Heart Failure Takes Samantha Home

Sometimes the saddest events can be so touching.

I got a call from Samantha’s mom today. The whole family (including Samantha’s “nutso” brother, Deogie) was in Florida, visiting Dad’s side of the family.

Mom said, “Samantha hasn’t eaten in three days, she’s coughing and she’s drooling so bad her feet and chest are wet.”

“I know times are tough,” I said, “but she’s going to have to see a veterinarian there. She can’t wait until you get back home.”

We talked a little more, then Mom said something that really got my attention. “She’s pale and when she coughs it sounds like a gurgle.”

You’ve heard the saying, “This changes everything.” That saying applied to this conversation at this moment.

That collection of signs in a 14-year old Golden Retriever just cries out, “Heart Failure.” And a 14-year old large breed dog is not going to recover from an episode of heart failure.

Mom and I talked about Samantha’s now-poor prognosis. “We don’t want to put her to sleep, we want to just let her go here at home.”

“With heart failure,” I explained, “that often isn’t an option. The gurgling you hear is probably fluid in her lungs. If you don’t take her to a doctor she’s probably going to drown on that fluid, and drowning isn’t a good death.”

“OK, we’ll watch her a while and see what she does.”

After lunch Mom was on the phone again. “Samantha got a lot worse after we talked this morning, so we took her to a veterinarian nearby. He examined her, agreed with you that she was in heart failure. He said he could give her something to get rid of the fluid, but even if that worked it would come back. We decided to have him put her to sleep.”

“I’m so sorry this had to happen when you were out of town.”

“Yes, we would rather have had you take care of her. The good side is this is her original yard. My husband’s parents gave her to us, so this is where she lived first. We buried her in the back yard by another dog we used to have. There was nothing on earth that she loved more than her ball, so we buried her with her ball in her mouth.”

Please excuse me while I go cry my eyes out.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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