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Sunday, September 21, 2008

An informal Tribute to Luna and the strength of her amazing family

Our little girl Luna had her share of health issues throughout her short life. In March of 2007, Luna was taken down to Washington State University for the ligation of a Portosystem Intrahepatic Liver Shunt. The surgery went extremely well and was successful. We brought her home and for the next year she thrived. She put on weight, her energy levels were amazing and she ate like a horse! Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst. Luna started to develop complications in May of 2008. After many many blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays & ultrasounds, it was determined that the shunt that was supposed to have closed off over the last year, was still open and her Liver was not thriving. Blood was still by-passing her liver and being circulated into her system. Although it looked as through she wasn't showing the typical clinical signs of "shunting",  Luna's liver was failing. The blood tests showed it. That same day, Luna was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. With the information that we had, we knew that dogs that only had mild shunting could live perfectly normal lives when medically managed on a protein restricted diet. We had high hopes for Luna and honestly felt that we could control this and make her the same happy healthy little girl she was early this year. We managed to get the Inflammatory Bowel Disease under control and all her abdominal pain stopped. She was not however, gaining any weight. She was losing weight, rapidly. It didn't matter how much we fed her or how often, she would not gain weight. We tried different foods but had to be careful with protein levels. We hadn't lost hope though because she was happy and was still bouncing off the walls. Approximately 2 weeks ago, Luna started to have dark urine. At first we thought she may just be dehydrated because it was so hot outside and she may not be drinking as much as she should but after taking a sample of her urine, we quickly realized that it was colored with blood. Her intake of water decreased and her frequency to urinate also decreased. Her urine seemed to get darker & darker and after another urinalysis test, it was determined that there was in fact blood in her urine as well as a large amount of protein. The Hemoglobin in her blood was breaking down and being passed into her urine. She refused to eat the next morning. Totally NOT like Luna. Normally she inhales her food. I panicked and rushed her to the vet where they found that her bile acids were even higher than before and she was extremely dehydrated. She was lethargic as well and became restless at night. Two days later we rushed her down to Washington State University in Pullman, WA to have a second Shunt surgery performed. It was thought that the small amount of blood flow that was still by-passing her liver was wreaking havoc on her body and we needed to get it fixed asap. She vomited twice on the way down and was very restless. I cuddled with her the entire way and prayed like I've never prayed before. When we arrived we met with the surgeons and went over what was to take place during surgery. They said that there was a chance that her problems were not simply generated from this small opening in the existing shunt. There was a chance that her body may have grown other multiple acquired shunts in its place to avoid passing blood through the liver. We cried and prayed that that was not the case. They said that if they went in and found that, there was no surgical procedure that they could do to fix her and we should have her put to sleep while she was in surgery. I cried and cried and cried and prayed that this was a simple fix. Surgery was to take place the next day so we spent half the day with Luna and just loved her over and over and over again. We each took her for little walks and the last walk that Wade took her for, we saw that the toxins were affecting her brain. Her balance was completely off and she was tripping over herself. I noticed it a few days before but wanted to believe that she may just have been over tired. It was so sad. At around 1:30pm we walked her into the ICU where she would be staying for the next few days. We held her and cried. She then hopped right into her crate and looked at me with those big beautiful brown eyes while I stuck my fingers through the gate and let her lick them one last time. I put her blankie in there so that she would have our smell with us and would feel some comfort. I had no idea that this was the last time that I'd be seeing my little girl. We walked out in tears and left for the long painful drive home. The following day at work, I watched the clock endlessly. At around 10 am I received the dreaded phone call. They had bad news. They had found millions of acquired shunts inside Luna. Her liver simply could not accept her blood and thus, compensated by growing all of these other vessels to bypass the blood around the liver. She had end stage liver disease and it was terminal. Her liver was failing and so was she. It was time for my baby girl to go to heaven where she would feel no more pain. Luna was already under anesthetic so the decision was made to put her to sleep while she was already under. When dogs have liver disease it is extremely difficult for them to recover from being under anesthetic because the drugs are floating around in their system and not be filtered out by the liver. We didn't want her to suffer any more. We didn't want her to feel the pain from her 4 inch incision. We didn't want to wake her up, to say goodbye. Luna went to the rainbow bridge at approximately 10:30AM Friday morning at only 3.5 years of age.
I think of her every minute of every day and I can tell you that I miss her terribly. I miss her so much, sometimes I physically feel ill. Are there really any words to describe this pain? I'm not sure. All I'm sure of is that she is not in any pain any more and she's up there romping around in Heaven. I only wish that I could feel her silky soft fur once again and look into those beautiful brown eyes. I miss her hugs, I miss her kisses, I miss her everything.
How do people get through this? Do they see grievance groups or counselors? I know there's a way to heal, I'm just not sure how. I've never been faced with any loss before my beautiful girl. My Angel.

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