Saturday, July 3, 2010


Our sweet, precious Chihuahua, Poncho, died last night.

On Friday morning I awoke to find Poncho on his back, attempting to roll himself over without success. He was very stiff and cold, and he was unable to move his neck. I rolled him over and checked his eyelids, which were clear (no nictating membrane). He was very conscious and present, eyes tracking well, responding to touches and interaction, but unable to move.

I massaged him for a few minutes to loosen up his legs and checked his heartbeat which was weak and irregular, but his breathing was fairly consistent. Brandy made an appointment with the vet and I moved him to a bed in the living room, on top of a heating pad to keep his temperature up and help relax his muscles. He rested easily but was still responsive when given attention.

I suspected that this was either some type of inadvertent poisoning, or severe arthritis since he was showing signs of cognizance. Poncho became less responsive as the morning went on and when Brandy took him to the vet, they confirmed our fear that it was a poisoning and that there was not anything which could be done. They considered a feeding tube to force a charcoal slurry, but they didn't have any tubes which were small enough for Poncho, and they were worried about potential damage from doing so.

The only options were euthanasia or waiting. Since he did not seem to be enduring incredible pain or suffering, Brandy brought him home. Neither of us will use euthanasia except as a last resort, because there is a large difference between an animal dying and determining that an animal will die and killing it. Given his age and his recent weight loss, I didn't think Poncho had much of a chance, but I wasn't willing to personally reduce that chance to nothing.

When he got home, though he was less cognizant, he was more relaxed and his vital signs became slightly stronger. He did have a couple of short seizures and a bout or two of panting, but otherwise he was fairly quiet and mostly slept.

When I got home at about 9:00pm he was howling softly, not sounding as if in pain, but softly, very similar to his singing which many of you are familiar with. I sat by him and pet him as I diagnosed this problem and decided that it was not an intentional noise, but due to his troubled breathing. I turned him over to see if he could breath better on the other side and his breathing became less strenuous and he stopped howling.

Coughlin thought that it was hilarious when Poncho barked or howled. Coughlin was tired, and also excited to see me so he was being fairly noisy. I decided to move Poncho into a comfortable bed in the garage for the night since it was mutually beneficial. Coughlin would fall asleep, without the chance of interruption and Poncho could enjoy some rest in darkness and silence (reading up on dog poisoning today reminded me that bright and loud environments induce seizures). It was a good thing that I did, because Coughlin became much louder after he first fell asleep because he woke up vomiting, coming down with a stomach flu that Brandy just recovered from.

I laid Poncho in his bed and covered the kennel partially in a blanket to reduce any noise or lights and told Poncho that we loved him dearly, but that if he could not make it, to leave us.

After starting a load of laundry and cleaning up a couple of vomitings, I had a long internal debate as to whether I should check on Poncho before going to bed. It was a matter of deciding whether I would lose more sleep knowing his condition (still fighting or at permanent rest) or not knowing. Since I had first put him out there, I had felt fairly depressed, up until about ten minutes prior to my internal debate about checking on him, at which point I felt suddenly relieved at the strong sensation that he was no longer living. Which goes to say that the real internal debate was not whether I would check on him or not (because I knew that I would have to) but whether it would bother me more to find him still fighting or deceased.

I opened the door and turned on the light to find him in the same comfortable position with his eyes open, staring into space. I have always wondered at the fact that most bodies have open eyelids. They say it is because your eyelids are relaxed when in their open state, but I like to think that they must see something the living aren't able to comprehend.

I checked for his pulse and breathing and left him there for the morning. To answer my internal debate, I slept well knowing that he was finally gone. It's funny the kind if impact such a small creature can have on your life, compared to our life-span, we know them for such short times, but they teach us so much about love, loyalty and compassion.

I buried him today, below a young cedar tree, and I spread wildflower seeds over his grave.

Instead of offering condolences , if you knew Poncho, post a story of your favorite memory; for those who don't have a story to share, no need for apologies, everyone knows what it is like to lose an animal and we appreciate your thoughts of kindness.

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