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Scout's passing, my first heartbreak.

Three years ago my son came back from his freshman year of college and decided he wanted to take a different career path other than college.  After being home a month he decided he was ready to get his own dog. We had a 5 year old lab and didn't think we wanted another dog in the home. We tried and tried to talk my son out of getting a dog. My son is kind of impulsive, does things, and never really thinks anything through. He went one afternoon and picked out a 10 week old lab that some people had leftover from a litter. Since he was already 10 weeks old, they had dropped the price dramatically to just $125 for a full yellow lab. June 2018 Scout became a part of our family whether my husband or I were ready. It is hard not to love a puppy but we both knew the struggles coming with training, house breaking, and chewing. 
My son being a 19 year old who thought he knew everything quickly realized how little he knew and how stubborn Scout could be. I had never seen a dog drink as much water as Scout would consume anytime he found water. Then somehow he would get excited and seriously pee from one room to another. The walking pee! We joked that the floors never got moppedso much.  Several times a week with every mess my son got to mop plus recieve a lecture. I don't know how many times we told my son exercise and training him would help stop this. 
After a few months my son had a job were he was working 12 hours a day, a girlfriend, and had little time left for Scout. In the past we had always used an outside kennel with our other dogs but before the last outside dog passed we let him spend his last years inside and tore down the kennel. Something both my husband and I had thought was normal, no longer seemed how we wanted to treat a family dog. Scout was not trained and wouldn't listen to anyone but my son. My husband tried over and over to get him to obey him, so he could have some freedoms around the house. Scout was stubborn and refused to obey, so he had to be placed on a long rope when outside. He had bolted out the door and taken off into the neighbors yards several times and failed to come when we would try and bring him back. One neighbor joked to my husband, "he looked right at you when you called his name, you said come, and he took of again like f&&k you." Our whole neighborhood knew Scout because of his bad habits. This behavior made it difficult for my husband to want to be around the Scout. With him being an in the house dog it was difficult to not be around him. 
I had always come home for lunch and let my other dog out, so letting Scout out too also became part of my routine. It's funny thinking back and not realizing it but I was building a relationship with Scout without even knowing it. He learned my limits and I learned what worked best with him. He was a very needy dog that just wanted to be loved. He was clingy. I liked the clingy and embraced it. Nothing made me happier than when he would run into my room each morning after my husband and son had left for work, jump up on my bed and snuggle with me for 20 minutes each morning. I was falling in love with him!
I would beg, demand, suggest to my husband we take the dogs to the river, conservation areas, or on walks around the neighborhood. The first few outings were epic disasters. Scout wouldn't come once at the Missouri River and took off swimming down stream. My husband and I started freaking out and screaming his name and calling for him to swim to the bank. He finally swam to the bank but not before we both had invisioned his passing and trying to explain to my son how his dog drown at the river. No matter where we took him he always ended up finding water and coming back soaked. Over time  the more we took him the better he got. It seemed after time he realized that we were going to take him somewhere great and he just needed to listen to get to go. The conservation land was probably my favorite outing with the dogs. He jumped and ran the brush and tall grass as the happiest dog alive. He bounced like a fox from area to area. He never wanted to leave. Maybe it was age, maybe it was getting used to us, whatever it was I am glad we took him and shared in those memories. Some of the trying times will be my favorite memories of him. 
He loved to play fetch. Yes, he was a retriever but he loved it so much it was annoying. He would squeak his toys, drop his ball in your lap, or bark nonstop until someone played with him. The barking drove my son and husband insane. They would say he doesn't tell us what we are going to do, he needs to learn to listen and no means no. I always felt so bad, he just wanted to play. A lot of times I would give in and take him outside to play. He was so fast and athletic. 
Being fed up with him being on the rope because he would run off, I bought an inground fence. One weekend my husband and I put it in. I crawled on my knees around our acre of land shoving that wire in the ground. The next month we all took turns walking him outside on a leash to the boundaries. He quickly learned where he good and couldn't go. I have never been so happy I did something in my life. The fence completely changed him. He was able to be outside more. He no longer charged at people walking by like he used to on his rope, he really didn't bark at anyone anymore. He no longer bolted out the door, we actually had to open the screen door to get him to go out. I would say it's fine, go ahead and he would just stand there and wait until I opened it. He never wanted to come inside and would just lay in the backyard. He was so much happier and we could all see and feel it. 
