Those of you who follow me on Facebook know I spent yesterday with Sasha at a Veterinary Surgery practice in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Last week, when I took her to a new local vet for her monthly intramuscular shot of Adequan, they found a new growth in the area of the malignancy she had removed in 2019. That it was in the same general area and not on the opposite side, was dire news. And worse: it was three times the size. We called the surgeon immediately.
His assessment was that, because of the size of this new one the chances were good that it had been there for a few months (it wasn’t there in February when she had her annual checkup) and had metastasized already. We could do an ultrasound, he assured me, to be certain, but it would be a fairly academic exercise, given everything else. Everything else included her advanced age, the size of the new growth, and the location of it.
I chose to go ahead with the ultrasound. It’d be $565 dollars (less if she did not need anesthesia). But at least when we got the results I’d be able to put her down with a clear conscience.
To “Put her down.” What a euphemism that is!
Over these past many days I’ve heard from many dog owners who have gone through this ordeal. Indeed, I’ve gone through it with three of my eight dogs.
How do you know it’s time? I asked one Facebook Group.
- They can’t walk, get up, pee, eat, etc. (pick one)
- The light has gone out of their eyes
- They give you a look.
Well, Sasha wasn’t giving me any look at all except that she was a bit bored yesterday and annoyed when I’d leave to run to the coffee house next door (the restroom at the Vet’s had broken just that morning!).
Besides, we’ve not had the kind of relationship where we gaze into each others eyes. So, I’m not sure about any light that may or may not be there. Have I missed something? I know the social psych research on eye contact says that if you hold a gaze for more than a few seconds you’re either going to kiss the other or fight them. Though she’s been known to give me kisses, I’ve never felt like reciprocating. So much for that sign.
As for that first one, well, Sasha still eats, pees, poops, and moves, just more slowly. She wants to walk with me into our woods, though she’s been cutting back home early since last winter.
Back at the Vet’s office, she got her ultrasound at 4:00. I got the report in an email from the surgeon at 10 pm, long after we’d gotten home.
He found no evidence of metastatic disease and in his opinion the mass appears to be resectable. This puts another surgery on the table. If everything else was (is?) going well, it is not unreasonable to consider surgical excision.
Do we opt for surgery? How much time will that bring her? How much money will it cost? Another $1,000 to $1500 on top of the $450 (she didn’t need anesthesia; I knew she wouldn’t). But with no scientific certainty how much time this surgery can bring her, or how her recovery will go, we find ourselves in a new quandary. There are still unanswered questions. I think there will always be unanswered questions.
Is it worth it?
I do not want to wait until her suffering is too much to bear; I do not want to wait until she has stopped eating, or peeing, or pooping, or moving. I don’t want her to suffer at all.
I would love to get her cleaned up though — we’ve not been able to get her into the groomers until July — and there are no other large breed groomers in our area. We do as much brushing as we can, though she hates it. And we go swimming in the pond. Poor Jackson isn’t even to the doggie paddle stage yet. He stands belly deep and whines.
How will I know which day is “the day?”I do not know how to answer this question that I pose for myself. People tell me “I’ll know.” My hope is that I’ll be just one hour too early.
I know with absolute certainty I’d rather be a week too early than one hour too late.
I can let her go; I know I can. And it’ll be the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time.
Have you been through this? How did you decide?