For the Love of Hanna
The Amazing Hanna
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Hanna resting 3 days after her hospital stay

            In November 2006, as we prepared to celebrate Hanna’s twelfth birthday (yes we celebrate pet birthdays-they expect it), it was the first time Hanna was not “under my feet.”  Realizing that she wasn’t with me, I began my search room to room, calling her, enticing her by her special phrases, “I’m gonna’ get you," etc.  Nothing, no Hanna appeared.  Frantically I began calling her now, as she always came when called.  Finally, I found her under our bed, she had vomited and looked unwell.  Now once in a while, my dogs vomit, and it is not a big deal.  However, with Hanna, it is always a big deal, because of her lifelong kidney disease. 


I picked her up but she didn’t want to be held (unusal for her), so we sat in the recliner.  After a short ime she got down, and sat and looked at me-she wanted to eat.  So as I prepared the dog dinners, she excitedly did her three legged spin, rumbled rautiously, and barked.  I thought she felt better, so I gave her just a little food.  Not the right decision, she threw up.  We took her to the vet immediately.  Tentative diagnosis-pancreatitis.


She had to stay over night (which I did not like), but it would give her the best treatment option for fluids, etc.  Diagnosis confirmed, pancreatitis, and her kidney levels were elevated.  I rec’d a call the next day from the doctor, saying, “I think she would recover better at home, as she is very active in her crate and not resting." That was Hanna, even when ill, she let the world know, she was there.  Never down, and always wanting the attention.  If they would have just left her out of the cage, she would have followed them around the hospital, with IV pole in tote.  (Not possible I know, but that’s what she wanted).  Labs were drawn before we took her home, and she seemed so much better.  Our spirits were lifted by her exuberance. 


We began with several small meals a day.  I could tell she wasn’t totally herself, but it didn’t stop her from doing her usual tasks-chasing squirrels, snuggling, eating like a trooper, and even enticing me to play.  But then the phone call came…


It was her doctor, her kidney levels were extremely elevated, and she was in kidney failure.  We rushed her to an emergency facility 50 miles from home.  I hated leaving her there as we were so far away, and I feared she would not return home.  One of my worst fears with all of my pets, is that they succumb alone or without me being there.  They all have given me so much, and I feel “being there” is an absolute must when they need me the most.


I was able to call several times that night and during the next day.  The nurses were wonderful and were able to give Hanna the attention she so loved.  I believed that is what sustained her.  While it was always reported that all “systems” were “moving” and she was eating, her kidney levels remained very high. We went to visit her on Saturday evening, I literally had to hold myself together for the journey.  I felt I was losing my grip and my Hanna-it was almost too much to bear. 


When we arrived, they brought her to us-she was exuberant as always!  While we were glad to see her “be herself” we knew the doctor’s were not optimistic.  We spent an hour with her, and returned her to get the much needed fluids her body desperately needed to flush the toxins from her system.  She of course did not want us to leave, and scrambled to follow us.  With tears we left. 


The phone checks to the hospital over the next several hours reported the same.  Good eating, pottying, and active, but her levels were essentially unchanged.  More heartbreak.  We were told we could take her home the next day, but not given much hope.  “Days” was given for her final time.


But?  True to Hanna, she continued to improve and eat and play, and just be her.  She got better and better after a few weeks of “not feeling so well.”  Her doctors were amazed at the recovery of this little dog-it was certainly not expected.  Her kidney levels had almost returned to her “pre-pancreatitis” state, and remained stable for many many months. She was happy and carefree, had a veracious appetite, and loved to go for walks and rides, and play with her favorite cuz toys.  IT was a wonderful time!  A great gift!


So from that point on Hanna became…. "The AMAZING HANNA.”  Each time we spoke those words to her we either received a smooch on the nose, a stretch and tail wag across the floor, or a tail wag and a proud prancing expression from our girl.


Hanna 14 days after her hospital stay
Ready for a walk!

