Continued from Part 2
Standing there looking at this suddenly very fragile little greyhound, with big soulful eyes that were calling out for help, I was faced with doing something I’d done dozens of times over the years but now terrified me. I didn’t want to do it … but I had to pick her up to get her into the car. As I bent over to get her I apologized saying, “I’m sorry honey, but this is going to suck.” As I picked her up she let out a GSD that melted my heart. She was in so much pain I can’t believe she didn’t bite me (no time to get the muzzle). I tried shifting my grip so there was minimal pressure on that shoulder, but that idea backfired… every movement caused more screaming and more apologizing. As I carried her to the car I kept repeating, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry …”. By the time I got her in the back of the SUV she had stopped screaming, which made me more concerned than relieved. She was panting heavily and not even trying to move around. All the while the thought was running through my head, “Healthy bones don’t break like this.” Shit.
Our vet is only 10 minutes away, but it felt like an eternity (I think that’s what Einstein meant when he said “time is relative”). To add insult to injury (or more accurately, “injury to injury”), our neighborhood doesn’t have the best roads and I’ve never been more acutely aware of every bump and pothole because every time we hit one Lena screamed and I apologized. Every time we turned a corner her weight shifted and she screamed and I apologized. When Suzie finally pulled in the lot of the vet’s office our nerves were shot and Lena was whimpering near constantly. They met us at the door with a gurney. Once more I apologized to my little girl as I helped lift her on to the gurney. More screaming.
They wheeled her straight to the back for x-rays.
We met with the Dr. on call, not our normal vet. We got him up to date and he went back to check on their progress. He came back and showed us the images. You didn’t need a medical degree to see the fracture. My heart sank as the very last ounce of hope that this wasn’t osteo drained out of my system. “Healthy bones don’t spontaneously break.” Damnit. Still, I asked if the biopsy results were back yet. They weren’t. I looked at Suzie and all of our previous conversations came flooding back. “She won’t make a good tripod. She’s 10 years old. Missing Toe. Corns…” DAMNIT!
Osteosarcoma deteriorates the bone so completely that there is no “fixing” a bone once it’s broken. Some people have had good luck with bone strengtheners as part of a palliative care regimen, but they do absolutely no good once the bone has broken (and, I should note, do nothing to attack the cancer or keep it from spreading). We’ve never had a dog break a leg before, either with or without the bone cancer. This was uncharted water for us. One thing we knew for sure, it limited our options. Gone was Option #1: to just manage the pain and wait until her quality of life declined to the point that we had no choice but to let her go. Gone, also, was Option #2: To try radiation and chemotherapy coupled with pain management in an attempt to slow the growth of the tumor(s)… until her quality of life declined to the point that we had no choice but to let her go. We were left with only two options: let her go right now or amputate the leg and follow up with chemo. To his credit, the vet told us not to make any decisions right then. We left her there overnight, hopped up on some good pain meds and pretty well sedated. It was a long drive home with the echoes of Lena’s screams still ringing in our ears.
We talked long into the night about her chances at a decent life as a tripod. If we opted to go the surgical route, were we really doing it for her or for us because we weren’t ready to say goodbye? That’s a hard question to answer honestly. Do we want to put her through the pain of surgery and recovery at 10 years old? [To be honest, though, the recovery isn’t that bad — I can’t tell you how many reports I’ve heard of greyhounds that stand up in the recovery room just after amputation]. She’s had a good, long life. We spoiled her endlessly. She’s traveled to almost every state between Florida and Michigan. Ultimately the memory of her hopping around on one back leg and the thought that she probably wouldn’t even be able to walk as a tripod with those corns and missing toe proved to be very persuasive. We made a decision but decided to sleep on it and tell the vet in the morning.