It was August, 2001. I was still working at the big health insurance company. Our children were grown, and our proverbial "nest" was empty. Our home housed my husband and me, and our cats. While we have had several dogs in our lives, at that point we had no dog--our beloved English setter having died the year before.
We had been invited to visit with friends at their summer cottage in Thousand Island Park. During our stay, we decided to spend a day in Clayton, NY, a charming little town right on the St. Lawrence River. We had just come out of a small art gallery when I saw a woman walking a puppy. I have told this story before, here, but in brief I said--what a cute puppy. Whereupon the woman asked if we wanted her, as the puppy needed a home. On an impulse totally uncharacteristic for my husband and me, we agreed.
That's how we got Tipper.
Right after we got her, our friends and we stopped for lunch. My husband stayed outside with our newly acquired dog. Through the window, I could see him sitting with her and talking, occasionally wiping his eyes. When lunch was over, I asked him--what were you saying to her? Well, it turns out he was telling her about our prior dogs, and telling her that we would take good care of her, until that day that death would take her away from us.
Well, friends, that day has come.
About 10 days ago, Tipper suddenly stopped eating mid-meal. Very unusual for her. Then the next morning she was very lethargic. As I was checking her over, I noticed her gums were very pale, almost white. I knew enough to know that was a problem, an indication that not enough blood was circulating to keep her gums nice and pink.
We took her to our vet, immediately. She was diagnosed as being anemic. Blood tests showed that her red blood cell count was greatly depleted. The question was--why? There are various causes--for example, a tick-born disease. Or it could be an auto-immune reaction. For unknown reasons, her own immune system might be destroying the red blood cells.
She was immediately hospitalized in the vet hospital, given an IV to replace fluids, started on antibiotics (in case it was a tick-born disease) and given high doses of steroids, to knock down the immune reaction. By the weekend, she was not getting better, so we transported her to the emergency weekend vet hospital, where she received a blood transfusion. Her red blood cell level was so low that, in her excitement seeing us, she fainted on the spot, legs going out from under her.
While the transfusion briefly raised her red cell level, by the time we took her back to our usual vet, her red blood cells number had dropped again. And she fainted a second time, losing consciousness for several seconds.
Clearly, we were losing the battle, and losing her.
Tipper was such a wonderful dog. In some ways, it almost seems like she was a person who just happened to wear a dog suit. Her eyes were wonderfully bright and knowing. A part border collie, she was a mouthy opinionated dog. She told you what she thought! She had to inform everyone entering the house that this house was HERS. She hated delivery trucks--the engine noise set her off. She would bark furiously at UPS or FedEx trucks, hearing them even before they entered the neighborhood. Anything that moved fast set off her chase response--a bike whizzing by, a child on a scooter, another dog. We always kept a firm hand on her leash, otherwise she would try to run after whatever.
She thought it her duty to police situations. Our two cats, who do not like each other, occasionally spit and spat at each other. Tipper would rush in, take the side of her favorite cat, and tell the other cat--back off. When our son and daughter-in-law visited with their dog Sonnet, Tipper was insanely jealous if Sonnet played chase with her toys.
Tipper was a people dog--every person she saw she wanted to approach. She just loved being petted, especially having her chest rubbed. She was more discriminating with dogs. When I took her to the dog park, she was always unnerved by the rush of the other dogs who circled around the "new" dog. Tipper did much better one-on-one with dogs. She had her neighborhood favorites. The factors for her choosing which dogs she liked and which ones she didn't was never clear to me.
She loved car rides. She would sit up, completely alert, looking out the window. She seemed to be taking in all the sights, processing as we drove along. She would only whine when she saw the streets turning into our neighborhood, as she knew we were returning home.
And now she is gone. When she failed to respond to the treatment, we asked our vet the odds that she would recover if we prolonged treatment. He was very cautious, but I had read enough to know the odds were very bad. It turns out she had developed autoimmune mediated hemolytic anemia--cause, unknown. She had previously had, two years before, autoimmune thrombocytopenia which caused the destruction of her platelets. The two conditions are not identical, but related. Poor girl just had an awful run of bad health luck.
So, we let her go. And, just as my husband had promised, we were with her at the end, telling her what a good dog she had been.