Then one day a mysterious knot showed up on his right hind leg. He didn't seemed bothered by it but it was quite large and worrisome. My husband had my son take him to our vet. We thought maybe this crazy active dog had torn torn muscle. Immediately concerned he took a few biopsies for cancer. I wasn't worried, he was still acting fine and wanting to play. The vet suggested we try and rest him the best we could. He sent Scout home with an antibiotic to try and possibly cure any infection. He brought me his ball and we played a little. Everyone got so angry because he was supposed to be resting. That may have been the last time we ever played. Everything else happened so fast I just really don't remember now. 
Week 1:
I feel like the next day or a few days later he laid on the floor crying. All of a sudden he was in tremendous pain. We called our vet back and told him what was going on. He had gotten the biopsies back and they didn't show any signs of cancer. He told us he didn't know what else to do and to take him to a local animal ER down in the city. My son and his girlfriend took Scout late one Tuesday evening after he had spent the entire day laying in the living room crying. Blue Pearl Hospital promised them they would get to the bottom of it. They too took biopsies and thought cancer. He had a small fever. After a few hundred dollars and hours later, they let my son know they couldn't find anything either. They sent them home with another antibiotic and some pain medication. The pain medication made him so loopy and all he did was sleep. It was like he wasn't really even there. His eyes were glassy and he acted droggy. Other than limited movement Scout was still considerably normal. He could eat, eat, go outside, relieve himself, sit up, and bark when he chose. Within a few days he started some weird behavior. 
Week 2:
By week's end Scout started walking in circles when he would be up, one side of his face had paralysis, the knot in his leg had swollen the entire leg, he would tilt his head like he was trying to understand you, and his eyes were dilated. He could still walk around, was eating like normal, and still enjoyed being outside. He would trot around the yard after our other dog. He would turn and look at you if you squeeked a toy and try to retrieve it but overall play had come to an end. I was still hopeful that whatever this was would be cured within a few days with the new antibiotics. As the weird activity continued we grew more concerned. My son took his dog back to Blue Pearl Animal Hospital to have him examined again. This time they vet seemed way more concerned. A three hundred blood test was ordered. Again the results came back normal. His white blood count was fine. Then our world came crashing down. The vet informed my son they thought Scout either had a tick borne virus with canine encephalitis or cancer attacking his nervous system. There was nothing else they could do. They informed us the next steps would be to take Scout down to the University of Missouri for a spinal tab and MRI. The costs of the tests would start at $5,000 and not include any treatment costs. It would require a three day stay, where we would have to leave Scout some four hours away. We couldn't commit to spending thousands of dollars to only possibly find out what was going on and no idea of treatment costs, so we brought Scout back home. 
Week 3:
We called our vet back Monday morning and informed him of the news we received from Blue Pearl. We told him we couldn't commit to spending thousands of dollars on tests and treatment. He agreed to give us a prescription for prednisone to treat any tick borne virus causing canine encephaltis. He agreed with our thought process of what do we have to lose. The vets at the university would have used the same medication if that is what the tests had shown. Scout would continue to sleep most of the day laying on the living room floor on the blankets we had laid for him. Some days he barely lifted his head to see but continued to wag his tail when my son came home from work. I noticed at the beginning of the week he would look at me almost from across his body using one eye. I felt like he was unable to see out of one of his eyes. By week's end I felt like he was unable to see at all. He was walking into things and walls.  As the weeks went on I had started using a leash because he couldn't see as well and would walk dangerously close to walls and objects. He would walk in circles if left on his own in open spaces. I used the leash to guide him to the fence line outside where he seemed to walk much better with a purpose. He still liked to smell and try to venture into the brush piles.  I was doing as much internet research as I could and had read blindness was a sign of encephalitis as well as the other symptoms he was showing: walking in circles, seeming confused, head tilt, face paralysis. 
After a few days on the prednisone we thought we were seeing positive changes. Scout would have a bad day then a really good day. We called our vet back when his antibiotic ran out. He asked we bring Scout out the next morning for a vitamin B shot and another prescription of the antibiotic. He seemed really pleased with how Scout looked that Tuesday morning. He complimented on how well we were taking care of him and indicated we keep doing what we were to keep him comfortable until the time came to make another choice. When hearing this news I felt completely defeated. The vet had little hope whatever was attacking Scout would pass. 
