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Posts tagged with: sick dog

Now We Know

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Thanks for all the kind comments on my Tuesday post regarding the health of our dog, Rocky. I haven’t been able to bring myself to reply to each of the comments individually, but I do want you to know I’ve read every single one and appreciate all the love and positivity you’ve shown us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Yesterday I spent 4 hours at a vet specialist having additional tests run. Our first vet feared the worst, but said there was a (slim) chance Rocky’s issues could be resolved with dietary and lifestyle changes, so we were certainly hoping for the best.

Six Hundred Thirty Dollars later (in addition to the original $275 for labs spent on Monday), we have no shadow of a doubt. Rocky is dying.

He’s got lymphoma that’s spread to his liver and kidneys. The vet’s estimate gives him 3-6 weeks longer to live. I ended up paying for an ultrasound and an aspirate of his lymph nodes for examination/testing. I felt kind of dumb agreeing to the aspirate after the ultrasound was performed because the vet said it was likely lymphoma and I knew we wouldn’t agree to chemotherapy/treatment, so the second procedure seemed a bit like a waste of money. But on the other hand, as one commenter put it (“I hope you can make a decision you find peace with”), I felt like I needed to know in order to have peace. The ultrasound didn’t show any outright tumors that would have been 100% definitive (though it did show enlargement, grayness, and “lack of uniformity” that’s indicative of problems), so it took an examination of the lymph node fluids to know for sure.

We talked about the options. I knew chemotherapy wasn’t going to work and, with as advanced as his cancer already is (they placed him in Stage 4), the vet wasn’t optimistic that it would buy much more time anyway.

She said we could schedule an appointment to euthanize him, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle that at the appointment. So the option we chose was one of palliative care. We’ve got some meds to make him feel better (they don’t treat the lymphoma, but will give him a little energy, increase his appetite, and make him feel a bit more like himself). Then when it’s clear that he’s no longer happy, we’ll schedule the appointment. It could be a matter of days or weeks…likely not longer than that.

I tried to hold it together at the vets (tears streamed down my face, but no outright sobbing), but I fell apart walking out to the car. And Rocky’s reaction? He leans over and starts licking my arms, trying to make me feel better. Sweet dog. I’ll be so, so sad to no longer have him in my life.

About the financials:

The exact amount in our “pet expenses” account was $335. That was the first pot of money that I used. I paid for the specialists’ bill on a credit card so no money has actually left our account yet to pay for the remaining balance. I’m going to pay it off as soon as the bill comes, but it buys us a little more time. First, I’ll try to make some funds available out of our normal budget by shifting things around. It might be tough though because this was already going to be a relatively “lean” month due to not receiving a paycheck from my part-time job this month. So if we can’t cover the rest of it from our budget, we’ll draw any remaining amount due from the emergency fund we’ve just started to build back up. It will be a bit of a blow, but it won’t be catastrophic, and at least we aren’t taking on any debt. Honestly, I know it’s an egregious amount ($905 currently; Add in prescription pet meds. And I don’t know how much it costs to euthanize him, but add that to the mix, too). Despite the cost, I really do feel at peace with our decision now that we have the full scope of information. If we hadn’t gone ahead with the diagnostics I’d always be wondering (plus, knowing what he has impacted our vet’s decision regarding the kind of meds she’s prescribing, so it was important for that).

Rocky boy is my first real dog. We had one family pet growing up, but we got him when I was already one-foot-out-the-door to college, so I never really bonded with him and he passed away long after I was gone from the house. Rocky, though, is my boy. Officially speaking, hubs and I got him together in our first apartment together. But everyone knew Rocky was “my” dog. Still to this day, I (and I alone) am his favorite human.

It’s tough already, but I know it will get tougher soon. As a heads up (and we totally don’t have money for this in the budget either), I immediately called a photographer and asked if she’d be able to make a last-minute house call to get some final family photos as a family of 5 (before we lose our doggy member and reduce back down to a family of 4). Rocky has never been included in “family pictures” and although I’ve got photos of him from throughout the years, they’re terrible quality and none are actual posed photos with the whole family. I know this is something I’ll cherish long after he’s gone and, again, it brought an aspect of peace to this process for me. Unfortunately, the soonest the photographer can come out is not until Tuesday. I’m pretty worried that might be too late, as Rocky refused to eat all day yesterday and has already thrown up twice today (as of 6:30am). But he just barely started his medicine so – fingers crossed – it buys us enough time for him to truly feel better, spend some more time together, and get the photos my heart is yearning for. I don’t yet know the price, but our last photos were $150. I did tell the photographer I’d pay extra to come to our house since we live a good hour away from where she’s located. Honestly, I kind of don’t care. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but even if the price were doubled ($300), it’s $300 well spent. And just about the last $300 we’d ever be spending on this animal, so that’s something to think about in terms of (lack of) future costs.

