Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The story of Quiz ... an epilogue.

This has been the Longest.  Week. Ever.

I am heartbroken over the loss of this truly amazing dog.  At the same time, I'm am truly amazed by the tremendous outpouring of support.  I am touched beyond belief to hear how many people enjoyed my dog and found pleasure in watching the two of us work together.  We shared an amazing bond.

Now begins the long process of adjusting to life without Quiz and settling into a new "normal" as time begins to heal the hurt in my heart.

In following up with the specialty clinic, I've learned that the staff is reviewing the incident and trying to determine how best to modify surgical protocol so that a similar medication error does not happen again.  I am told it was an experienced tech who made the mistake, and so far, the office has no definitive explanation for *how* the mistake happened.

I did learn, however, that upon reviewing his case, the medical director said she'd have been very, very surprised if the mass had not been cancerous.

I, of course, knew that was a strong possibility.  Cancer, specifically the Big "H," is exactly why my heart sank the night before in my regular vet's office as we looked at the mass on an x-ray.

All I can think at this point - in an effort to find a bit of peace - is that it *was* cancer, and that somehow, this horrible, tragic, unexplainable mistake happened to spare my sweet, amazing, vibrant dog from a devastating diagnosis.  For Quiz, having his body deteriorate when his spirit would've remained strong would've been a fate worse than death.  And watching it happen - only to have to make the difficult decision of when to free him from that prison - would've been gut-wrenching.

With this in my mind, I can be thankful that Quiz spent his last weekend on earth blissfully playing at our dear friends' house while I was out of town, and for how he ran around the vet's office bouncy and silly and offering up one of his most popular tricks ... chasing *and catching* his tail.  He may have had cancer, but cancer, at that point, did not have him.

It's funny how your mind begins to remember things in the wake of a tragedy.  The night before surgery, as I tried to sleep with him beside me, I told him two things: That it was OK if he really  needed to go, but that if he wasn't ready, I knew he'd find a way to stay with us; and I promised I'd never make him suffer just to prolong his time here on earth.

At the risk of sounding like the "crazy dog lady," I have to believe that his body may well have survived the surgery if not for the overdose, but with cancer's insidious grip lurking in the wings, the overdose somehow happened to spare my sweet boy - and everyone who loved him - that heartache.

Crazy as it sounds, it's the only explanation that makes even the smallest bit of sense.


A few of my favorite Quiz videos...

Yup.  That's Quiz!

Such a fun partner in the ring.

Gotta love that zest for life!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The life and loss of Quiz...

Click Photo to Enlarge
I've had to work up to this post.

As most of you know, I lost my Sweet Quiz last week.  He was diagnosed with a large mass in his abdomen, thought to be on his spleen, and he went in for surgery.  Though the mass was tremendously large, pre-op x-rays showed his heart and lungs were clear.  He was still in great spirits... running around the exam room, playing with the surgeon and spontaneously offering his "get your tail" trick.  To me, he was at about 75 percent, but 75 percent of Quiz was still a lot of dog... even at 9 years old.

While I knew there was a chance it would be cancer, I left the surgeon's office feeling incredibly optimistic that not only would my boy pull through, but that he'd continue to live out the greater part of his life.

What I haven't shared publicly, until now, is that while in surgery, he was inadvertently given "a significant overdose" of Lidocaine to address a series of non-critical arrhythmias.  Immediately following the overdose, he went into cardiac arrest from which, despite CPR, he did not recover.

I am absolutely gutted over the loss of this dog, and with how it happened.  I feel like he had more than a fighting chance to get through surgery, but was robbed.  It was less than 24 hours from the time I took him to my vet to discover the mass to the time of his passing at the specialist's office.

Quiz was the dog of a lifetime.  The outpouring of support I've received from friends, family and my family of friends has been overwhelming.  Even people we never met are commenting on Facebook or other social media platforms to say how much they enjoyed pics and videos of Quiz, and how evident it was that we shared an amazing bond.  I had no idea that Little Red Dog had weaved his way into the hearts of so many.  I am immensely proud of him for that.

People talk about having a "heart dog" and Quiz was that dog 10 times over.  He always did whatever I asked of him ... and did so with an endless wag of his tail, a grin on his face and joy in his heart.  And then he did it again - because if doing something once was good, doing it 10 times was even better!  He was a gamer for sure.  I always remember Steve White saying, "I could've made him an awesome detection dog," and I'm sure he would've been.  He was awesome at everything he tried ... obedience, rally, agility, field work, dock jumping ... even the crazy working trials we did years ago.  And oh how he loved to snuggle at home.  I'll miss that the most.

There are so many things I, and others, dearly loved about him.  If you were around him often, you likely encountered his patented "jump up and tongue you" maneuver, wherein he'd spring straight up in front of you without making contact.  Of course, this would make you laugh, and he'd seize the opportunity to launch his tongue right into your mouth.

That dog had stamina for training like no other.  Boy did he love to work.  He taught me a lot in our training journey together... and he forgave me endless training mistakes and even the moments where I became frustrated and expected him to compensate for my training mistakes.  There were plenty of times when I frustrated him.  He had a very specific bark that let me know.

My absolute favorite thing about Quiz is simply how much I enjoyed him ... how much we enjoyed each other.  THAT is the message I want to share with others.  Enjoy your dog.  No matter what sport you compete in or what behavioral challenges you might face, live your life with your dog in ways that allow you to enjoy each other, even if it changes what you end up doing together.  If you participate in dog sports, aim for high scores if that's who you are, but in your quest for near-perfection, please don't forget to enjoy your dog.  Maybe it's because, over the past 18 months, I've not had as much time for training (having returned to graduate school), but I found myself really focusing on this idea... Enjoy your dog.  And for doG sake, train every session and run every ring like it's your last, because you never know when it might be.

I'm heading up the coast in two weeks to run a dog training camp on the beach.  That was one of Quiz' favorite times of the year.  He was at his bliss point chasing toys into the surf.  I plan to scatter some of his ashes while I'm there.  I'll be with some of his favorite people and dogs.  It will be a fitting send-off for his physical self.

It's difficult to have shared this ugly detail, but I needed my (and Quiz') army of supporters to know the whole story.  For the moment, I'm strangely thankful for the ball of anger this information presents, because I'm not sure I'd be able to handle the straight grief.  Processing the grief through a filter of anger might just be the buffer I need.

As for the specialty group, all I can say is that the staff has done everything right in the aftermath of this horrible mistake.  The surgeon told me they will launch a full review of the incident to determine what systematic changes need to be made so that this never happens again.  I will follow up until I am satisfied - Quiz can count on that.  You sometimes hear of tragic mistakes in veterinary medicine where the office fails to take responsibility, etc.  I do not feel that is the case here.  I have tremendous respect for the surgeon for disclosing what happened and, while it doesn't excuse the mistake, nor does it bring my dog back, it makes me believe they are doing everything possible to make sure the loss of sweet Quiz will not be in vain.  While I am angry, it serves me no purpose to feel vengeful, and I aspire to pursue this with grace in my heart.  Please respect that.

Thank you all for your love and support.  I will no doubt be leaning on you greatly in the days and weeks to come.

Run fast and free, Sweet Quiz.  You may have been Tanbark's Number Two Pencil, but to all of us, you were clearly Number One!

Edited to Add: Click here for The Story of Quiz... an Epilogue.