Thursday morning I hurried to get ready to work and ran down to the living room, like I had done every morning since he had gotten sick. Each morning I would try and spend as much time with him as I could before I left for work. The joy I felt when I walked down into the living and found Scout standing up looking at me as I walked down was indescribable. When out outside and he walked around, relieved himself, and kept trying to wonder off  into the neighbor's yard. I let him go a tad then laughed when I had to bring him back. He was testing me to see how far I would let him go. Lunchtime went much the same. I walked in and he immediately got up to go outside. I took a few videos of him walking along the fence line. I was so happy and again felt some hope. 
Then Friday came, it was like Thursday had taken what effort he had left out of his body. When he stood he leaned real hard against my leg. He no longer lifted his head as walked. He had began walking on the top of the paw that was swollen pretty much nonstop now. It had gotten a few sores on the topside from wear and tear of walking on it. At lunchtime I literally had to pick him up and place him on his feet. I questioned what had happened from the previous day. I was so hopefully. My daughter the realist in the bunch said "Mom, you are only seeing what you want. Weeks ago he would walk to his water and food bowl, then you were bringing him his food on a plate, now you are feeding him by hand. Yes he is eating but not as great as he was just two weeks ago. We had moved his water bowl closer and now we would hold it for him in the living room." Hearing her say it was crushing but true. He couldn't see anymore and had stop wagging his tail even when my son would come home. Literally he was laying on the floor just existing but definitely no longer living. I called my son and told him I think it is time to put him down. He is suffering and has no quality of life. He said he had already made that decision that morning. To our devastation we learned our vet was out of town for his son's graduation. We called every other vet clinic and town and none would help us because Scout was so young. No vet would touch a three year old lab without running several tests. 
Saturday my son loaded Scout up in his truck like he had many times in his life and drove to the conversation area they always visited. This was the place where he got to run wild. He let him walk around the best he could. He was unable to bounce through the grass or get in the river like he used to but he still knew where he was. After awhile he loaded him up knowing this was the last time he would ever be there. I want to think this is his last happy moment of his life in his favorite place.
My other dog is not one for much affection and doesn't like to have her space intruded upon. I remember laying on the floor begging and praying for God to heal him sometime eariler in the week. I asked if he wasn't going to heal him would he show me a sign that I needed to start preparing to let Scout go. Almost immediately my other dog placed her paw on my arm. Chills raced through my spine. That was the moment I knew but hadn't accepted what was coming. 
That Saturday we watched as Scout deteriorated before our eyes. Early in the day I was able to hold water to his face and he would drink. I was able to hand feed him chicken. By evening he wouldn't drink or eat. I placed the bowl to his mouth and he turned away over and over. He showed signs of labored breathing. I checked his gums and they seemed a white blueish color. In doing so much research I knew this was a sign of a dog getting ready to pass. That evening my son carried Scout to his bed in his room where Scout had slept every night of his life. My son had moved Scout from his bed to his dog bed around 4 am. When we checked on him at 5 am he had passed. I struggled with the thought he suffered that Saturday but find peace in he was able to visit his favorite place with his favorite person, my son one more time. That Saturday we were all able to spend hours individually loving and laying with him. He knew we were there and we loved him. 
His passing has been hard on my family. We have lost several dogs in the past to old age. I believe the not knowing was the most difficult. He was so young and had so much life left to live. He loved living and playing.
We talked that bringing him home was the best decision over taking him to the university. Had we taken him there we would have lost three to four days of the seven he had left. There wouldn't have been enough time to get the tests ran, get results back, and time left for any treatment. 
It has almost been a month since his passing. I miss him everyday and feel the absence of his presence in my home. His passing was the first time in my forty years on this earth that I have experienced grief. My heart is broken missing him everyday. I feel tremendous guilt and sadness that we couldn't figure out what was going on and get him the help he needed. No dog should lose their life so young. Looking back I question if it was something we feed him, the vet doing the first biopsies, flea or tick medications we used, or just really some odd cancer that had nothing to do with what we had done to him. Whatever it was it was aggressive as hell and took 25 days to end his life. That may seem like a long time but in reality those 25 days flew by. 
Forever in my heart Scout boy, run free of pain! 


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