One of my last posts back in December was right before Christmas. It candidly detailed the struggles my family was having in choosing whether or not to operate on Buddy's, our family Golden, front left leg. It was an amputation surgery due to stage 1 bone cancer. And even after University of Illinois' Veterinarian Department reported Buddy as a good candidate for amputation surgery, our family all had reservations about it. The UofI reports coupled with the stories from friends' experience with dogs having only 3 legs, the decision was made to go through with the surgery. Even though my dad, mom, brother and I all were scared that the morning we took Buddy into the vet would be the last we would see him "healthy," none of us said anything to the others about our fears.
I wish we had.
Buddy died the Saturday, basically a week, before Christmas.
Buddy came out of the surgery as well as expected for a 107 lb dog to. He was groggy, uncomfortable, scared and crying. But he seemed to be as any other dog before him that had this type of surgery. Aunt Doctor Becky (ADB) asked us to stay away from the vet clinic that Friday of his surgery, because she wanted to keep his blood pressure/heart rate as steady and low as possible. However, she did say we could come that next morning to see him.
Saturday morning hit, and my dad was anxious to get us all over to see Buddy. We rushed to get our warm clothes on and got to the vet around 8:30am. Buddy was lying in his recovery pin with only three legs. It was definitely a shock to see him, but I have to say that I was expecting a horrible wound that would have been bleeding profusely. Instead, there was a clean, white gauze bandage wrapped all around his front shoulder and just a hint of stitches where the top of the surgical cut was.
Buddy laid on the floor with a morphine drip to ease his pain. Doped up or not, he knew we were there and started whimpering when he saw us. ADB suggested that we speak calmly to him and make sure to give him pets and kisses. Each of us took turns, Dad-Mom-Me-Rob-Me-Dad-Mom-Me-Rob-Dad-Me-Mom-Dad-Rob-Dad to cover Buddy in as much love and positivity as we could to help him start his healing process. Earlier, Buddy had been able to get help onto his 3 legs and out to go potty with the assistance of ADB and one of the vet techs. ADB tried to help Buddy onto his legs to show us how he was progressing, but Buddy struggled in pain and confusion. My mom sucked in a quick gasp of air. I looked over to see her sea green eyes start filling with tears of fear.
I've never told my family, but when I saw Buddy struggle that morning, my heart sunk with pessimism that we would lose him instead of see him recover. Still, I prayed and prayed that our Golden Angel, Buddy, would be ok.
Saturday evening at about 10:15pm, Buddy passed away. His red cell count had dropped by 24% within an hour, but ADB couldn't find any severe bleeding when they went back in to try and save him. Truth be told, we believe Buddy's pain was too severe for him to handle, his heart couldn't take it, his fear was inconsolable and the anesthesia made him sick.
Amputation may be right in a black and white sense in that it takes away cancer. But it truly can be seen as a selfish decision. We do it to keep the dog with us instead of really thinking about the quality of life that dog would have. We didn't stop to think whether or not Buddy would really want that. He was like a little boy who never really understood the big and scary things around him. We did the surgery to make us feel as though we had done everything to keep him with us.
I haven't written about Buddy's passing because I still cry every time I think about the end result of that surgery. I cry at remembering the look on my dad's face when he rushed into my room screaming for me to move my car so that he could get to the vet. Not being able to understand him, I asked "What?" and watched him break down in sobs. I cry at the fact that ADB called my dad that Saturday afternoon crying and urging him to get back to the vet office as quickly as possible because Buddy was leaving us. I cry at never being able to forget the sobs coming from my dad on the car ride to the vet as he cried "I've killed my dog...I've killed my dog."
I cry that our best friend didn't get to see that Christmas and run with his brothers in the snow just one last time. Or the fact that Buddy was probably so confused why we would have done that to him. Or the fact that our once perfect Golden passed with one of his legs missing. Or the fact that I'll never be able to come home to visit my family and see him waiting with a toy in his mouth and his Golden plumed tail wagging in greeting.
