By SIMON NAIR
The familiar welcoming bark, the playful jostling, the friendly bite and the fragrance of her shampoo, all ended sadly for us, on that fateful day, when Patsy left us with a huge vacuum in our lives.
Even now, as I write about Patsy – our lovely, beautiful and loving Golden Retriever – a tear develops in my eye and my heart aches painfully.
Patsy died a premature death, from a rare disease called insulinoma, on Oct 30, 2017.
We were exceptionally affectionate towards her because she became part of the family. In fact, close friends and family members used to address her as Patsy Nair; Nair being our family name!
We had bought Patsy from a pet shop, complete with micro-chip implanted and certificate of pedigree, when she was about six weeks old. That very day we took her to a vet to have her examined for physical defects, and to be dewormed and to ensure she had no ticks. The vet gave her a clean bill of health and asked us to bring her back to be neutered when she was ready, when her first menstrual cycle was completed.
She was so adorable and cute that my family fell in love with her from day one. My wife and I do not have any grandchildren and our children were already grown-up. It was not surprising, therefore, that my wife soon developed the “grandmother syndrome” towards Patsy.
Patsy grew up to be not only adorable, but intelligent as well. We sent her to a dog trainer, where she was taught obedience and some tricks. She was taught to shake hands, sit and lie down, roll over and eat her food and treats, only upon a signal from us.
She was so friendly and lovable that anyone who visited us, even though they may not be dog lovers, would pet her or hug her. And we enjoyed demonstrating her skills which especially thrilled the children who visited us. We would leave a biscuit at her paws and tell her not to touch the biscuit until we had said grace! She obeyed – and this thrilled our friends.
Patsy loved to ride in our car with the windows wound down halfway. It’s a joy watching her enjoy the breeze blowing in her face. Passers-by were attracted and fascinated by her well-groomed looks and some of them would pat her when we stopped at traffic junctions.
We took Patsy for her regular medical check-ups, gave her all the supplements recommended by the vet, including fish oil for health and a glossy fur. We used to give her medication once a month, for heartworms, but switched to a recommended injection once a year for the same treatment.
We also sent her for her monthly grooming, and weekly swimming sessions at a nearby pet centre. We were extravagant in looking after Patsy. We spared no expense on Patsy’s health and beauty. She deserved it as she gave us so much joy in our lives.
She was amazingly photogenic and loved posing for photographs.
Then one day, when she was six years old, without warning, she couldn’t get up on all fours. We noticed at that time, she did not jump over us, when we returned home from an outing, as she usually did. At first, we thought that her paws were slippery on the marble floor. So we bought two pairs of rubber shoes for her. That gave her more grip and she was able to stand on her own, after a bit of a struggle.
We took her to the vet for a thorough medical check-up. The vet suggested that an X-Ray be done on her legs and spine. It was costly, but as we loved her so much, we proceeded and took her to another specialist veterinary doctor.
It was a pet hospital, where the X-Ray was done. She was diagnosed with spinal spondylitis in two areas of her spinal cord. The only treatment for this condition (as recommended by this specialist) was physiotherapy and acupuncture.
We were also instructed to reduce her weight so that there would not be any strain on her hind legs. We did as we were instructed, for the next few weeks.
Several weeks later, while my wife and I slept with her, in the guest room of our house, Patsy suddenly began to convulse uncontrollably, as though she was having fits! We called for a vet who made house calls. He gave her a dose of medication to calm her down.
Later we took Patsy to her regular vet, and while he was attending to her, she went into a mild convulsion again. Again, she was calmed by the same medication.
In the following days, as the seizures became more frequent and violent, the vet gave her an additional medicine to sedate her more quickly. The vet suggested that an MRI be performed on her head to determine if there were any tumours, as the symptoms indicated such a possibility. We took her to the pet hospital again for the MRI.
To our joy and relief, the result was negative!
But her attacks continued and became more frequent. The vet then gave us several syringes of a medicine for rectal administration, to calm her immediately, whenever she had the attack. It pained us extremely, to see Patsy going into these fits which became more violent and more frequent. We could see that she was going through tremendous pain during these episodes.
We, then, took her to the Veterinary Hospital at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, where three doctors, including a neurologist attended to Patsy. She was placed in the Intensive Care Unit. There, she was diagnosed with a rare condition known as insulinoma, whereby the pancreas excretes abnormal amounts of insulin, that renders her to suffer from hypoglycaemia! It could be due to cancerous cells in or around the pancreas.
Only a CT scan and an ultra-soundscan could determine this conclusively, but her sugar level had to be normalised before these tests could be done. Even though glucose was administered orally and intravenously, her sugar level dropped rapidly to 1.5 mmol/L from the usual 10+ mmol/L (normal reading is 4.4 to 6.6 mmol/L).
Patsy was in ICU for about three weeks. She became depressed and sad. She was happy when we visited her daily, and attempted to follow us back. We could not hold back our tears whenever we left her, and she would whine and become restless whenever we left her. Not surprisingly, Patsy became a VIP patient with the doctors and staff of the hospital as she was so adorable.
After three weeks, the doctors allowed Patsy to be brought home one weekend.
That was the last weekend Patsy spent with us. All of us cuddled with her the whole night. We fed her sweet treats and intravenous glucose. She appeared very happy and sad at the same time. She wanted to get up and run around the house, as she usually did but she could not.
That night, she had four attacks even though we administered glucose orally and intravenously. We had to take her back to the hospital.
The next morning, just 13 days before her seventh birthday, we were told that Patsy had passed away. We all cried when we went to fetch her for cremation.
We know that Patsy is in a better place now, without the pain and suffering. She gave us seven of her best years, and we were happy that we gave her our love and affection while she was with us.
She was part of our family and we miss her a lot. I don’t think we will ever have another pet dog.
Why didn’t we put Patsy to sleep? We simply couldn’t, as we hoped and prayed, through some miracle, that she would recover.