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February 20, 2007

Daisy's Hunger Strike - Part 1

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Dsc00112_1Daisy’s on a hunger strike.  This is Day 11 and I’m starting to worry.

And see, usually I’m the hard liner.  I’m the one who says, when people start complaining about their picky pets who won't eat, “They’ll eat eventually. No animal is going to starve themselves."  Well, my hard line is getting softer.

It all began last fall when during Daisy’s bi-annual checkup the vet found she was losing protein in her urine.  For a cocker spaniel of her advanced 13 years that's a bad thing.   After many tests, questions, and semi-satisfactory answers, the vet said Daisy’s kidneys were in the first stages of renal failure.  It's probably what will eventually take her from me.

That was really hard to hear. 

I mean, I knew dogs didn't live forever.  I knew one day I'd have to face it.  But, here it was.  Right now. Right this minute.  Not some time in the very far future.

The happy puzzling thing was that even with all these somewhat dire test results, she didn't seem sick.  Sure, her hearing’s not what it used to be, she has a bad habit of sleeping behind the front door so she knows when someone's coming in.  She’s lost a step or two when it comes to chasing those nasty little squirrels in the backyard, but they still fear her and that does my heart good.  And her appetite, always that of a starving puppy who’s been on the streets for weeks, was just as enthusiastic as ever. 

So, I immediately went into hyper-drive.  Whatever could be done to prolong Daisy's life, I would do it.  Surfing the net, I found a great website called justanswer.com where you can ask questions on just about anything, and get answers from an expert.  I got some answers and I got to work. 

We got her blood pressure under control with a daily dosage of Benazepril. Img_0027_1 We did a sonogram to make sure her kidneys didn't have any growths.  Then we decided to change her diet to a low protein dry food that would be the best nutrition for her condition. 

Since I had just bought a bag of her Eukanuba Senior, I started mixing it with the new vet food and she ate it like she always does, like food was going out of style.  Weeks later when I finished the last of her old food, I started giving her the new food by itself.  New treats as well.  A couple of days later, I noticed about 20 little yellow pellets left in one side of her pink and green double porcelain bowl.  That was the beginning of the strike:  Day 1.

I didn’t think much of it, but by Day 3, when she was picking up individual pellets, and spitting them out on kitchen floor, I knew Daisy was sending a message. Each one of those pellets around her food bowl, in assorted levels of saliva coated grossness were little snippets of doggie Morse code. The acrid smell of revolution was in the air, and my little cocker was locked and loaded.

On Day 4, her pellet spitting routine reached new heights.  Pellets were Img_0116 everywhere, in the living room, the dining room, the den.  She would pick them up, carry them around, suck on them like hard candy, and then hurl them out like used tobacco.  When this battle was well under way, she opened a second front, the guilt routine.  She would look up at me with those aging brown eyes, lick her lips repeatedly and wait.  When I ignored her "I'm hungry signal," she would hang her head, dip her tail for exaggerated effect and lay down in the corner.

Dinner time was no longer the joyous, raucous, tail wagging, event it had always been.  She slouched around like I a dog without a home, apathetic, depressed, and totally bereft.  Early on, I was worried she was sick,  but she still ate her treats, she was still excited to go for walks, and if she spotted a squirrel, she was off like a shot.  She wasn’t sick.

On Day 5, she stopped eating her treats.  She'd sniff at them with derision, take one from my hand and then deposit it on the living room floor like a doggie gauntlet.  She was practicing doggie civil disobedience, and like a friend of mine said, she was like the dog version of Gandhi.

On Day 6, I went back to square one, mixing a little of her old Eukanuba with the Test002new vet food.  Well, that was evidently too little, too late.  She wouldn’t even pick out her Eukanuba pellets and eat those.  She wouldn’t touch anything.

My friend Kay suggested trying to entice her with chicken broth.  After getting the go ahead from the vet, I bought a raw chicken, boiled it, skimmed off the fat, and spooned five carefully measured tablespoons over her vet food.  I let it cool, put it down and waited.  Daisy took her time, sniffing suspiciously as if I were trying to poison her. She eventually lapped up the broth at the bottom of the bowl, then took some pellets out, swirled them around in her mouth and spit them on the floor.

It was like a slap in the face with a glove.  Doggie bones at dawn.

Day 7, I mixed in a few Cheerios in with her new food and her old food.  She picked out the Cheerios, took a few pellets of the Eukanuba, and then left the rest.  Then she gave me the look, the one that said, “How could you do this to me,” and my will wavered. What kept me strong was knowing this was for her own good.  There were other food choices for her condition, but the vet had stressed that this version was the absolute best for her.  So, like it or not, as far as I was concerned, one way or another, she was going to eat the food.

We were at a standoff.  It was a clash of the titans, and I wasn’t going to crack. 

It’s now Day 11, she's only eaten a handful of food in the last three days, and I’m starting to crack.

Click here to read "Daisy's Hunger Strike - Part 2."

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