Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Automated Customer-satisfaction Emails Go Horribly, Laughably Awry...

Last night, we had to take our Staffie into the ER at nearly 4AM. We were there to have her put down (due to her kidneys having finally, totally failed). Undoubtedly, in the coming days and weeks, there will be many more posts as I work through my thoughts on yet another loss of pet(s).

This morning, after getting back from dropping her body off at the cremation service, saw new mail notification on my laptop. It was an auto-generated email from our veterinarian's office. It finished out:

We look forward to seeing you and Cira again soon.

Yeah... Maybe your computers should be configured to "know" what services were rendered and whether it's appropriate to send that email.

Yes, I laughed, but it was through a flood of tears that were not happy tears.

Don't get me wrong, even (especially??) in euthanizations, customer-satisfaction is a great thing to try to capture. Just make sure that the tone and content of emails sent for such purposes is appropriately adjusted.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Deathwatch Begins

Apparently, the month of March really seems to hate my/our having pets.

This week, the upset stomach we'd taken Cira to the vet for ultimately resulted in a terminal diagnosis.

It started late Tuesday morning with stomach upset. She'd bolted her food like she often does and then threw it up shortly thereafter. Scarf/barf. This wasn't something she frequently did, but it wasn't completely out of the blue, either. She had the nickname "hollow-dog" for a reason: she's really food-motivated.

Donna tried again with a small, bland food offering. She ate it. And seemed to do ok with it. But she was still showing som signs of nausea, so we called the vet for guidance. They instructed us to come in for an initial evaluation. We were assuming we were succumbing to the usual "overly-nervous dog parents" thing.

The evening vet did an initial evaluation, and decided that, while a little bit dehydrated, she seemed otherwise fine. She was active, waggy and not showing signs of pain - even with fairly firm abdominal palpation. So, he gave her a subcutaneous fluid injection and some anti-nausea medication. He instructed us to bring her back if she showed further symptoms and they'd order further tests and try to address any further symptoms. He also told us to try some Prilosec, the next day, if the nausea persisted.

The remainder of the evening was fairly uneventful, so I went to the office to work, on Wednesday. Cira was still mostly herself, so Donna tried the process of re-introducing her to food. She started with some plain rice and chicken in the morning, and repeated a few more times throughout the day. She'd also given her a Prilosec in the morning, per the vet's orders.

Thursday, I had a doctor's appointment scheduled, so it was going to be a telework day. An hour or so before sunup, I heard Cira hacking - as though she might be gagging or vomiting. Not wanting to light up the whole room, I came over with my cellphone — flashlight on — to check on her. Since I was shortly due to get up to telework, any way, I opted to bring her downstairs with me so she could nap by my side on my couch.

Donna came down with Lady and fed each dog. I apprised her of why I was downstairs so early with Cira. After the dogs finished their breakfasts, she went upstairs to check for vomit and found some in her bed-area. It was about time for me to leave for my doctor's appointment, so I told her to contact the vet and get an opinion. They advised Donna to bring Cira in and had an appointment available to do so. Donna let me know this while I was at my appointment. My appointment ended early enough that I was able to meet them at the vet only a minute or two after the consult started.

The vet gave her more fluids, some more aggressive medications and a script for medications to administer at home. We were instructed try bland food again with the medications and to call if Cira showed further signs of illness. The plan was that, if Cira did exhibit further issues, they'd do Xrays to verify that there weren't any bowel obstructions.

Donna gave her the meds, but Cira wasn't interested in food. I'd assumed that, because the vet had warned us that the one medicine was very bitter, that Cira wasn't interested in food because of how awful the medication made her mouth taste. Later in the afternoon, she threw up the pills and the food she'd had for breakfast. We tried feeding her again, but she still wouldn't eat. More worryingly, she wasn't even interested in licking peanutbutter off of either of our fingers. Obviously, we called the vet and they told us to bring her back.

This trip, they opted to do an X-ray to ensure that the week's sudden onset of vomiting and persistent nausea hadn't been caused by any kind of bowel blockage. The first indications that something truly dire was going on was that her spleen was noticeably enlarged and she had what appeared to be calcification in both her kidneys. We discussed diagnostic and treatment options. We opted to leave her there for some additional testing, some antibiotics and IV fluids and then returned home.

An hour or so after we got home, the vet unexpectedly called us. We weren't expecting a call till the next morning when the various (sent out) tests should have been back. Usually, early callbacks are rarely good news. This call very much wasn't good news. Cira's kidney-function tests were showing extremely high BUN and creatinine levels - a couple multiples of the numbers typically seen for stage IV renal failure in dogs. The enlarged spleen, while worrying, was no longer the top priority.

And now, we're waiting for ultrasound results to try to determine what all's going on in there. It's unlikely that the results will be anything outside of the immediate to less-immediate spectrum. At this point, it's mostly a case of trying to determine how much time she might have left at an acceptable quality of life. Call's already been put in to the in-home euthanasia service to check provider-availability. So, depending on the sonogram results, this could all be over very shortly or in a few day's time.

The bugger of it all, aside from the shear unexpectedness of it, is the timing. We lost both our cats to renal failure on the twelfth of the previous year's March. Similarly, we'd received a lung-cancer diagnosis for an earlier dog back in March of 2011. So, March is proving to be a hateful month for our pet ownership.