Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Knowledge of Good and Evil

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.


  1. Nooooooooo! Geez, this is just so sad. I loved Hoover's essay very much; he is a smart dog and a good boy.

    I've never gone through cancer with a pet (knock wood) but have buried my share of cats. It is heart-breaking, absolutely. And I hate the idea of drawing out Hoover's life by a method as drastic as amputation (which I would never have said if you hadn't already said that you probably won't do that).

    I have always felt that letting our animals go when they are in pain is something we can give to them that we cannot give to each other.

    I'm just so sorry for your family.

  2. I agree, Nicole. I'm careful not to judge what others decide to do because it's just so hard to say goodbye, but George and I have always said that we wouldn't draw out a pet's life in suffering just to put off saying goodbye. We still hold out some hope that either the surgeon has another option or that this turns out to be a bone infection (highly unlikely, though). We will see what new information (if any) we get in the next few days.

    Thanks for your kind words.


  3. Oh, Susan, I am so, so sorry! I am crying for you. Losing pets is so hard--they are such sources of pure daily joy, uncomplicated happiness, and unconditional love--such good company--but they just don't live long enough! I am so sorry this sadness is before you.

  4. Because it hurts so much, you wonder "is it better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all?"

    And you know in a split second that you wouldn't have missed loving Hoover for anything. I like to think that dogs approach death just as they do life--tail wagging, tongue hanging out and their bum wriggling in a frenzy, anxiously awaiting their next adventure.

    Hoover is a lucky dog to have you as his mom.

  5. Damn indeed. Big hugs for all of you while you go through this together. Hoover will probably manage the best.

  6. Oh, I am so sad and sorry you have to go through this! Our own beloved family dog is certainly aging and has given us signs that she may be nearing the end, yet she still is determined to act like a puppy and drive me nuts. Oh, I lift you in prayers over the next few months...take lots of pictures and remember the good times.

  7. Oh, Susan, I am so sorry to hear this. After having to put our two dogs down within the last 3 years, and one because of osteosarcoma, I know the pain you are going through. It is so hard to make that decision, but the only advice I can give is to not wait too long, and it sounds like that is how your are approaching this.

    Sending you big hugs.

  8. How very sad for you all! I will be praying you will receive the strength to make the best decisions and get through this valley with happy memories to sustain you.

  9. This news is so darn sad. I think I can feel your pain. We lost our Jasmine this way a few years ago. Tough decisions to be made, but you are on the right track. I hope he has some quality time left yet.

  10. We had to let our Kelly go after 17 years with us, but we took good care of her for as long as she was not in pain. It's amazing how our pets become such a close part of our lives, truly a blessing, as you seem to have experienced with Hoover. (Hoover was our dog's nickname because she always "vaccuumed" up the crumbs.) I can certainly identify with what you're going through.

  11. Oh Susan! How awful for you and Hoover! I remember the absolute heartbreak I felt with the death of our wonderful little Lady - but it was sudden and I didn't have to grieve her for months before she left us. So sorry for this horrible news.

  12. I am so sorry. Hoover is lucky however to be part of your family.

  13. sending prayers and good wishes to all of you during this difficult time. our dogs are such special parts of our families, and it is so sad to say goodbye.
    enjoy every minute of every day. hoover is lucky to have you, and you folks are blessed to have him.
    marty ferraro

  14. Susan, I'm so sorry to hear about Hoover. Hoover is so lucky to have such a caring family and I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  15. I just read Hoover's essay (that dog is too darn funny) and of his recent vet visit. I'm so sad to hear of his troubles. While I don't know much about Hoover's condition, I do know this...traditional vets (altho' I have always trusted them with our 15 year old cat and 4 labs) couldn't seem to help our 9 month old lab, Major, who developed tummy/bloat issues. After two months, Major's daily bloating got so bad his stomach twisted and he needed emergency surgery to save his life. Afterwards, he still struggled and ended up at the University of Florida's vet school for treatment. No one could diagnose him...he was happy, filled with life...but still bloated. The vet suggested I make The Decision, but it didn't feel right. So, I took Major to a local homeopathic vet (who is also a nutritionist) and she prescribed enzymes, a de-tox program and did a chiropractic adjustment. Within 24 hours Major was improving! Like magic!! It's been 2 weeks and Major continues to thrive, he is almost back to 100% health. I'm not sure if your Hoover could benefit from a non-traditional vet, but it would be worth a try. Blessings to you...

  16. Tina,

    So glad your Major is improving so well with the alternative medicine approach! May he lead a long, tail-waggingly happy life!



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