Boyne: What to do with the old dog now?
Vail, CO Colorado
We are a very pet-centric people. We love our animals. Our pets become part of the family, honored and indulged guests in our homes.
As is often the case, the day comes when we have to make some tough decisions regarding our pets, especially when they become animals of a certain age. Isn’t that the kind way of saying old?
Now, no offense intended to the cat lovers out there, but when I think “pet,” I immediately envision dogs. I am not a feline fan. And I have a “no tank, no cage” rule. If it lives in a tank or cage, it does not live in my home.
I’ve had two dogs in my lifetime. My childhood dog, Fleck, was a beagle. We got her when I was in kindergarten, and she died when I was a senior in high school. We literally grew up together.
My second dog is Elliott. He is a yellow Lab-golden retriever mix, with a little something else in there that kept him kind of stumpy. He is the most expensive pound puppy known to mankind, as he was a fairly accident-prone young dog. We got him a few months after we were married when he was about 11 weeks old.
Elliott is 13 now and has had as many nicknames: Dog-a-lovely, Sweet Puppy, Smelliott (there are times that dog can clear a room), the list goes on. He was my first baby. I know people always say, “When you have babies, the dog will become a second-class citizen.” Not so in my house. I love my dog with a depth that some may question as unhealthy. I just never wanted him to feel displaced by the boys.
One of the events that contributed to his inflated value was surgery to remove fatty, benign tumors on his side and his face when he was about a year old. So when something popped out of his lower back a few months ago, I told myself it was just another one of those, nothing to cause alarm, that I would have the vet check it at his check-up next month. But call it mother’s intuition, I had a feeling it was something else.
My fears were confirmed with a biopsy. It was a malignant tumor, a sarcoma. Darling Dog had cancer.
Thus began the struggle to decide what to do about it. Removing it could potentially eliminate the problem of the cancer spreading, giving him a better quality of life for his remaining time. But, in reality, how much more time would that be? He is 13, and in a large-breed dog, that’s darn old. Would if be worth putting him through the trauma of the surgery? What if there were complications during the surgery and we ended his life prematurely? On the up side, we could have his teeth cleaning while he was under, ending the constant danger of him knocking down a building with his breath.
We debated not doing the surgery, letting him enjoy however much time he had left without the pain and recovery of an operation. But we had no idea how much it was hurting him and how bad it would get if the cancer spread or the tumor kept growing.
He’s generally quite healthy for a dog of his advanced years. He has a little kidney issue, exacerbated by medication he takes for the arthritis in his hips and back. But he still has the same prancey gait he’s had since puppyhood, belying his years as he strolls through the neighborhood. And he still wags and smiles at me every time I walk in the door.
Which is why the next issue literally broke my heart to consider. How much would all this cost? This is where I realized as much as he is my baby, that I love him with all my heart, he is an animal. He is not human. There was a monetary threshold I could not cross, even for him.
After all the facts were considered, the various scenarios discussed, the emotional tolls counted, we chose to have the tumor removed. And just days after the surgery, which left a 5-inch incision line in a giant bald patch of his golden fur just in front of his left hip, Elliott is prancing and smiling and wagging like a dog many years his junior. And his breath is as sweet as a puppy’s.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through email@example.com.