Saturday, December 12, 2009

The pain of ownership

I knew something was unusual about Duff to the extent that I could not explain it away by arthritis or old age.

The constant need to make left turns, the obvious confusion at things, the sudden loss of desire to climb steps or to lay down to sleep.

We visited the vet on Friday and, based on clinical analysis of his physical signs and my description of things, we feel Duff probably has a brain tumor.  It also seems to be affecting him with increasing symptoms rather quickly.

It is sad news.  Both his vet and I had tears in our eyes as we discussed the next course of action.  That action is seeing to his comfort.  We have him on prednisone to start, to go after and shrink any inflamation and help his arthritis too.

Then, we will see.  The one thing that I will not let Duff go through is extreme pain and/or fear.  I know I will hurt with the loss of my champion.  He is my superstar.  I could not ask for a better 1st dog and would challenge anyone to name a more ideal 1st dog.

But I love him and I am realistic.  He is 14 years old now.  We certainly expected, back in late October and early November, that he could go another 3-5 years.  That was assuming nothing else was going on.

I have accepted what I feel is the inevitable.  No, I am not in a rush to euthanize him.  Perhaps it is the fact that 9 years ago, I watched my 65 year old dad waste away from cancer (under hospice care).  Perhaps it is also the fact that for the last 6 months, I have watched my superstar deteriorate a bit.

Whatever the case and without going into the different symptoms I honestly am not prepared for the reactions I am getting.

Overwhelmingly the reactions are supportive and sad.  People who have known him feel bad.  However, mixed in with the empathetic support is advice on what I should do.  I guess I can attribute it to the fact that while I have had time to come to grips with Duff's mortality, others hearing the news have not and seek to offer advice on how to prolong his life.

My question is "to what end?"  What would having an MRI test done? Or pumping him full of homeopathics when he does not want pills in his mouth?

I have had people offer to provide me with vets who would offer a good 2nd opinion.  I never mentioned that I doubted my vet.  I agree with my vet.  We want what is best for Duff's quality of life.  He has had quantity.  He is 14 for God's sake!  Sure I would like him to live to 17 like his dad but honestly did not think that would be possible given the nature of the arthritis in his back.

I know everyone means well and different people deal with this issue differently.  Some people will put a 14 year old dog through mood altering drugs, keeping them hanging on for 6-12 months.  Others will put them through surgery.  Is the animal better for that?  I'm not sure.

I am sure that I will not put Duff through all of that.  It does not mean that I love him less.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I love him deeply.  He has been a very special part of my life for a long time.  I do not want to close that chapter so soon.

But, I now know why my pal and agility instructor was so private about her heart dog, Darby, when she was sick.  Sure, it could be that she is private anyway.  But it is difficult enough to deal with the upcoming loss of a loved dog without having a slew of people offering you unsolicited advice when you are already hurting.


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