Life seems to have a funny way of repeating itself. Its hard to tell this story a third time because I know in my heart that considering what time we have left, the best thing this time is to not do anything.
For those of you who have found this wonderful community, I joined tripawds in July 2010 when my dog Chloe was diagnosed with cancer and I was facing the decision to amputate (her back left leg). It ended up being the best decision (“cured”) and I am glad to have made it. Having Chloe with me during grad school was such a blessing, we went on so many adventures together. Then when I finished, I found another cancerous tumor. But this time it was on her front right paw. Same type of cancer, just 3.5 years later, different limb.
Again, I had it surgically removed since she was still full of life and vigor. Another decision I am very glad that I made. This past year though, I’ve lived in Nor Cal for a fellowship and my mom has been the one taking excellent care of Chloe. Fortunately I have been able to fly down often to see family, but each time I watched Chloe slowly start to show her age. She has a grade 4/5 heart murmur (no meds) and its getting harder for her to walk.
I ended my fellowship a few weeks early to pursue a job back where my family is located, but I had had this feeling that I needed to move back down asap for Chloe. Last week, I felt a hard lump on her neck and I knew. And after the aspirate results came back as “inconclusive, but abnormal cell growth”, I know that we are facing it a third and final time. At least her blood work is still normal and her heart murmur hasn’t worsened.
While I am leaning toward getting a biopsy in order to know what type of cancer, so I know how much time we have, I will not be pursuing chemo or radiation or surgery to remove it. I wouldn’t want to compromise whatever time we have left because she is getting older and life is getting a bit harder. Last thing I want to do is “cure her cancer” only to put her down because of her heart or mobility.
I am hoping it is another type of soft tissue sarcoma (same as other 2) because it will mean it is very unlikely to metastizise or cause pain and it will let her live her life out to the end. I would rather have to say goodbye a few days early than a few days too late, so I’m really trying to wrap my head around the fact that I really believe we have a year or less depending on the type of cancer.
We’ve been through so much and she has been a constant source of love, inspawration and comfort and while I often find myself crying at the most random moments, I’m really trying to focus on enjoying every day we have. Currently I’m only working part time, so I am SO grateful that we have some quantity time together.
She turns 14 on Valentines day and I’m so proud of everything that she has overcome and that I have been able to give her a long and healthy life even as a med-large size dog. I know she’s living life to the fullest and while I’m not mad or frustrated about this, I know that the hardest thing is facing that I’ll finally have to say goodbye in the sooner rather than later future.
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Happy Belated Valentine’s Day everyone!
Just wanted to give an update on Chloe, yesterday was her 13th birthday! She is now officially a teenager.
The not so fun update: About a week and a half ago before I moved north to start a year long fellowship (unfortunately she won’t be living with me due to last minute offer of this position, she will be staying with my mom for now), she developed a large round lump on her right front paw (literally within a day). It feels more solid than her other lipomas and isn’t discolored (her fur looks normal growing over it). Yesterday I took her to the vet for an early yearly checkup (usually in May) to aspirate the lump. I figured it wouldn’t hurt just to do a full senior exam (physical, urine, poop, blood) since we were already there.
Diagnosis #1: During the physical exam, the vet diagnosed Chloe with a heart murmur grade 2/3ish. He wanted a chest xray to see what might be the cause. The xray revealed she has a large heart for her size (but we already knew that in the emotional sense 🙂 ). The vet explained that she could have always had a heart murmur (grade 1) that wasn’t discernible till now as a congenital thing or has a genetic predisposition for developing one in her older years. While there is nothing to be done for a heart murmur (if her’s got worse medications would be an option), I do have to monitor her for any unusual sneezing, coughing, increased resting respiratory rate, early fatigue in a routine walk, and loss of appetite or fluids. Last night I started a baseline for her resting respiratory rate and will do for another few days to get an averate. I recorded 16 breaths per minute which is a good sign since it normal for any dog. However, if her norm increases to above 30/minute, it means her murmur has progressed in a bad way. The good news is that she is otherwise allowed to continue her regular routine walking around the block (1/2 mi) every day and taking naps.
To come: Bloodwork/fecal/urine come back sometime today and the results of the aspirate sometime early next week. Im hoping that her bloodwork etc… comes back saying she is healthy, so that if the lump comes back as a negative thing, I will know that it isn’t affecting the quality of her life. She otherwise seems spry for being a 13yr old 3 legged dog, but I’d like the bloodwork to confirm that. Since Chloe is already down to 3 legs and is alot older, if this lump comes back as another cancer that is “curable” through amputation (like 3.5yrs ago), I won’t be able to do that option. Depending on the severity, I’m not sure I want to put her through a surgery to remove it since she is now at a higher risk for complications going under anesthesia having even a low grade heart murmur (which the vet explained).
Reality: I’ve already come to the conclusion that if the lump is bad news, I’m just going to make sure she lives out what time she has left without being bogged down by surgeries, medications etc… and letting her go before she is in a really bad state. It’s sad to think about, but I do have to remind myself that I have been able to give her every dog’s dream for the past 3.5 years she’s lived with me during grad school. We have been able to spend most of every day together since I lived close to campus, she’s been my travel companion even on errands (since weather is so moderate along the coast) and has enjoyed countless hours walking along the beach. For every medical issue we’ve encountered, I can let her go knowing I’ve done all I can to make sure she’s gotten the best care. She’s been spoiled with lots of obnoxious squeaky toys, treat balls and love. Its hard to deal with the fact that she is getting old and won’t be around forever, but I know my mom will take wonderful care of her until I can find a different living situation (if she lives a lot longer). I’ve told Chloe during our time in grad school that she has to live a healthy life until she is at least 15 and then is allowed to go to her final rest. Fingers crossed this is benign or low grade/non metastasizing and allows her to keep on enjoying senior life on three legs.
Hugs to all you folks who have lost a beloved pet. Chloe has been the first pet I’ve developed such a close bond to and I don’t like to think about her not physically being here any longer.
Due to complications from an infected back paw, my mom had to make the difficult decision to put down her dog Rocket, a dog that I grew up with and was Chloe’s (foster) ‘sister’ dog. Honestly, I believed that she would outlive my 3-legged goofball, even though she was only a few months older. Life doesn’t always turn out how you expect, so its important to appreciate every moment. To honor her memory, I put a little tribute video together of every digital photo/video I could find of her and many are with Chloe.
We love you Rocket and we know that you are in a better, pain free, place.
I will remember you Rocket.
I will remember the time when you and Chloe first met,
how you became ‘sisters’, and took on the role of the bossy older one.
I will remember all the times I took you and Chloe to the dog park,
how you loved meeting other dogs and drooling all over the place (and my pants).
I will remember how you HATED walking on grass or dirt and preferred to walk on pavement,
even though you were a dog and dogs are supposed to love getting dirty.
I will remember how gentle you were with my brother’s mischievous cat
who always liked to play-attack your legs and tail, but you never fought back.
I will remember how you eventually discovered ‘squirrels’ and ‘lizards’
were animals worth trying to chase.
I will remember how you always loved being around you sister Chloe,
even when we came home to visit and all couches were Chloe’s to take.
I will remember all the walks we took, the adventures we had, how sweet you were,
and how you will be missed by us all.
I will remember you Rocket.