Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some bad news

. . .  on the dog front.

We took her to the vet yesterday and, again, her vitals and color were fine but she was breathing heavily and definitely winded. The vet carefully listened to her heart and heard an arrhythmia (something new I think) and said "I need to take X-Rays." Off they took Jessica and a few minutes she was returned, relieved to see us. About 10-minutes later the vet came in and said, softly, "This is not good news" while putting up the films.

This is what we saw:


Late Stage Lung Cancer.

The words charged through the room like thunder, heavy and stunning. And then a series of thick voiced questions accompanied by barely contained tears:

  • How did she get this? Who knows the source, could be a metastasized from a growth somewhere else
  • Is there anything we can do? No, not at this stage. Just keep her happy
  • How long? Two or three weeks at the most
Two or three weeks? Two or three weeks!?

The receptionist asked, conversationally, what the vet said and I could barely whisper "Lung Cancer". "I am so sorry" she replied before I signed my credit card slip and barely made it out of the office. 

What are the odds of a second pet dying from cancer? I keep on asking myself if there is something we could have done differently. What if we had spotted the changes sooner? We did, but simply put them down to aging. Damn It! 

And now it is too late. Nothing to do now but wait and try to make her last days as comfortable as possible. This means she'll be spoiled rotten with whatever she wants to eat and do. At least, as PT helpfully pointed out, she doesn't know what is coming. Only that she wants to stay close to home. M and I, on the other hand, are painfully aware that many of the things we are doing with her are "last things" as in "last walk on the beach" and "last bath". This thought makes it hard to take. 

I know, I know, Jessica is a dog and this is what happens. I know. But when we put her down there will be a huge hole in my life, our lives. For nine years she has given us her unreserved and unquestioned devotion. Her twice daily walks were therapeutic, easing tough days at work. She was such an enthusiastic running partner. Happily yipping and barking as we went until the trail or course got too tough. 

I wasn't all roses though. She was a tough dog to train. A rescue dog with her own ideas about what needed to be done (like chasing squirrels, going berserk at the sight of pigeons, the appropriate way to walk, and how to be around other dogs), a real nervousness about separation, trust issues, and (probably) abuse. We had to fight hard to calm her and get her to trust. It was worth it though for all the companionship and pleasure. The bonds were forged that much stronger for the shared struggle and I regret none of it.  

The next few weeks are going to be hard. 


Slomohusky said...

Sorry rpd. She looked like a great dog. My last dog was an Alaskan Malamute. Great friend. After 10 years she developed a hip problem typical of the breed. Needed to put her asleep. I just could not do that again, and have not had a dog since. That was 11-12 years ago. Have a nice last few weeks with Jessica.

PuddleThumper said...

I just think of her raring and impatient to get started on trail run tuesdays. She echoed her owner in that she wanted to start NOW! She was a little more vocal about it that's all. :-)

ChrisG said...

I had not seen this post when we chatted today, and as always, you have written well, an eloquent and touching post.

My significant other had a dog who went from a diagnosis of bone cancer to being gone in about six weeks. He fed her Burger King cheeseburger bits by had the last weeks of her life and carried her up the stairs to bed (she was a Great Dane). When I joined his life, he had two Danes, and I've seen both of them pass after long enough to have become like children to me.

I wouldn't presume to know how you feel, but I have some close sense, and my heart is with you. I like to think it is what we do for our pets in their last days that makes us, if we are at all, superior. At some point, you have to decide if she is suffering too much. That's the hardest point - the nagging uncertainty that you waited too long or chose too soon.

Strength, my friend. You'll be in my thoughts.