I’d like to say this story has a happy ending. At best I suppose you could call it bittersweet. The rest of this post could be considered somewhat graphic and it’s text heavy so skip to the page break if you need to.
The toy Bea loved most of all was selected at our local pet retailer on a standard “Find Poodle Fattening food” excursion not even two days after her arrival. The goofy corduroy elephant was at the end of the row of toys. Its nondescript gray and beige body would perfectly blend with the carpet (Yes it needs to be replaced but give me a break). It didn’t stand out from the piles of colorful and loud toys my other dogs regularly ignored and destroyed but it didn’t matter to Bea. She loved that stupid toy. She carried it. She groomed it. “Where’s Bea’s baby?” would send her into the sick-poodle equivalent of paroxysms of joy she probably should have been able to have on our modified crate rest regimen. It surprised everyone when that question managed to be prophetic.
Despite her bath Beatrice was not exactly what one could call coiffed. Working in a dog business I had easy access to groomers and a friend of mine offered to groom her for me within a few days of her acquisition. I accepted happily and that Thursday, (Maybe 4 days since her arrival) Bea was packed off to work with me and left in the capable hands of my groomer friend for a makeover. A few hours later, looking considerably better and much tidier I went to fetch Miss Bea when I got some worrying news.
Green Discharge. Possible Pyo? Vet ASAP.
I was on the phone to Dr. A within ten minutes and after a quick office visit we confirmed the worst case scenario. Open Pyo. She needs to be spayed ASAP. Scheduled the surgery for the following Tuesday, not ideal and under anesthesia the HeartWorm may kill her in surgery but it’s worth trying. More antibiotics. Take her home.
The weekend was a blurry mix of memories and worrying. She was an unfailingly joyful companion. You couldn’t be around her and not smile. She came with me to the park, gentle slow walks and a nap beneath the Oak trees about all she could handle, Z doubling back regularly to see Beatrice was still there. She hung out in the office, politely greeting everyone who stopped to say hello, before settling back down into the Kuranda she’d decided suited her just fine. Bea was alive. Bea was happy. Bea was safe.
Tuesday morning came faster and slower than I wanted. I *know* I annoyed the office with my regular check-in calls but you’d never know it. Two hours after the surgery was supposed to have finished the call came in.
Dead puppies.Unidentifiable. Rotting.
She’s lost 9lbs in uterus and dead puppy alone.
The people who did this are monsters.
It would have been wishful thinking to have her home that day. She went into shock at least twice that I know of, but she rallied time and time again. Thursday afternoon the last call of that visit.
She’s not out of the woods but she’s ready to go home. Come get her.
More antibiotics. More Pain pills. A cone, a wrap, a sleeve and a doped up, silly-feeling poodle and we were on our way home. One day made it to two. She ate somewhat, took her pills and slept on the green Kuranda I brought home, next to my bed so she didn’t have to work so hard to get out of her crate. It wasn’t peaceful exactly. We had one incident of “Poodle on the Bed” which led to some panicked stitch checking and another episode of “Poodle undoes her cone repeatedly until I concede to her lady-like manners and make her a pair of pants from vet-wrap and a tank top instead just to cover her incision. Saturday afternoon, free from her shame-cone, she cuddled with her baby and groomed him before getting what would turn out to be her last meal of tripe, chicken and rice.
Bea died that night.
Caval Syndrome and probable collapse of the atria. From a dead sleep (Morbid pun unintended) Bea shot up to a stand. She came to me on the bed, licked my hand and in under a minute she was gone, though it felt like hours. It was incredibly traumatizing. I inadvertently terrorized a group of Facebook friends with a hysterical summary of real-time events as I looked for a reputable site on dog CPR with my dog dying in front of me.
I still can’t make it through the full account of what happened and I’ll spare you and myself the details but Bea was gone. She finally had enough.
In many respects this is a horrible story. There is no happy ending. Bea is not next to me with her baby, looking up at me with her happy grin. She was abused, neglected and died in a horrible and totally preventable way. I hate the people who did that to her and I hate them more now than I did when it happened. I hate that I couldn’t save her. I hate that she’s gone.
Through all of that I still have to look hard to find the good. Bea only saw the good.
I love lists. I love checking things off and outlines. I’ve never told anyone this but six months after Bea’s death I made a list, Bea’s List.
It’s short and probably sentimental but bear with me.
1. Dr. A is a wonderful vet and a wonderful person.
The bill alone for Beatrice’s care topped out around $1200. I personally paid about 30% of it. The clinic he owns donated services and funds, his second vet donated time and Dr. A put in his own money for Beatrice.
He offered to take her if I found caring for her to be too much or too expensive and she would have lived with his family as their dog.
Six months after she died, on a routine visit with Z he came in with a book and set it in front of me. “Do you know what Caval Syndrome is?” “Yes.” “You did everything you could for her. She was going to die even if I’d been standing next to her as she was dying. She was too far gone.” I promptly burst into tears but it set my mind at ease that no, the extra walks hadn’t actually killed my dog.
2. The Kindness of Strangers is Humbling and Surprising
I posted a bit about Bea on a defunct forum as it was happening. I received numerous messages about her situation including offers from perfect strangers for financial assistance. In retrospect I wish I’d taken them up on it so their gift for Bea could have been passed on to others in need.
The tiny leather-clad men who helped me drag her from the ditch.
The man in the white pickup who turned his truck sideways to block an entire direction of highway when the guy behind him was getting impatient with the dog running across the road.
So many others I’ve long since forgotten.
3. Vets are Human too
I’ve neglected to mention some of the negative experiences in this story mainly because they’re not that important. An e-vet made a mistake. Another vet asked why I didn’t put the dog down before sinking the money into her. (Really.) Conversely, I know my vet probably cried when Bea died. Some vets are just douchebags with DVMs (Unless you’re UPENN special), but most are just people who give a damn trying to help.
4. Ordinary can be important
Bea was a plain girl. She liked plain things. Simple can be elegant and ordinary things that people do matter too.
5. Always Stop the Car
Bea’s elephant and collar sit on my shelf next to the other mementos of dogs past; Mac’s leather collar, Lucy’s red nylon and those who departed afterwards Asta’s leather collar and likely soon H’s matching twin. I still get a jolt when
I walk into my vet’s office and see Miss Bea’s picture on the wall. “Helping Hand Recipient. Thank You”.
I walk by the green Kuranda bed, now outside and sometimes I swear I see her on it from the corner of my eye. Just shadows. Floaters. No Bea.
I’d like to say I think of her every day, but I don’t. Sometimes weeks pass when something silly grabs my attention and makes me think of Bea, the Road Poodle and then my heart hurts a little for what should have been and then I smile or hold back tears or both.
Two weeks. Two horrible wonderful weeks. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Someone asked me once, “Why Beatrice?” “What? She was there?” “No, why the name?” “Oh. I don;t know it just came to me. She looks like a Beatrice. Queen Bea.” It wasn’t until later that I bothered to look it up.
Beatrice: Italian form of Beatrix. Latin feminine form of of Viator. Voyager. Traveler.
Road Poodle indeed.
M the Malinois arrived about a month after Bea’s departure. His arrival had been delayed by her illness and my wonderful breeder understood and regularly checked in to ask about Bea’s condition. Now another puppy is set to arrive and April has become a month of emotional upheaval and I figured I should shove some of it on all of you since that’s what you’re here for: Fang’s emotional catharsis.
Loved and Lost. Ever Joyful.