This is an incredible story of the power of the human-animal bond.

My father called me last Sunday to say that Ronaldo, my parents’ 11-year-old dog, had vomited after getting into the garbage. I told my dad to monitor him overnight for further vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, and if he was no better to call me first thing in the morning.  Well, Monday morning came, and at 6:30 am my dad called to say Ronaldo had worsened and that he was going to drive the 1.5 hours to bring him to me.

I examined Ronaldo and his abdomen was very painful, he was so weak he couldn’t stand on his own, his heart sounds were mildly muffled, and he was becoming dehydrated.  I did a blood profile for Ronaldo and a urinalysis. His blood work showed that his kidneys were failing, his liver values and pancreatic values were elevated and his urine was full of bilirubin from his liver. I explained to my parents that his prognosis was guarded, but survival was possible with appropriate treatment.  My mom was on Vancouver Island visiting my sister and her fear of losing Ronaldo had her desperately trying to get home to be by his side. 

We placed an intravenous catheter and started aggressive fluid therapy, multiple pain medications, IV antibiotics, and anti-nausea medications.  At first, it seemed like he was improving, but then he quickly became agitated, uncomfortable, and seemed to be worsening. At midnight on Wednesday night, we took him to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic for x-rays.  

His x-rays showed that his liver was enlarged, but more concerning was that his heart was 2-3 times the normal size and he was in congestive heart failure.  I showed the x-rays to my dad and explained that his prognosis was very poor. My dad cried, more than I have ever seen him cry, and through his tears, he agreed to euthanize Ronaldo once my mom returned from Vancouver Island and had a chance to say goodbye.  We brought him home, discontinued his IV fluids, and started some medications for his heart to try and keep him stable and comfortable for the next 24 hours.

My father went to pick up my mom from the Toronto airport late Thursday night.  My husband and I laid on the floor beside Ronaldo, rubbing his belly so he wouldn’t be alone in his final hours.

Finally, at 11 pm, my mom burst through my front door. She immediately fell on the floor beside Ronaldo and started to cry.  She told him that she was sorry that she couldn’t have gotten to him sooner and she told him how much she loved him. They laid on the floor together for a couple of hours.  My dad, my husband, and I sat close by and shared our favorite stories of Ronaldo. At 1 am, my mom turned to me and said that she was would never be ready to say goodbye to her dear friend, but she had to and gave me permission to go ahead.  I sat next to Ronaldo on the floor, gave him a kiss, and told him that I loved him. I went to give the injection that would stop his poor, diseased heart and Ronaldo’s eyes sprung open, he jumped to his feet and ran to the back door. This from a dog that hasn’t walked or eaten in 5 days. This from a dog whose, kidneys and heart are failing. Until this point, he had not refused my care.   How was this possible? I followed Ronaldo out onto the deck, while my parents watched from the window. The air was crisp and the world around us was quiet. With tears in my eyes, I asked Ronaldo what he wanted me to do. I told him that I could end his suffering and told him that he didn’t have to be afraid. I looked into his eyes and saw a dog determined to live. We walked back inside and my mom said that she wanted to wait until the morning to make a decision.  My mom slept on the floor beside Ronaldo. In the morning Ronaldo was pretty much back to his usual self. He ate a little, he explored the back yard, the signs of his severe heart disease, liver disease, and kidney disease had dissipated. He wanted to go home, which he made very clear when he pulled his IV catheter out with his teeth and spit it out on the floor beside him.

Ronaldo went home Friday evening and since has resumed life as he knew it.  Ronaldo loves both my mom and dad, but my mom is the reason his heart beats.  The doctor part of me says that this is not possible, but the spiritual part of me says that he was dying of a broken heart.  I believe that when he became sick he expected his mom to be there and when she wasn’t he gave up. Sometimes things happen that we can’t explain, however, I strongly believe that his story that demonstrates the power of the human-animal bond and love.