Saturday, December 21, 2013

One Sick Puppy

Scooter. This picture was taken in her former home, with my sister Pat and her husband Ross.
This dog. Oh, my, how this dog just melts your heart. It's amazing how quickly you can fall in love with an animal.

She is shy, hiding behind our legs, like a toddler behind Mommy's skirts, when other dogs or people approach her at the off-leash dog park, rarely ever sniffing another dog's butt (though she tolerates having her own sniffed). I'm glad of that introversion, actually, because I'm not too keen on talking with the other dog-walkers. (They're STRANGERS!) I just explain that she's shy, and we move along.

She is (mostly) quiet. She only barks when someone is already in the house and someone else comes to the door or walks in. If I come home and no one is there, she doesn't bark.

She does growl and bark at the cat and, unfortunately, at Kyle's toddler daughter. The cat has made herself comfortable upstairs.

Kyle's daughter rarely visits, and we supervise her time with Scooter very closely, ensuring that Scooter never feels trapped. I make a point of telling those who approach that she is shy and tell them that she is really not good with children. It makes me a little sad that she can't receive the love that I know these youngsters would love to show her, but it scares her, so I respect that and protect her and the children.

She loves her comfy bed but even more than that, she loves us. She will tuck herself between the chair and the footstool just to be close to Steve or, if he's not around, me. (She doesn't come up on the furniture since we bought her her own comfy bed.)
Her favourite place
Her favourite thing to do is to rip a toy to shreds, preferably as a cooperative game with one of the humans in the house. She adores squeakers and will actually eat the stuffing from stuffed animals (so we prefer toys with no stuffing). She has broken several teeth with her tearing activity. Some of those teeth have had to be removed.

Scooter disembowelling an early Christmas present from her Aunt Lori.
Actually, I'll amend that: I think her favourite thing would be to capture a squirrel. Fortunately for us, her vision is weak, so if the squirrels aren't moving, we can walk past them with no bad behaviour on Scooter's part.

As with many purebreds, especially those of a certain age, she has bad hips. She is 13 years old, which, in dog years, makes her 68 years old. She's a senior citizen. (I use her discount card for cheap bus fare. Heh heh.)

Recently, she's had a spate of ill health.

It started with a few days where she just lacked energy. She seemed to rebound, but then developed a bed-wetting problem.

All tuckered out after a romp in the park last summer.
Then we brought her in for some minor surgery: removal of a growth on her eyelid and cleaning of her teeth. As the vet put her under, she let loose what the vet described as the most vile-smelling urine you can imagine. He called me immediately and told me he was concerned about her kidneys and bladder. He did some basic blood work and sent her home with antibiotics.

A week or so later, she had another bad spell: no energy, quiet. Licking herself obsessively. I brought her back to the vet who did a "geriatric lab" on her and it turned up some bad news: her liver enzymes were high and she was slightly anemic. Sound familiar? I had the same lab results around the same time. I, however, had the option of cutting out alcohol; Scooter doesn't drink anything stronger than water (and lots of it).

Because her blood results were abnormal, they sent it to pathology. The pathologist said the red blood cells were oddly shaped and it looked like one of two things:
  • Hemangiosarcoma - "a rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer occurring almost exclusively in dogs," according to Wikipedia. It is a cancer of the cells lining the blood vessels and typically starts in the spleen or liver.
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia -  which "occurs when antibodies directed against the person's own red blood cells cause them to burst, leading to insufficient plasma concentration," also according to Wikipedia.
We were faced with every pet-owner's nightmare. What to do next?
Ross with his best girl.
We had already spoken with Pat and Ross, who were her parents for most of her life and whose hearts have broken as they've had to leave her behind when they moved overseas. We agreed that we would not take "heroic measures" to save Scooter's life. We agreed that, so long as she was loved (and knew it) and was not in pain, we would keep her going.

If it was cancer, then we would move to palliative measures. If it was the anemia, we would treat her with prednisone which, by the way, would be one of the palliative treatments for cancer.

Today, I brought her in to the vet because she shivers almost all the time now. The vet explained that this could be caused by cancer-related anemia (making her feel cold) or from pain. He felt Scooter's abdomen and found a mass about the size of his fist.

This pretty much confirms the cancer diagnosis. With this kind of cancer, it could lead to sudden death if the spleen ruptures. (This kind of tumor is very jelly-like and ruptures easily.) She might jump off a couch or roll over, and she would die. Or the spleen might develop a small tear and leak slowly, resulting in a slower, inevitable death.

Here. We all need a little "upper' right now. Look at this silly dog.

So she's on prednisone now and will be switching to a different medication that helps with pain - it's on order. The vet has prescribed a month's worth, which gives us an idea of timeframe. (I couldn't bring myself to ask.)

She still loves to play and laps up all the abundant affection we have to give. She wears her coat much of the time now and we keep her in the warmest room in the house. I really pray she's not in pain. If she starts "guarding" her abdomen, if her shivering gets worse, or if she goes off her food or water, we will choose euthanasia.

(I can't tell you how hard it was to write that last sentence. The euphemisms were inadequate: ending her suffering, putting her out of her misery. Both true, of course, but none of them call it what it is. It is an active choice we would be making.)

I'm glad I'm able to be home with her right now. Steve also has the next two weeks off, so we can spend some loving time with her.

I wish Scooter could talk and tell me if she's in pain. And I wish Ross and Pat could teleport over from Switzerland to say goodbye.

This sucks.

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