I’m really not an emotional person but obviously this dog means something to me!

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Delivering Rose to the vet clinic was difficult, but I could see her through the window after leaving and she looked ok. In fact leaving her there turned out to be a relief. It was a release to be out of limbo land and set for the course after a traumatic couple of days with all options open and trying to pick the best option for Rose.

We dropped Rose off just before midday so I lunched that day with my parents before going home. I had early on stated that cost was not part of the decision making process, so we had an unspoken agreement to not discuss it further. My parents love animals but have no pets and are not ‘animal people’ like I am and have always (to my and my brother’s benefit) been careful and cautious with money. They would be horrified if they knew the cost so I have not told them. For me, perhaps controversially to some, it has been interesting and illuminating to see how money became just a concept. While I was initially taken aback upon receiving the quote, within heartbeats the thought process became, if this is best for Rose, do I have the right numbers? That was it, just numbers.

Once home I waited as patiently as possible to hear from the vet about how the surgery had gone. My partner returned from work at around 4pm and still no word. I knew they would be busy and that no news was probably good news, but by 4:30 pm I cracked and called up. She was in surgery! I imagined my beautiful dog in surgery at that moment and thought that the surgeon must have done quite a few operations and been quite tired by then. So very seriously, I tried to send energy and calmness their way, but really there is nothing you can do but trust in the wonderful vets and nurses. Later the vet called. She had survived!!! The surgery had gone well. She was recovering well. I cried and really in that moment I could have given the surgeon all of my belongings in gratitude.

As Rose was at the clinic recovering I was able to go to work for a couple of days before taking leave again. Everyone at work was very kind and concerned and I was holding it together when people asked me about it. But then I received a call from the vet. Rose had been taken out of her cage and had promptly hopped a few steps and gone to the toilet! She was able to get about on three legs!? Already!?! You little trooper! Such a relief. And, this was getting boring, I promptly broke out in tears of happiness. What a way to quickly bond with new work mates…

We picked up Rosy early, after two days, because she was not accepting food and the vet thought she was the kind of dog who just wanted to be at home. I won’t lie. It was a shock to see her and I did think, oh my goodness what have I done. I was prepared to be shocked, having read other people’s accounts, but seeing your own sweetheart bruised and swollen and of course, without a leg was confronting. She was simply just happy to see us and stoically tried to head for the door. She was hopping, but the vet floor was slippery and it was obvious that she was extremely tired, being only two days out of major surgery and 15 and a half years old at that, and so we carried her to the car and installed her carefully on a big soft dog bed in the back seat. I sat next to her and cuddled her during the drive home, trying to match her level of stoicism. As soon as we got her home our spirits lifted. I fed her roasted chicken, and the vet was right, she had no problem eating now she was home and gobbled down everything we gave her.

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The photos above show Rosy three and four days after surgery



All of this happened three weeks ago. It has been really good to write it down here. Thank you so much for your comments and support on the previous post. It’s a great feeling to connect with like-minded persons and it helps me to continue to feel positive while Rosy is going through the next difficult phase, which is chemotherapy treatment and perhaps topic for a future post..

Just a quick note on some details of Rosy’s post-surgery recovery. Being an older dog, we are more than pleased at her recovery rate. She initially spent a lot of time resting, and would get herself up and turn around regularly to lay on different sides. I helped her to turn around if she needed and for the first week carried her to and from the garden where she could take herself to the toilet. She still sometimes struggles to get into a comfortable sleeping position and so I help her by supporting her as she lies and then gently re-arranging her back legs and tail to one side as taught by the physio.

For Rose I found it was helpful to take her to physio for a number of sessions. She absolutely loved the massage and stretching part of the therapy and we learnt a lot of gentle exercises to help her use the right muscles when sitting and standing from a sit, find her balance and strengthen her core. We have also covered the house entirely in rugs because she was slipping around on the the wooden floors.

She is now hopping about as she likes and is back to her quiet routine of following me about the house and waiting at the back door to be let out to go to the toilet and have a potter in the garden. I was so scared that she would not be able to hop, but they are so resilient and practical. She is slowly building her stamina and will hop a distance, stop to rest and then carrying on hopping. She’s had a few short bounces when excited by the other dogs and has even attempted to tackle my other dog Tonka. It is quite hot here in Australia at the moment (37 degrees celcius yesterday and today) which is affecting all of the dogs’ energy levels. The chemotherapy has also affected her stamina and appetite at various stages, so it’s not a steady improvement.

Well that is all from me for now! I hope this might help someone else considering this for their older dog. Rosy was doing well for her age but due to the cancer she would be dead by now without amputation, and instead she is happily back to pottering about. While I have written this she has come to check on me a few times, laid at my feet for a while and now is currently ensconsed on the couch with my partner as he watches television and she is comfortable as can be.

 

 

 


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While I agonise, Rose remains calm

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You really find out how deeply and truly you love your dog when a cancer diagnosis is made. My Rose is quite old – 15 and a half years. I remember getting her in 1999. I had lost my childhood dog six months earlier and had, on impulse, entered into a pet store (which I don’t usually do) while out shopping one day. And there was this adorable 11 week old puppy, tail wagging, a black and tan kelpie, the spitting image of the dog I had just lost. I was renting and living in an apartment at the time, so getting a dog was not on the cards, but foolishly, fatefully, I asked to pat the puppy, and she was placed on the ground and then ran up to me so joyfully and proceeded to bound around in my arms and lap. It seemed perhaps she was the reincarnation of my previous beloved dog. Despite her being a pet store dog, I had to get her.

