That day you learn that your dog has cancer

Posted on 09/14/2014 in misc

For me, that day was yesterday. Fenway is 14, and frankly, I was shocked when he got a clean bill of health at his annual vet visit about a month ago. He has really slowed down over the last few months, and I was expecting bad news and preparing for the worst last month.

He eats in the powder room, because he eats slowly and our other dog eats like she hasn't seen food in weeks. I got a surprise when I opened the door to let him out after eating Saturday morning. The bathroom looked like a murder scene from Castle, except that the splatter pattern made it obvious the blood originated in a coughing or sneezing fit. I learned an hour later it was a sneeze. We called the vet and had him there about an hour later.

The diagnosis after the physical exam was a tumor in the sinus area, and she ordered a CBC to check his blood. It came back horrible, everything was low. His CBC last month was mostly normal. The tumor has been bleeding for awhile internally. He is basically bleeding out slowly from the inside. She said now that he was bleeding externally too it wouldn't be long. 2 months at most, and probably more like 2 weeks. She talked through my options (none that she recommended be tried on a 14 year old beagle) and offered a prescription of prednisone, which she said might reduce inflammation and help him feel better while we decide what to do. He felt so bad he actually fell asleep on the floor of the examination room while we were waiting for the blood test results. When we got home Fenway didn't even make it all the way into the family room. He laid down right at the entrance and didn't move for hours. I positioned a blanket under him to catch the blood oozing out of his nose, and called Michelle, who was out. I also gave Fenway a prednisone, which had the double effect of stopping the blood from his nose, and seemingly helping him feel better. He was enthusiastic about eating last night, something we hadn't seen in a while. He has appeared to feel better today that he has in weeks. Obviously that is the prednisone.

So that is where I am. I'm assuming the prednisone effect will fade in the next couple of days. However, he ate enthusiastically both times today, and generally seemed to be pretty happy and energetic today. However I'm not fooling myself. My dog has advanced cancer and we are going to have to put him down soon, maybe in the next week or so, The tumor in his sinuses could rupture at any time, and I think I want to do it before that happens. I'm planning to work from home on Friday, so that might be the day.

As I was thinking about this I also was trying to look inward and convince myself that my relative comfort with putting him down was coming from a place of compassion, and not a place of convenience. Although I don't quite consider myself a Buddhist, I am a fan of the Noble 8-Fold Path and the 5 Precepts. I thought if I could read a little about the absolute prohibition against causing a death it might clarify my thinking. It turns out most Buddhists agree that when the general edict to show compassion conflicts with the Precepts, compassion rules. Not that I was giving any consideration to letting nature play all the way out here. I wasn't. If I have it in my power to reduce suffering I think I should do that. However it is comforting to get a second opinion from the Internet ;)

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