Thursday, August 25, 2016

From the Best Day to the Worst Day

Hello friends! Long time no talk. For real...I haven't written in this blog for a year and a lot has happened! I planned an entire wedding, married my soul mate and hunk of a man and went on the honeymoon of our dreams in French Polynesia.

Honestly, I didn't write about it because it takes forever to write a blog post. Mainly because I have to have lots of pictures and I talk A LOT. So  I don't blame you if you just look at the pictures.  Here are a few from the past year...

Bridal Portraits in Chicago...more to come one day soon! Photographer: Leia Smethurst 

Rehearsal Dinner at the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum

The Best Days!

We also added to our family. NO, (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD) I AM NOT PREGNANT. Just because we are newly weds doesn't mean I'm immediately popping out a baby. But that's a whole 'nother topic.  We added a sweet baby boy, Slugger.

Slugger's Daddy, HUGO! Olde English are bigger than English
My husband, Michael, has wanted a bulldog his whole life. He made this clear before we married and I agreed. I didn't know much about bulldogs except they were slobbery and cost a lot of money in medical issues.  After some research, Michael fell in love with Olde English Bulldogges. The breed is slightly different than an English Bulldog. Click here for a great comparison between the two.  Since Oldes are a more stretched of version of the English Bulldog, there are less medical issues.  Michael first checked out the bulldog rescue but since he wanted this specific breed, we decided to go for a breeder. I was not forthcoming about this fact because rescue lovers jump down my throat. This is a friendly reminder that WE RESCUED OKIE from a shelter. My fundraiser last year also raised money for the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. Michael grew up with all rescued dogs. So YES, adopting an animal is always the best solution. However, I don't think you're a bad person if you decide to get a pure-bred. Just make sure it's from a reputable breeder that truly cares about the dogs and not about the profit. We do need to shut down puppy mills. Again...I know I know, ADOPT DON'T SHOP. YES YES YES YES YES.

I mean, look at that little face! Slugger at 7 weeks old.
Love at First Sight!
After a long search, Michael and I decided to check out Body Builder Bulldogs. I wanted to wait a little bit longer to get a puppy but I did agree to "look" knowing full well that we would likely end up falling in love with one. We visited Macomb on a Friday in June. Brandon is the breeder and it's a family business. You can tell they love the dogs. Their little girl cries every time a puppy goes to a new home! I'll tell you what...if you're ever having a bad day, just have a bunch of little puppies crawl all over you. I swear, that could cure depression! I didn't know much about the breed and was surprised to find how active the adults are...running all over the place! This was really important to us since Okie is such an active dog. He needs a playful it was perfect when we found out that they love tennis balls!  We were cracking up as the puppies climbed into their drinking bowl to "swim." Their snorting cracks me up! It reminds me of my sinus issues.

Michael had his sights set on one puppy.  Needless to say, it was love at first sight. I was in love with a few of the little girls. After discussing future plans and puppy-proofing the house (moving all of our wedding stuff and reorganizing), we decided to bring home Michael's favorite puppy.

