became fewer and fewer and she got over the chewing phase (likely once she stopped teething) and she became my constant companion, always ready to give love when I needed it.
She became super protective when I was pregnant and when my boys were babies, she would guard them and protect them and give them lots of kisses. She put up with their toddler antics, like pulling her tail. My son’s first word was “woof” because they were inseparable.
Scarlett would follow me around the house and was always by my side. When my husband would get up at 3AM to work, she would stay in bed and snuggle with me. She would eat up all the crumbs that my toddler dropped. She gave me love in times when I was struggling.
Two Weeks Ago…
Scarlett never had any sicknesses and her blood work never came back bad so two weeks ago, on a Tuesday when we woke up to blood in our bed, we didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t a ton of blood. But it was enough to notice and think how odd. Then on Wednesday morning, we woke up to more blood. I checked Scarlett’s paws because they looked a little red. I thought I was looking for a hurt toenail or some sort of cut but I didn’t see anything.
I don’t know why we weren’t more alarmed. I guess because she had never really been sick, we didn’t really think anything of it. So on Thursday morning, when we woke up to MORE blood in our bed, I decided I should call the vet. But as luck would have it, the vet called me first! I had called earlier in the week to make a grooming appointment. Scarlett’s hair was getting pretty long. But they were booked up for THREE weeks so I asked if I could get on a waiting list. So that Thursday morning, they called me to say that a grooming appointment opened up the next day. I said “great!” and then asked if I could bring her in that afternoon.
I took both my boys and Scarlett that afternoon to the vet. I didn’t think it was anything serious or else I would have left my kids at home with my husband. Unfortunately, we ended up having to wait almost 30 minutes to see the vet. Once we got called back, my boys had pretty much lost it. I didn’t take any snacks or toys with me because I thought it would be a quick appointment. How long can it take to look at her hurt paw!?
The vet didn’t see anything wrong with her paw so she looked Scarlett over from head to toe and that’s when she noticed several bruises. Feeling like the worst mom ever, we didn’t notice them! So the vet said she wanted to do some blood work. Another 20 minutes passed where at this point everyone was losing it, including Scarlett. I just wanted to get out of there.
The blood work came back that she had ZERO platelets and basically no clotting ability. The blood in our bed was from her mouth and the blood on her paws was from her licking her paws overnight. The vet didn’t make it seem too serious other than a slight cut could be fatal but to give Scarlett some medicine. She also suggested that I see an Internal specialist but that they book up weeks in advance so I might need to take her to the Emergency vet where they could transfer her over to the Internal Medicine doctor.
Because my kids were loosing it at that point, I had a hard time following what the doctor was saying. We had to wait to get the meds, had to wait to pay and had to wait to get a printout on the condition and a list of doctors to go to. We were there for over two hours and it was so hectic!
The condition that Scarlett had was called Thrombocytopenia. We didn’t understand how serious it was. The vet made it seem like we could go at anytime to get Scarlett looked at and she even mentioned that they are less busy in the morning.
So Friday morning, we took Scarlett to the emergency vet. During the day, they took x-rays, blood work and an ultrasound. The emergency vet warned us that this situation was very serious and an initial look at her blood showed ZERO platelets. We already knew she had zero platelets but often there are still a few in the blood, not absolutely zero. So she was even more concerned. Luckily, the ultrasound and x-rays looked great. We did take in a poop sample and the poop sample showed a GI bleed, something to keep an eye on.
The vet gave me a quote with a low estimate and a high estimate and asked us if we wanted to take Scarlett home or keep her at the emergency vet overnight for observation. Since I have my two young boys at home, I figured it would be better to keep her there so no accidents would happen to make her worse.
We saw her Friday afternoon and she was happy, wagging her tail and eating my son’s goldfish that he dropped. We left and went to bed that night thinking optimistically.
Saturday Morning Scare…
With no word from the vet (a good sign), I called Saturday morning when I woke up. The vet told me that she did OK overnight but her vitals weren’t looking as good as he would have hoped. Then while I was on the phone with him, the vet tech checked on Scarlett and her gums looked white and the vet told me to get in immediately. We okayed a blood transfusion while we drove over there.
