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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Jervis

Day 1093

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

My grief about Constance’s passing has been particularly intense this month. It feels like being up to your mouth in wet cement and trying to run through it. I think of Constance constantly, but try not to speak of her as often because it upsets people. I miss her smile. I miss her laugh. I miss her love of swimming and pizza. I miss the joy she brought into my life.

There are two things that have compounded my grief as I face yet another anniversary of her passing.

First, I got period on my birthday, marking another year of failed fertility treatments. The closest I’ve come was being pregnant was for 72 hours. My failure has resulted in my lobbing indictments at myself that are far too upsetting to share.

Second, is the issue of companionship. I had two and a half years of waiting for a dog, and dealing with false hope, wait lists, shelter rejections, criminals, and scam artists. Then a professional contact referred me to his long-time friend who sells American Kennel Club (AKC) registered dogs from a USDA licensed breeder.

It was two and half years ago that Constance’s service dog, Otis, was placed with another child. This child has special needs, and the dog is critical medical support for him. Giving this child Otis was the best thing for both him and Otis. However, I ask myself from time to time, “If I could go back, if I might I do the ‘wrong thing’ now having experienced the heartache of the ‘right thing?’”

I contacted the AKC dog seller, was placed on her waiting list, and paid a significant fee to ensure I would receive a dog. On Tuesday, my puppy arrived at the seller’s home. She texted that he was “sensitive” and not playing with his brothers. She said he’d need extra “TLC.” I picked up the new, 10-week-old puppy as scheduled at 5 pm. I received his papers for his shots, registration, and microchip. I named him Lakes after the Great Lakes because he’s a blue Brimble French Bulldog. I noticed right away that Lakes didn’t stand, walk, or eat.

When we got Lakes home, I was fearful he would get weaker. I forced some peanut butter into his mouth before bed and then gave him chicken broth to clear his throat.

Then I contacted the person who sold me the dog, and she said he was just home sick. She suggested we try a variety of foods. I tried offering Lakes numerous things, but he refused to eat anything.

The next day, Wednesday, he hadn’t improved. I was scared. We had scheduled a routine examination for our new puppy on Thursday. However, I called the vet and asked for an emergency appointment which was booked for that day.

At the same time, I was in contact with the seller who assured us the dog was just home sick. She noted that, “…because she loved dogs so much” she would take him back for a couple of days and give him high calorie foods.

I declined and said I was taking him to the vet. The seller became very upset by this and said the vet would just “stress him out.” I should just let her take care of the puppy for a while. Her reaction greatly surprised me. Why would someone who claims to care deeply for dogs be hesitant to have a veterinarian see a puppy who is not eating, standing, or walking?

At 10 am Wednesday I took Lakes to the vet. The veterinarian ran tests and discovered ear infections and provided treatment for our dog. She also discovered that he has severe hydrocephalus.

Hydrocephalus is a nearly always fatal condition where there is fluid between the brain and skull. In his case, it was impacting his brain and nervous system function, as well as pushing his eyes out of his skull. It also caused Lakes’ head to be misshapen with a bulge in his forehead area. Hydrocephalus can be caused by a brain tumor, trauma to the brain, or fungus/infections inside the skull.

The vet had me take Lakes for an emergency appointment with a specialist for the hydrocephalus. The veterinary specialist ran tests and confirmed the hydrocephalus. The specialist recommended a consultation with a neurologist to confirm and determine Lakes’ prognosis. Subsequently, a neurologist examined our dog. The neurologist was the third doctor to confirm the diagnosis of hydrocephalus.

The neurologist said Lakes’ prognosis was poor given the severity of his condition at such a young age. Lakes was too young for brain surgery to treat it. The specialist also believed he had suffered a brain injury and was unlikely to live a normal life (standing, walking, being potty trained, playing). The neurologist and the specialist recommended that he be put down.

I then contacted the woman from whom we bought our dog, told her what the vets had said, and her response was that I was “wasting my money taking him to the hospital.” She insisted that I give her the dog back.

The specialist said that the person I purchased the dog from was part of a “puppy mill” and, if I gave him back to her, she’d likely put him down in an “inhumane manner.”

The seller I bought the dog from continued to harass me with calls and texts. I explained to her that this was the anniversary of my only child dying suddenly of a brain tumor, and that I was experiencing an “extremely difficult” time. I told her I was simply too distraught to talk with her any further. The seller said that I didn’t need the “trouble” of a sick dog, and she just “needed the puppy back.”

I decided to try and keep Lakes alive. The specialist prescribed some meds to try to reduce the swelling on his brain. I brought our dog home Wednesday night and started administering the meds along with step 2 baby food.

When my partner repeatedly questioned if it might be better to end Lakes’ suffering I just cried and repeated, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”

On Thursday I continued to administer medication via baby food. Lakes ate the baby food. He walked a couple of steps on three occasions and even had enough energy to take off his doggy diaper.

The seller continued to message and call me with angry demands for the dog. I asked her to stop. because I was working and in meetings during the day. The Zoom training that was being conducted that day was being recorded onto my computer. Her phone calls frequently interrupted the proceedings. Her harassing texts continued as well. She texted that given that I work from home she knew I wasn’t at work. I didn’t have the time to explain to her that many people work from home.

Given Lakes’ lack of mobility, I went to the store to get him a baby carrier so I could carry him on walks. Missing Constance, I started crying in the baby section of Target. A very pregnant couple getting supplies quickly moved away from me. I guess they didn’t want to catch my bad luck. I returned home empty handed.

On Friday, I observed Lakes playing briefly with his toys for the third time. He also perked up his head and followed my movement around the room. From my perspective, this was is a hopeful sign that his vision and cognitive function are improving. Fingers crossed that he continues to improves.

Monday, March 15th, is the anniversary of Constance’s passing. I will acknowledge it the way I do every year, with flowers at her memorials, donations in her memory, looking at her photos and videos, and innumerable tears. One would think this would get easier, but it doesn’t. It just gets different.


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