Matters of Choice

George has cancer.  We first became concerned with the weight loss that was noticeable after the groomer shaved him for the summer.  His appetite had diminished and he also seemed crankier with the other dogs.  A vet visit was scheduled and blood work was taken.  We were told he didn’t have diabetes or cancer.  Further testing for other possible weight loss explanations was also negative.  The vet’s assistant was unsuccessful in retrieving a urine sample.  The Englishman and I tried on a fifteen minute walk, but George was stubborn. 

There have been numerous occasions where we have been given this impossible task with each of our four dogs.  First, it is required to sneak behind your already suspicious dog and then quickly slip a pan beneath his leg as soon as it appears he is about to lift it.  Any trickle that may have started flowing immediately stops, the leg returns to the ground and the dog glares angrily at the interruption.  In spite of numerous demonstrations by our vet and her assistants, we cannot master the technique.  We finally left with a diagnosis of arthritis in George’s back legs and a bottle of pain pills.

We changed George’s food to a softer variety.  We added canned food to his meals.  He appeared to have a slight gain in weight.  Six weeks later we returned to the vet for another checkup.  George’s weight was now at 19 pounds.  His ideal weight is 28 pounds.  A tiny bit of urine that was collected was dark with hints of blood.  He was given an antibiotic and we were given options to discuss which included an MRI to confirm cancer followed by surgery and chemotherapy.  There was also an alternative medication that involved a derivative of blood root.

When we returned to the vet’s a few days later, what she suspected was a mass in his back pelvic region had grown in size.  Surgery was no longer a viable option due to the invasiveness and the uncertainty of surviving the anesthesia.  The alternative treatment was also not an option because it could do George more harm than good at this point.  I had also researched it extensively and was still not comfortable with it as a treatment.

George is eleven years old.  He is happy at home and is comfortable with his pain medication regimen.  He still interacts with his four-pack, riling them all in a nightly chorus of howls when he detects a siren in the distance.  We pause and smile and I wonder if the other dogs will continue the howling tradition without him.  As annoying as it can be at times, the thought of silence makes me sad.  So we watch him for signs, for changes and discomfort.  He sleeps in our bedroom each night so we can hear him if he needs us.  And we cherish these moments that we have remaining because he is a part of our four-pack and a part of our family.