Fifteen and a half years is a long time. She has been such a faithful and a constant companion. She has calmly seen me through university, relationship break ups, work stress and the general ups and downs of life. We have had many good times together and in many ways my life has revolved around her needs. When she started limping I took her to the vet. It was thought that she had hurt her lower front leg and this made sense as she had recently tripped over one of my other dogs while running down stairs and had taken a bad fall. She was placed on arthritis medication and sent home for general rest. We visited again when there was no improvement and further rest was prescribed. On the third visit to the vet, a different vet was in residence and he immediately recognised that she had bone cancer (oesteosarcoma) in her upper left leg. This was confirmed by x-rays. I was immediately in tears and shock. How could she go from having a sore foot to having terminal cancer and only a few weeks to live!? The vet recommended amputation but I told the vet that she was far too old to survive surgery and besides her back legs had started to get a bit wobbly and how could she possibly cope with only three legs? For some reason however, I asked the vet to do a blood test to check her health for pre-surgery and took Rose home with pain medications. I was flooded in tears and already grieving her loss.

This happened in the afternoon and I had just started a new job that day. The next day I was still teary and my face was swollen. I was in no shape to turn up at work, plus I had limited time left to spend with Rose and she was in need of care. So I had to make the first hard decision – to call my new boss and arrange leave without pay when I had only just started. I’m a bit of a workaholic and I feel work responsibility keenly and had already been handed over some large projects just on day one, so this was quite difficult. I was also worried about my reputation, what would they would think about my crazy dog lady drama, so it really was hard to make that phone call. But I had no choice after thinking about how Rose had devoted her whole life to me and now she just needed me to provide her with care and companionship. In the bigger scheme of things it was a no brainer. Luckily work have been fine. It helped that it was near the Christmas/New Year period and that I have previously worked at that place.

Making that call gave me time. And having time relieved the panic and allowed me to think more rationally and to do research.

Only one week prior we had holidayed at the beach and I have video footage of Rose running along the beach, doing fly bys as we walked along, and bounding through the surf like a young dog. She was meant to be resting her leg, but the joy of being at the beach had infected her and once I let her off the leash and she took off I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt her fun, knowing that she was getting old and it might be the last time she was ever at the beach. I kept looking at that footage over and over. It was a great reminder of how she was just one week prior, as she had quickly gone downhill and was just lying around in a lot of pain. Perhaps the cancer pain had been exacerbated by her running about at the beach.

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I started to research oesteosarcoma on the internet and, a surge of hope, I found that there is limb sparing surgery available for dogs with bone cancer in the leg. It replaces the diseased part of the bone, allowing the dog to retain four legs. Ah! Looking at the video footage of Rose running about at the beach, I started to think that perhaps the risk of surgery was worth taking. With the level of pain she was currently in I could not keep her alive for much longer and would have to consider putting her down, perhaps even by the coming weekend which was only four days away. After only a short time of her lying around, it was easy to see her as this old dog at the end of her days, so I was thankful for the recent video footage to remind me of her capabilities and joy for life. I knew that without the cancer, she still had mileage in her.

I managed to arrange a referral from the local vet and get an appointment at the specialist vet that day. The specialist vet very quickly burst my bubble and explained that limb sparing surgery only works on the lower part of the leg because the replacement part needs to be attached to the remaining length of bone above. As Rosy’s cancer was at the top of the leg there was nothing to anchor any replacement to. More tears, however the vet was quite confident that Rose would be able to survive amputation surgery and adapt to three legs, even given her age. He felt her hips and had x-rays done to check for arthritis. Some spondyloysis was present but the vet still felt confident that she would be ok. Gosh, what a flip in thinking and what a hard decision but I had to start to rationally break it down. The leg was causing pain and removing it would immediately relieve that pain and extend her life. The other option was to put her down soon. I knew that if I pointed a gun at Rose’s head (or infer any other type of fatal harm) she would run away if she knew the intent. The specialist was telling me he could not make any guarantees but was confident that she would survive surgery and be able to get about on three legs. I knew that if she was to have the surgery the sooner the better. I booked her in for surgery the next day, but instead of leaving her at the vet overnight, I bought some thinking time by taking her home.

The next morning it was decision time. I fluctuated between deciding to put her in for surgery and deciding not to.  I called the vet clinic to find out the latest time I could deliver her for surgery. I was alone because my partner had had to go to work. After some agonising time thinking about it I called my parents in tears asking them to come over and help me make the decision. We all sat around Rose who was excited to have visitors and lay at our feet, occasionally getting up for pats. Mum was against it, she felt it was cruel to remove her leg and have her have to learn how to get about on three legs and then go through chemotherapy, but Dad was of the opinion that the leg is causing the pain, so we address that problem and then address any next problems as they occur. I needed to hear both views. I realised that I had already made the decision to put Rosy through the surgery but just needed the support to give me courage to enact it for her. Mum and Dad kindly drove Rose and I to the surgery. We dropped her off just in time to have surgery that day with a tearful goodbye kiss from me.