November 13, 2005

Hannibal turns 15

On Tuesday, Hannibal reaches the ripe old age of 15. The last year has been a difficult one for him. As most of you know, in January he had kidney stones, which really took it out of him for quite a while. Over the past two years, a neurological problem caused by arthritis has left him hobbled -- his back legs cannot support him long and he ends up sinking down the longer he stands. He can still walk, but very very slowly, and he tends to drag the tops of his back paws on the pavement, which can cause him to bleed unless we wrap a bandage around the paw that drags the most. He has trouble getting up off of the hardwood floors because of his weak back legs and the lack of purchase on the slick wood. He has bladder control problems, necessitating the use of a diaper while he is in the house.

Just this last week, I was working on the dissertation when I heard him trying to get up out in the living room. I immediately noticed something was wrong. When I helped him get up, he was listless and breathing very rapidly. I took him over to his bed, and laid him down. Usually he fights me when I try to lay him down, but this time he just let me, no questions asked. Megan came home at my request, and I called the vet. When she arrived, she took his temperature and found that it was 104.8 (a dog's normal is between 101 and 102). She took some blood to send out for testing, and she gave him intravenous antibiotics and fluids, and asked us to monitor his temperature.

After three hours, it had gone up to 105.4. After I called her, she instructed us to get Hannibal to the Urgent Care Clinic. They put him on antibiotics and fluids for the night. The next day he went to a veterinary clinic to continue the fluids and antibiotics. His temperature went down during the day but spiked up again at night, necessitating another overnight stay at the Urgent Care Clinic. Finally, the next day, we were able to bring him home after his temperature went down and seemed to be holding steady. The blood test was negative, but a urine sample they took yielded a ton of bacteria. It turns out the old boy had a massive bladder infection, probably due in part because of his inability to control his bladder -- bacteria can just waltz right up in there. He's back home now, and recovering. He wants to sleep a lot, and isn't eating properly.

Some have asked us why we spend all this money on a 15 year old dog? Why not just put him to his rest and move on? Isn't it cruel to keep a dog alive that has so many problems? I would agree that when a dog is in chronic, unmanageable pain, or has lost interest in life, then it might be time to make that decision. However, we weren't going to put Hannibal down because of a bladder infection. In addition, until last week, Hannibal was walking almost a mile every day (although very slowly), and was quite interested in life. He was eating well. We hope that he regains that interest again.

The upshot is that Hannibal is our friend, and has given us a lot. Sure we spent a lot of money on him this last week, but that's what you do with dear friends. You spare no expense to keep them comfortable. If sometime in the future, Hannibal appears to be in pain that can't be managed, we may have to make a hard decision. But for now, we are doing what we can to keep our friend happy, if not healthy, in his golden years. And for now, we'll celebrate his 15th year with us with gratitude.


I will have some pictures or a slideshow or something up of Hannibal to celebrate his 15 years of life. I will post a link when I get them up. Otherwise, go here to see Hannibal's tribute pages.


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