The Story of Hatha -- Beginning to Present...

Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 01:36 am
Hi Folks. This one is rather long, much more so than my previous postings about Anna and the other cats... This one mostly focuses on our old dog Hatha.

Over the past two years, my wife and I lost our beloved cats Anna (age 20 years, heart attack), Harmony (17, mouth cancer), Gypsy (16, hemorrhaged diaphragm and too old to recover from corrective surgery), Tiger (16, disappeared a few days after his birth-brother Gypsy passed), Cheri (12, renal failure), Ichiro (12, quietly passed from FLV), Indie (11, lymphatic cancer), and his father Nova (13, mysterious swelling of the spinal cord and eventual total paralysis). Pets are just heartaches waiting to happen. Someone very young told me decades ago that pets become a part of our lives and their passing teaches us to accept loss and deal with sadness. This young man – a boy of 15 – passed away a few weeks later from complications of diabetes.

Some time ago while writing about Anna, I mentioned our old dog Hatha and that I would share her story. Considering all that has recently passed, it took me some time to open a new “Pets” thread, but now I hope to find some guidance (not free veterinary advice, but practical experience from past and present dog owners) regarding Hatha’s condition.

So, I must begin at the beginning, and the beginning starts with my wonderful wife…

In 2008, my wife Sumako was the Chief of Civilian Security Guards on Kadena Air Base (Okinawa). It was the 4th of July Weekend – for the US military in Japan, this was an extended weekend of festivals, games, rides, food stalls, and local merchants hawking their wares on the military bases, which were rarely open to the public. The date was actually Saturday 5 July, and though Sumako had made assignments for all the on-duty guards, she worked alongside her subordinates for the festival weekend. She simply enjoyed the security work and didn’t mind coming home after midnight when the swing shift ended.

On her way home that night, she saw in the road ahead of her a medium-size short-haired black-and-white dog struggling to drag herself out of the road. The dog had been hit by a car and was unable to move her hind legs. Sumako, in near shock, pulled over and ran out into the road to stop other cars from hitting the dog. Even dressed in full military-style Security Guard uniform, the traffic seemed to ignore her and a few cars came within centimeters from hitting the animal again… Finally another military member (a gentleman from Guam) stopped to give assistance. Together they managed to prevent the dog from being hit, though neither of them touched the dog, not knowing what its reaction might be. The dog successfully made it to the side of the busy road, scrabbling along with only its front legs.

Suddenly, in a final spurt of energy, the dog stood and ran off into the dark. They followed as best they could but lost her in the dark. Frantic, my wife called me at home. I was awake working on an essay, and she asked me to come and help them find this injured animal. She was 15 minutes away.

We searched the darkened neighborhood and couldn’t find her. Finally, Sumako saw an opening in a backyard wall that led into a dark field with tall grass and a few shrubs. “Good place for poisonous snakes” I thought, and at first I didn’t want to go in there (I was wearing sandals). Some of you may be familiar with the poisonous habu we have here on Okinawa. Though no one had died from snakebite in many years, it was painful and recovery was long, and I didn’t really feel like going through that…

But Sumako insisted. It was the only place we had not yet searched. I took the flashlight and cautiously stepped into the dark field.

Under a low shrub very close to the wall was a dog curled up and breathing hard. I told Sumako that the dog was there, and she called our vet clinic. The vet’s assistance responded after a while (it was already after 1AM) and said he could only come out if we would guarantee to take responsibility for all treatment. Sumako and I looked at each other – it was a no-brainer – and said “Of course!”

The vet reached us in about 20 minutes, bundled the dog up into his truck, and we all went to the clinic.

X-rays showed that the dog’s backbone was snapped cleanly in two. We were assured that the spinal cord was most certainly severed, and that if the dog survived surgery, she would never walk again. We were also told that the dog, by her teeth and thinness of the rib bones on her X-rays, was old already – at least 8 years old, probably over 10. Did we really think it was worth the small fortune we would have to pay? We didn’t mind and made all the arrangements.

After a few days of nutrition boosters and IVs with pain relief for pre-surgery stabilization, her backbone was reconnected properly, and a steel brace held the whole together for healing. After about a month in the clinic, she came home to live with us.