Hanna loved summer

What I Learned from Hanna

      Life is given in each breath and a good kicking up

       of grass and grunting makes a statement

        It’s ok to be down…just for a second…there’s so

        much to see and do

       Nothing beats a good tushie rub

      Always wipe your mouth after eating-on the sofa,

        carpet, or recliner

      A good digging always makes the blanket just right

      Giving smooches always creates a fuss and garners

        more attention

      Food is for the asking, just be polite

      If you fetch your leash, you may get to go along

      Chasing squirrels is great exercise

      Checking all bags and new items brought into the

        home is a job for a good nose and a    keen eye

      Knowing which drawer the carrots are in will gain

        a treat

      Knowing when to snuggle and when to start a game,

        timing is everything






The Love of Hanna

It is difficult to put into words the impact a little dog can have on one’s life.  From the moment she stepped into my heart, she was special.  She was all terrier, filled with spunk, curiosity, self-esteem, and a natural drive to be happy. 


Hanna learned so quickly and developed a keen understanding of the human spoken language from the start.  Her natural curiosity entertained me often, and I never wanted to stop her terrier spirit.  She learned rules very quickly and even throughout her early UTI’s and subsequent kidney disease, she rarely had any accidents-she always let me know when it was time to “go.” 


Hanna loved to perform and learn new tricks, and would prance proudly when a fuss or applause was given.  She was always very sure of herself, but not pushy.  Her personality was just so bright and vivacious, she couldn’t be ignored, nor did I want to ignore her-she was just too damn cute.


At an early age, she developed a camera presence-in other words, when the camera came out she was ready!  Her expressions were always priceless, and I think she knew it.


Her last few months brought us even closer, as we had a medication schedule and daily sub q fluids to give.  She was a real trooper even with the needles. I really was awestruck by her calm courage to allow a needle to be stuck under her skin, day in and day out, while fluids were pushed under her skin.  I don’t know that I would have ever been able to accept that, but she did.  And when her daily sub q treatment was done for the day, she waited for a treat, proceeded to rub her back against the bed, and happily went to the door for the next adventure. 


I only wish her last night on earth could have been spent here at home.  We were so seldom apart; I am saddened by her fear of being alone in the hospital and starting to feel sick.  She always clung to me on those few occasions when she did not feel well, and I will always regret not having her here to hold.


I loved to hold her as she would stretch her body upward and always offer smooches.


Hanna enriched my life, and I will always hold her in my heart…until we meet again.


Hanna & Kearsey-my poster for
safe food

Her Final Journey-You Decide

Suddenly Sick, Pet Food or Natural Course of Disease


Most pet owners are familiar with the Pet Food Crisis of 2007.  Thousands of pet foods were recalled due to tainted products.  Caring pet owners unknowingly poisoned their pets by feeding them foods that were once trusted.  Too many pets and their families suffered as more and more tainted products were identified.  Sad to say, there were and perhaps still are foods that have never officially been recalled, that also lead pet owners and their fur friends down the road of illness and some times, death.  So many animals left with kidney damage and worse, dying because they ate.


Hanna was a spunky 14 lb, 12 year old Westie who was filled with life.  She had a zest for living unsurpassed by any human.  Although diagnosed with kidney disease at a very young age, she lived life to the fullest, rarely showing any outward signs of illness.  While her kidney levels gradually crept up over the years, she triumphed over all, and played, ate, and enjoyed each day.  When Hanna developed pancreatitis in November of 2006, she went into kidney failure.  During and immediately after her treatment for failure and pancreatitis, her kidney levels had not changed, and she was discharged home with a very poor prognosis.  She was given days to live. 


This was not Hanna’s destiny.  Over the next few weeks she recovered from pancreatitis AND her kidney levels went back down.  (While her levels were not normal, they returned to her pre-pancreatitis state.) Everyone was amazed at this little dog who recovered so unexpectedly.  We continued to have her levels drawn, initially every two weeks, and when they seemed to be stable, we graduated to once a month.  Hanna did so well, and now with her receiving daily sub q fluids, Azodyl, Epakatin, enalapril, Aluminum Hydroxide, and pepcid, she grew stronger and was the picture of health and happiness. At this time we reluctantly changed her to a prescription dog food, specifically for pets with kidney disease.  We had tried a homemade diet in November and that seemed to cause her pancreatitis.  Hanna loved her new prescription food, especially the canned portion!


As the pet food recalls grew, and our cat Kearsey was diagnosed with kidney failure “suspect of eating recalled food,” I grew concerned about Hanna’s food.  I contacted the company and was assured there was not a problem with the prescription diet.  So…I continued to feed, and Hanna continued to eat with zeal.