The GI bleed was causing her to lose blood quickly. White gums are a sign that something is very seriously wrong. They gave her the first blood transfusion and she immediately pooped and vomited it out. Because of how quickly they had to act and the fact that she was losing to much blood, they couldn’t do a blood match so we weren’t sure if the transfusion would even keep.
The first one didn’t take so we gave her a second and luckily that worked! She held onto that for another 24 hours but then her packed cell volume dropped down to 17% (it had previously been around 40%). So we had to give her a third transfusion Sunday morning. That held on and her packed cell volume increased to 45% on Monday.
The medicine that we gave her Thursday night was supposed to work in 5-7 days. When things went south so quickly on Saturday, they actually gave her chemotherapy and that was supposed to unlock platelets from her bone marrow in 72 hours. So this whole time I was just thinking that if we could make it to Tuesday, we might be in the clear.
I went and visited Scarlett a lot while she was at the emergency vet. Saturday morning, she looked awful. Saturday afternoon she perked up a little bit. She looked great on Sunday and wagged her tail a lot and stood up to greet me. On Monday, they were back to normal business hours and the visiting hours weren’t until 2-4PM. I went at 3:30 to see her. She greeted me with a quick wag and then stood awkwardly.
I couldn’t understand why she was standing so funny. I couldn’t find anyone to help me but I finally found a tech. He told me that she was standing funny because she had been having a lot of diarrhea and her bottom was irritated. I thought that made sense. Her stomach also seemed a little bigger to me but I thought maybe it was an effect from the medications. I also asked him if he could update me on how she was doing. So he read her chart and her vitals seemed good and her PCV was good and things seemed to be looking ok. They had even seen a few platelets under the microscope! I left that afternoon so optimistic that maybe things would work out OK!
A Turn for the Worse…
Not even two hours later, at 5:50PM, I got a called from the vet. She said that Scarlett was nipping at people, something really unlike her and she seemed in pain. She asked if we would OK another ultrasound but if we did, we had to make the decision in 5 minutes because the ultrasound tech was leaving at 6PM. With no time to think, we OKed the ultrasound and booked it back to the vet.
The ultrasound showed that her pancreas and spleen didn’t look right and she had fluid in her belly. The doctor also told me that Scarlett’s protein level in her blood was dangerously low. All of those issues plus we still weren’t 100% in the clear with the platelets left us with a hard decision. The vet didn’t think Scarlett would make it much longer but if we did decide to keep trying, it would be even more expensive and there were no guarantees.
My husband and I had to make the decision to say goodbye. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Scarlett loved unconditionally and was the sweetest girl. Seeing her in pain was so hard but saying goodbye was even harder.
I sill can’t get over how fast it all happened. She was healthy! She wasn’t losing weight or acting lethargic. She was wagging her tail and barking at the UPS guy. She filled this house with so much love. I think back wondering if there were any signs that we might have missed. Besides the blood, there really wasn’t much, maybe a few more accidents here or there but not much.
It was so hard to go from Thursday afternoon thinking that my dog was in great health and we would have another 5-10+ years with her to she was gone only three days later. Things progressed so fast. We thought we were fighting and winning and I am kicking myself for being optimistic only a few hours before we said goodbye. When we arrived at the vet on Friday, two dogs there had dealt with the same thing and were doing great now. I was so sure we would fight through this and have many more years of snuggles and barks with her.
The one plus to this whole ordeal is that she didn’t have to hear the fireworks on Tuesday. She hated fireworks and they scared her to death. We also had a bad storm come through on Wednesday and she hated storms so she was able to avoid those.
It’s been over a week since I said goodbye. Each day gets a little easier but it’s so lonely without her around. So many of my moves throughout the house are with her in mind, like making sure I didn’t close the basement door until she came up the stairs. I’m also realizing how many crumbs my boys drop without Scarlett here to eat them up for me.
I had no idea a dog could have such a big piece of my heart. I miss her so much. Rest in peace sweet love bug!