Friday was one of the worst days. As anybody who's ever spent five minutes talking to me or reading my blog knows, my little dog Birdie is unequivocally the cutest little muppet in the world, but she's also something of a case. She's roughly 12 or 13 years old, mostly blind, almost toothless, nearly deaf, allergic to almost every food that dogs normally eat, and also sort of anorexic. She shivers and shakes as her primary form of communication, and needs a sweater when it's 80 degrees outside. But she's snuggly and adorable and hilarious. She hunts her own shadow and trips over her own extremely long legs and gets her tongue stuck hanging out of her mouth. To say that I am totally in love - perhaps even obsessed - with my little Bird is extremely understating the situation.
Lately, Birdie's been acting a little weird. Weirdly constipated, weirdly shaky, and then last week she went off her food for three full days. She's been sleeping like a maniac. So I took her to the vet and finally ordered the geriatric blood screen vets have been recommending that I do on account of her age. In spite of everything, all the signs, even the fact that a friend who's in vet school told me that Birdie looked like she needed to be on dialysis, I somehow had convinced myself that the blood screen would be totally fine and a complete waste of money.
But on Friday the vet called back and as soon as I heard his voice my stomach dropped clean out of my body. "Birdie's blood screen shows some worrisome elements..." he began in a funeral voice, and I felt my throat start to squeeze up. Birdie, it turns out, has an advanced case of kidney disease. Blood values that are supposed to measure between 7 and 26 in a healthy dog are at 132 in the Bird, and the list goes on. He recommended that I bring in a urine sample so they could eliminate the possibility of a kidney infection. What followed would've been hilarious - me, running around the back yard after Birdie with a tupperware container in my hand trying to catch her pee - if I hadn't been crying the whole time. But it wasn't an infection, it's kidney disease, and a pretty bad case of it. I spent the rest of the day coming to grips with the fact that this marvelous little dog, in whom I've invested every ounce of love and care I have in my spirit, and who, in return, has loved me fiercely, is terminally ill.
I have no idea how much longer Birdie will be with us. The vet gave one of those vague "maybe months, maybe a year..." kind of answers. Given her street-fighter mentality and fiesty spirit, I'm betting on the latter. This is, after all, the 7 pound toothless wondermutt who will take on a pit bull as if it were a mouse. The good news is that if you've got to go of something, kidney failure is about as easy a way to go as there is. Eventually she'll just get extremely lethargic as toxins build up in her system, she won't be able to eat anymore, and one day it'll be too much. But she's not in pain. This is the same thing my mother's dog Sheba died of. So we'll keep her happy, as healthy as we can, and comfortable until the end, and let her sleep in between us in the bed, because she loves nothing more than that. These last months will be the best months of her life.