Usually the more experience you have with something, the less scary you find it. That’s not true with cancer.
I’ve worked for a head and neck cancer surgeon, had several family members stricken, nursed two dogs with it, and married a childhood cancer survivor. And it still freaks me out.
Approximately 60% of golden retrievers get cancer. So chances are good that I’ll nurse a dog with cancer in the future.
I need to deal with my fear of this insidious disease. After all, dogs don’t know they have cancer.
The Dog Cancer That Didn’t Do What It Was Supposed To
I’ll never forget coming back from a business trip and listening to Mike tell me about Shadow’s (she was my last dog and she decorates the header of this blog) visit to the vet to have her teeth cleaned.
We had just adopted Shadow from the SPCA a few weeks earlier. Although she was probably about 8 or 9 years old, she didn’t seem geriatric. The only health issue we could see was excessive tartar build up on her teeth. It seemed like a good idea to get her teeth cleaned under anesthesia, giving our new dog a fresh start with us.
During the cleaning, our vet spotted something strange on Shadow’s jaw and set it off to be biopsied. It was bone cancer.
If you’ve had sick animals, you know what I did next. I scoured the internet and read everything I could find on canine osteosarcoma.
I’ve known dogs to get bone cancer on their legs. Amputation is a common treatment, allowing the dog many more months or years of a high quality life with a relatively quick recovery.
Removing Shadow’s jaw was also a possibility. She’d have to relearn how to eat. Recovery would be slow. Oh, and even with follow-up radiation, her life expectancy was maybe an extra month or two.
Given how reactive Shadow was to other dogs, just sitting in the hospital waiting room was torture for her. We couldn’t put her through the pain and all those visits to the vet just to gain a few weeks. So we decided to let the disease take its course and we’d have fun with her as long as she was with us.
I couldn’t stop thinking of Shadow’s increasing pain. I imagined her wasting away from the disease. And I went out and bought her a bicycle cart so that even when she was too weak to walk, she could still enjoy recreation time with us.Shadow never knew she had cancer.
And the cancer didn’t know it was supposed to ruin Shadow’s life and cause her a slow and lingering death.
Yes, the tumor in her mouth got huge. But Shadow didn’t mind. She hated the bike cart as much as Honey and would bark when we took her for a ride along the Erie Canal. She ate her food voraciously, even when mealtime ended with blood from the tumor coating her bowl.
Worry that the tumor’s copious bleeding would cause Shadow to choke while we were out of the house led us to one last vet visit. But she was a happy girl until the very end. Why not? She didn’t know she had cancer.
Oh, and the couple of month prognosis we got from several vets? It stretched into two years. Two precious years.
Don’t Let Cancer Take Your Dog’s Life
While research into cancer prevention and treatment continues, we’ll continue to lose pets to cancer.
But even though people and their pets will continue to die from cancer, we don’t have to let it take their lives. What do I mean?
When I was finally able to stop sobbing into Shadow’s fur after her diagnosis, we packed lots of fun into our time together. Every day we took long sniffy walk. We went hiking. And canoeing. And camping.
She even made a few dog friends.
In other words, cancer didn’t ruin the quality of Shadow’s life. After all, she didn’t know she had cancer. And sometimes, for brief happy moments, we were able to forget.
Give Cancer the
But even more, they’re partnering with Zukes treats to raise money for the Dog and Cat Cancer Fund. During Monday’s contest giveaway, every entry will cause Zuke’s to donate $5 (isn’t that much more generous than most promotions of this type?). The Dog and Cat Cancer Fund uses its money to pay for research into cancer prevention and treatment as well as pay for treatments of dogs and cats with cancer.
So please visit Peggy and Jackie on Monday (afraid you’ll forget? Subscribe to Something Wagging so you see my reminder in Monday’s post) and enter the giveaway for a chance to win yummy Zukes treats while supporting the fight against dog and cat cancer.
Your Turn: Have you learned anything from your pet about how to handle illness? What was it?