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.

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