Sumako named her Hatha, a Sanskrit name meaning “Sun-Moon”.

Subsequent investigation showed that Hatha had been owned by an American who left the island some time before Sumako found her that night. Most of the following came from the Okinawan woman who was the man’s neighbor. Hatha had apparently been tied up outside the house all her life – in rain, storms, maybe even typhoons. Hatha went onto a trauma whenever there was thunder, or when the wind rose due to typhoon in the area. She would retreat into herself, taking no notice of anything going on around her, and lick her paws or the floor. It was likely that her male owner was not very gentle with her, as for a long time, she didn’t trust me and seemed frightened by any men. She loved Sumako though, and Sumako doted on her. Hatha also loved children, so we conjecture that the neighborhood children and the owner’s wife may have been kind to her, but the male owner (who was indeed married but had no children) was not.

When her owner left Okinawa, Hatha had apparently been simply abandoned to fend for herself. Thin and dehydrated, with no idea where her next mean would come from, and no protection from the elements, she wandered around the neighborhood close to her old home, staying within a close run from it, in case someone might return to care for her. When we found her, she was wearing an old frayed red leather collar, but no license. She had not been She did not have an ID chip implant either (or we would have tracked he previous owner down to answer on charges of pet abandonment, which is illegal in Japan).

Surgery was conducted in early July 2008. Hatha came home in late August. We put Hatha in a big cage at first, but she barked all day and night (we wondered if she ever slept) so we let her out, and simply newspapered the kitchen floor. Hatha dragged her way happily around the room (no pain) and barked at everything and everyone. Sumako and I continuously encouraged her to keep moving.

Two cats made friends with Hatha almost instantly, and she accepted them. First was Belle, a tiny, delicate black-and-white cat whose color pattern nearly matched Hatha’s. When Belle came to live with us, she just showed up on our front porch with a few of our other outdoor cats for food one morning. We thought she was a kitten but the vet assured us she was very old, probably 16 or more! Belle finally passed away in grace and dignity after a full day of being petted, eating a fair-size meal, and curling up in her favorite warm place for a nap from which she did not wake… She was 23 years old.

The other cat was Harmony, who was unafraid of any person or other animal. He never fought or hissed at anything, but often surprised and even frightened dogs and people walking by the house by boldly approaching them on the sidewalk and purring, rubbing, and instantly making friends. We named him our official Dojo Goodwill Ambassador.

These two cats were constant companions for Hatha whenever they were in the house, and they often slept by her side. Hatha would let no other animals into the house, which made things a little difficult at times, but we managed.

By October, Hatha began to show signs of movement in her tail. By November she was pushing herself across the floor with her hind legs. For Christmas she gave us the gift of standing on her own – a little shakily, but she was up and walking slowly. By spring of 2009, Hatha was running (and dancing!) with Sumako, taking long walks on the beach, and participating as mascot in the outdoor yoga classes.

Hatha had begun her 2nd life, and she acted like a puppy.

In 2012, our son Motoki asked for his own dog. Hatha still didn’t trust men too much, and Motoki was often at home alone while Sumako and I worked by day. So we allowed him to choose his dog, and he chose a pure-blooded American bulldog puppy. Hatha adopted him (we named him Musashi) immediately as her own, and took great pains to discipline him regarding who the boss in the house was… Harmony (being the same brown-and-while color pattern as Musashi) took him as another pal, and Musashi seemed to think Harmony was his brother, or at least another dog (never having seen a cat before). Musashi also accepted Belle because of her B&W fur pattern, and he seemed to think she was Hatha’s “mini-me”.

So, everyone got along pretty well. Hatha seemed highly energetic around Musashi, wanting to play all the time, and absolutely loved her “puppy”. She had begun her 3rd life, this time as a Mommy

When Belle became too old and frail to handle being pushed and pawed by Musashi anymore, we took her to stay in the kitchen and dining room on the ground floor. The other cats seemed to give her a lot of respect (maybe because they could sense her age?) and she lived quite comfortably until her quiet passing a few years ago. The dogs looked for her for a long time, and expected always to see her walk in from the back patio, but eventually accepted that she was no longer with us.

