As a dog lover and owner, I have experienced all the phases of my pets’ lives. Yet, some of my own experiences happened while I was in different phases.
My childhood dog, Sandy, lived to be thirteen. My memories with her spanned from the age of four to seventeen. Yet, I was a kid. I was not the primary caregiver. She was my friend and confidant, but I was not the decision-maker about her healthcare needs. All of that changed when I became the primary owner and caregiver.
My husband and I have had the unfortunate experience of having pets die relatively young. Our first dog, Buddy, was diagnosed with hepatitis at age eight. Our second dog, Buster, was put down for biting and a seizure disorder at age four. The most tragic was Rosie. She was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease at nine months. Knowing she would never have a quality existence and that we couldn’t afford her treatment, we had to put her down.
That’s when we acquired Zoe.
Doc was adopted three years later and endured pain from Lyme Disease the entire time we owned him. Bone cancer was a definitive diagnosis. But, even though he was eleven, I didn’t feel we had enough time with him.
Now we face the excruciating reality that Zoe’s life span will be shortened by systematic lupus. To date, she is nine.
I am already seeing her signs of aging, grief, and pain. Yet, I’m still trying to come to terms with how to best care for my aging, hurting friend. Here is a link that helped me. Maybe it will help others, too.
Maybe Zoe knows something we don’t. But, I know this picture would never have happened with Doc.
As much as Zoe and Doc got along, she was the alpha. I remember her staring him off the bed more than once. If we showed attention to him, she was right there asking for the same treatment and a little bit more. They played keep away with toys in the best way. She tried to frame Doc by stealing a sandwich the first few days of his arrival. He was on to her plot when she attempted the same thing with a muffin. They conspired together by sequestering Yeti’s mouse toys in their mouths and asking to go outside. Doc had an over-active guilt complex. He put himself in a timeout whenever Zoe got scolded for “cleaning up” the yard by “picking up” after Doc. So, I have no doubt who instigated the above crimes. Yet, they had a great relationship, and I know she misses her back-up when the doorbell rings.
We know this because she brought Doc’s duck to Dave and whined not long after Shadow joined our pack. Or she knows something we don’t.
Maybe Shadow does, too. He may sense my increased attentiveness to her, but he has upped his own.
Maybe they both know something we don’t know. Which is why she gets off the bed if he wants to be there. I haven’t witnessed any frame-ups or conspiracies or clean-up efforts this time. She is quick to tell him when he has gone too far with his playing, yet she understands he and Yeti need their wrestle time. She does steal his rawhides, but stopped a few weeks ago. In fact, yesterday, I’m convinced she brought him the knotted end of a bone. He was “cleaning” the cat box again.
Which started the week after she let him cuddle up to her on the same blanket at the camper.
Maybe they are just doing the things they do…when they know something we don’t.
On Monday morning, I noticed Zoe was fussing her right back paw, and I saw this.
Ever since her sarcoma, I’ve been checking Zoe’s paws on a regular basis. The surgery site appears to be healing, but the neighboring digit looks lumpy. Her foot pads have been cracked and mottled for several months, too. But, a week ago Thursday, I noticed a gooey layer on the largest pad of her back right paw. This was the result by Monday.
Her foot and forelock are also swollen, and she tucks the hip when she walks. I recalled this was the same leg she had pulled up when coming onto the deck two weeks ago. This is the same leg she stumbled on during our walk last week.
Concerned about cancer recurrence or a contagious infection, I made a vet appointment. The good news is that this is not cancer or an infection. We discussed the other possibility, which can only be definitively confirmed with a tissue biopsy. At Zoe’s surgery follow-up, I had pointed out another possible tumor and expressed I was leery of another sedation and surgery. Respecting my earlier assertion and erring on the side of optimism and caution, the vet started her on antibiotics and pain pills.
By Tuesday, the pustules were open and oozing. The foot pads on her other feet are showing precursors of what is going on with the right back paw. I observed more ulcers by Zoe’s mouth, under her chin, and inside her lip.
I called the vet back, and we discussed that other possibility. My husband and I decided to start her on a steroid treatment and hope for improvement.
The not-good-news is that it is most likely Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Nine-year-old Zoe had three biopsies on Friday.
One on her chest yielded fatty cells. The one on her neck–this was the one we felt had changed recently–didn’t show anything conclusive. It’s the one between her toes that has us most concerned as there are several abnormal cells. We have been monitoring that one, too, and it had also changed in size and color. Pathology results are pending, and we should hear in a few days. Prayers appreciated.