After purchasing a new batch of Hanna’s canned food, approximately mid-April something was different.  Hanna performed her usual “I’m famished” routine of crooning, jumping, and groaning loudly for her food and then…she took a few bites and turned away. So I began teasing her saying her favorite cue phrase, “I’m gonna’ get that.”  Well that worked, and she reluctantly and slowly finished her dinner.  She then proceeded to go outside and eat grass.  I thought it was odd, but understood that some times pets with kidney disease don’t feel like eating or get upset stomachs (although Hanna rarely if ever refused food.).


Fast forward to breakfast the next day, same scene-Hanna excitedly singing for her breakfast and then turning away when it was placed in front of her.  I picked up her dish, and gave her only her dry food, which she devoured.


Now my thoughts turned to question-why was she only refusing to eat that one food?  Typically pets with kidney disease will begin refusing all foods as the disease progresses, but this was not the case with Hanna.  She was only showing a sudden strong aversion to the canned portion.


Knowing that she miraculously recovered from her previous bout of kidney failure and pancreatitis, her medication routine and diet were kept very rigid and consistent, because that is what worked, and seemingly helped her heal.  While I was anxious about changing any portion of her diet for fear of exacerbating another bout of pancreatitis or possibly elevating her kidney levels, there was something with this food that concerned me based on her reactions.


I contacted the food company again.  (I’ll forego rehashing some of the rude and insensitive comments of one of the representatives).  I questioned the issue of the canned food, as this was about the time when the concern over the rice protein ingredient in some products came to the forefront.  First the representative told me that ingredient was not in the food. I read him the label and after a brief silence he said he “didn’t know.”  Then I was told there was not a problem with that line, and I questioned the possibility of cross contamination.  I continued to push the issue of cross contamination and I was finally told, “There is always a possibility of contamination in one can or more.”  My response to him was, “then how can you so arrogantly state there is not a problem with the food?”  I was met with a brief silence, and then the above statement was repeated.  I told him of my concerns with Hanna, and he began reading me a scripted response about kidney disease.  My insides screamed, but I curtly responded by requesting him NOT to read a scripted response about kidney disease, as I lived it with my dog, and his basic knowledge on a piece of paper couldn’t compare or offer me any insight into kidney disease.  I pressed for a response to my next question.  I wanted him to tell me how I could determine if my Hanna ate tainted food.  With much insistence and stick-to-itiveness from me, he finally said, “her kidney levels would elevate suddenly, and her blood count (anemia) would drop.”  Finally after much frustration, I got the answers I wanted.


We took Hanna to the vet for lab work.  All levels came back right where they were before-stable for her.  No anemia-ever.  So I began to think it was me or perhaps she was just tiring of the food.  While this would be unusual for her, as she never refused any food, I thought she was changing for some reason.  Fearful of changing the diet that I deemed as “saving her,” I continued to attempt to get her to eat the canned food along with her other food.  Her aversion became so strong that if she even smelled the canned food in her dish, she abruptly turned away.  I worried that she would not be getting the nutrients that she needed, so I became a little creative and began mixing her canned food with homemade food based on a prescribed diet by a veterinary nutritionist. She reluctantly ate that portion. Her reluctance was judged by her initial turning away and then almost gagging at mouthfuls.  She often ate around it.  I finally decided not to force that canned issue with her any more, but it was too late.

Her vision began to deteriorate, she wanted to play but didn’t for very long.  She still enjoyed our walks and rides, but now she was becoming more temperamental with her housemates, which never happened before.  Hanna was changing, and it was rapid. My concern grew.  Sudden changes over two and one half weeks, lead me back to the vet, with Hanna.  Upon exam, he felt it wasn’t necessary at that point to retest her kidney levels as they were stable a few short weeks prior, she looked well, seemed active, suffered no weight loss, and appeared to be herself in the office.  He thought she might just be experiencing some changes with regard to her “taste” for food.  Feeling better with his critique, we went back home deciding to add more homemade food.


The next day we participated in a pet expo. We took Hanna and Trevar (our Scottie) along for the day.  Hanna really enjoyed the sites and sounds, and even munched on some chicken breast throughout the day, but her breath was horrendous (something that can occur with pets with kidney disease).  It was a good day, and it warmed our hearts to see her enjoying the day and spending time outside of our home.  (Hanna always loved to go anywhere).  We returned home after several hours with tired people and dogs.