Harmony stayed by Hatha and Musashi for the rest of his life. They shared the sleeping carpet, ate from the same food bowl, and played games that sometimes woke me and Sumako at 3AM… Kids – hmmph!

In 2015, Hatha developed a sort of lump on her chest. We became alarmed when it did not disappear, and took her to the vet. We were informed it as a swollen lymph node, probably cancerous, and we should wait for a time to see how it affects her health. Later that year, Hatha’s energy levels dropped considerably, and she didn’t eat well or play much at all. The tumor grew to the size of a hardball, and we opted for surgery, which would have been more risky considering her age. However, the vet assured us that Hatha had the inner workings of a much younger dog, and all we really needed to do was add a little weight plus keep her well-hydrated, so she could better withstand the surgery. When he conducted surgery, the vet removed the large tumor and two smaller ones, successfully eliminating the cancer which was after all benign.

The new vet told us that she could be as old as 20 or more, based on bone and tooth condition, and other factors. He also said it was amazing that such an old dog could be so strong and healthy, and recover so quickly.

Hatha’s old energy levels were not only restored but she became even more energetic, which we thought wasn’t possible. At the ripe old age of (about) 20, she had begun her 3rd life, this time as a cancer survivor…!

In late 2016, Anna had her heart attack. She would spend her last 2 months in the clinic IC unit, and become the darling of every vet and technician there (it is a rather large vet clinic, open all day and night for emergencies). In the depth of our depression over the enormous medical fee and Anna’s continuing up-and-down health issues, Hatha’s health took a sudden shocking turn…

I awoke late one night to hear a knocking sound coming from the kitchen. It was a continuous rhythm that sounded like someone was pounding a wooden mallet against the floor or the wall. I got up to see what it was, and was shocked to see Hatha lying on her left side, banging her head and face against the floor. I rushed to hold her up and stop her movement, but she continued as though she was in the midst of a seizure. Sumako woke and we put Hatha on cushions, and as soon as we were able we took her to the late-night vet clinic.

Hatha apparently had a seizure. The vet later told us it was similar to a stroke. She was given a drug that stopped the seizure and let her sleep, and we were at least gratified to find that she hadn’t broken her jaw or any facial bones.

Later, when the meds wore off, her muscles contracted to her right and she curled up in a tight hard ball. Frustrated, in pain, and unable to move, she began biting her own legs.

Later at the vet clinic, the vet tried to undo the tight ball she had curled into. She had been on muscle relaxants for a while, and so it was not too hard to “uncurl” her. It just had to be done slowly so the muscles wouldn’t pull or tear. The vet had her straightened out, and fir the first time in many days, she fell into a blissful sleep.

At first we put her in a large bathtub-like plastic open-top chest, because when she tried to move she knocked herself against the wall or the floor. We put plenty of cushions in the chest with her. She struggled to move though she couldn’t get up from laying down on her left side. She simply flailed her front legs as if running on her side. Problem was that the material we had covered the cushions with eventually wore through her skin. We had lots of blood and potential infections to care for. She wore one of her “elbows” down to the cartilage and it was extremely difficult to bandage that area to protect it from further damage, as she continued to struggle and ended up rubbing all bandages off.

Finally we decided on a satin-like material that had been made into a blanket to cover the memory foam we had her on. We also moved her to a new and very much larger walk-in cage that we placed in our living room, so she could watch all the goings-on and see her puppy Musashi all the time.

We bought disposable diapers (pull-ups) of the proper size for Hatha, and cut a hole in the back of each one for her tail. She has been wearing diapers for the past 4 or 5 months.

Hatha’s elbow healed. She had a good appetite. Sumako was able to walk her around the back patio by supporting her weight above the ground using a sling-like cloth, and letting her push herself along. Hatha was especially happy to be outdoors on nice days, and basked in the sunlight on cushions and in wrappings while she watched Sumako do yardwork.

