Mina is in hospice and I’m the hospice care giver. You never think of this part of your life with your beloved pet when they’re frisky puppies, but you always hope they have long, happy lives. I think Mina’s had a long and happy life with me. She has enriched my life in more ways than I can ever repay her. Here’s what our day is like, when I’m able to stay home with her.

4:00 a.m. – Alarm rings, I get up, stumble to kitchen, put 1/8 teaspoon of Cell Salts homeopathic remedy in my hand. Wake up Mina, let her lick it from my hand.

4:10 a.m. – Get dressed to go outside for our morning walk.

4:15 a.m. – Try to wake up very sleepy Mina to put on her carpus brace and harness. This takes a while because she’s old and she takes Benadryl at night.

4:25 a.m. – Stumble outside and slowly make our way downstairs. If it’s raining, she stops to pee on the lawn, if it’s dry, then we might walk a little ways until she has to poop. On very good days, she’ll walk for about 20 minutes at a very slow pace. This doesn’t happen much any more. We used to zip around the complex in about 12 minutes flat, including potty stops, when Mina was healthy. She had this trot that you had to see to appreciate, because her butt swayed as she bounced along. She rarely walked, she always bounced.

4:45 a.m. Mix up the liquid homeopathic medicine, syringe it into Mina’s mouth. I spend the next 15 minutes doing “busy work” to give the homeopathy a chance to do its thing. Now that Mina’s on Prednisone again, at a the 20 mg. per day dosage, I grab all the sheets and towels off the carpet, and spray the pee spots with a vinegar and water 50 percent solution, then put all the laundry in the washer. By then, it’s time for breakfast!

5:05 a.m. BREAKFAST! Mina is ready to eat, thanks to the palliative wonder drug, Prednisone. She gets baked chicken thighs or baked beef (mixed with oatmeal and parsely and a little garlic powder). When she’s done we start the supplements/medication round. That includes a couple of spoonfuls of organic baby food (she likes Earth’s Best, especially the creamy chicken apple compote dinner) with a third capsule of IP6, then the following are wrapped in organic peanut butter and popped into her mouth: half tablet of Iron Free One Daily vitamin, a fish oil capsule, one capsule of IMM Power hybridized mushroom supplement, one tablet of Dasuquin MSM, 250 mg. tablet of Metronidazole (for diarrhea which comes right back if she doesn’t take this medicine), and 10 mg. of Prednisone. Then she gets to lick the spoon.

That whole process takes about 15 minutes. On work days, it’s become impossible for me to get out the door by 6 a.m. unless I have absolutely everything ready the night before. On non-work days, I’ll have breakfast and tea while reading work e-mail, etc., until around 7 a.m. when it’s time for another walk. Mina is usually ready for a somewhat longer walk by then, but sometimes we don’t make it even to the leasing office.

I intersperse my work time with taking her outside frequently, because of the Prednisone, and feeding her. Mina will eat at least four meals a day now, and she’d eat more if I let her! Lately, she’s allowed to have almost anything she wants including my food, as long as it’s not any of the foods known to cause instant toxicity. Yesterday evening she ate almost as many roasted carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and sweet potatoes as I did. She’s also fond of Auntie Lolo’s Cheese Nips.

Mina sleeps a lot now and she often sleeps deeply, but mostly at night with the aid of Benadryl. Last night, around 11:45 p.m. I awoke to check on her and found her laying on her side between the couch and the coffee table. Her mouth was open slightly and her outer eyelids closed and, in the half darkness, I couldn’t discern any breathing. My heart stopped for a moment as I said her name, she slowly opened her eyes, sat up, and started coughing. I gave her some water and she panted until I calmed her down again.

She still gets up to bark at people or dogs going by our open windows. It’s chilly in here, but I keep them open to make her more comfortable. If she feels I’m spending too much time at my desk, or too much time in the kitchen, she lets me know but laying down nearby and staring at me until I stop what I’m doing and pay her some attention.

By 4 p.m., it’s time for another round of meds and supplements. This time she gets a larger quantity of organic baby food with 1 teaspoon of bone meal mixed in – a favored treat. Then she gets 1000 mg. of vitamin C with bioflavanoids, 1 milkthistle capsule, 20 mg. Prednisone, 250 mg. Metronidazole – all wrapped in peanut butter. She typically takes all of this after she eats.

Around 8 p.m., I give her 50 mg. of Benadryl to help her sleep because the Pred can make her restless all night. Dogs can handle more Benadryl than we can. Around 8:30 p.m. it’s time for the Cell Salts, then 15 minutes later the second liquid homeopathy dose. I’m still giving it to her, even though it didn’t halt the progress of her cancer, because it’s only beneficial, has no side effects, and is likely doing some good for her in some way.

Mina sleeps out in the living room, and has for nearly three years now. She used to sleep at the end of my bed, or on the floor beside my bed, until around March of 2007. I’m not sure what triggered this complete change in her sleeping habits, but she absolutely will not sleep in the bedroom unless I’m not in it.

Every day is a good day while Mina’s here with me. I do notice decline in her energy every day now, and she hasn’t picked up a toy to play in a week or so. We are closer than ever and I treasure these days with her.