pupdate of the bad news variety

We got some bad news yesterday. Cody, our older dog, has cancer.

A few weeks ago, I found a lump. It's on her neck, right next to her throat. We've had many lumps removed from many dogs, and all were harmless fatty cysts (lipomas). But this didn't feel like those. We went to the vet last week, and she was concerned, and confirmed what I suspected, that this could be trouble.

We had a needle biopsy done, and there was even some risk in that. There's a lot of vital stuff in that neck, and high bleeding risk. The procedure went smoothly and cleanly. Our vet said that, indeed, it was not a lipoma, it was a tumour. Now a biopsy would show whether it was benign or malignant.

Since then, as some of you knew, we've been waiting for the biopsy results. Never a pleasant thing.

The vet called yesterday: it is thyroid cancer.

With this particular form of cancer, in dogs in which it has not yet spread, if a surgeon can remove the lump with "clean margins" - when they can get the whole tumour - there is a complete cure. But those are two huge "if"s. One, it may have already spread. And two, getting the whole lump may not be possible. The tumour, for example, could be growing around a vital organ or major artery. It's high-risk surgery, and she is not a young dog.

Allan and I had a long talk last night, and decided that our next step is to speak to the oncologist surgeon to learn more about the surgery. Before we even learn whether or not the cancer has spread, we want to know if this operation is something we should consider putting an old dog through. If it is, we'll have some tests done to see if the cancer has spread. Those are not invasive: chest x-rays, plus blood work for liver and kidney functions. If the surgery sounds gruesome, we may not do that.

Allan and I have loved and said goodbye to three dogs together, one who was older and in decline, two very suddenly. Cody and Tala are dogs three and five. Those of who you share your lives with animals know the pain. Every person has to reach their own conclusion about when it's time to say goodbye. I probably go a little quicker than many dog lovers.

Here's how I think of it. It's going to kill us no matter when we do it. If I do it on [this day] or do it on [this day plus six weeks] or [this day plus six months], it's going to hurt me just as much. But for my animal, those six weeks could be filled with pain and suffering, and she'll end up dying anyway. Six weeks of pain and suffering all because I couldn't say goodbye, because I selfishly wanted the animal here with me six weeks longer.

This is how I've rationalized my decisions in the past. This is how we've let them go faster than some other people might have, when hope of long-term survival was gone and their suffering was inevitable. You could say I've been brutally strong. I view it as our final responsibility to our animals.

The good news is also the saddest part of this story. Cody has been doing great. She has more energy, better appetite, is happier and more spry than she has been in a long time. People are always surprised at how old she is. So she's enjoying her life right now. If I can help it, she'll know no other way. We want to do what we can, but we won't let her suffer.

Thank you all so much for your support. Long-time readers of this blog have gone through one dog loss with us, shortly after we moved to Canada. The love and support I received from readers of this blog got me through it.


MSEH said...

I only met Cody once and was immediately taken with her. Such a sweet girl. My thoughts are with you all and, for what it's worth, I couldn't agree with you more re decision making, etc. HUGS and an extra special cuddle to Cody.

Mary/Bruce said...

Hey Laura,

If Mary isn't around, I should would like it if you made end of life choices on my behalf. Sensible, kind, and caring.

M@ said...

I've been so happy to see how Cody has livened up in recent months; she's really a joy to be around. I don't want her to suffer either, but I hope she has plenty of happy days ahead of her yet. You give her a hug for me ASAP.

KathrynK said...

Oh Laura--I'm so very sad for you; she was so fortunate to have such wonderful parents and to have lived a good life. I completely agree with you regarding end-of-life decisions, and I know that Cody would thank you too. I send you a big hug and a nice scratch to Ms. Cody, love Kathryn

Amy said...

You all have been in my thoughts since hearing the news. Thanks for the details. We have had to face similar decisions several times with our prior dog Zapper and with several cats. I was about to write their stories, but maybe it would not be helpful. It sounds like you have also been through this enough that hearing others' tales may be irrelevant. But if you want someone else to talk this through with, I am here for you.

L-girl said...

Thank you so much to everyone who has left messages here, or on wmtc, or by email. It means a lot.

I'm sorry I can't reply to everyone individually, as I have TWO friggin papers to write. It's hard to concentrate, but the distraction is welcome.

Bruce, thanks for making me laugh.

Amy, thank you for your sensitivity to not share your stories just now, and for your offer.

Thanks, everyone. Updates as we have them.

Anonymous said...

You've given Cody a wonderful gift, of knowing she can trust you without question. Whatever you do, it will be for the best, and she knows that.

We had an aged cat with a jaw tumour and, after talking to a compassionate vet, let him live out his life without intervention. He enjoyed what he could, and let us know when he needed to go. It's never easy, but it is loving.

Kim_in_TO said...

So sorry to hear the bad news. But it's at least good to hear she isn't suffering yet.

It's clear you've thought this through; you've considered all the alternatives thoughtfully - and from the point of view of what's best for Cody, not you, and that's not something everyone is able to do. I can't imagine you could do anything more.

I am thinking of the four of you!

Canada Calling said...

We just yesterday had a tumor removed from our dogs foot for biopsy. I applaud your brave strength in not letting your dog suffer. My thoughts are with. Enjoy what you have with her today.

Dr.Dawg said...

My best wishes for the recovery of your dog.

Ferdzy said...

Very sorry to hear this. Best wishes for Cody.

West End Bob said...

We've all been there with our four-footed children in the past.

Your views on the decision making process are the best I've heard in a long time, L-girl . . . .

Tom said...

So sorry about Cody's illness. I love how she flirts with us guys and digs herself a comfortable hole to hang out in. She's a very special lady.

Sending hugs to you all.

Stephanie said...

How sad for you all.

I am wishing you all good news and a positive prognosis in the coming days as well as continued strength and happiness in any decision making you will face.

Dharma Seeker said...

Laura and Allan, I'm so sorry that you're going through this. As you noted and as I saw this weekend, Cody is not going through much at all, which is a blessing :) You all have my love and support. I don't have any profound words to offer, I wish I did. Just know that she's loved, as you are loved.

tim said...

:( !

That's so sad to read, but I know you guys will make the best decision. Hoping for the best news re: Cody and that she'll make a quick, healthy recovery! Winston hasn't even had a chance to meet her yet!

impudent strumpet said...

OMG, Cody!!! :( :(

Positive vibes to all of you.

johngoldfine said...

You and Allan won't be a second late or a second premature in deciding the best thing for Cody.

L-girl said...

Many, many heartfelt thank yous. We both really appreciate the support.

Especially me, since I'm walking around feeling this thing all the time. Allan is still in his denial bubble, as he is prone to do for a while.

Anyway. Thanks.

SoSock said...

Very sry to hear this. I appreciate the clarity of your decision making process. I'm probably going to be facing a decision regarding Noah in the not-too-distant future, and you've managed to consolidate and help sort out many of my own feelings on the subject. I'll probably be refering back to this post to get some guidance and validation.
Meanwhile - here's hoping all goes well with the tests, that there is a relatively easy fix and this all becomes a mute point
Thinking 'bout ya both

David Cho said...

Laura, I will be forever grateful to you for the time you helped me through the agonizing decision over Noah's rapidly declining health. It was very hard, but the phone conversation with you affirmed it. It helped to realize that I was not alone.

Hang in there Cody. So sorry that I have not gotten around to meet you. You have the best possible Mommy and Daddy any dog could have.