Laura Dvorak 5:47 p.m., Dec. 6
Owning dogs for most all of my life, I could not have imagined what was about to happen to my beloved Golden Retriever, Wilkie. I was making breakfast, this Sunday morning, I was alone today, my husband, Peter, is out of town at the Annual Fathers Day, Rod Run, up in Pomona which he attends every year.
Wilkie is walking the backyard fence line, first thing in the morning as he always does. I occasionally hear a jogger or person on their morning walk, say, “Good Morning Wilkie”. I think, to myself, he knows more people in the neighborhood than I do. He comes back in to see me and looks up at me, for a quick moment, I see a quick shine, some type of reflection deep into his eyes, something that has never been there before. His eyes are like big black marbles, shiny and expressive. But this morning, something is different.
I kneel down to take a closer look, gently taking Wilkies head into my hands, I need to get a closer look, to make sure he is ok. As I gently take his head into my hands, Wilkie wiggles his tail and tries to lick me on my face. I smile. I see something, buried deep, Not knowing what it is, I go to the computer and search, “cloudy dogs eye” as I find some links they ALL say seek Immediate Help.
Feeling concern and alone, I call the Emergency Pet Hospital close by, they tell me to come in NOW, I put WIlkie into the car and drive. As I drive I call my husband and explain what is happening. As I arrive at the Hospital, I check in, I say, “I have Wilkie, I just called, you said to come in Immediately”. She checks us in and we sit down, Wilkie is at my feet.
Finally a Medical Assistant comes out from behind the double doors, and calls my name. “Yes, I am here” I get up and she walks us to a small waiting room until the Doctor comes in. Now I am getting a tiny bit nervous, I sing to WIlkie, as I wait with him and he lays on the seat with me.
The Doctor finally walks in he is very young his smile is beaming, Wilkie gets up to meet the Doctor, with his tail wiggling. My first thought was, “this Doctor is so Young I have no hope in Hell, getting help for Wilkie. He looks like a young soap opera star and looks like he is 18 years old. He leans towards me and shakes my hand his BRIGHT smile filled the room, every hair in place, shiny gold jewelry.
I start to tell him, “I saw something in Wilkies eye, it was a shine, some type of reflection, something is going on, something is not right” He goes over to Wilkie and looks into his eyes, he could not see anything. I continue to explain what I had seen. He was stumped. He then asks to take Wilkie into the back, I agree, he says “I will be back in with Wilkie, after he returns, he says, I don’t know what it is, I would not be concerned about it”
“WHAT” I said, are you telling me, this is so rare, you have never seen this before or you simply don’t know what this is?” I also continue to say, “So, on a scale of 1 to 10 how worried should I be?” He says, “I would say 1”
I can’t believe what just happened, even in the beginning when I first saw him, I thought, he won’t know what this is or what is happening in Wilkies eyes. I payed my bill and I leave. I call my husband from the car and cry. “I know something is wrong, I just know”
The next morning, I wake up worried, I am crying. The feeling of something bad is happening to Wilkie will not go away. My husband, Peter, is already at work, so I call him. “Something is wrong, we need to get him help” Peter assures me we will take him somewhere else today. Peter rushed home and grabs the phone book, he finds Veterinary Specialty Hospital. He calls. This Hospital has on staff 27 different Specialists. Two of these Doctors that have dedicated their lives to helping pets, will become Important people in our lives.
