Waiting for the Reaper

Last week, my older dog was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in one of her front legs. She’s quite elderly, about 17, for any kind of dog, so there really are no treatment options. Amputation is right out since she had an accident in 2008 that required hip surgery and she’s most likely too old to survive a general anesthetic etc. If we could amputate and throw chemotherapy and radiation in on top of that, she’d get another year…maybe. This leaves us with a prognosis of about 6 weeks left in her life. Unfortunately, back in early February, she got a bit gimpy and I simply called in a refill on her arthritis medicine. I thought that the storm/sun/storm weather was getting into her bones like it was mine. She seemed a bit better, but then started in with the limping again, so that’s when we went to the vet. So, in reality, her “6 weeks from diagnosis” is mostly already up.
It’s not like I’ve not done this before with a human. Doing hospice for humans, you get used to watching, waiting and dosing to keep ahead of the pain until the end. Thing is, for good or ill, humans have to die all by themselves. Animals are another story altogether. Animals you can decide for and you have to hope you don’t guess too early or too late. This is the hardest part for me, waiting to make the call. And, it’s not like I’ve not done this for one of my pets before, though they’ve all been cats. There’s been only one who took that decision out of my hands and she died on the way to her final appointment.
My vet is great and he said that as long as she’s doing ok and enjoys her life, we can keep on top of the pain for a while but even that surcease will run out. And she’s still having a grand time, for the most part. The other night, a day after the diagnosis, we held a BBQ for her “human friends”. She’s always been a digger and my back yard looks like something from a trench warfare movie. While we were out back by the grill, down one of her holes she went and the dirt began to fly. Fearing that she’d snap the bone, both I and my son tried to bodily drag her from her tunnel. No dice. The minute we let go of her, back down she went! She paid for it the next morning, as we all do when we forget we are no longer young, but was chipper by the afternoon. And so it goes. Up and down, watch and wait.
Though I will miss her, she’s my last “Alaskan” dog, (yes, I carted her with me to STL) and her going will mean another closing of that chapter of my life up there, I wish her pain to cease and for her to have a peaceful going out of this world. But I honestly wish that she’d take that decision out of my hands.

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