Yesterday, I took Hoover to the vet because he has a swelling on his left shoulder blade. The x-ray showed a mass consistent with either osteosarcoma or chondrosarcoma.
He's the same dog he was two weeks ago when he wrote this essay, before I saw that x-ray and heard those big ugly Latin words. He is still happy, loves to go for walks in the spring sunshine, and clearly has a lot of life in him.
But every time I look at him now, I want to cry. And feed him bacon. And ice cream.
And scratch his butt until he collapses in ecstasy.
From all we know right now, we have two options. Option #1 We could have his left leg and shoulder blade amputated and treat him with chemo. This might give him another year. Option #2 We could give supportive care as the cancer metastasizes. The average life expectancy would be about four months in this case. Given that his cancer does not appear to have metastasized yet, he might have longer. The vet emphasized that there are lots of medicines and supportive care to keep him comfortable and happy.
Unless the orthopedic surgeon has another more hopeful option, we're leaning toward Option #2. Neither George nor I want to make Hoover's last months of life miserable, and while young dogs handle amputation very well, old dogs have a much tougher time.
Death is inevitable for all of us. We don't want to think about it until we have to because the illusion that we are immortal is precious. We can't imagine what comes next, in that last undiscovered country. We sweep it under the rug, deny the possibility, work hard to ignore it, try to cheat it however we can.
I don't think this is smart. Our last dog, Shemya, didn't give us a chance to fight her death because her heart gave out suddenly, in the span of hours. She died at home, with me by her side. She made it easier for us because we didn't have to watch her suffer and we didn't have any decisions to make or long-term care to provide. But the shock was so very hard.
George and I are working on a Bucket List for Hoover. What are the things that he loves, and how can we make them happen for him in the time he has left? We know and accept that he can't be with us forever, so we're determined that when his time comes he has as much dignity and love as we can give him.
Having knowledge of the evil mass on Hoover's scapula sucks. It changes how we look at him, and I hate that. How can we turn that to good? How can we make the right decisions for him? It's tough, but we'll do our best.
Because he's a very good dog. Our furry golden sunshine.