Today, after about a month of illness, Caesar, our family dog, passed away from congestive heart failure. For much of his life, Caesar had the delicate throat that is common in Malteses and other small breed dogs, and would suffer coughing spells if he got too excited. In April, however, we noticed a cough that didn't seem to be going away, and when we took him to the vet for a pre-teeth cleaning consultation, the doctor discovered that Caesar's heart murmur, another long-term condition, had gotten worse.
He gave Caesar a chest x-ray that showed an enlarged heart, and suggested that we take Caesar to see a specialist in cardiac veterinary medicine for an echocardiogram. He also put Caesar on Lasix, a diuretic often used to treat heart failure-related edema. Although his regular doctor was reluctant to give us a diagnosis, some googling on our part led us to believe that Caesar was likely suffering from congestive heart failure.
He continued to get worse in the weeks before his visit with the specialist, coughing all the time, refusing food, and often struggling for breath. At last, the cardiac vet confirmed our suspicions of congestive heart failure, but she predicted that with proper medication, Caesar might live another 1-2 years. On his new medicine regime, Caesar was peeing every hour or so, but he seemed to be getting better. His breathing was less labored, he had more energy, and he was eating a bit more.
Still, this morning I got a call from my parents that Caesar had taken a turn for the worse, and that they were rushing him to the vet. The doctor took another x-ray of Caesar's chest that revealed that the small amount of fluid that had been in Caesar's lungs causing him to cough in April had almost completely filled his lungs. It was his belief that the faulty valve that had been causing Caesar's longstanding murmur had ruptured, causing him to bleed out internally. He wanted to talk to my parents about euthanasia to end Caesar's suffering, but before he could, Caesar passed away at the vet's office all on his own. My parents have opted to have him cremated, and Mom plans to scatter his ashes at the cemetery where my Paw-Paw is buried, since they were friends when both of them were alive.
Caesar might have been trying at times, and goodness knows I wasn't his favorite person, but his enormous personality exceeded his diminutive size, and enlivened and enriched the life of our family. Although we chose his name before we even brought him home (it was a blatant appeal to Dad's interest in Roman history to help sell him on the idea of getting a dog), it was a title that he quickly grew into. Without its little emperor, the house will seem all the more quiet in his absence. Eleven years is a long time to maintain a relationship with any living being, and it will take time for all of us to recover from the loss of his presence in our lives. He will be greatly missed.