Today is Argus’ 5th birthday! I love celebrating birthdays, even if the person having the birthday doesn’t know and/or does not want to celebrate. People in my life who fall into these categories include Argus and Greg, respectively.
Argus has been limping for about three weeks now. We were pretty sure he’d sprained his “wrist” leaping off the deck into the new lawn to chase off the squirrels. We have restricted his exercise since then, avoiding the $50 office visit to the vet who would inevitably tell us, “Keep him off of it.” But last night he had a bit of a freak-out in the middle of the night and ended up snuggled in between me and Greg on the bed. I think the Latin term for this is dogus comebetweenus.
When I got up this morning, he was holding that paw up and not wanting any weight on it. This is quite difficult for a 97-pound dog who carries 60% of his weight on his front legs… So, I made the call to the vet. He could see us at 11:30.
Hurry! I could get in a 30-mile bike ride and be done with all of these obligations by noon if I got in gear. I fed Argus a raw egg in lieu of the three treats he would receive like clockwork from the mail person and wrapped up his bum leg with an ice pack. He doesn’t like moving around with this get-up on and I knew it would keep him immobile while I was gone.
Home from my bike ride, I scrambled around to change out of my spandex and into street clothes, then cajoled Argus into the car. It is heart-breaking to watch a lame dog walk, especially when he’s your side-kick. We got to the vet and he bucked up a little, trying to lead me on a walk away from the doors leading into the clinic. Gotta love him!
I really like our vet. Dr. Sutter has been our go-to guy since we brought Argus home in January 2006. He owns several Labs himself and has a great bedside manner. He did the usual visual/manual examination, then brought Argus back for x-rays. If Argus would hold still, he wouldn’t need to sedate him. I’m thrilled this was the case! In about 10 minutes, Dr. Sutter came to get me to come back and look at the films.
I’m no stranger to x-rays after my run-in with a pickup while on a bicycle. Dr. Sutter relieved me by saying that the pain reflex that was triggering in Argus’ elbow was not, in fact, arthritis. Whew! But we knew the real issue was the swollen part on his wrist. He explained to me about bone tissue and soft tissue and how there was hard tissue outside of the bone itself. I listened to what he said and responded, “Okay. I see what you’re talking about. So, is that a bone spur or something? What do we do?”
I obviously wasn’t picking up what he was putting down. Why would I even care about arthritis in the elbow when there’s cancer to talk about?
Right there I started to melt, just like sugar does when it gets wet. I was dissolving. My breath had been taken away. I thought he was going to tell me we’d have to have surgery to remove the dog’s version of a bunion or something. I REALLY THOUGHT THAT. I quickly tried to catch my breath along with all the swear words that were coming out of my mouth. I apologized and he looked squarely at me and said, “It’s okay. I am giving you bad news.” He was matter-of-fact, but at the same time so apologetic and caring.
He took me back into the examination room to have the rest of a Very Hard Discussion.
At some point during this discussion, it was revealed that the only treatment was amputation. BLOW #1. He continued talking, I continued crying. It was then revealed that if we did not amputate, the prognosis was approximately three months. BLOW #2. If we did amputate, we could hope for 6-12 months. BLOW #3. He then gave me the decision tree for everything that Greg and I would need to talk about over the weekend.
$264 later, I left with two bottles of pain meds and a heavy heart. I tried calling Greg from the car, but he didn’t answer. It was his lunch break; he was probably out running. Argus and I got home and I fried up some turkey bacon that I could hide his meds in as a tasty “birthday treat.” With this, he quickly forgave me for that awful trip to the evil vet. He then fell into a blissful drug-induced state and I continued to dissolve.
I don’t know what we’ll do. Greg is diligently researching our options. Friends are calling, emailing, and texting with their concern. Jane dropped by with a care package — a bottle of good wine for me, a craft beer for Greg, and a marrow bone for Argus. WE ARE LOVED. Especially the four-legged one.
Argus turned 5 today. By the “standard” measure, that’s 35 in human years — my age, at least for a couple more months. Life and good health are fragile things. There’s no such thing as “too young” or “not my time.” You never know when it will all be taken from you. My advice: seize the day!
Or, as the Latin say, carpe diem.