Continued from Part 3
Neither of us got much sleep that night but my hope was that Lena got a restful night, even if it sedative-induced. In the morning I called our vet and told them we didn’t think Lena was a good candidate to be a tripod, that her corns and missing weight-bearing toe made it difficult for her to walk with all 4 legs and we didn’t want to destroy her quality of life by making it unbearable for her to just walk around. After discussing a few of those awful things you have to decide when making this decision I asked if we could come in and take her for a couple of hours of TLC before we said goodbye.
I think my first surprise was that they walked her into the waiting room for us to take her home. Granted, she was limping and on some really good pain meds, but even though she wasn’t using the broken leg at all (it just kind of hung there as a sad reminder of all of the screaming the night before), she was walking. Suzie and I looked at each other with a little disbelief and maybe a flicker of anger: Why were they making her walk!?
I gingerly picked her up and put her in the car. Our first stop was McDonald’s so she could get a hamburger and maybe some fries. What the hell? It was her last meal, she would get whatever she wanted. The cashier even threw in an apple pie. Lena ate every bite with an eagerness that did not say “drugged puppy” or “I’ve given up on life”. I started to doubt our decision. No, no, no. Focus: Corns. Missing toe. Limping on three legs … we have to do what’s right for her.
We got her home and put a bed out on the patio for her (it was too hot to stay out for long, but we wanted the other two dogs to get out their excitement for seeing their sister in an open area, not in the kitchen where they were currently waiting). So while Suzie sat with Lena on a dog bed I went to let the other two out. The Suzie called out. Actually, I think her exact words were, “What the..?”. I turned fearing some awful accident only to see Lena headed for the back yard. My turn, “What the hell!?”
I ran after her as she hobbled to the yard, squatted and peed. Suzie and I exchanged looks again. As we stood there in disbelief Lena finished her business and limped over to my side to lean on me, only whimpering once or twice when her broken leg bumped into the ground. Still looking at each other I said, “I change my mind. I think we’re making a mistake.” It was completely unfair of me and I knew it. We’d made the tough decision and made our peace with it and now I was reneging. She called me on it. While we were discussing it Lena decided she needed to poop and left my side to find a suitable spot, making my point for me. “Does this look like a dog that’s given up? One that wouldn’t be able to get around as a tripod?” Maybe I was overreacting to what we were seeing, but she was getting around pretty damn well even with the painful broken leg acting as a kickstand. I carried her inside and put her on the couch. About an hour later we were both fully convinced that she wasn’t about to give up and so we weren’t either.
[As I said before, the toughest question you have to ask yourself in this situation is whether you are doing this for yourself or your dog. Do you just want to keep them around because you aren’t ready to say goodbye? Or do you really think they could continue to enjoy life? There is no right answer. You won’t find a formula in a book that says something like “amputation + corns x missing toe ÷ 10 years old = not a good tripod”. Every situation is different. Every dog is different. The only person who can answer this is you. And it sucks.]
So I called the vet and told them we had changed our minds, that we didn’t need the needle after all. The girl at the front desk was almost in tears. She had been there the night before when we brought Lena in and was devastated when she saw us on the calendar for that afternoon. So that left us with scheduling the surgery. I knew their office had a couple of vets that could do the surgery, but it made me nervous that none were board-certified orthopedic surgeons. The closest one of those I knew of was 2 hours south at Ohio State. But I wanted this taken care of now. She was in pain and this cancer is aggressive. Fix it now. So when she came back with, “The Dr. can get you in for a consultation on Saturday at 11:00” I was shocked. It was currently Thursday afternoon. “Consultation!?” I half yelled. “Would she do the surgery later that day?” No, apparently they only do emergency surgeries on the weekends. “So, what? Monday then?” No, it looked like the surgical schedule was full. So I got a little heated.
“Look, it may be unrealistic, but I want this taken care of before Saturday and I sure as hell don’t want to still be talking about it on Monday, five days from now! I think this qualifies as an emergency – she has cancer and a broken leg!” She said she would talk to the doc and have her call me back.
Before I even hung up the phone I was already on to plan B. I did what anyone who has Dr. Couto’s cell phone number would do … I sent him an urgent text.