Thursday, March 24, 2011

Difficult Decisions

My poor Penelope hasn't been doing so hot lately. The poor girl is probably 11-13 years old and has been slowly showing her age. Winters are getting harder, and when the seasons change, she can barely get up.

Sunday afternoon, both dogs were outside enjoying the sunshine. I looked out and saw Penel twitching a little. "Aww, how cute!" Eric and I thought - she looked as though she was dreaming. But she wasn't laying at quite a natural angle, so I went out to look at her. She was wide awake, and shaking something fierce. Her stomach started convulsing - like it would be if she was throwing up, but her stomach was the only thing doing anything. Once that calmed down, we moved her into the sunlight with little protest, and went inside. She followed us almost immediately and went to lay down.

The rest of the evening was rather uneventful. She had another brief bout with the convulsing, but that was it. Not surprisingly, she wasn't interested in dinner.

Monday morning she wasn't doing much better. I got her to eat a little bit, and she was drinking like normal again. Tuesday and Wednesday were more of the same. Some meals she'd eat a couple of bites, others she wasn't interested in anything we had to offer her.

Wednesday night, she laid down, then when it was time to go out before bed, she was limping. She pretty much sat down to pee, she could barely put weight on one leg.

At that point, I knew we had no choice but to give in and call the vet. The earliest appointment they had was 4 pm, so I packed her up when it was time to go get Alex. The poor girl couldn't stand. We'd been having to help her up for a couple of days, but this time, she could barely stay standing. I lifted her into the car and off we went.

Penelope, like most dogs, LOVES the car. She was so excited, especially when Alex got in! She sat up and perked right up.

We went straight to the vet, since it's between school and home. They led us back to a little room and did all the preliminary stuff. A bigger room opened up, so we relocated and then the vet came in. She couldn't tell anything from a basic exam and decided to run some blood work.

Well, that came back with all sorts of bad news. Her kidney levels were high, but not alarmingly so. Her pancreas and liver, on the other hand, were so high that the machine couldn't even read them.

Next up was an x-ray.

More bad news.

There's a huge mass on her spleen. Looking at the picture, it's probably 6 or 7 times the size of her spleen. It's taking up a good 1/4 of her abdomen.

So the vet told us our options. 70% of the time, a mass like that is malignant. Even if they remove it, there's a great chance that it would only extend her life by a few months. Given the state of her liver, kidneys, and pancreas, it's likely that if it is cancer or something like that, that it's already spread. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell if it's malignant or benign without doing the $1700 surgery. (Although, to be fair, that price did include everything, including today's office visit, several days in the hospital, medication, etc).

If it's benign, though, she can live happily with it with no problems. If it's malignant, then it'll just keep growing until it eventually bursts and floods her insides with blood and germs.

I just can't bring myself to put my dog through a surgery that has a 70% chance of not helping. She's old, and given the state of her other organs, the recovery would most likely be a long road. Assuming there was a recovery.

So they gave her some IV fluids, pumped her full of some antibiotics and pain medication, and managed to get her to eat half a can of wet dog food. We brought her home and will see how she does tonight. If she's doing better in the morning, then we'll go get some more antibiotics and pain meds and see how those fare. She's perked up a little, thanks to the treatment, so hopefully that trend continues and she's more like herself in the morning.

The vet said that the last time she had a case like this, they did what we did - fluids, antibiotics, and pain meds, and took the dog home. He passed away that night. If Penelope takes that same road, then that's okay. She'll be at home, with the people who love her, in a happy place.

If she's still miserable, though, then the best thing to do will be to put her out of her misery.

I hate having that kind of power, to make that call. I don't want her to suffer if she doesn't have to, but I also don't want to have her put down prematurely. I've had Penelope longer than Carter or Alex, even Eric. Penelope made the long journey from Colorado with me. I can't imagine a life without her, but it's looking like I soon will have to...if not now, definitely within the next few years.

She's lived a long, happy, good life. I have many fond memories of time spent with her and while I'm prepared for the worst, will continue hoping for the best!

1 comment:

  1. Oh I am so sorry! I know you will do the right thing. Penelope has been given the best life with you guys and I know it's hard, but she knows that she is loved. Whatever route you choose it will be the best for her and i will keep her and your family in my thoughts!