Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mustang, 1993-2007

Mustang, 1993-2007

January 31, 2007
Today was my birthday. It seems that almost every year something happens to make the day one I can’t stand, despite all the well-wishes. In the past it’s been illnesses, weather, or just timing.
This year is was having to send Mustang to the Rainbow Bridge to run free forever. A day to celebrate life should not be used for death.
Just over three weeks ago we sent Bluebird. That hurt—a lot. It still does at times.
This time it still hurts, but not as much, and for a different reason.
Mustang came to us as a Katrina survivor, and only at her end did we come to fully understand what all that meant. Katrina has claimed one more victim, this one a senior greyhound with and iron will that her body couldn’t keep up with.
When Mustang came to us, she had been three weeks alone in the toxic sludge that was flooded New Orleans. Iris was forced by the Coast Guard to leave her behind, one of tens of thousands of displaced pets. Mustang was one of the lucky ones that made it. Thousands more didn’t. But the time in that sludge changed her for the worse. She developed a scavenger instinct that stayed with her to the very end, and in fact played a role in her demise. The toxic sludge exposed her to carcinogens that developed into skin hemangia, a benign form of hemangiosarcoma that travels in the blood and manifests itself as blood moles on the skin. A large one of these was surgically removed form her shortly after we got her. Only at the end did we know what it really was, and not just a pigment mole.
But there was more. Mustang had been given her normal 3-year rabies vaccine just before the hurricane hit. When she was rescued, she got the vaccine again, just as every other rescued animal did. So she got 6 years of rabies vaccine in three months. That overdose led to her getting vaccinosis, which among other things causes brain damage. Most of the effects are never cataloged by veterinarians since the veterinary and pharmaceutical industry both have a vested financial interest in denying adverse effects of vaccinations and their overuse. In Mustang’s case the overdose was accidental, based in good intentions, and happened from a lack of records.
She also battled thyroid, incontinence and kidney failure, and deafness in her final days. Whether these came from age, vaccinosis, or toxic exposure we’ll never know. But her battle was uphill and her days numbered, but the silent killer that actually got her was lurking, waiting. On Saturday, January 27, it struck.
That day she ate breakfast as usual, went out, then came back in, and as she sat down she started to pant and whine in pain. She could not get up again unassisted. She was in great pain. We got her to the vet, and a regimen of Prednisone and Tramadol seemed to help some, as did some acupuncture on the following Monday. But at the time the vet found her hindquarters bruised up and swollen, and one thigh was badly swollen. We thought she had taken a bad spill on the sidewalk outside. We were wrong, and that brings us back to the silent killer and the events of tonight.
We went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. When we left, Mustang was asleep on the floor in the middle of the den, away from everything. We were gone for an hour and a half. When we came back we found her panting in panicked pain under the desk on the chair pad. We got her out of there and tried to get her to her feet, but she could no longer put any weight on her hindquarters at all. Her back legs also felt cold. Back to the vet we went, and they stretchered her in. When the vet examined her he found our silent killer—a blood clot in the femoral artery in one leg. She had a thrombosis in the legs, basically a stroke in the body instead of the heart (heart attack) or the brain (stroke). This was the same thing that almost killed Slim in 2003. What we think happened was that somehow she got to her feet, was scavenging, and the clot hit while she was by the desk, she lost her legs and fell, and that’s how we found her. This was probably the second strike by that killer, with the first being back on Saturday after she came back inside from her turnout. A morphine shot at the vet did nothing to cut the pain at all. With her quality of life shot and the constant pain, it was time. She went to the Bridge.
Mustang will be cremated and the remains sent to her real owner, Iris. We weren’t her owners, just her rescuers and caretakers. We were hoping to pull a reunion in the summer, but it wasn’t meant to be. Mustang pined for Iris, even as her body failed her, she held out hope in her heart to see her Mama Iris again.
It hurts here for a lot of reasons. We can’t help but feel some failure somehow from what happened, part of it because of what she went through despite our efforts, and part of it as a feeling that we couldn’t handle the care she needed at the end. I hate having to put down another greyhound, the second in three weeks and fourth since July. I’m sick of doing it, and I hate myself for doing it, even as I know they all are free of pain and back in full command of their bodies and minds. I hate the death, the misery, the health declines that killed them, be it stroke, cancer, age, or whatever. It’s the loss that’s the price we pay when we love, and it truly sucks.
The rational part of us recognize that we did our best and that even if we had done everything possible for her it would not have been enough as she was fighting too many things at once and she was overwhelmed. We also know that she got a second chance with us and that Iris was ever grateful for that. But adopting greyhounds is all about second chances at life and love.
Like Bluebird in her cancer, Mustang in her conditions taught us lot about how to work with senior greyhounds and big health problems. We are wiser and better dog owners from her.
Two more things have come from this.
One is a resolve, to adopt another young girl for Surf and to carry on. We will be doing that this weekend, and like Bluebird did with him, he will pick her for us. Hopefully that will end the sending of our hounds to the Bridge for a long time.
The second is some unexpected comfort. As I was leaving the vet after it was all over, a couple came in with their 10-month German Shepherd, a big happy guy who came over to me. I knelt over to pet him and got a loving face baste for my effort. His owner was concerned and asked me if that was okay. I told her “I needed that” and explained about Mustang. That put it all in perspective—the end may be lousy, but the bad at the end is far outweighed by the love that we give each other along that journey of life together. All from a happy puppy with a wet tongue.
Run free, Mustang, and wait for Iris, Bell, and George at the Bridge. And thank you for all you’ve taught us.

1 comment:

The Mudslinger said...


I do remember that y'all called and notified me about Mustang's death, but I didn't really put it all together until a friend sent me Michael's "eulogy" for Mustang.

I wanted to add some comments, as well as send enormous thanks to you, her caretakers. You did an awesome job!

Mustang was originally "adopted out" by a young medical intern, Paul, who lived in New Orleans. Let me say I believe Paul is a wonderful, caring person - but in my opinion, just didn't "get" that not everybody deserves a greyhound. He did the adoption fee/medical treatments mostly at his own expense, but (again in MY opinion) allowed people he liked to have the dogs - and some of them were (obviously) not people I would have found worthy. NOW, let me say Iris was NOT one of the people I would have denied a greyhound. Why did I bring it up in the first place? Just to add my opinion that THIS adoption, Paul did well, and to someone who cared. So Mustang didn't have that bad a start in retirement life.

Next, if you look at the dates of Mustang's life: August 1993 to January 2007, you have to consider she had a pretty good span: 13 years and 5 months - a lot of folks whose dogs never saw a trauma fail to live to almost 14! I would say that her care was unusually good and her will to live very strong.

I know it hurts to lose a pet --- 20+ years of greyhound rescue and somewhere around 40 personal greyhounds --- and it doesn't get easier. But each new hound you place or take into your own home makes a difference for THAT greyhound (the old starfish story). Put your head down, remember the GOOD times, and pay tribute to your past hounds by taking in their brothers, sisters, cousins... whatever.

I was kind of Katrina-confused and out of communication a lot after the hurricane - no electricity or water for a few weeks - but I have to say, I am pleased and proud of the folks who managed to get Mustang to you two! I wish every Katrina pet would have fared so well, and hope that all of the future disaster pets have a better chance of such a success story.

I know it is hard when a "special day" has the cast of death over it - but try to use that day to celebrate the life that was!


Judi McGovern
Director, GPA/LA