Saturday, May 7, 2011



I got back from my 141st run in a row from the gym around 1:30am on Friday, May 6th, 2011.  I was still awake at 2 in the morning and noticed a smell. Pit bulls are semi-notorious for their “gas,” so I didn’t think much of it.  I was laying on my bed reading and I looked over to see what Indy was doing on her little bed next to me.  I looked and saw a tiny bit of fecal matter on the floor.  She basically had popped without moving. I thought immediately that this was odd. I pushed her to get up, but she wouldn’t move. I picked her up and carried her outside. She stood yet her legs were wobbly. I thought that she had some dizziness or perhaps had a momentary stroke.  I then took her to the back yard and gently pushed her towards her “spot.” She slowly walked with shaky legs and then did the “female squat.”  Too long. She didn’t get up from this position. I went to her and picked her up, took her inside, bend down to give her a drink from the bowl of water, and placed her on my bed. 

She lay there and started to breathe very rapidly. Shallow breathes with her abdomen contracting in and out, in and out. I thought that she had eaten some grass earlier and maybe was a little “stuffed.”  Perhaps it was warm inside the house and she was panting because of the heat. I went to the computer to check some e-mail and frequently glanced over to see if Indy’s breathing had slowed. It didn’t. That’s a long time to be breathing so hard.  Hmmmm, it’s approaching 3:30 am and she looks very tired. Maybe I’ll take her to the vet first thing in the morning. I turned off the lights, and pulled the blankets over us. Indy has slept by my leg for the last 9 years. 

My gut said something was wrong. I turned the lights on and went back to the computer and did a Google search. “Dog shallow breathing.”  Up came a web page that said something about “bloating.” It said that within 1 hour of 1)bloating 2) dog that has shaky legs, 3)limp body 4) lack of response 5) uneven breathing, the dog could die.   Once I read that, I remembered from my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and  American Red Cross’s 1st Aid/CPR for Cats and Dogs training , to check the dog’s gums. I first pried Cali-blu’s mouth open and saw the normal red/off-pink gums. I then opened Indy’s jaw and her gums were chalk-white. Houston, we have a problem. I rushed to the computer and typed in the name of my vet to see their hours. Closed. I typed in a vet recommended to me by my friend, the VCA on Lincoln Blvd in Venice. Closed, however they referred me to the “City of Angels” on Jefferson Blvd. in Culver City. I called them and told them I’d be there within 20 minutes.

I got my stuff ready, put on some jeans and a sweat shirt, got my cell phone, my wallet and picked up Indy. Indy’s eyes were in distress.  Her body was limp, yet her back and neck were rigid. I thought she had a stroke and suffered paralysis.  After getting her into her little bed in the back of the lowered seats of my SUV, I began my drive to the vet.  I constantly was looking around to see how Indy was doing in the back and about 5 minutes into my drive I noticed her head had shifted. I stopped the car, opened the back door and reached for a blanket. I put the blanket under her head for support so that she could breathe.

I got to the vet. It was a confusing building so I went to locate the facility leaving Indy in the car. I found the vet’s office, rang the doorbell and the  tech. came to the door. I told him I’d be back with Indy.  I got Indy and handed her over to him in his cradled arms.  He told me to fill some out some paper-work.  He told me that the initial consultation would be $150. No problem. A couple of minutes later he came back and told me that Indy needed blood work and that it would be $500. Do it.  After about 20-30 or so minutes, Dr. April Rogers DVM came out and asked me to meet with her in a room around the corner from the front desk.

She started an IV on Indy and she looked better than when she first came in. She had performed an ultra-sound on Indy and showed me the photos.  I can’t remember all the medical details, however, there was a very large mass. The huge black area was blood.   Her spleen had ruptured and there was excessive internal bleeding.  No visible signs on the outside, yet she was bleeding-out, on the inside. Hence, the white gums.

Indy basically had a very aggressive form of cancer that was reeking havoc on her inside. This type of cancer (can’t remember the name) spreads rapidly through the lungs and heart.  I asked her what the options were. She mentioned something about chemotherapy and how it could extend her life by 4-possibly 8 months. I thought about “the quality of life,” issue.  I had only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before, and 4 hours of sleep the night before that, and since it was some time after 5:30 am with zero sleep, I knew I wasn’t thinking straight.  This couldn’t be happening. Just two nights before I had a friend over to check out some photos I took at his wedding and remembered how Indy dug into him with her entire body----like she always does with such great love and affection.  And here I am and the doctor is telling me that Indy just has months, if not weeks to live.

The doctor was very, very compassionate. She had a very soothing voice, very calm and very sympathetic.  Tears rolled down my face and I began to cry.  I knew that I had to make a decision. I didn’t want to make a decision because either way, it was not the right answer, though, it would be the right thing to do.

