Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A difficult decision

Three years ago to the day, our wonderful dog Syd came into our lives.  Our neighbor found him, and we ended up keeping him.  He was in pretty rough shape when he got here - incredibly skinny and filthy, and he had a big bite wound on his rear end.

What a face though!  We thought he wasn't too old, but couldn't ever be sure.  He started going gray, and we decided that he had lied about his age, in case we might reject him for being older than a puppy.

Syd Barrett

The last three years have been so much fun!  We've taken him on many walks, and he loves camping. It was hard to pick out a good picture, so I just went with this one taken while we watched the sunset at Kalaloch.

Syd looking like King Dog

In the past few months he has slowed down a bit, but just seemed like a typical aging dog.  And he is, I suppose.  The last few weeks he picked up a bit of a limp, and we thought maybe it was arthritis.  Then in the last few days it got progressively worse so we decided to take him to the vet.  Long story short, he has a mast cell tumor on his upper right front leg.

So what's a person to do?

We were very sad yesterday when we got the news, and we were given a variety of options:

  1. Remove just the tumor, but no guarantee of getting it all and because of the location it might not heal very well.
  2. Remove the entire leg - better chances, but no guarantee against reoccurrence or it already having spread.
  3. Referral to a doggie oncologist, full investigation & treatment options including chemotherapy and/or radiation.
We thought about it, and decided to go with the second option.  I called the vet this morning, and in tears told him what we wanted to do.  But it turned out that they would still need to send us to the doggie oncologist (in Seattle) for the surgery.  I called, and set up an appointment for a surgical consult with the potential for immediate surgery if necessary.  I asked for an estimate, and she wouldn't tell me because she wasn't familiar with our case.  I pressed - are we talking hundreds, or thousands?

Thousands.  But just $100 for the consultation!

Michael and I thought about it, and talked about it, and have decided that we cannot in our good conscience put Syd through the trauma of surgery that would debilitate him for a few weeks without the guarantee of accomplishing much and chemo/radiation were never in consideration.  Granted, at this point we don't know the extent of the cancer but it seems much more humane to give him the best possible life for as long as possible without slicing and dicing him apart.  He is quite happy now despite his limp, and surgery would destroy that.

There seems to be societal pressure or an expectation that pet owners must go to any length to prolong their pet's life - but who is that really for?  The animal, or the human?  We were also a bit bothered by the feeling that we were getting sucked into a system that preys somewhat on people who are sad and vulnerable.  Once your dog is on the operating table for a consultation and they recommend surgery, who will say no?  It seems that the only real guarantee is the pouring of dollars into the vet's bank account.  I don't begrudge them their work, but there probably aren't very many people who can truly afford that level of treatment for their pet.

Animals don't really understand what is going on, especially if you cause sickness or harm in an attempt to save them.  What they deserve is love and comfort, and that is the path we have chosen.  We will love him, spoil him, and help him be as comfortable as possible until its time for him to go.

We love our Syd!

When Syd is feeling zany, he puts on his blankie!


draxaxe said...

I admire you both. You are only thinking of Syd not yourselves. Love and hugs to all 3 of you xx

Jim McCluskey said...

I don't envy you these choices. We've gone through some of the same things when Malachi went blind quite suddenly 3 years ago. I agree with you about the commercial veterinary health care system. I grew up taking our pets to an independent clinic in Lynnwood where the vet cared about your pets but understood the economic realities. Now, clinics are often part of a big company run in franchises, and it's easy to be sucked into this system that preys on your emotional state. It's a tough, tough thing to go through, my heart goes out to Syd and your family.

Rosy Brewer said...

Beautiful post, Anne. I know this is really hard. We are dealing with the same sort of thing with one of our dogs and not sure how to proceed either. We certainly can't afford extensive medical care for our dog. He had half of his teeth removed and it was over $800. They say that people keep their pets around longer than they should for their own sake, not the animal's so you are doing the right thing.

Bookish One said...

You came to a decision with your hearts as your guide. It is the right choice for your family. Hugs!

Anne Murphy said...

Thank you all for your kind words. We've had so much joy from this lovely dog that we never planned on having, and are going to enjoy him as much as possible. Every day from here on out will be what it is, coping with the changes in his health. We'll travel the road together until it's time to let him go.