At SFVS, our four core values are compassion, quality, service and integrity. Sometimes our expression of those values – and need for them – hit a little closer to home.
Following is Ciara’s story, beautifully written by Pat Sievers and Terri Jones. Terri is SFVS’s director of human resources.
by Pat Sievers and Terri Jones
Ciara is our last in a long line of old dogs.
Old dog is not a subtle state of being, but neither is the mutual adoration that you share with them. And it seems that the more rickety and weak they get, the stronger their influence becomes on your entire life.
Dedicated to that influence and their every “need” it becomes clear how artful they’ve always been at “finessing” your behavior. They’ve been teaching you tricks their entire lives. In just the last year Ciara has taught us how to: know that a certain bark means help me now; know when pacing means hungry and when it means pain; communicate in Ciara sign language (she has old age deafness); help her “fly” into the car and help her “scramble” onto the couch.
You’re so distracted by their old age antics that you can deceive yourself into thinking every nuance is age-related …then it happens, a less than gradual decline, and you know there’s something else in there with the old.
Because we’re in the veterinary world we are allowed no illusions. It’s never long before you have to accept that there is disease disguised as old.
As it turns out, in Ciara’s case, it is Lymphoma.
In that veterinary world there are what seem like endless options. Options and choices that can rejuvenate or devastate, and in Ciara’s case, she experienced both. She’s a strong old girl, so we decided to fight the cancer with chemotherapy with the support of holistic and internal medicine. She did well, really improved with the first few treatments – it was remarkable, rejuvenating! Continuing with the protocol, onto the third chemo drug, it just took her down – devastated her body.
While we have always appreciated the amazing talent of the individuals at SFVS, this experience revived our awareness of the tremendous attention given to the care of the animals. We spent many hours, over many days, in the treatment room witnessing this fact.
The first night, her blood pressure dropped dangerously low. By morning she had pulled through, again in thanks to the genius and diligence of the hospital caregivers. Day after day, it was touch and go. It seemed like every five minutes there was some necessary attention being paid to her with a syringe, or a baby wipe, or fluids, or a clean potty pad, or a …
So much advice to consider, so much information to process – so overwhelming. Could it be that euthanasia was the right thing to do? This couldn’t be how Ciara would spend the last moments of her life. One reason why it was hard to let go was because it was our treatment choice that put her in this state, not the “natural” progression of the illness. The overruling reason that we were able to choose life over euthanasia for Ciara was the impeccable care she received allowing her the time to recover.
It didn’t seem likely, but after four long days, Ciara got up and walked out of the hospital. It was heartbreaking to observe the reality of so many others that weren’t so fortunate. Ciara is a very special being in our lives and we will so miss her when she’s finished fighting. It’s been seven weeks since she was hospitalized, and we continue to share the love thanks to the exceptional caretaking she received from the team at SFVS.