I couldn’t give her an answer. I didn’t want to give her an answer. At 6am, I called my dad in Chicago.  Bad reception and I got disconnected. He knew something was up and called right back.  I couldn’t speak. He knew I was on the other end of the phone and that something was terribly wrong. He did the talking. He knew from my sobs that his son was having a hard time getting words out. I told him what had happened to Indy and that I had to make a decision.  A decision of life or death--in this case a death or a prolonged death, decision. I can’t remember all the things my dad said because it seemed like a blur. When he mentioned the word “suffering,” this jolted me and hit home.  Indy, poor little Indy, the love of my life was suffering, suffering real bad.  I then knew what the decision would be.  I bawled and bawled an bawled. 

I went to the doctor and told her what to do. Indy’s lactate level should be around 2. The doctor would be concerned if it was 5. Indy’s was 10.  The doctor asked about cremation and what I would like to do with the remains (general cremation-no ashes returned)  and that I should fill out some paperwork. I handed over my credit card. ($600.) 

The tech wheeled Indy into the room on a small steel table on wheels.  Indy looked tired . Lifeless. Motionless.  The doctor asked if I would like to spend some time alone with Indy. I said yes.  I pulled off the blankets the tech placed over Indy and gave her a big, big hug.  My girl, the little lady that I met on the cold concrete floor in the animal shelter on July 5th, 2002 was going. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I whispered in her ear how much I love her. How much I’ll miss her. I stroked her back and her side. I told her how thankful I am for everything that she has done for all the cancer patients in PICU, on the oncology floor and the other floors  at Children’s Hospital LA, the kiddos who just got new prosthetics at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital, all the patients she saw at St. Johns in Santa Monica, at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, Kaiser Permanente in West LA and  Kaiser on Sunset Blvd, the special needs kids at Gold’s Gym in Redondo Beach, the kids at the Special Olympics, Frances Blend School for the Visually Impaired, Promises in Malibu and many other places. 

I was not ready and asked the doctor to wait a few more minutes.  I called my friends, yet, at 6 something am, they couldn’t hear the phone. I called Martha Hunt, who instinctively knew that something was up.  We talked on the phone. Rather, she talked as I cried and cried away. And then I knew it was time.

I went into the room and Indy breathing was very erratic. (I’m going to spare the details.)  I rushed outside to get the doctor. She came immediately.  She told me what she was going to do. It was time. No, it’s not Indy’s time yet. People who recently met her think she is still a puppy because she has so much life and energy in her. Her tail waddles like a duck when she gets excited.

This procedure can’t be reversed. 

I saw the doctor reach over for the first syringe. There was no point in looking. As the doctor did what she was taught to do, I gave Indy a big, big hug.  A final hug. I looked into her eyes and I think Indy acknowledged me saying that it was okay. I put both arms around her neck and my heart over her heart, I whispered into her left ear and told her how much I love her and thanked her and told her again and again hat I loved her and thanked her.  Her body was warm, soft, just like it is when she is sleeping.  The doctor got her stethoscope and told me gently that her heart had stopped. So had mine. I placed my hand ever so softly over Indy’s eyes and closed them.  I’ve never been so sad, lonely, upset, heartbroken in my life.  Indy I wish you were still here. I wish you would turn over so I could rub your belly. I wish we could still play. I wish we could still go walkies and run. I wish you were still here my friend. I miss you. I miss you soooooooo much.

I thank each and everyone of you for all your kinds words and gestures. I’m truly lucky to have such amazing and supportive friends. I want to be tough and not shed a tear, yet, I’m me. I cry when I’m sad and laugh when I’m happy. I did not put Indy down. I don’t like that word. I let her go.  It will take some time for my heart to heal. Is the pain of seeing your dog leave worth this amount of sadness, tears and grief? You bet. Sure, it is hard. Sure, I’m in pain. Sure, I was sad when I said “Indy and Cali” when I got home today and only one dog showed up. Sure my heart is broken in pieces.

Yet, the joy that she brought to this World, the unconditional love she brought to every single person who she met, the smiles she brought to patients in pain, the Ahmanson Grant that she got based on a story of helping a little boy walk again, the Ambassador for the Bully Breed Award (won a year's supply of dog food, a medal and other gifts) she got, the Petsmart commercial she was in during February of this year, the positive awareness that she brought for the pit bulls is something that will outlive the temporary pain that I’m enduring. And that my friend is what life is all about. Being of service. Helping others. Giving without expecting anything in return. Contribution. Leaving a legacy. Shattering stereotypes. Ending discrimination of dogs based on its breed.  Indy your life was not in vain. People are paying it forward because of you. Indy, you have made me a much better person. If I could have a millionth of the unconditional love you have, I’d be a beacon of light and love. Indy, the light and love of my life, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me into your life. I miss you my little girl, my little lady, my Indy-Windy.