He explains what is happening, they say, “bring him, in, Dr. Basher is triple booked but we don’t turn anyone down, we will fit you in, you may have to do some waiting”. We rush off to the Hospital. We drive up the approach to the Hospital, it is a steep hill driveway, we can’t see the Hospital until we reach the top of the driveway, a multi level mostly glass building pops up at us. There is Valet parking so you can rush your pet inside. It was as if we just saw an Oasis in the middle of the Desert. We walk toward the entry of the Hospital, Wilkie stops on the fake grass area, for the pets to use. He smells many dogs that have walked this very path. We tug on his collar and walk thru the electric glass doors and check in. We have a seat, Wilkie jumps in the seat right with us. We will have a 3 hour wait in front of us. I tell Peter, “I am scared for Wilkie”
A woman who is pet is at the Hospital walks, past us, and sees Wilkie, he is a beautiful blond, large dog, with a friendly face. She just has to pet him, she tells us. I explain why we are here, the women tries to calm me by saying, this is a great place, “Eyes, oh they can fix that”
Medical Assistants go RUNNING, by us, out the front door of the Hospital. It’s a dog that just arrived, the Medical team rush outside, with two men and a cart, to transport the large dog he is having difficulty breathing and is much to heavy to carry.
After 3 hours Dr. Basher’s assistant comes out and calls our name. Dr. Basher is the Eye Specialist of the Hospital. Our long wait is over. Now Wilkies problem really begins. We are taken into a waiting room the Doctor enters, introduces himself and pats Wilkie on the head. I start to go over what I have seen in his eyes. Saying nothing, “Dr Basher, grabs his lighted headgear with microscope. He begins to look into Wilkes eyes while holding his head gently. Peter and I are silent.
The Doctor then turns all the lights out in the room. The Assistant keeps Wilkie still giving him a “sush” sound. The pitch black is soon only, lit with the light on, the Doctors headgear only. He leans down, peers deep into Wilkies eyes with the light of the microscope, the room is silent and dark. He stands upright, flicks the lights back on, starts to leave the room, the Doctor then says, in a soft voice, “I will be right back, I will tell you what is happening”
Peter and I simply look at each other nervously, I call Wilkies name, and say “Good boy, Wilkie, Good boy”
Wikie, who is afraid of the dark, is soon to de diagnosed with a now, common and fairly new (its been around about 10 years), eye disease, called pigmentary uveitis that will make his world become dark. It is also referred to as Golden uveitis as it is predominately found in Golden Retrievers It shows up at exactly 8.5 years of age. And Bingo, that is when Wilkie got this disease.
My beloved dog, Wilkie is going blind. Thinking this is the worst that could happen I am deeply saddened and vow to help him thru it. At times I am giving Wilkie, as much as 6 different medications, in eye drops, TWICE a day 7 days a week, while watching his site diminish. Just after, his diagnosis, his left, eye takes a turn for the worst. I found him, holding that left eye closed, in pain, in the middle of the night, we rush him back to the Hospital, they said, his eye pressure is up, and is causing him pain. It’s a painful feeling like a migraine, a strong migraine. My baby, had never felt any pain in his life, and now I am seeing him go thru terrible pain in his eye. This was a very difficult time. I thought the blindness was bad enough, but now this.
They had to administer a I.V. and give drugs to get the swelling down in his eye. If this kept happening, his eye will need to be removed. This all happened so fast. He was diagnosed on June 19th, and here we are, it’s almost July 4th, and he now may loose his left eye. He stayed overnight in the Hospital, they did get the pressure to come down, so we drove back up to the Hospital the next morning to pick him up. My husbands says, “Pack Your bags, Wilkie, we are coming to take you home”.
He was so happy to see us. We took him home they told us to keep an eye on him. It’s all I do. Well, a day later, the pressure is back UP, and off we go to the Hospital, in the middle of the night. It seems that when pressure raises it is late at night or first thing in the morning, well with our beloved Wilkie, when the pressure went up it was at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. So off we went.
Well, this all started to happen just as Doctor Basher left for the July 4th Holiday week. We were taking Wilkie up to the Hospital, each time the pressure would go up in his left eye, until he came back, to do surgery on his eye. It was a long week, both for Wilkie and us. We had to rush Wilkie to the Hospital a few times to control the pressure in his left eye.
