Dissenting Opinion

The neurologist that checked Sir Barksalot said he can’t find any physiological sign that a brain tumor is present.  Except my Boxer has an odd symptom that he couldn’t find a cause for: his eyes are dilated and not reacting well, but he can see just fine. Both of them symmetrically the exact same.  He passed all the vision exercises they did with him.   The vet said if it was just one, he’d have a few ideas, but both doing this is very odd.  He said, “You have a very odd dog.”   I said, “Well, he fits in with our very odd family.”

The EKG, which has to be done before any anesthesia can be administered, because Boxers have their own heart thing (Boxer cardiomyopathy), showed an irregular heart pattern.   Even if we had the money for an MRI, he’d have to see a cardiologist for treatment first.   The arrhythmia combined with his lungs means no anesthesia for now.   They said it may be the cause of his seizures.  Not beating properly could cause a drop in blood and oxygen levels to his brain triggering a seizure.

He was prescribed Keppra, which they started as soon as he arrived, for his seizures.   He didn’t have any while he was there, so it’s assumed the medicine is working.  It has the least side effects, but so far I don’t like it.   It’s better than finding him thrashing on the floor, but he’s not my dog anymore.

He’s only been home for almost 24 hours and the most he has done is sleep.   If you know Boxers, you know they are perpetual puppies.  They never grow up.   They have so much energy you’d swear they were keeping the local drug dealers out of stock on speed.  They only slow down when their body starts turning against them.

They are so curious.  Any noise in the house that is sudden or not recognized will cause him to jump up and go investigate.  They will fight the cat for the laser pointer.  Actually, all of our dogs do that. The door opens and he is there hoping to go for a walk, a ride or just a run around the yard.   A cabinet opens and he’s next to you, his big brown eyes begging for a treat.  A chipmunk farts and the dog has to let the entire world know we’re about to be gassed out.

He did none of that.  He just laid there.   He is drinking so much water, that we’re letting him out every couple of hours.    Last night he was drinking and stopped.  Completely zoned out and his back legs started wobbling.  I called his name three times with no response.  He always responds immediately with a hopeful look.  When I finally yelled his name,  it clicked and he spun around towards me.   I gave him some dried cranberries because I felt bad for him.  For some reason, the dogs love them far more than dog treats.

The stairs have to be kept gated even if the medication works, because it makes him off-balanced.  To go outside, they have to go down stairs.  There is no “open the door and step outside” here.  There are stairs to get anywhere.  We have to keep one hand on his collar when he is going up and down them to make sure he doesn’t fall.

I’ve said before: he is 10.  For a Boxer, this is old.  He has mast cell tumors that were supposed to be removed, but can’t be until his heart is taken care of.  His heart problems may be caused by a tumor. We’ve noticed a tumor on his back leg appeared out of nowhere, and it’s a pretty good size.  It’s kind of obvious and none of us remember it being there, but his vet has them charted, so I’ll check later.  The one on his chest has doubled in size.  Our finances have been strained from this recent bout of illness.  The MRI is out of reach for us.  I have to find out how much the cardiologist will be.

When I spoke to the veterinary neurologist and the emergency vet, two phrases they said stick out in my head:

“Your dog is a loaded gun.  He could go off at anytime”  (in reference to his health)

“You have a difficult decision to make.”

The parting phrase was, “We’re so, so sorry.”

Vets technically can’t tell you what to do, but those three phrases – especially the latter – speak volumes.   When they gave me his medication, I was told, “We gave you enough to for two weeks.   If he’s still around, it should give you enough time to make a decision.”

The kids (29, 24, 20, 18) say to let him go.  DH says, “You know we don’t have the money to keep doing this.  It may be kinder to put him down.  We can’t throw money at a dog who is dying from cancer to begin with.”  I point out that all the cancer is restricted to localized tumors.  Our last Boxer lived for years with them and died of something else.   The one thing I can’t argue is his age.  For a Boxer, he is at the end.

I don’t want to put him down.   I am the dissenting opinion which is very odd.  Normally, I’m the logical practical one. With our last Boxer it was easy.  He had a degenerative nerve disease.  His body began to just not work anymore.  When it got to the point we had to carry him (70 pounds up and down stairs several times a day), and it was heading to his lungs, there was no doubt.  There was no hope.  Nothing was going to make him better.  It was either that or watch him slowly suffocate as his lungs quit working.

With this one, it’s much harder.  I still see my perpetual pup on occasion.  If I sit on the floor, he still thinks he’s a lap dog. On the outside, everything is fine other than what the medication is doing to him.  It could even out and he could be “normal” for a bit.  But on the inside it’s not the same story.

If we can fix his heart, how long before a tumor shows up in a very bad spot like it did with our last Husky or his heart goes wonky again?  If we take him to the cardiologist, and it can be fixed, we might buy him a few months.  Maybe a year.  Hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars for possibly a year.  If we’re really lucky we might get two. What kind of year would that be if he lasted?  I am at odds with myself over it all.

If there is a tumor in his heart or head (still a possibility), then it’s over.  There is no doubt left. We’ve spent over $1000 we really don’t have.  It was needed for other things.  Do we want to pay out hundreds more to find out we have to euthanize him?  Or that he needs heart surgery we won’t have money for now? How much money do you put into a dog who is slowly dying to begin with?  When is it “enough”?

I don’t like having the power of an animal’s life in my hands in this situation.  A turkey raised for slaughter I have no problems with.  Their purpose is food.  That is what we raise them for.   A pet who is obviously downhill, such as our last Boxer, was a no-brainer.  This is so much harder, because there is a sense of hope – albeit probably false – that he could be okay.

My head says to say good-bye, but my heart says to keep trying.  I have to take the paper work in to my vet.  She’s plain speaking most of the time.  I’m hoping she can give me realistic thoughts about it.



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