While in her walk-in cage (it’s actually more like four fence-sides about 4 feet tall with a small gate, maybe 4 square meters of floor space inside) she still “ran” a lot while on her side, but not as violently or for as long as before. She was comfortable, well-fed, and felt loved. She was still a part of our family, not tucked away somewhere and forgotten until feeding time…

Now to the current situation. Recently Sumako has been doing a lot of intensive research on animal food products and she found that there are superior non-prescription Japanese foods for older animals (like our cats) in beginning stages of renal failure, or with urinary tract problems, or with sensitive skin or stomachs, etc. We switched over to these better foods (and they are far less expensive than prescription foods) and were startled to see the changes in our cats’ behavior…! Older cats with little energy or interest in play or chasing became playful and chased each other around furniture, and up and down wooden poles. One older cat (Heart, who is beginning kidney failure) had blood in her urine and feces – that all stopped and she now wanders outdoors (always close by the door) to enjoy the sunshine when previously she preferred to stay in her cage, away from the other more rambunctious cats. Mr. Christmas’s incurable mouth infection needs an antibiotic shot less often than before. Holly, who had previously been rather surly and unplayful, became a kitten again and is gentle with the others while playing.

Hatha benefitted from Sumako’s research too. She found special foods engineered for dogs of older ages, and Hatha especially loved the variety of flavors and textures that Sumako ordered from Mainland Japan.

During the work week, Sumako and I take turns going home in our lunch hours to feed Hatha. I have one hour and 15 minutes. I go home from the school where I teach English full-time, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When Hatha ate, she took about 20 to 25 minutes to finish a small bowl of food. Then I return to school.

Sumako takes Tuesday and Thursday. The distance between home and work is more than twice my distance from school to home, so I do it more often (I am only about 15 minutes from home). To get a longer lunch break for this, Sumako goes to work earlier and stays longer. We try our best to balance the feeding-time responsibility.

But just this past week, we have seen a change. Hatha has mostly stopped struggling against the cushions. Her appetite seems to be gone. She eats a few small bites then stops, though she drinks a lot of water. She spends most of her days and night sleeping. She sometimes wakes and raises her head to see out the sliding glass back patio door, but after a brief time she puts it down on her cushions and goes back to sleep. She no longer tries to adjust her position, and just stays where we put her until we move her again. Even when we pick her up and arrange her in a comfortable lying position against us to feed her, she keeps her eyes shut and will not move to eat. She is limp as a rag doll.

Her back legs have steadily become weaker and weaker over the past 2 months. She only sometimes pushes her right leg a little, while the left leg is usually stiff and immobile. We flex it and try to get her to push with it, but she doesn’t react and when left alone it straightens out by itself and remains unmoving.

She is totally unable to use her front legs to prop herself up anymore. She can still move them a bit, but she no longer “runs” on her side.

Over the past few months, we use a squirt bottle to give her water. She uses her tongue to lap the water we squirt into her mouth, and we time each squirt with her lapping. She drinks quite a lot of water this way. But she seems to have lost her appetite completely.

Sumako and I will take her to the vet tomorrow our time, after my school and Sumako’s work are done. While she and I agree that Hatha is very old now, she really doesn’t seem to be ready to give it all up just yet. We’re pretty sure it’s not the food since Hatha has been eating it quite happily for some time now. We wonder if this could be a stomach or intestinal infection, a virus, or some other reason.

So I present the current situation to those who have been through extreme old-age situations with dog before, made all the possible adjustments to diet and meds, and gave their beloved pets the best chance to survive. Has anyone here had an older dog that survived a stroke or series of seizures as described? It’s also possible Hatha is now facing the Inevitable, but we still have the nagging feeling that we are missing out on doing something that might or should be done.

Sumako and I are also preparing for what might be the final few days we can spend with Hatha, but we aren’t discussing it quite yet…

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Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 01:48 am
By the way folks -- according to our vet, Hatha could well be 22 years old now, maybe older. He's cautious about naming such an old age because he has never seen or treated a dog as old as she before.

In Japan, most dogs live typically for 12 to 14 years, and cats pass away much earlier at 10 to 12. So most of our animals (all cats and dogs) are unusual exceptions in Japan...
Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 04:43 am
Maine coons often develop cardiomyopathy. Wed lost two Coon cats that way over the years and our last two weve kept on strict diets with no"free choice" foods like a bowl of kibbles. Its worked with them up to now . One Coon cat is now 14 and is still s playful as a kitten and the other, only 12 is still a teenager.