After the July 4th Holiday weekend was over, Doctor Basher then did surgery on his eye to kill the eye but try to save the globe. It worked for a while. He said there was a 80% chance, that it will work. Well, it did for a while then the pressure came back. He had to do the same procedure again, in Wilkies left eye. He said he had not had to do that before. This time it worked. The eye was blind, but it did not get pressure in it again.
Medications are still being given even in the blind eye. Just in case. We were learning to accept this whole past year. Of Wilkie going blind, all of what he has been thru.
A year and a half after having his left eye surgically killed leaving that eye, completely blind, to save the globe, he suffers a pericardial infusion. He becomes catatonic and is on the floor despondent. I was in the middle of administering his eye meds, and this happened. I call Peter and we RUSH him to the Hospital.
He is then diagnosed with right, hemangiosarcoma, which is Heart Cancer. I did NOT commit to learn this word to my memory, I had to look the word up to write it here for you, I made up in my mind, I did NOT want this horrible word in my vocabulary. It was just much to terrible of a word. The prognosis of this disease is poor. It is death. Anywhere from one hour to 5 Months, the Lucky dogs live 5 more Months, with extensive treatment. We now have another Specialist, Dr. Hart from the same Hospital, working to save Wilkie, but this time its his life, not just his eye sight.
My Golden Shadow, as I call him. Is dying. My shadow is not dark, like many peoples, mine is Golden, as Wilkie, is at my feet all day and anywhere I am. I called him my Golden Shadow, as I could not see my shadow cast, it was him. Faithfully lying at my side.
We thought the pigmentary uveitis was going to be the worst thing to happen and deal with. Wilkie got along fine with, one eye. He still walked the “line” in the backyard each early morning. He knew the house. Outside, if it was a bright and sunny day, his sight was poor. Even his “good” eye the site was getting poor. However, looking at him, he had adjusted better than I had. He did not feel sorry for him self he played, picked out his favorite toys from his pile. He still enjoyed his life and us.
It was the Heart Cancer that was going to take his life. We started Chemo treatments on Christmas Day. Yep, on Christmas Day, because on Christmas Eve, we had to RUSH him off the Hospital with another pericardial infusion, where they tapped his heart, with a needle to drain the blood that has accumulated around his heart. It was on every Holiday Wilkie would “crash” and need Emergency Medical attention.
The cancer he had was aggressive and fast growing. We decided to do Chemo, with the advice of both our Veterinary Doctors, they said, it was a bad time of the year, and to see, how he tolerated the chemo, he will tell us if we continue or not. So we did. We could not have been more pleased with the results and help it gave. The Chemo treatments helped keep that tumor down. We had hopes we were going to have the FIRST! Dog to beat this.
When we completed our 5 recommended treatments, we really were feeling good. We were passing ALL the textbook cases, and showed up for our 6th! Treatment Wow…….he was doing good. We showed up for our 6th treatment, when our World was devastated.
We had a 2:00 appoitment with Dr. Hart. It was just a "routine" chemotherapy treatment, our 6th!, as we have done before. We got there and Peter was checking us in as I went into the back to sit at "our" seat. It is a bench seat at the back by the Doctors office.
Wilkie jumped up onto the bench seat as he always does. I hugged him. Molly saw him and came over to give him a kiss. I noticed that Wilkie had started breathing heavy, and his head was turned away, which was not normal. He slowly went down on the seat. I saw what was happening, I asked Molly to get Help get a doctor. She ran to the back.
He was really bad, I held myself together, as I have NEVER seen him go thru this type of "thing' before, it was STRONG and not like his other episodes ( I call them )
I literally thought he was dying also, and I did not want his possible last moments to have any fear, or worry, so I held his head and put my lips up to his ears, telling him,” I love you, I love you, you are a Good Boy. I love you”. I did not ask him to hang on, as he has given us almost 5 extra months with him. I did not want to make him feel like I was telling him to do anything, It was Important for me to tell him how much he is loved.
It lasted, I don’t even know, and then he was weak. He turned and looked at me. He is lying on the bench seat still, I said, “You came back, good boy. I love you”. The doctors showed up. I told them what just happened.
