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First - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 18th, 2011

09:18 am - First

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Yesterday I heard back from the vet. Turns out they test the snot three times - immediately, then at T+1 week, then again at T+2 weeks. At T+1 week there is no sign of any of the virulent fungi that would be expected to cause a dog to have nosebleeds and bone degeneration. They are going to wait out the rest of the time to be sure, but the vet's pretty confident that it isn't fungus.


What this means is that we can now rule out bacterial infection and fungal infection from the list of things that could be causing First's problem. There is now really only one thing left on the list. Well, there are two but the vet has ruled out the likelihood for it to be a foreign body because of the slow way it started and the lack of infection. That leaves tumours.

I have been thinking about this quite a lot, and doing research. Here are some facts:

1. Tumours that grow in dogs' noses come in three categories, one of which is likely to metastasise.
2. There are no signs of any metastasis in First's chest x-rays.
3. All of these tumours are malignant. None are curable.
4. Treatment of these tumours is the same as for a person - radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery.
5. Surgery alone does not extend the dog's life expectancy all that much.
6. Life expectancy for these kind of tumours varies from 3 months to 2 years depending on treatment.

So those are the facts. Other pertinent facts:

1. My dog is 12 years old.
2. She's not currently showing any signs of distress.
3. She is showing symptoms - stuff is still coming out of her nose (although not currently fresh blood) and she still sounds like she's breathing through a pipe. She's also started harrumphing occasionally as if she has phlegm. I think this is intake of breath through the mouth causing her lip-bobbles to flap around:

Photo of dog lip-bobbles for those who don't hang out with dogs much:



Those things make a harrumphing noise when she breathes in sometimes. So I'm guessing the blockage in her nose is sufficient that occasionally she has to breathe through her mouth to get enough air, but other than that she's shiny-coated, not losing weight, not obviously in pain*, eating, drinking and bouncing around like a dog half her age.

* This is a hard one. This dog worked sheep for an hour after having ripped all four paw-pads off and didn't limp once - I only knew because I saw the blood. Others of her breed have given birth to litters of puppies while working sheep, or dropped dead while working sheep. They don't show pain and sickness in the same way that other breeds might. But I know my dog and I'm pretty sure she's not suffering pain at the moment.

OK, so those are the facts. The final pertinent fact is that it will cost $1400 for an endoscopy and CT scan at Massey which would confirm or rule out the existence of a tumour.

This is where it gets hard. $1400 is a lot of money to spend to confirm your dog has a terminal disease.

You see the thing is, I lost my last dog at 12 with cancer. With her, I waited until she was having more bad days than good days before ending it. In retrospect, I should have not waited that long. It was unnecessary suffering. Last year, I lost my Mum with cancer. Because she was a person, she had to wait until the disease killed her and tolerate all the suffering that went with it. Given the choice, I would have opted to end it before she lost her identity, her joy and her ability to be self-actualised. With First, I have that choice.

I have decided that should it become clear First has cancer, I will have her put down immediately. She is 12 and has had a long and happy life, she's healthy (apart from the obvious) and she's happy. She has energy and lives without pain. That's how I want the end of her life to be, not the way it was for Mum and for Bottles. This is my decision.

So, the question then becomes, why spend $1400 if this is the expected outcome? Who knows, it may reveal something else, something easily fixed, that will let my dog live comfortably.. but for how long? She's 12. Most heading dogs die at 12-14 anyway, so would I simply be buying her a couple more years for the sake of my own emotional comfort?

This is one of the things that's been on my mind the last few days. I will wait till the third test comes back, and hear what the vet has to say. Maybe there's something she forgot to tell me, that I haven't found in my research. If that's the case I will revise my decision based on the new information. But the reality now is that I'm pretty sure I'm about to lose First. I'm ok with that, rationally. I know I'm doing the right thing. Emotionally? I'll get there.

Life without a dog will be very strange.


So there you have it. I'm not the first person ever to be faced with this decision and I won't be the last. In the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal. But in my world, the one where First is a common thread through my adult life, it's foundation-rocking.

Comments:

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From:inushnu
Date:March 17th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
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I agree with your tentative stance. I just read this book "merle's door" and it explored this topic a lot and helped me to see other angles. I think, at 12, the dog is, like you said, sitting well on a long, happy life and to extend it by, what? a few years? just because YOU want to keep the dog around even though their quality of life may be affected on top of the aging process...? It is a bit silly. I think it just as silly to let PEOPLE (like your mum) suffer when WE should be able to choose when our lives are over. Bah. Dum world!

It's kind-of ironic for me to respond this way though because, at this very moment, I am letting a fish die on its own. This fish is special, the seminal force that got me into the fish hobby, and I just can't kill him. He's got regular breathing but is laying at the bottom of the tank and I know he's dying and yet... I can't kill him. I have this odd feeling that he's OK and wants to live for the next few hours. It's weird and I don't understand it and maybe THAT is the better decision in all of these deliberations: let your intuition tell you how to proceed.

as for life without a dog.... i couldn't do it myself. i made it two weeks and found my meko pup. life, for me, isn't possible without a dog. maybe i'm a little fucked up and they help me keep going in life or maybe i'm just accustomed to it but, regardless, after my 13yr old baby died i just couldn't function so.... life of dogs it is!!! =p
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From:tieke
Date:March 17th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, hugs. And fully support where you're at with this. I too look back and think I left it too long with one of my pets who had cancer - it would have been better to end it while she was well.
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:March 17th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
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Hugs. I wore those shoes just recently and am very sympathetic. You are thinking about this the right way though, about the gift of a peaceful ending to a long, healthy life.

Hugs again and all my sympathies.
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From:saltdawg
Date:March 17th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
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Christ. I kind of know the feeling. Kind of. The thing, the trick of this kind if thing is to get ahead of it. Get ahead and grab the horns for all it's worth.
I really miss my dog, but I miss my ferrets more, and it's been over a decade since that happened.
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From:thirstygirl
Date:March 17th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
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That is a hard one.
*hugs*
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From:vernacularity
Date:March 17th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC)
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very sorry to see all this and knowing what you have been through, having lost two dogs one of which was a put-down decision due to serious injuries I know it can be the same or worse than losing a person but even possibly more difficult because of the element of choice and "rationality". At the moment all I can say is *sympathy*.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 18th, 2011 12:10 am (UTC)
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*hug* thinking of you.
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From:tyellas
Date:March 18th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
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If I had to make a similar decision about my cat, then...yeah. Kudos and sympathies.
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From:helianthas
Date:March 18th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
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*hugs* You are very compassionate.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:March 18th, 2011 04:41 am (UTC)
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i think you'll be making the most humane decision this way... i would certainly want to be sure if it were cancer so i could make the right choice at the right time. for my own dogs, i wouldn't treat cancer with western medicine at all... i think it's cruel to give dogs chemo or radiation. they can't choose it for themselves and they don't know why they feel bloody awful for no reason or why they have to spend so much time at the hospital getting stuck with needles. it's just awful. and of course, surgery can be painful and hard to recover from for an older dog. it's just not what i would want for my dogs or cats, or for myself for that matter. being able to help our animal companions die without pain is really important, and i love that you value that type of compassion, despite the loss that it will be.
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From:danjite
Date:March 18th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
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Had this open for days, naught to say but I sympathise and agree with your approach.

Feel clumsy saying it, anyway.

*Hugs*
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