Hanna didn’t want to eat much dinner that night, and my concern escalated.  She slept well and was ready for breakfast in the morning, but suddenly refused the food placed in front of her.  That was enough for me; I called a local vet and asked if they would run a quick lab.  Results in-Hanna was in kidney failure and anemic.  (Remember what the representative from the food company told me about the sudden escalation of kidney values and sudden drop in blood count?)  We were dumbfounded and in shock.  Our precious friend spiraled swiftly from almost three weeks ago.  Historically any changes in her levels have always been gradual, never sudden, and we have the data to back that statement up. 


We rushed her to her regular vet where she was placed on IV. Her kidney levels barely budged.  My heart broke at having to leave her; there were so many hours she would have to be alone when the hospital closed at night.  Hanna rarely spent any time away from me, and she was a people oriented dog.  She loved attention, it helped her thrive.  We visited with her in the mornings and evenings, and we held on to her bubbling personality.  The next day came and we became a bit more hopeful as doctors and staff commented on how much more active she was today.  But I sensed something was not right.  As she sat on my lap, I noticed she seemed to be “sucking air” through her nose.  I mentioned it to my husband and to the doctor.  As I placed her back in her crate after our visit that night at the hospital, she clung to me.  Oh how I wished I could have taken her, and perhaps I should have, but all I kept thinking was I wanted to give her the best chance possible. 


As we drove for our morning visit with her the next day, the doctor called me on my cell with bad news-her lungs were filling with fluid.  The fluids that were to save her and flush her kidneys were now filling her lungs and suffocating her.  After a lengthy stroll through the park and visit with her that morning, with heartbreak and tremendous emotion, she was euthanized. 


I sat in disbelief of the events.  Three days earlier we were at the Pet Expo, one week earlier she was playing and enjoying her days, two and one half weeks earlier her levels were stable, and three weeks earlier she suddenly began to refuse the canned portion of her diet.  Two and one half weeks earlier she was not anemic.  Why suddenly, did her historical course of disease change?  Was it a bizarre coincidence or was the food tainted?  I may never know for sure, but I do know my dog, and the events of her last three weeks lead me to believe, she ate contaminated food.  Will the company ever own up to this distinct possibility, even with all the historical medical data sent?  Probably not.  Why? Because if they had to admit that their prescription diet may have been contaminated and subsequently fed to an already compromised animal, the bottom of their business would probably drop out. No one would ever trust them again.  From the business perspective it seems it’s best to not admit a possible mistake, hide the truth, and identify owners as over reactors, rather than “come clean” and perhaps admit there was an error. It seems big companies don’t care that most owners know their pets, and can truthfully and objectively recognize when “something” is not quite right.  Not every pet owner on the face of this earth wanted to jump on the band wagon to destroy and demean pet food companies.  Imagine how many other kidney patients succumbed during this time? Perhaps their illnesses and deaths were automatically identified as the natural course of their disease.  For some kidney disease patients it is quite possible they succumbed to the natural course of their disease, but for some, especially those with a solid historical medical data back-up, it needs to be questioned and looked into.  It is not good enough to say, “She just died because of her kidney disease.”   Seemingly a lack of compassion and the need for financial gain of some pet food companies override the loss and damages sustained by affected pets and their families.  Have they forgotten that we, the pet food consumers are their livelihood? Are we not the very people who tend pet after pet and return time after time to purchase and support their products?  Why are we being disregarded and disrespected?  I’m sure the companies wish this would all go away (pet food issues), but I for one will not let die.  I am firmly convinced, pet food took my Hanna, and I know pet food sent my cat Kearsey into kidney failure.  Thousands of lives changed because of finances and carelessness…fore shame on them all.  If any pet food company did not disclose the minutest concern with any part of their product line, they should not be in the pet food business-as they have broken the laws of trust.  Once trust is broken, it is hard to recoup.  Even though initially the tainted products may have been unintentionally sold, they knew there were problems after the fact, and if they didn’t report them all, then they deserve no business. 


No matter of any admittance of error on the part of any pet food company, nothing will bring my Hanna back.  No scripted response letter can take away my pain or my disillusionment of poisoning pets by feeding them.  My Hanna is gone, and I will always believe, she ate tainted food.  Hanna was taken much too soon, Kearsey fights each day for life, and I, trust no pet food company.


What do you think?

We are blessed by those we allow to touch our lives-D. Smith-Mansell

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