White Dog came up and sat quietly at my feet. We had just returned from taking Oso to see Dr. Julia and I was still holding our Little Man closely against my breast; his eyes were closed. "It did not go well, did it?" she carefully asked.
The tears welled and I rested my head on top of the sleeping Oso's. WD shifted to lean against my leg. The others gathered around us except for Taiko who went to Steve's side and buried his face in his lap.
"Dr. Julia says we are doing all we can medically. Oso is not in pain but he has lost another 2lbs. He has no body fat and his muscle mass is fast disappearing. He does not have enough weight to keep his body temperature normal...it was only 98 degrees and should be between 100 and 102."
Frontotemporal Dementia with motor neuron disease, which occurs in humans and dogs, has symptoms which include slurring of speech, difficulty swallowing, choking, limb weakness or muscle wasting. This is what we believe the shape Oso's dementia (or canine cognitive disorder) has taken. In patients with FTD-MND, there is often (but not always) a family history of the disease (which is unknown for Oso since he is a rescue)...the good news is that scientists are getting closer to identifying gene mutations that cause the illness...but it will not help our Oso now.
I continued talking to the White Dog Army, "there is no cure for dementia. We are doing everything possible to maintain your brother's dignity and to manage his pain. He is not ready to leave this world and with support and care can be with us for some while longer."
"So he's not going to die?" YoYoMa asked reflecting the fear all of the Army felt. "We all will die, dear one. You in the animal world accept that better than humans do. But we will not give up! "
Steve spoke up. "Dr. Julia gave us some new tools to possibly help. This bag contains the equipment needed to give subq fluids. It will be a way to keep him hydrated even when he is not swallowing very well. We need to be sure to keep him warm; when he naps especially in the stroller we will tuck a blanket over him. And you have already all helped grind up and mix his food into a slurry that we can syringe feed when he has trouble chewing. Even though his muscles are weak it is important for him to try to use them, even if he just stands leaning or takes a few stumbling steps."
"We will all need to be extra careful not to step on Oso or knock the Little Guy over," Puff pointed out looking sternly at her two bigger brothers who are often oblivious. "Yes, we must all take extra care," White Dog agreed.
"Can we still give him nuzzles and kiss his nose?" Bella wanted to know. She frequently touches noses with all of the WDA and often specially comes over to press her face against Oso's furs as he is cradled in my arms.
"Love is the most powerful weapon we have," I told her. "Touching and talking to him grounds him here with us and helps with the fear that wells up inside him. He may not always respond but I know for certain that he KNOWS we are all here, surrounding and protecting him, sharing this journey, believing in him."
"Let's see if he will eat a little bit," White Dog suggested. "if we just try lots of times during the day maybe we can get him to increase his meals." "Maybe if we ALL have a snack around him as momma tries to feed him, he'll get the idea from our good example," YoYo added and looked toward the jerky bag. I glanced at Steve. He shrugged, "It is worth a try."