>> Thursday, October 14, 2010
Our Basset hounds have never known a day of life without each other. They are litter mates. They sleep on top of each other, spend their days in a crate together, and spend every waking moment in each other's presence. After touching each other all day in the crate, they proceed to play together, and then fall asleep on top of one another. If they were human, they would most certainly finish each other's sentences. They're so symbiotic, it's frightening.
And I don't say that lightly. I'm staring the implications of such co-dependence right in the face.
Lucy is sick. Very sick. After weeks of visits to our regular vet and a whole lot of testing, we had no idea what was wrong. She was limping and depressed, and started to lose her appetite. Our vet recommended we take her to an Internist who works at a nearby emergency veterinary clinic. We decided to skip that step, and took her straight to Cornell Animal Hospital in Ithaca.
At first, after the initial exam at Cornell, the vet there thought as our vet had - that she likely had an immune mediated illness that was affecting her joints. They started running tests to confirm that diagnosis, and ran into a big old red flag. They noticed Lucy's right hip joint is being eaten away by something, and that something turned out to be cancer. To be precise, it's a pancreatic cancer that has now spread through her whole body, and is eating away at her bones.
It is not treatable. All we can do is try to manage her pain. The vet speculates that, given how aggressive this particular cancer is, we may have a week to a month before the pain is unmanageable. All we can do is try our best to monitor it, and convince her to eat. If she doesn't eat, obviously, our time with her is very short indeed. At this moment she's contemplating some ground beef... and thinking about tasting it. I hope the strong pain killers will help in all respects, but am not convinced.
She is only four years old.
We remain adamant that whatever decisions we make for her must be right for her - her quality of life is our primary concern. I have lost pets before, including our sweet old dog Clancy whom I loved more than I knew it was possible to love another living creature. The grief of losing a beloved pet is always terrible, but the joy they bring us somehow makes it worth it.
But this time, we know that whatever decisions we make for Lucy also deeply affect our poor Simon. We wonder if he will survive without her at all, or just give up and stop eating. And if he does survive, I cannot even begin to comprehend the kind of loss he will experience. I think only twins could know what that would be like. This time, looking at Simon's worried face (he is worried) is making this infinitely harder than any pet's illness has ever been.