In some ways, I’m truly thankful things will happen quickly. He won’t have a long, drawn-out period of misery and slow deterioration (like my Dad is experiencing with his disease). I’m also thankful this is happening during summer so I’m not away for long hours at a time. My plan is to still work at the office MWF, but this entire week I’ve stayed home with him. I do have to go in for several meetings on Friday, but hubs will be able to be around. This is important, as Rocky will increasingly need quick access to outside and we don’t have a doggy door. Plus, someone needs to be around to be able to monitor how he’s doing.

I hope to have a couple more weeks with him to fully love on him, pamper him a bit, and (selfishly), give ourselves a chance to wrap our minds around the inevitable. But as soon as its clear that he’s no longer enjoying life, we’ll be sure to do the most humane thing for him. I know the time is coming soon.

Everyone has their own struggles. Peace and hugs to all of you as you navigate yours.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~Wendy Mass


A dog’s worth

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Rocky was our first baby. Years before we ever had human children, he was our “child.” Yes, we were those people. The kind who refer to their pets as children. We treated him as well as you’d treat a human child, too. He had it made. Dog parks, long jogs, lots of love and affection. He moved with us cross-country two separate times. He’s been with us through thick and thin. Richer and poorer. All that stuff.

Having kids changed all that, to some extent.

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He still remained our “child”, but now we referred to him as our “first born.” He was no longer the baby, having been displaced by two human babies. The trips to the dog park became less frequent. The jogs became shorter. And, in general, he realized he’d been replaced on the food chain. Our two new human babies came before him. He accepted his new position in the family like a champ. Never acting out or misbehaving. In fact, he rather liked having these two tiny humans running around. Although they were loud and he didn’t like having his sleep disrupted at night (omg, they didn’t reliably sleep through the night until they were nearly 3!!!), he LOVED all the table scraps he suddenly started gaining access to as the girls would drop things from their high chair trays (or purposely throw down food, on occasion).

Rocky turned 11 this year.

As a large dog, I know his days are numbered as it is. He’s starting to slow down, show signs of arthritis, etc.

We took him to the vet yesterday for his routine check-up. He needed updated vaccinations and I wanted to ask about the arthritis issue (I’d noticed he no longer jumps onto our bed anymore. This was a big deal to me as he’s slept with us for all 11 years of his life. Yes, I know that’s not necessarily healthy and all. Like I said, he’s our baby).

But that’s not how things went.

During the vet’s examination, there were some troubling things about Rocky. His ears looked yellow. His gums, too, looked yellow. I’d never noticed before.

The vet drew labs. $275 later we were headed home. We’d get a call the next day with some news.

We waited and waited and called the vet probably 20 times (“no, labs aren’t back yet.”). We finally heard back at 6:30pm this evening, after the office had already closed for the day. Rocky’s white blood count is perfectly normal (which is good), but his liver enzymes are off the chart. The vet referred us to an emergency vet clinic. She wants us to make an appointment ASAP for an abdominal ultrasound (estimated about $400, on top of the $100 office visit charge). If it’s not telling, we may be advised to have a biopsy done (estimated at $1000+).

I’m at a total loss.

After the expensive vet visit yesterday, I was thankful we already had some funds set aside for “pet expenses.” We had about $350 in the account, so husband and I joked that we still had about $75 leftover after paying for the vet. “The problem better be $75 or less. More than that, and he’s screwed.” Chuckle, chuckle.

But now this.

I’m a realist. I always have been. So I’m trying to detach myself from the emotions involved (he’s my baby) and think practically. Logically.

He’s 11 years old. He’s a large dog. He’s not going to live many more years anyway. Do we really want to spend up to $1,000+ just on diagnostics?? Then what if we find out he needs surgery? Are we going to shell out the many multiple thousands for that? And he’s so old, recovery would be hard anyway. No guarantee he’d even survive surgery. I don’t think we’d go that route.

But where do we draw the line? What’s the worth of this animal? This member of our family? Our “first born child”?

 

I’m grateful we’ve been building up an emergency fund. But does this qualify as an “emergency”? What would you do? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to find out what’s wrong? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to fix the problem (once an official diagnosis is reached)? What’s the most humane option? What’s the best option?

I’m leaning toward opting for an ultrasound so we at least know what we’re dealing with (at an estimated cost of approximately $500 including the office visit charge). If the ultrasound doesn’t give us any indication of the problem….then what? Proceed with biopsy? Decline biopsy and call it a day? Watch him suffer in pain until the end? End it early?

My heart breaks. Obviously I knew he was getting old. I knew this day would come eventually. But still. My heart breaks.

See another Rocky-centric post here.