Thursday, August 24, 2017

Murphy's failing health

Murphy sat staring at my desk this morning. Not unusual if I'm sitting at it. Unheard of when I'm not.

Murphy is 12 years old. His physical health is failing, as is his mental health. We've been together since he was 8 weeks old. I watched him learn and grow and loved having him as my partner. He taught many a client's dog that the world isn't a scary place. His calm demeanor and that sweet face have brought happiness to many.

A couple of years ago I noticed a slight change in his pace. At that point we had walked hundreds of miles together - him at my side, on leash. So I felt the change. Over the next week or two, the change grew more pronounced. After talking to my vet, I switched up the way and where we walked, making it a easier for Murph. That was first sign of the onset of old age for my boy.

During the last year, Murphy's hips have deteriorated. He can still walk but often has trouble standing. Occasionally he needs my help to get up and get his back legs under him. If he turns too quickly, he falls. I can't let him walk in rooms with hardwood floors or tile because he will slip and fall. He follows the dog trail that wraps around the perimeter of the backyard a number of times every day. Going out for swim therapy or anything else is not possible because he can't get into my car. The last time we tried - with a ramp - he fell. He's on daily pain meds that are keeping him as comfortable as possible.

Then there are the lipomas (noncancerous growths). He's riddled with them and some are huge (softball sized and bigger). He looks fat but isn't. The lipomas have changed the shape of his body. He's got them in his belly, sides, armpits, and neck. They can't be removed. And they scare the hell out of me. My roommate's lab died when a lipoma that had attached itself to the artery in one of her back legs detached. Tootsie bled out.

And the dementia, which manifests itself like this: Murphy will stand or sit and stare - like this morning - seeming not to understand what he's supposed to do next. Or maybe he's just lost in his own mind. He knows how to get from one place to another in the house and the yard but gets confused if his regular path is blocked. He forgets sometimes that he's just been outside and walks back to the door to be let out again. Habit is his friend. As is Fig, my year old lab. She's learned to be gentle with him and will often sleep next to him.

Murphy has hearing loss, too, and sometimes his breathing is labored. And though all of this is breaking my heart, it's a journey we're taking together.

Love you, Murph! Good girl, Fig!

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