A Dog’s Life

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I’m sure that many years ago I may have shared Rocco’s story. When I started this blog all those years ago, we still had three dogs. Rocco is the last of that bunch.

They say that sometimes dogs find you rather than the other way around and that was the case with Rocco. He was a stray. I saw him briefly across the street but he ran before I could get closer. We live in a place where dogs don’t normally run loose so I figured he was lost. Later, I heard rustling in the woods behind our house and, on a whim, just clapped my hands. A minute or so later he came up through the woods.

He had a collar but no tag. I put him in the car and drove around multiple neighborhoods looking for anyone missing a dog. We hesitated bringing him in because we had two dogs already. But I wasn’t going to release him back into the wild so we did an introduction. A little growling at first but he basically decided he was cool with playing second fiddle to Chrissy who was our dominant one. Some dogs don’t need to be top dog I guess.

No lost dog ads. No lost dog posters. And he wasn’t chipped. Just like that, we had a third dog. He wasn’t neutered and he tested positive for heart worms so we were lucky we didn’t lose him right away. But we got him all fixed up and he’s been a great dog for many years.

Coming up on two years ago, we had a routine blood draw at the vet and something was off. Over to the specialty place where they diagnosed him with lymphoma which had spread to the liver. Fortunately, it was a slow growing type and was treated with oral chemotherapy medicine which he’s been on since.

Our oncology vet looked him over and is convinced that the cancer has spread and become more aggressive. She thinks it explains all the things we saw over the weekend and the fact that his platelet count was so low.

Not the news we were hoping to hear.

There were two treatment options. One is more aggressive chemotherapy. The expected survival is 6-12 months. The other is just to treat with steroids just to make him more comfortable for a bit. The expected survival is only a few months.

Obviously, expected survivals are averages and you can’t predict what will happen with an individual animal. And, you don’t know how they are going to react to the aggressive treatment.

What to do? Is there a ‘right’ thing? Not really.

There are things that neither option is going to reverse like the stiffness in his back legs and his troubles getting up and down stairs. If we opted for the more aggressive option, would we be buying time for us or for him? And what kind of life would it be? No way to be sure.

For now, we’ve decided to go with the less aggressive option. It won’t give him as much time but maybe it will make the last months more comfortable. I give all the credit in the world to the vet. She’s obviously had to deal with this situation many times and she just listened in a non judgemental way and answered our questions and listened to our concerns.

You want to do all you can for your dogs. They give so much and really ask for so little. A walk every now and then and some cookies would be good. It sometimes makes you feel that you should go all out and do whatever it takes. Because dogs are fighters and it feels wrong to give up on them. But sometimes doing less is actually the better thing.

And it is entirely possible that the cancer has somehow advanced so far that nothing is going to help. Have to prepare for that as an option.

So, tonight, Rocco is spending his second night at the hospital so they can monitor him after he gets his steroid treatment. You never know how much a dog influences your life until they aren’t around. It is so quiet and we look to the various beds and places he lies and they are all empty. Soon that will be the case permanently. We know this. We don’t like this but it is the nature of owning a dog because they don’t live forever. But we can try to make his remaining time as comfortable as possible.

You are never ready to say good bye but one day you have to. For us, that day is not yet here. But it is close.

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