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Laika - the final curtain

In loving memory of Laika

20 March 2007 - 17 June 2014 

At the age of seven years, two months and 28 days she just slept away and left me for good. Far too young, but hopefully with the knowledge that from the day she entered my life to the day she died she was dearly loved just the way she was.

.... There can only be one .... 






Sun sinking, night arrives,

another day is gone.

The world falls asleep and quietly awakes,

the nightingales sad song.

And with every new beginning

the end is never far.

We come here and we move on

and always passes time.

Goodbye, dear friends,

lets complete the eternal circle.

Life is, but a game.

But if you know to play it right

you reach the final aim.

(from a song by Claus Ludwig Laue, 1946) 


The story of Laika's death

For a while Laika had had severe problems of bradycardia with fainting. Her heart rate would be at leass than 30beats per minute when at rest. Around 45 when extremly agitated. It was clear something was very, very wrong with her.

In late May it became clear that there was nothing left to do. Nothing we could do to help her. In early June I took her to see the cardiologist one more time. My vet had said as much and the cardiologist confirmed what I knew at heart: my beautiful girl would definately die before her eigth birthday. It was almost a certainty she would just sleep away or drop dead while running or playing.

On the morning of June 17, 2014 she took her normal morning walk and was in fairly good spirits. She decided that since the sun was shining she would not come indoors because, after all, the weather was so pretty. She ran, she played, she was all normal Laika. 

When I came home a few hours later no Laika was whining to greet me, no doberman was jumping up and down with sheer joy of seeing me. Henna was there alright, like all was normal. In my heart a terrible fear grew. I ran upstairs to her sleeping place and at first thought maybe she was sleeping, maybe not well. But as I came closer she didn't lift her head. She did nothing. She looked like she was asleep, but before I touched her I knew she was dead. She apparently died very soon after I left the house that morning. When I returned stiffness had set in and she was already cold on the upper side. Her pillow was not ruffeled but just lay as usual, there were no indications of fear or fighting. No sign of any kind of struggle associated with her dying. 

At that point a very deep calm came over me. I knew that she had died as she had lived. On her own, by herself. At a time of her choosing. Peacefully. She didn't "ask" for permission. She didn't "ask" for help. All the important decisions in her life she usually made herself. She always tried to do her best not to burden me with anything. And in this very manner she had made this last, this final decision. She took this final step in her life. When I thought about what kind of death would be suitable to her personality this was it. In a strange way I was and am grateful she was granted this final dignity of dying in the way she had lived.

All I could whisper in her ear was "vapaa". She finnish word for "free" that means a lot to her. It means "run free and do as you please". Run free my friend. But please, stay in my heart and memories forever.

The final answers

The cardiological exam prior to her death (4.5 days before her death) showed no significant enlargement of the ventricles, no reduction in the ability of the heart to contract (the essentially normal ventricular size is in fact not supported by the autopsy report reporting mild enlargement, but was at the time seen as such on ultrasound provided everyone did their job right and I'm just assuming as much) together with sinus bradycardia and essentially largely erratic or absent contractions of the left atrium (absent/erratic P-wave on ECG).

For a long time I had known that I wanted answers. For myself, for her breeder and the breed. Maybe in that order. So about ten minutes after finding her I called the vet, with whom I had talked about this decision before. And I am so very grateful he made it possible for me to get the answers I wanted. 

I took a four hour drive with my beloved, dead dog in the car to take her to the Veterinary University of Hanover pathology department in Lower Saxony, Germany. One of the most renowned veterinary universities in the country.

They were very considerate with me and they could give me the answers I desired. The most important ones to me were the following conclusions:

  • cause of death most likely due to inflammatory changes resembling myocarditis and endocarditis (leading to (mild) DCM and affecting the sinus node, the "pacemaker" in the heart) but no histological changes commonly associated with the hereditary doberman DCM
  • inflammation of bladder, kidney and pelvis (cystitis and polynephritis)
  • her thyroid disease was not due to any autoimmune disorder 
  • there were no signs of cancer found (they found benign tumours in the spleen and one benign tumour of less than five milimeters in diameter in the mammary gland)

So we will give her a final resting now. All answers given, a life lived. A short life lived, but lived to the fullest.

Farewell, my dear friend.

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