He still was un-responsive, and I told them he is still not doing well, he could not stand up. They took him in the back. Peter and I went with him.
Doctor Hart checked him out, he then took us into his office. He said the tumor is now 3" and that they had to take about 600 I think it is cc's of fluid from around his heart. The tumor was big now and caused another pericardial infusion.
Well, since we started the chemo, the tumor had shrunk so that is could not even be seen. This tumor grew into 3" in a few weeks.
We were going to "tap" him ( drain the fluid ) then see how he is. As soon as the tap, the heart, he feels as good as new, they get up, they are ready to go. Then we could possibly continue with the alternative chemo. We were going to take him home, tomarrow. Doctor Hart, said would you like to go and see him before you leave tonight, we said yes, so we took the elevator up to the ER and there he was, our lovable teddy bear, we hugged him and loved on him. I heard him,” google”, it’s a purr like sound when he is content and loving. I put my ear to his head so I could hear it loud and strong. It was a good sign of him feeling well. His tail wiggled. That sound is heaven to my heart. They had him leashed in the middle of the ER until his "room" was ready.
The as we were hugging him, Wilkie went down. It was that quick, his heart (the sac) around it was filled again. We called out, and they came to help. They said yes, he is infusing again. We said we will go down stairs, Please call Doctor Hart.
We sat down stairs, and Doctor Hart came out after while, he said, I don’t believe there is anything we can do. He said there was the same amount of fluid again. I felt like I was just shot by a bullet. I could not believe it. I had come to learn later, the “episode” he went thru was called The Death Stretch. I just knew it was bad.
So we put him down. Our hearts are broken, we miss him.
One thing I have learned is that pets don’t always have to be put down at the onset of a disease. It’s not done that way any longer. I had to quit telling family and friends about Wilkie, as everyone’s first words are. “You need to put him down” . Thru these experiences with Wilkie, the treatments keep them pain free, and prolong their lives. A quality life, that he would not have had years ago without this State of the Art Medical help from the Veterinary Specialty Hospital. I not only got to love and enjoy Wilkie, it gave him a longer life, having these treatments available.
Dealing with such heart wrenching, treatments, and problems that have stricken Wilkie, each time I went to the Hospital, and this Hospital had become a weekly routine, in the beginning, to monitor his eyes, and now his heart tumor. I have seen new medical treatments, seen critical pets being saved, or at the least, their lives being prolonged. The Hospital and its staff are a Whole Community in itself. The Doctors are all Specialists in their fields. The available Medical care for pets today is amazing.
I would not do anything differently, now that Wilkie is gone. I miss him every day. I continue to be grateful living in a time, where, people out there have dedicated their lives to saving our pets. The focus and advances in pet Medical care and treatment is outstanding. It is Important I have learned to check those eyes of your family pets. Look closely. Enjoy each and every day you are given with your beloved pet.
The following is a Poem Inspired by Wilkie:
My Golden Shadow
Underfoot around every turn Loving marble eyes & big black “rubber” nose True innocence and unconditional love freely given Mutual admiration towards each other
Never a day apart Your demands were only enjoyment You were all that is good & kind in this world Now you are gone, saying your name creates a natural smile “Wilkie” My golden shadow as I called you My shadow is now dark
Debra Alouise, Equine Artist, horse owner over 20 years. Her love of horses & dogs inspires her Original artwork, business and daily life. Designer of Pony Pillows, featured in magazines, in the hands of celebrities, shipped throughout the World. Paintings featured in “Horses In Art” magazine. Small business owner, Producer of, “The International Fine Horse Market”, television show. Worked in Video Production. Her most heartfelt accomplishment, olderhorses.com. Celebrating and Honoring the Special relationships of others and their older horses. Motivated by the loss of her beloved horse, Dallas. “Major” Disneyland Draft on display at the Circle D Corral at Disneyland Park. www.GrandHorse.com