I don't even know where to begin. Maybe I'll start off with how lucky I was to have Savannah in my life. She had a hard life, but by looking at her and watching her, you would not have been able to tell. She was always so cheerful and full of life. Maybe it was from being rescued from her pitiful, lifeless existence she had. You see, before I rescued her, her life consisted of being kept on a short chain, with very little food, no shelter and no attention. In fact, she had worn away her bottom teeth trying to chew through the chain. She was a fighter! Savannah then found herself in the arms and home of a veterinary student. Other than not really seeing me very much (but she had Saj to keep her company), her life was good. I mean, no chain, living inside, food, not to mention free veterinary care. After I finished veterinary school, her health seem to deteriorate, but her sweet spirit persisted. February 2005 she had several mammary tumors removed, which thankfully came back as benign. Then the dreaded "C" word...cancer. This word pounded on my brain and weighed heavy on my heart as I sat there looking at her chest x-rays, trying not look at the big mass in her chest and the secondary pneumonia she had. Decision time: The only good treatment for primary lung cancer is to cut it out. But this would required opening up her chest cavity and removing the mass and the lung lobe(s) it's associated with. "What's the prognosis?", I asked the specialists at GVS. They said they couldn't tell until they got in there, but if it's spread to the surrounding lung lobes and/or lymph nodes, average life span is around 4-6 months. Do I spend thousands of dollars for 4-6 months?! Yes! I owed it to her! We had to try. So we did the surgery. Her left cranial lung lobe was removed and the surgeon saw that her lymph nodes were enlarged, so she biopsied those as well. The cancer had spread into the adjacent lung lobe, but according to the lymph node biopsy, no cancer cells were seen there. She recovered from her surgery like a champ, and she then underwent 18 weeks of chemotherapy, which if you remember from my previous blog "Dogs", you would know that primary lung cancer is a type of cancer that is fairly resistant to any chemotherapeutic drugs. But she fought through it all. Savannah said, "The heck with 4-6 months!! I'm going to beat the odds!" (at least that's what I pretended she was saying to me and the specialists). She was a fighter!!
Then, Sunday afternoon around 3pm, she started developing focal body tremors, mainly on her face, again. She had done this a few times previously but it never progressed like this. I gave her a dose of valium to try and stop the tremors, but it didn't seem to work. As the evening hours ticked by, Savannah was beginning to act more and more abnormal. Panting constantly, pacing, using the bathroom in the house, whining and whimpering and occasionally I would find her staring at the wall. I stayed up with her most of the night. After about 3-4 hours of sleep I woke up, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "what if I find Savannah dead in the kitchen on her bed?" So I got up and walked towards the kitchen, fulling expecting to find a lifeless body laying there. I stood in the doorway and looked...she wasn't moving. Was I right? Was God telling me what had happened to prepare me? Then, she looked up at me, with eyes that said, "Dad, help me! I'm scared!" So I stood her up and took her outside to use the bathroom. As I watched her, I noticed she was very weak in her back legs. She would take a few steps and then would lose balance in her rear limbs and fall down. Immediately the words, "Oh crap!" came bursting forth. So I took her into the hospital where we did chest x-rays...normal, bloodwork...normal, measured her blood pressure...normal. I left her there on intravenous fluids hoping that would give her some energy and perfuse her brain and other organs better. Around 3pm I get a phone call from Emily saying Savannah has gotten worse. "Justin, she's not getting any better...she can barely take any steps now...she cries whenever I try to pick her up..." . "O.k. I'm on my way," I said chokingly, tears already running down my cheeks. Coincedentally my parents were up in Marietta yesterday. I told them and they drove me up to see her, and to make the decision whether or not to let her go. They said I shouldn't have to do this alone. I am so glad and thankful they were there. Once at the clinic, Emily brought Savannah into a room. As soon as I saw her, I kind of knew it was time. She was suffering. She wasn't completely there mentally, and she physically could not get up, despite all of her efforts. Savannah had lost almost all of her motor function to her rear limbs. The cancer was taking over. More than likely it had already spread to her brain and now it was overtaking her spinal cord. My mom, my dad, myself and Emily sat there for about 2 hours. We finally got Savannah comfortable on a bed spread and she was sleeping. Her breathing was very sporadic. At times she was taking very short breaths, and other times she would take one deep breath, as if it was her last. I would look at my mom, "Is she gone?!" Then she would start breathing again. Around 5:30 pm on January 22, 2007, I turned to Emily and said, "It's time." She took my hand and asked if I was sure? With tears pouring out of my eyes and being incapable of speaking any words, I nodded mournfully. She left the room and came back with a syringe full of a soon-to-be sweet, humane, release into a world where cancer is no longer in her body. I placed my face against hers, saying "Savannah I am so sorry...I love you and I will miss you..." Crying hysterically, my dad with his hand on my back, I frantically stroked her soft face, in a last ditch effort to try and show her how much I loved her, as Emily injected her with the euthanasia solution. I heard my mom say, "Justin she's gone." I didn't think tear glands could produce so many tears. She laid there...peacefully. I sat there on the floor...hysterical and worn out from the emotional train wreck I'm experiencing. But, I find some comfort and solice in the fact she's free now.
Am I ok? No. Will I be ok? Eventually. I'll be honest, it hurts something bad. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. But I'm thankful for Savannah's 6 years or so with me that she had. I'm thankful for the past 15 months of beating cancer. I'm also thankful and blessed for such wonderful parents, who stayed with me through it all. I'm very thankful for caring friends like Emily. She is such a kind, caring, gentle woman of God and an amazing, smart veterinarian. If you ever read this Emily, know that it meant the world to me having you there to help me with this decision; and that there is no other vet I would rather have had do this than you. You are wonderful and I am very lucky to have you around! Thank you.
So good-bye my sweet, loyal friend Savannah. You will be missed!!