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Friday, December 31, 2010

I love my crappy dog.

Monday morning, Kronk was fine. He ate his breakfast, was playing with Anna, and barked at the neighbor’s dog. But that night we went out to dinner and when we got back home, Kronk was most definitely not fine. He was obviously in a lot of pain, wouldn’t eat or even walk. Because things had gone downhill so quickly for him, we decided to take him in to the emergency vet clinic. Tests done there revealed a mass in his abdomen. The vet told me that it could be a cancerous tumor, a benign tumor, or a mass of cells caused by a perforated intestine. We wouldn’t know which until she could perform an exploratory surgery.

I decided to go ahead with the surgery because in two of those three possible scenarios, full recovery was likely after the mass had been removed. So Kronk went into surgery at 1:30am on Tuesday morning and wasn’t out until after 5am. The surgery was long and complicated.

There were actually 3 masses that they removed. The masses were not touching and didn’t look uniform, so they weren’t sure what they were, but there were two smaller ones and one large one. The big one was the trouble-maker, a tumor 3 inches in diameter. It had grown into a section of the intestine and a corner of the pancreas. To remove the tumor, the vet had to cut away part of the intestine and part of the pancreas, then resect the intestine to repair it. Kronk had to spend a couple days in ICU because of the severity of the surgery.

Kronk came home from ICU two nights ago and for now he is doing fine. He is continuing to recover at home. His pain is well managed, and though he’s reluctant to eat, he will swallow food when it’s force-fed via syringe. But his energy is coming up, he’s responding well, and we have confidence that soon he’ll be back to feeding himself.

Samples from all 3 of Kronk’s masses were sent for analysis by a pathologist. We were all hoping to hear that the tumor was benign, because that might mean a full recovery for Kronk. However, that was not the case. All 3 masses were related, 3 tumors from the same cancer: a leiomyosarcoma. The vet is going to consult with some oncologists and then get back to me about Kronk’s long term prognosis. His cancer is likely to recur, we just don’t know when or how. Hopefully, the vet will give us some idea of what to watch him for and how to know when it’s his time.

We’ve pretty much decided that we’re not going to do any more treatments. The two main possibilities are 1) chemotherapy very soon or 2) another surgery when the cancer grows back. We feel like, in either case, it’d just be putting Kronk through more sickness/pain than it’s worth. Putting a dog through chemotherapy seems questionable to me, and sarcoma has a reputation for not responding well to chemo, anyway. And more surgery would just be more than Kronk’s old body could take, I fear. So we’re trying our best to accept what will likely be inevitable. Hopefully, we’ve bought Kronk a decent amount of time, but really time will only tell.

This whole process has been a huge drain on me, both emotionally and physically. Physically, there are vet visits every day, sometimes twice a day, I have to help him and coax him when I need him to move around, I have to pill him and force feed him three times a day, and between the middle-of-the-night care and the worrying constantly going on in my head, I’m sleeping terribly. Emotionally, there’s the obvious struggle of knowing you’re slowly losing your dog. And I know, he’s just a dog, but I love him a lot, even though he’s just a crappy dog who doesn’t get along with other dogs and howls at kites and rolls in dead things. He’s also the dog who I trained to lay on my feet to keep them warm and who protects me when he perceives danger and who loves nothing more in the world than for me to hug him tight around his neck. Who wouldn’t love a crappy dog like that? But the other emotionally difficult thing about this has been that I’m second guessing every decision that I’ve made. Knowing now that he has a cancerous sarcoma, I wish that I’d not put him through the surgery. If we’d known then what we know now, I’d have had him euthanized that first night. How long will he have? How much pain will he be in? When the cancer comes back, how bad will that be for him? I just don’t feel like I’ve made the right choices for him and it hurts me to know that.

And on top of all this, there’s the constant threat of labor. I’m to the point of begging Ellowyn to stay in: I’ll walk around pleading to my belly, “Just one more week, ok? I just need you to stay in there for one more week.” Because hopefully by then Kronk will be better and I can’t fathom having to do all this care for Kronk and also have Mira AND ALSO have a newborn. Not to mention during labor. Kronk needs attention every two hours right now. Who will care for him if I go into labor right now? And then once we get home, will I be stuck in a perpetual rut of taking turns between caring for the baby and caring for the dog? And where does Mira come in to that? And it’s terrible that now the imminent arrival of my baby, something that should be exciting and that I should be overjoyed about and that I should be anxiously looking forward to, now that’s all turned into some lurking impending doom and just that fact makes my heart hurt a little more.

I guess you could say this has been a rough week for me. I hope you were all prepared to hear me pour my heart out.


Lindsey said...

Ryan and I are both very sad for you!! I faced similar decisions when Cleo's end came. How long do I continue poking her with a needle to give her fluids? How many times do I take her to the vet for emergency intervention when her kidneys crashed? I ended up drawing the line at $2000 of vet bills, and continued to give her fluids until the day she pulled away from me as I got her ready for the poke. Poor mom, Cleo passed on mom's birthday 2009. What a birthday gift I gave my mom that year, since she drove down from Austin to be with me.


Marcy said...

Wow. I'm so sorry for all this... =(

Remember that you can only make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time. You can't have known about the cancer, so you decided to do the surgery with the best intentions at heart for the dog you love and cherish. You can't punish yourself for that. You can only try to make decisions based on what makes the most sense according to the information you have available.

I wish there were more we could do. Hopefully Ellowyn will cooperate and wait a bit longer before she comes, and hopefully between family and friends you can also find the help and support to care for both if/when needed. HUGS.

laurie said...

Laura, and Brian (and Mira),
I really hesitate to write anything, because the vet someone mentioned is right: there's no "right way" to make these decisions-- that anybody else can tell you. What your blog moved me to say, though, is that I hear your grief, your exhaustion, the huge change from the excitement of your last baby blog about welcoming Ellowyn anytime now since you're term--. And it sounded like in your heart and soul the mother in you can sense that what you and your baby and your daughter (and husband) probably need right now is different than what Kronk needs on the chance he can recover. And it also sounds like your love for your wonderful "crappy" dog is making you question continuing down the road you couldn't have known would turn this way, now that you know it did.
I hope you can be centered and conserve your energy for who most needs it (including YOU) -- No matter what he needs, Kronk can be taken care of by others. But nobody else can offer what Ellowyn ( and Mira) need from you at this point in their lives.

Sending lots of love and prayers your way.