I wouldn't wish bone cancer on any pet. It is the worst cancer to have to decide treatment for. All the treatments suck balls. We had 3 options: 1. Manage the pain through medicine, which only lets the cancer grow, causing extreme pain and suffering. 2. Cancer/Tumor Removal surgery, which removes the "infected" area but leaves only a minute chance of Buddy living past three years without it coming back. 3. Amputation
There's no right choice. Every choice has to come from the respective family. Our family's initial reaction was to not do the amputation. But we were hopeful and chose the option that would have ridden his body of all the cancer to ensure it never came back.
If you ever have to make this choice, I cannot stress enough the most important step-make sure you are completely comfortable with your vet and staff. Without a doubt, we are incredibly and immensely blessed with the staff at Northgate Pet Clinic in Decatur, IL. This clinic is truly THE BEST in that town (Sorry everyone else, but the truth is cruel).
Northgate treated Buddy like their own, and ADB was part of Buddy's extended family...don't forget that Winston is Buddy's uncle (even though he's younger) and ADB is Winston's mom. During those seven hours when we fought to keep Buddy alive, Northgate attempted everything short of trying to reverse time to save him. I don't know of any other clinic that would have had the dedication and quick thinking to do some of the things the staff did. They wanted him to stay as much as we did, because he was one of their favorites (Sorry all the other pet parents, don't be jealous. No puppy can be like the Buddy dog).
I did learn one lesson out of this loss-I will never choose amputation.
Our family didn't have the Christmas spirit after losing Buddy. We all cried for a week, off and on. My mom missed her daily snuggle fest with Buddy--something that started when Buddy was a wee babe. Buddy would find time in every afternoon to cuddle up with Mommy for nap time, just like a four year old would. The grieving got easier and our family was inundated with food, cards, memorials, José (for margaritas of course!) and loving stories. It really showed how many people were touched by Buddy.
Kaiser, Buddy's German shepherd brother, was and still is in mourning over the loss of his best friend. He wouldn't eat for a week straight, and he had tear marks down both sides of his eyes/nose. Kaiser didn't move from the front door for three days straight in hopes his friend would be walking up the sidewalk to reunite with him. Still, now a month later, Kaiser isn't 100% back to his normal self. Well, that is if we could even call Kaiser normal. However, he is starting to eat and start playing with Cody.
Any person who thinks dogs don't feel or build relationships is on crack and should never EVER have a pet...other than a fish or a bird.
Since Christmas, I hadn't really cried about Buddy. Until this past Monday, and I have cried each night since...including as we speak. Most of my family and friends know that I believe in the Power above, and as a result, I pray. Whether it's in the morning as I prepare for the day ahead, during the day when work sucks, gasping through a workout when I feel like I'm about to pass out or at night in a traditional manner, I find time to reflect and pray. Each time I get to praying about Buddy, I BREAK DOWN! It's crazy.
Last night, I told God to make sure that if he was going to take Buddy from us to make sure he's getting long walks and not too many cookies because my mom and dad had worked so hard to get him down to a "respectable" Golden weight. I think I told Him, "We don't want him fat again, now do we?" Haha! Seriously? Have I lost my mind???
I don't think my family will ever get over Buddy. We were so lucky that we were his family. Absolutely no other dog had Buddy's personality. I mean, what other dog have you heard played practical jokes on his family and four-legged siblings? For instance, when Mom and Dad put him on his diet, Buddy would have to eat his gross diet food alone in the laundry room so he wouldn't steal Kaiser or Cody's food. One day, Buddy planned his rebellion. He ate his dinner, which only took three seconds as he swallowed instead of chewed his food, and started running toward the front door barking. That caused Kaiser and Cody to follow suit. Well, Buddy only got six feet before turning around and heading to the other two food bowls. When K & C returned to finish eating, Buddy stood over the last bite of Kaiser's food chewing eagerly at the stolen morsels. He was genius, cunning and hilarious. What else is there to say?
He will always be our supersized Golden boy with the most perfect Golden tale and incurable stink foot disease (thank you Dad). He'll always be the best cuddle bunny and friend who ate anything if it smelled slightly edible. Buddy will always be the most perfect puppy with velveteen ears the softest I've ever felt. And we'll love and miss him until we see him again...