Monday, December 17, 2007

Rewind (Part 3): Team Duncan

In the three years Duncan has been with us, we have only been apart five nights, three when I was in Atlanta when I first got sick, and the two he spent at Alameda East. Ken came home late that Saturday and we both went back to the hospital to take him for a walk and let him know we had not forgotten him. After an hour or so, sitting with him, cradling his tired head on my lap, talking with his doctor, Ken returned to Thornton and I spent the night laying awake in bed, Winnie curled on my hip, Pip rolled up in a ball on my chest, Olive on the pillow above my head. I was exhausted having spent much of the previous night standing in the cold watching my dog vomit into the bushes. I spent most of the night on my back watching the orange glow of the street lamps peek through the curtains and between the slats of the blinds. I missed the way he rolls over me as I climb under the covers, snorting and and rubbing his head against my arm. I missed his weight at my feet. He always stays with us until we fall asleep and then he jumps down and shuffles under the mattress where he snores softly. It was a long night and as warm and protective as the cats were, Duncan's absence weighed heavily on my mind.

Ken came home the next morning and we went to Alameda East once again. His condition hadn't changed and although subsequent x-rays had yet to determine what was happening in his stomach the doctor was still encouraging immediate surgery. Do it now! He could go septic at any moment! You don't have time to think! While figuring out what we could do I applied for a grant the hospital's board of directors offer, which is used to prevent economic euthanasia. They wouldn't meet until Monday morning, which could be too late but it was worth a try. Obviously we wanted the surgery but our finances were such that we couldn't afford it on our own which was the most horrible feeling in the world.

It was at that point that I went home and called everyone I knew and begged for money. It was not a pleasant experience and each time I made a new call I found myself sobbing all over again. Ken watched helplessly as I snotted over the phone, pacing back and forth and pulling my hair out, but by the end of the afternoon I'd finally raised the money we needed with the help of my mother, Ruth, Kelly, David and his mother, Cee Cee, and eventually my father. This generous group became known as Team Duncan and it's to them that Duncan, Ken and I owe every memory we've made together over the course of the past year.

I quickly called the hospital and gave them the go-ahead. "Do it now," I practically screamed. But this is where things became confusing. The doctor said no, she wanted to wait and see what would happen. The radiologist had looked at the x-rays and wasn't sure surgery was necessary at that point.

"But you've been telling us his intestinal wall could perforate at any moment, that he could go septic and that if that happens the only viable option would be to put him to sleep." I was near sobbing again.

But she held firm; she wanted to keep him on the fluids, keep monitoring his x-rays and hold off on surgery until they knew exactly what was going on. Reluctantly and with an enormous amount of fear we agreed. Ken decided we'd hold off and try to get him to our vets, Dr. Rogers and Dr. McCarty at Fire House. They knew Duncan, they knew us (Ken had worked for Dr. Rogers and we occasionally socialized with him) and we trusted them completely. Until then, all we could do was wait and hope nothing happened in the meantime.

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