This past year has not been an easy one. As you may remember, Tinker injured a disc in his neck in May of 2014, which required a month of crate rest and treatment with a steroid. We were relieved that he made it through that month without undue compromise to overall function or muscle mass. However, he was having more issues possibly related to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, including kidney disease and GI problems, and we began administering daily subcutaneous fluid at home.
In May of 2015, Tinker began to have more trouble staying on his feet. His balance was shaky, and he would bump into the furniture as he walked around the room. We put soft bedding and barricades around the house as cushions. Sometimes he couldn't get into the proper position to take water and would need assistance. In an attempt to offset pain or stiffness, we began a weekly regimen of laser therapy and acupuncture. While it helped, some of his strength and coordination problems were rooted in his eating and digestion issues. He was still choosy as to what he wanted to eat. He was having difficulty processing and absorbing nutrients in the food he ate and started losing weight.
As with an aging person, Tinker was on a number of pills and supplements and we had to manage the delicate balance of ensuring that they were effective, were properly timed and none interacted. We tried one food, fiber, and antibiotic after another in the hopes we would find the magic elixir to stem the tide. But Tink continued to lose weight and muscle mass, especially in his hind quarters. But he was still happy. He was interactive, he knew who we were and how much we loved him and he continued to fight.
If he flopped on his behind, he would use his legs to push himself back up. Finally, this past Fall into Winter, our vet recommended one particular prescription dry kibble to mix with the cooked chicken we gave him. It was magic; Tinker loved it and his digestion was better because we had also finally hit the semi-jackpot to keep his digestion in balance by using Tylan powder. He was eating more consistently and his coat was good, but he still couldn't absorb as much of the nutrients as we would have liked. While it would change nothing to put him through diagnostic testing for a definitive diagnosis, it seemed more and more likely that what we were seeing was some form of intestinal cancer or a serious malabsorption that was causing Tinker's biggest problems.
While he began to need help with everything he did, Tinker was still a lover. He was responsive and he loved when we held him or he slept on our laps. He also began to curl up in bed with us. That was something he hadn’t done in years, partially because we didn't want to take the chance of him jumping off the bed since his disc injury back in 2005. We also dug out the cart and rear harness we had used following his injury 11 years prior… so that he could walk around the house and outside. No matter what, Tink still loved going outside, sniffing around, seeing his friends...basically, just being a dog.
He was still the amazing boy he always was. In 2015, we hadn't dared to hope he might still have been with us at the end of the summer…. yet there he was by our side as we rang in New Year’s 2016. And on February 12, he turned 16-years old. With all he had been through - his back injury, two different attacks by off-leash dogs, three different tick-borne diseases...and he was sweet 16. We were happy, but we also knew we were coming to the end of the road.
They say a dog will tell you when it's time. And when the first week of March rolled around, we knew it was time. Tink was panting more heavily than normal with less exertion, and it went on for longer than normal. He couldn't walk more than a step without flopping, and he was unable to get himself up. He was getting increasingly frustrated by not being able to do for himself, and it was heartbreaking to see. He wasn't able to be a dog any more. And no one had been better at being a dog than him.
So as we wept, on March 6 he rejoined his big sister Virginia, who he loved so much. It was so hard to let him go, but after all he has meant to us and taught us and had done for our souls, we had to be sure he wouldn't suffer.
Until we meet again, our sweet boy. Thank you for the amazing ride.