We have what they call"puppy mills" around East Coast US. Puppy mills are responsible for breeding pets by backcrossing mothers and sons and other close descendent combinations. That practice often magnifies the occurences of many congenital diseases and defects .

Our vet sent us a note when we lost one of our cats a few years ago.
"Those of us who choose to give our love to lives briefer than ours, know that we are in for emotional ups and downs as we share their lives, but wed have it no other way"

Only pet lovers would understand.

Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 06:18 am
Thank you so much. Poignancy that touches me deeply...
Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 07:44 am
Hi Folks,

First, I need to apologize for many typos in my long entry above. I should have proofed it more closely. But at least, if you get through the whole thing, it makes sense in a vague sort of way...

Next, I had a pleasant surprise when I got home from school today -- I tried to feed Hatha and she ate her whole bowl of food...! She also drank copious amounts of water, and seemed very satisfied. She went back to sleep.

Tonight while I taught karate class (18 students of all ages, most of them children), I asked Sumako to bring Hatha downstairs to the dojo so she could see some action, watch the kids, and meet everyone. The children were fascinated with Hatha, and Sumako was soon surrounded by a large group of them, sitting and listening to Hatha's story in rapt attention. They each touched Hatha gently, and she raised her head to see them and watch the class.

At the end of class, the children asked Sumako if they could perform as a group for Hatha! They chose one form to do, and about 12 kids performed synchronized form (kata) for our old dog, who actually raised her head to watch...! Sumako gave her some more water, and then Hatha fell asleep again, tired from the effort of meeting so many kids, and happy with the trip downstairs.

We will most likely take Hatha to the vet over the weekend but perhaps just to see that she is maintaining her weight, and maybe for a vitamin booster. We also plan to bring her down to the dojo to watch the action a bit more often in the future. We know well that boredom can kill as surely as any disease, and we want Hatha to look forward to an occasional excursion to some place other than the vet clinic...!
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Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 07:53 am

Musashi didn't come from a cursed puppy mill (I know well about those), but was home-bred from an unrelated sire and dame. He came with fully registered papers bearing certification, lineage, etc. The only sad part is that we all know bulldogs live relatively short lives, not really being a product of natural selection to begin with. They come with sort of "planned obsolescence" and usually have terrible hip and shoulder problems, backbone problems, and other difficulties as they age. But for now, Musashi is as happy and healthy as a 5-year-old bulldog can be, and we hope to keep him that way for the longest time possible.
Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 09:05 am
Such good writing, Seizan. Such good caring, both of you. And even your animals have been carers.
The days I've had to bring pets to the veterinarian to be put down have been the hardest..

I don't have any guesses about Hatha's condition today - I wish I did.
Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 09:09 am
Oh! I had missed reading your last two posts. Good for Hatha! Also, good kids!
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Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 04:15 pm
Im orta familiar with the challenges weve bred into bulldogs. Hope she's rallies. We always keep some vitamin B supplements around that e used to help as an appetite stimulant or our border collies and catahoula dogs.

As far as typos, IM THE CHAMPEEN .
Keep em well.

Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 04:46 pm

Hatha is the short-haired B&W dog. Musashi is the male bulldog, our son's dog. He's very healthy, a real clown, very friendly and curious about everything and everyone, except that other than Belle and Harmony, he doesn't like cats (strange animals invading his and Hatha's space). Motoki moved out to his own apartment but cannot have a dog there, so we take care of Musashi for him.

Bit of a scare last night. As I went to bed, I checked Hatha’s diaper and noticed her lower abdomen seemed rather swollen. It's usually quite slender. She hadn’t urinated in some time, and I was suddenly concerned that her bladder might be blocked (explaining the lack of interest in food and reluctance to move very much). I woke Sumako, and we agreed to take Hatha to the all-night clinic.

When we got there, we were seen immediately. Tests were made, ultrasound, and an IV given. The bladder had some urine in it but was not distended after all. The young doctor on duty was amazed that, considering Hatha’s age, she was in very good condition.

The ultrasound indicated one kidney was a bit larger than normal and somewhat strangely shaped, but other than that, nothing unusual. Blood tests showed all blood gases and such to be normal or near-normal. Temperature, heart, everything checked out normal as a younger dog might have.

