He's been having trouble for a while with his leg. It's been swelling and the vet has had him on antibiotics and has tried a laser treatment to help with his circulation. Each thing we tried would help for a bit but then the swelling would come back. He's been having more and more trouble standing up and sitting down.
Then Sunday morning around 2:30, Katie heard Rigger whining. She got up to see what he wanted and found him collapsed partway up the staircase. She called for me and Kerry and we ran to try to help him. There was some blood on the stairs and I was worried that he had injured himself somewhere but we couldn't see a wound. Rigger was unable to move, he was just lying partially on the stairs gasping and moaning.
We were all sitting with him trying to pet him and talk to him to keep him calm. I really felt that he wouldn't survive very long and expected him to stop breathing any moment. In a frenzy of needing to do something, I ran to get some Clorox 2 to clean the blood off the carpet and came across what I thought was a giant brown puddle. Then I flipped the lights on.
It wasn't brown, it was red. And there was a lot of it.
He had apparently vomited up nothing but blood. More than I had ever seen.
I threw a bath towel over it to soak it up (the towel didn't even cover the whole spread) just as Katie came through to get some water for Rigger. I was heading back to Rigger when I heard a giant THUMP from the kitchen. I ran back in there and found Katie on the floor. At first I thought she had collapsed in tears over the imminent demise of Rigger but she looked up at me very calmly and said, "My legs just stopped working."
What to do??? Stay with the collapsed daughter, or go to the collapsed dog?
I checked to make sure Katie wasn't injured, just woozy from seeing all the blood, and then I headed back to Rigger.
We all gathered around him, petting him and talking to him, waiting for the end.
After an hour, Kerry and I started to think maybe he wasn't going die right away. We'd already been to the vet twice a week for a month and no good had come of it. It was a holiday so if we took him in for emergency vet care, we were looking at a few thousand dollars most likely and frankly, we no longer trust the vets here to tell us the truth, not do unnecessary tests and procedures, and just take the simplest route to help our big dog.
"Go pack," we told the girls. "Fast as you can. Take clothes for two to three days, pajamas, underwear, don't forget your toothbrushes and grab some schoolbooks."
We took turns sitting with Rigger and packing. He was remarkably calm for a pooch who couldn't move and had to feel horrible. We couldn't get him to eat or drink at all.
Kerry spread a tarp in the back of the van and we loaded up everything we could and managed to get Rigger to his feet. He was able to walk to the van but we had to bodily lift him into the van where he promptly collapsed. Ringo joined him in the back of the van and we pulled out at 4:30 a.m. heading to see Kerry's father, the best veterinarian on the planet.
Going from Illinois to Georgia is an eleven hour drive and it's not pleasant under good circumstances. When you're doing it on a minimum of sleep in a quite stressful situation, it's nearly unbearable. We stopped to let the dogs used the bathroom every few hours but Rigger only managed to get out at the second stop and then he collapsed again before we could get him back in the van. Emily and I were trying to hold him up while Kerry pulled the van closer to us and Emily said to me, "We're going to have to put him down when we get there, aren't we?"
"I don't know, but it looks likely," I told her quietly.
We were about halfway there when we were able to get hold of our family and let them know we were on our way. We finally arrived - exhausted, tired, and grungy.
Rigger was immediately taken to x-ray where we finally got an answer and it wasn't good news.
He has tumors all through his chest.
Kerry's father gave us some medicines that should help him feel better for bit, but there really isn't a lot we can do. We just want to keep him comfortable and have a little extra time to love on him and spoil him.
He's our baby.