Wolfie departs, stage left

Published on Friday, July 31, 2009 in

I'm writing this blog in restrospect, so it's going to be a little more aseptic that it would have been if I wrote it at the time. I just wanted to capture the story, and almost make it seem like I posted it at the time. Here it goes.

This is the saddest of days for us... our dear Wolfgang has left us at the early age of 8 months old. We just got back from Nepal, literally, and we find out that we missed him by mere hours. We were scheduled to arrive at about 8am to Des Moines, flying through Chicago first on our international arrival. We didn't bother to call Charlotte and Paul, our friends and housesitters, because we'd already made arrangements to have them pick us up, and it was too early in the morning to call anyway.

We arrive at the airport, and we are so excited to be home, to see our friends, and to soon see our beloved pets. Only, something is not right. We see Charlotte and Paul, and we are excitedly waving at them and saying their names, and they almost look like they are not acknowledging us. Their pace lessens. Their faces ashen, they approach us with heads low, faces down. Sheila's exact words were "What's wrong, who died?" I think they couldn't believe that she guessed right first thing, because it looked like they were stunned, even more so than before. They tell us it's Wolfie, and Sheila insists on the knowing what happened right away.

They tell us that Wolfie was acting a little strange the night before. He was lethargic, and coughing, and maybe even vommitting a little. At first it didn't seem like a big deal, but then he was having trouble staying on his feet. So they very smartly took Wolfie to the emergency vet (there's only one in town). Wolfie couldn't even get into the car, he couldn't jump up. However, by the time they got to the vet, he was feeling more peppy, and was almost himself inside the building. The vets did an xray, and they found that his heart was greatly enlarged, with a lot of fluid around the area causing pressure on his heart and lungs. The vet on call at the time was fairly new and not experienced with the procedure for draining the fluid around the heart, so she called in a consult. But it didn't matter, it was too late. Wolfie died within an hour of his first symptoms, within a short time of being at the vet. He died peacefully.

Sheila and I went directly from the airport to see him. He was still on the table so to speak, as they had only worked on trying to revive him about 6 hours earlier. We were both devastated, he had already become such an integral part of our family. We visited with him for about an hour before we left for home. Subsequent investigation, include an autopsy revealed that he died of valvular stenosis, which is a hardening of the heart valves. It can be a genetic condition, so we were immediately worried about Winnie, our other puppy, and Buddy and Maggie - puppies from the same breeder and have the same father that belong to Uncle Billy and Granny. We let them know right away and found out there's a test you can perform, which is basically an echo cardiogram - the same thing you would do on humans.

We are pretty upset with our vet (Oaks Vet by Drake University) for not catching this. Apparently it's detectable as a heart murmur. And for Wolfie to have died at such a young age, it would have to be a rather large heart murmur. Usually you wouldn't notice any issues until the pet was 2 years old. You might see some signs, but they certain wouldn't die at such an early age. This is such a tragedy, because Wolfie was really the most beautiful and wonderful dog. He was such a bright spot in our life, something we needed while dealing with the trials and tribulations of med school life. He was extremely friendly, very playful, absolutely brilliant, and fairly obedient (he was a puppy after all).

We'll miss you!

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