It’s 9 AM. It’s the day before Christmas Eve and I’m at my cousin’s house in the Florida Keys again. It’s been a week of serious compassion fatigue so I think I can justify a little R and R before the melee that accompanies Christmastime at ground zero in my family.

I’ll be driving back soon while the rest of the entourage takes the boat out for the day. But I’m not depressed over my early return. These past eighteen hours have been enough for me. A cup of homemade hot chocolate in my hand, a blue sky and a blaze of sun over the water—that’s all I really needed. I can go back now.

What awaits me, however, might well undo all the good these few hours have brought. I’ve got one young Golden pup in the hospital with a blood infection whose progress I’ve been unable to halt. I’ve managed to slow it down but it creeps back up no matter what I do. There’s got to be a better word for it than “frustrating”—is there a synonym for it anywhere that connotes “heartbreaking,” too? If so, it might describe this case perfectly.

You may have read the comment under my last euthanasia post referencing this patient. It explained how I’d not yet broached the subject of euthanasia with her owners, despite the mounting expenses, the pup’s obvious discomfort and the imminent possibility of death, despite our best efforts. Add “guilty” to “heartbreaking” and “frustrating.”

This case apparently finds me bereft of more than just good words. I’m lacking luck, equipment, skill, manpower—you name it I’m sure I could use more of it on this one. Too bad the owners refused to take her to a more appropriate ICU setting—double the price for less, they feared. Unfortunately, I don’t quite agree.

While I’ve been gone, I’ve been mercilessly calling my colleague on his mobile for interim puppy reports. He’s the one who stayed behind to man the fort while I took off galavanting in Paradise. Meanwhile, I feel like one of those heartsick owners who stares at the telephone hoping good news will magically appear on the other line if he wills it to. I know better but I can’t help hoping something will change with the new antibiotic regimen I initiated 24 hours ago. She might just pull through with this one.

I’ve been caring for her for almost a week now. Last Monday she came in to the hospital with a fever, pneumonia and a painful abdomen. That’s when we found a beer cap in her belly (which I surgically removed) and a whole lot more swelling in there than you’d expect from one single gastric foreign body. Nonetheless, bloodwork revealed no pancreatitis, no distemper, no parvo. The culture showed no crazy MRSA or MRSI.

So how did this one come to get so sick? Her pet shop provenance likely accounted for her kennel cough-induced pneumonia—that, and the sub-clinical quantities of antibiotics she’d been receiving for two weeks before she showed up (that’s what happens when you take your henhoused pup to the shop’s fox for treatment).

As a result of these puny doses of antibiotics, her body has effectively served as a teaching lab for the microbiology course I like to call, “How to Breed Resistant Bacteria 101.” That’s probably why she’s septic now (as in septicemia, a whole-body infection). That’s also why I re-cultured her blood on Friday.

So now she’s languishing in her crate. When I show up to care for her at 2 PM, I expect she’ll be even worse off than my colleague had reported (he’s an eternal optimist). But it’s not up to us any more. For now, she’ll either respond to the antibiotics for the bacteria we cultured or she won’t. Tomorrow I hope to have more news on the most recent culture—and new directions to follow.

Forget the fancy tri-bike my boyfriend’s planning on giving me—if this pup is still with us by Christmas, I swear it’ll be the best present I get.