Slugger was 8 weeks old and a little pile of adorable wrinkles when we brought him home.  Okie wasn't too keen at first, but after the first week, they were playing together like brothers!  We had so much fun as a family. I know it sounds silly, but for the first time, Slugger made me feel like a mom. Maybe because he was so little and required non stop monitoring and babying. I held him like a baby all the time. He was our little boy.
Okie wasn't so sure at first...
...but after a week they were best buddies.
In the weeks before he passed, his personality really started to shine through. He LOVED eating food and messing with his brother. Okie would sit on the couch and Slugger would try to bite Okie's ears and paws to get him to play.  Slugger loved chewing on sticks outside and couldn't quite understand how his big brother could run so fast and catch a tennis ball. He tried to chase his brother a few times but often gave up and chewed on a leaf instead. We had family pool time in the back. The two boys would get all muddy and I'd have to give them both a bath. Slugger was a bumbly boy and couldn't quite get his footing right, often wiping out on the hard wood floor. He was a happy boy but his wrinkles gave him a permanent grumpy face.  I couldn't wait to come home to see my boys. It filled me with a sense of purpose after the wedding.
Taken 1 day before Slugger passed away
He was the sweetest little sleeper...always snoring!
On Saturday, August 6, I spent most of the day cheering on my husband in his first fitness competition. We came home that afternoon and played with the boys a bit before heading out for an early dinner. After dinner we decided to have a family movie night! While we watched a movie, the boys did their thing...playing and chewing on their toys.  Slugger acted completely normal.  Right before we went to bed, Slugger started making that throw up sound (dog owners know what I'm taking about) and barfed a little clear fluid. We felt his sides and everything felt normal. I put him in his crate to go to bed. As normal, he was a little rascal and ran away from the crate as I put a fresh towel inside.
The Worst Day
The next morning, Michael woke up early for a phone call. He whispered to not wake the dogs. He noticed that Slugger wasn't snoring. We put a blanket over the crate to keep it dark for Slugger. When Michael lifted the blanket, he saw Slugger curled up "sleeping" in the back of the crate. When Slugger didn't stir, Michael grabbed him...only to find he was cold and stiff. I woke up to Michael telling me that Slugger passed overnight. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Immediately the tears started flowing and I had that "no no nonnononononnonononoononooo" thought rushing through my head, hoping it was a bad dream. I wanted to see him to believe it.

Michael covered his body with a towel since his little belly was swollen. I pulled back the towel to kiss his sweet little head and it was cold. He looked so peaceful, like he was in a deep sleep. We didn't know what to do next but we knew we had to find out WHY. WHY did a seemingly healthy puppy go to sleep and never wake up? I want to cry again typing this...but I can't because I'm at work.

Of course this happened on a Sunday but thankfully, we were able to get in touch with Slugger's vet. Slugger had only seen him once but Dr. Jones of the Woodlake Animal Hospital is amazing. He is bulldog lover and having 3 of his own, is somewhat of a bulldog expert. He was shocked to hear the news and advised us to the best animal autopsy place in the state - Oklahoma State University Animal Diagnostics Lab.  So we drove to Stillwater and had to tearfully say goodbye to Slugger. That was really really hard. I bawled. I bawled all. damn. day.long. I swear, I could feel my heart hurting. It was almost unbearable.  I had to call in sick the next day because my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I'm the type of girl that when I cry even a little bit, my eyes are immediately I knew I was doomed the next day.

The next day, I tried to get up early before bootcamp to salvage my eyes. It didn't work. Forcing myself to move on, I went to One Healthy Bod bootcamp. The first bootcamper to give me a sad face already sent me crying. DANG IT. I thought...well, I'll just workout and cry. Thankfully I love the girls I work out with and they all understood. After about 10 minutes, the tears stopped and I started to feel better. Sometimes you just have to keep going while crying. People just want to support you and understand. My goal that day was to try not to cry again. I cried a little bit in the afternoon.

As the week progressed, I cried less and less. I found comfort sharing the pain with my husband, as he knew exactly how I felt.  A few days later, we heard back from the lab.  I called the lab and was able to speak with the doctor that performed the necropsy (that's a fancy word for an autopsy done on an animal...I had to look it up!). She explained the medical jargon...but wanted to do more testing on his heart tissues. Hopefully to find out more. I highly recommend the OSU Vet Lab. They did a incredible job and took the time to explain everything to me. If you go on a Sunday, there's an unavoidable emergency fee of $100. So wait to have your pet die on a week day (sarcasm).

