I Need A Sign

"All we need to do is amputate his leg and everything will be fine!" That's what I want to hear, but nobody is saying it. Nothing is guaranteed. No one has a crystal ball. So, how do I make this decision whether or not to subject my dog to stressful surgery? Or not? 

I search the internet for similar people with dogs in similar situations. I watch YouTube videos of 3-legged dogs as they romp and play while their owners stand by and take all the credit, and sure, part of me thinks, "Having a 3-legged dog might be fun!" In my mind, Seamus has already had the surgery, his fur has grown back, and he has adapted to his new life as a tripawd. I don't have the mental video of post surgical him, wearing a cone of shame, shaved, stitched up like Frankenstein, missing a leg and possibly a shoulder blade, making him look like a black labrador bowling pin.

But, those dogs, in those videos are still spry. They've got a good 6 or 7 years of life left. Seamus, on the other hand, is 11, and he's got maybe 2 years left on 4 legs. So . . . what do I do? The tumor isn't aggressive. It's not close to his spine. He doesn't know he has cancer. He's happy to be here, with me, doing his job of keeping the yard free of cats and skunks, possums and raccoons.

Two days ago I was all in for amputation. Now? I'm not so sure. All I know is, I need a sign.


It's Never Just A Limp

    Seamus, my black labrador retriever, had been limping on and off for, I don’t know how long. A year? Maybe? Definitely more than six months.
     He was a little stiff in the morning, but he is after all, 77 in dog years. I’m in my 60s, and well, aren’t we all a little stiff in the morning? I chalked the hitch in his giddy up to his age. His gait was a little bit lopsided, like his air pressure was low on one tire, but, should a feral cat cross our yard, he’d fire up his retro rockets, a black blur running full speed towards the fence. As soon as the intruder had been driven out, and Seamus was certain our perimeter was secure, he’d turn and trot back to me, a look of regret on his face, not for chasing the cat, but forgetting about his wonky left front shoulder. A slight wince every third step.
    When arthritis had been ruled out, and further tests were warranted, I figured it was some kind of muscle tear, or possibly a rotator cuff injury, “Too many fastballs!” I joked in the waiting room at the clinic.
    I was still reeling from the vet's diagnosis of cancer, so maybe I didn’t quite hear the next couple of sentences. Amputation? It sounded like she said he’d need his leg amputated. Could that be right? Maybe she meant ‘worst case scenario’? Maybe she said if all else failed? No, she led with it. That was going to be the way to go. IF we wanted to go that route.
    IF? As far as I was concerned, there was no if. Lop it off. I’ll go get the saw. The decision isn’t cut and dry. It would be easier if there was a good chance the tumor would be gone. But nothing is certain. It’s not an aggressive tumor. That’s good. But it’s in a tricky spot, and it’s called Peripheral Nerve Sheath tumor, meaning, if we do nothing it will slowly work it’s way up to the spine and brain. I don’t want that. Nor am I ready to ‘call it.’ He is 11. But, he’s a young 11, like a guy who runs marathons in his 90s. He’s got a lot of tread left. Gas in his tank. His lungs, heart, kidneys, eyes, brain, guts are all operating as they should. So, why not amputate? Well, it costs an arm and leg. Yeah, I went there.

Bath time.

Bath time.