It was advised that we take her to our regular vet this morning for a further check. Last night’s clinic will send all the data, ultrasound, etc. to the regular vet so he can make a better determination.

When we got Hatha back home and settled her down before going to sleep (at 2AM) I changed her wet diaper. This morning when I woke at 7AM I changed her diaper again, this time both wet and solids. Hatha was not thirsty, last night’s IV having been mostly water to keep her hydrated.

So her kidneys produce urine OK after all, and she still has good digestion. She just hasn’t been much hungry recently, and we wondered where all the water was going since she didn’t urinate much over the past few days (since she lost her appetite).

We’ll try and get it cleared up this morning. Sumako and both took the day off of work to take care of Hatha.
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Reply Thu 11 May, 2017 04:53 pm
Farmer rocks, of course. Besides his knowledge, he is sharp about people, one way or another.

I just got in from picking up my mail, a task not as easy as it used to be, not to whine - I've worked out a method. On the way back, I met up with neighbor, Steve. These are two gay guys who have been here nearly as long as I have, a couple of duplex places to my right (hard to give the direction, probably south east.) They helped me on Katy's last day (as did Diane, and I'll bet Roger was there in spirit.). I asked Steve how his mother was, and she had died recently..
we understood each other, talked.
It's beyond nice that they have ever helped me here. Meantime, actual friends.
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Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 06:19 pm
Well, the vet told us that Hatha's kidneys were fair though in early stages of failure, and she seems to have some heart problems. The med to correct her heart rhythm is not good for kidneys, and the med for kidney care is not good for her heart. so this coming week he will determine the balance of treatments to keep her on a level, and to keep her comfortable.

Hatha has recently begun to sleep a lot. She didn't wake up the entire time in the vet's office, even when we tried to awaken her. Like a very elderly lady, she may sleep for 2 or 3 days, then wake up for a few hours and be active, eat a lot, drink a lot, then sleep for another 2 days. We were told that while this is normal, it isn't often a dog will reach into such an old age and still be quite as generally healthy as Hatha, so we must have been doing something right all this time. We will continue to try and keep her interested and active every time we see that she is awake, and take her out of the house to be in the sunshine and to meet other people as often as she is able.

One of the Okinawan children did some quick "dog years" calculation and informed us that Hatha was now about 96 years old...
Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 06:43 pm
Touch her for me, even if she doesn't notice. Just once, light.

Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 07:41 pm
I scratched under her chin lightly, and behind her ears for you. She nuzzled my fingers and drank some more water. Then fell asleep again.
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Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 08:01 pm
Hatha sounds like she is having as good a sunset time as a dog can have.

Our old boy dog , Mr. Bailey, made it to one week before his 18th birthday before he died in his sleep. He became more sleepy and less interested in food and then water. He continued to enjoy time outside to his last 24 hours He was an escape artist to his final week.

The old dogs who are simply getting tired of life need love and comfort and company and rarely ask for more. When Cleo was in her last weeks I would lie down on the floor near her - prop myself on a pillow and read to her. She didn`t care what we read as long as she could hear my voice and be part of the family group.

Your family is doing wonderful things for Hatha and all of your animals. Love, comfort, company - you are providing those things - which I believe are sometimes more important that medical care. It is a blessing for all.

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Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 08:14 pm
Is Bella gone? If so, I grieve.
How can she be gone?
Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 08:18 pm
can I still editÉ with this goofy keyboardÉ
Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 08:19 pm
phewy slid that edit in

Bella is well - was just beside me having a big (for a small dog) meal
Reply Fri 12 May, 2017 11:23 pm

re internet, I'm dealing with the awfuls, never a good sign.

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Reply Sat 13 May, 2017 12:46 am
Being in diapers all the time irritates Hatha's butt. Today I decided to use a very thin layer of Lanocane when I change her diaper. She shows signs of discomfort (when she is awake) while changing her diaper and cleaning her, and today I found a little bit of blood on the wet wipe that we use to clean her with. I guess the sensitive skin around the anus may have been rubbed and cleaned too often with wet wipes. So, no more wet wipes for now, we will clean softly with facial tissue, and use a thin bit of Lanocane. She calmed down almost immediately, though she stayed awake. She took a little water but she isn't interested in food. Maybe tonight.
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