Slugger with Doctor Brian Jones, Woodlake Animal Hospital
A week later we received the final necropsy report.  This go around, I couldn't understand any of it...all medical jargon.  I visited our vet, Dr. Brian Jones, at Woodlake Animal Hospital. After speaking with Dr. Jones and Dr. Rostad of OSU and doing my own extensive online's my summary of how he died.  Slugger died of Gastric dilation and volvulus syndrom, also known as GDV or bloat. This is a condition where an animal's stomach fills with gas and can't expel it fast enough. Dr. Jones explained to me that a dog's anatomy is different than a humans. It's stomach essentially sits sideways versus ours sitting up and down, so it's easier to flip on itself but not really possible in a human. The buoyancy of the stomach filled with gas can allow for it flip on itself.  Once the stomach flips, everything goes downhill fast.  The twisted stomach pinches off the blood supply, killing the stomach and disrupting blood flow to the heart.  I asked Dr. Rostad of OSU if he felt any pain. She said there is no human equivalent to bloat, but he likely felt very bloated and uncomfortable. Once his stomach twisted and the blood supply was disrupted, he would have felt loopy and then passed out. She said it's kind of like how people die of carbon monoxide poisoning - not the same mechanism, but the same effect. He fell into a deep sleep and died. At least he died peacefully. The next big question is...HOW did this happen? Vets have been able to make observations about GDV/bloat but they still don't know exactly how it happens.  After Slugger died, I found comfort in researching the science behind his death. Unfortunately, there aren't many recent studies on bloat. There is only one major study done by Purdue in the early 2000s.  The study is quoted by most of the websites I found on bloat/GDV. The study says bloat likely is caused by an animal eating or drinking too fast and then playing. They also say large-chested, large breeds are the most likely to get bloat. According to the Purdue study, compared to dogs 2 to 4 years of age, dogs 7 to 10 years of age were twice as likely to have bloat and dogs 10 years or older were three times as likely to see bloat.  There's also an argument that elevated dog bowls can lead to bloat. Some vets say the food dogs eat can lead to bloat. They also found that Slugger had some fibrous tissue in his heart, common with the breed. His heart was enlarged which may or may not have been a result of the bloat.

Please note the signs of bloat so you can spot it!!!
*trying to vomit but nothing comes up
*pacing and general restlessness
*excessive drooling
*swollen, hard stomach

Here's a creepy video of a dog with bloat. I couldn't watch all of it because it makes me sad. If you see these signs in your vet, you must take your dog to the animal hospital IMMEDIATELY. Call on the way to save time. Tell them you suspect bloat. A few sites suggest feeding your dog anti gas meds. The doctor will have to medicate your pet to get the bloat down and then go in to untwist the stomach. If part of the stomach dies, it may be too late.

Slugger didn't show any of these signs. He did throw up a little, but clear liquid came out..and what puppy doesn't throw up? We even felt his sides the night before (by chance - because we had never really heard of bloat) and everything felt fine. The vets assured us that we did everything right and there is nothing we could have done. Dr. Jones said he has never seen this before in bulldogs and never this young. He said, "it's the freakiest thing I've seen in a long time."

So basically, we know HOW he died but we don't know WHY. It's so frustrating. As a scientist, I can't understand why more studies haven't been done on bloat...especially since it's the 2nd killer in large dogs?! Veterinarians have only found a correlation but not a scientific reason behind bloat. Slugger didn't meet the criteria of a typical bloat victim. He did have a deep chest yet and he was only 4 months old?! Large-chested, large breed and older dogs are the most susceptible to bloat/GDV. SO WHY? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY.

We are left frustrated and sad. I wondered why God would take him away from us. We already made our own plans - Slugger in the Christmas card, Slugger with our first child (far from now...again, I'm NOT pregnant), etc.  I do believe that God has things happen for a reason. Slugger had a short but wonderful life. He certainly blessed us with his presence. I think this experience definitely gave us perspective. I couldn't imagine what it's like to lose a child. That would feel a million times worse and I felt horrible after Slugger died. It also gave me perspective about hearing horrible news. Unbelievable news. I can't imagine what it's like for people that hear they have cancer or that a loved one died in a car crash.  Non-dog people won't understand or empathize but my husband and I know there are a TON of people that DO understand.  I was blown away by the response of complete strangers, sharing positive vibes, thoughts and prayers. Thank you SO much for the kind words. Michael and I appreciate it more than you know.  He was our baby and we will never forget him. I can't wait to see him in heaven one day. We love you, Slugger!

Photographer: ME! I took this with my fancy new Cannon camera. Leia gave me tips!

P.S. Poor Okie! Both Michael and I have woken him up in the middle of a deep sleep because we were worried he was dead! We are paranoid. You can tell he misses his best buddy.