Another Dog, Same Breed, As Soon as Possible

“Hark to Beaumont. Softly, Beaumont, mon amy. Oyez à Beaumont the valiant. Swef, le douce Beaumont, swef, swef.” Beaumont licked his hand but could not wag his tail.”  T.H. White, “The Once and Future King”.
               For the past couple of years, my life has been pretty easy.  I spent last summer putting in a vegetable garden, and making improvements in the landscaping around my home.  In September I went back to work after a somewhat abbreviated bout of retirement, but just part time covering other radiation oncologists’ practices.  My two Scottish Deerhound sisters, Queen and Quicksilver were then approaching 7 years old, and were long past the destructive behavior so characteristic of the giant breeds in their youth. My little mixed breed rescue Yoda had never been a problem.
             On December 19, 2015 I upended my quiet comfortable life by getting a new puppy, a ten week old borzoi named Pibb.  Two weeks later, I compounded the chaos by acquiring a “brother” for him to play with, an eighteen week old Scottish deerhound puppy named Cole.  Despite a few misgivings and knowing full well what I was getting myself into, I went ahead with what I knew deep in my heart was a preemptive strike. Queen had been limping off and on, and despite my denial I knew that the proverbial “other shoe” had dropped.  Her chronic lameness worsened suddenly a few weeks ago and like her dam before her, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer common in her breed.
                  As a radiation oncologist for adults with cancer, my day to day ethical challenges are few. I do my very best to be sure that my patients understand their diseases, and the side effects, risks and benefits of treatment. As a devastated dog owner, the decision making process is not so simple. The tell tale X-rays resulted in a consultation with a board certified veterinary oncologist, where my husband and I sat and listened to our options. Amputation and chemotherapy, the standard of care, would give Queen a median survival of 9 months.  Untreated the disease progresses rapidly, often times resulting in a pathologic fracture. Pain control is also a problem, and pain can often be ameliorated by radiation therapy–my own specialty. Except in the rarest of cases, the disease is incurable because metastases are present, whether they can be detected or not.  All treatment is palliative.
               As we sat with the veterinary oncologist two weeks ago, contemplating our options, I remembered my friend and vet oncologist Dr. Greg Ogilvie saying, “The dog doesn’t look in the mirror and say, ‘Oh, I only have three legs.’ The dog only knows that the pain is gone.”  And we were told that dogs tolerate chemotherapy exceptionally well, much better than human beings.  So we sat and nodded and thought that perhaps our initial instinct, which was to provide comfort care only, might be wrong.  Who knows better than a cancer doctor how important it is to provide and maintain hope?  And so we wavered.
                 In her incomparable essay “Oyez a Beaumont”, Vicki Hearne describes what it was like to lose her Airedale Gunner when he fractured his pelvis from prostate cancer.  As a dog trainer, her advice to clients has never wavered:  ”Another dog, same breed, as soon as possible.”  And then she admits to us, that it was ten years between the death of Gunner and the purchase of a new Airedale pup.  She says, with feigned indifference as our hearts break, “That was as soon as I could get to it,what with one thing or another.”  I got to it a little sooner.
               Deerhounds are homebodies, and our Queen particularly so.  Carsick since puppyhood, trips are stressful for her, and the risk of fracture even getting such a large dog in and out of the car is significant. Outside the veterinary specialty hospital, in the cold light of day, we lifted her into the car and she fell immediately into a sound sleep because she knew she was going home-home to her sister, her humans, and even those pesky puppies. We knew then that home is where she will be for what remains of her life.  We love her and this, more than anything, is what we owe her.

21 thoughts on “Another Dog, Same Breed, As Soon as Possible

  1. Beautifully written. I love how you shared Vicki Hearne’s words so briefly and poignantly- my heart did break with her feigned indifference. I’m sure you have done the best for Queen. Thank you for sharing a sentiment most of us can relate to- certainly myself!

  2. So very, very sorry. I know you will do the right thing for dear Queen.
    “I think their spirit goes up there, to Sirius, the Dog Star.  I can’t imagine anything else that would keep it burning so bright and constant.”
    Captain Ezra Harper in, DogStar by Donald Windham

    • I wish for all my dogs to die in their sleep of old age. Unfortunately, with deerhounds, you know how rare that is.

  3. I’m so very sorry to read this. I can pretend my vision is blurry, and my eyes are welling because I’m just back from they eye doctor, but we know that isn’t the case. Thinking of you all…

  4. Oh, Mary Ann, so sorry to hear this terrible news. I hope Queen’s time that she has left is as happy as can be. My heart breaks with yours.

  5. As you know, so sorry. As I wait for biopsy results on my terrier’s mouth tumor, I have been ruminating on all sorts of possibles and options and what-ifs. But in the end, I know I will do what I can to keep her stress and pain free – even if it hastens my pain to send her off peacefully. I owe her that much for sharing herself with me. They do so much for us and ask for so little.

  6. M. So sorry to hear about this and glad I have been able to meet her. Having gone thru the loss of my girl, over a year ago. I feel for your you and your family as well as Queen. I know how hard these situations have been for me but it was always about my dogs comfort.I’m sure she will be happy at home and you will make the most loving decision.

  7. Oh, my. Darn. Having lost my first wolfhound, Kyle, to osteosarcoma, my heart aches for your Queen, and for you. She cannot be replaced, and I’m so happy you have youngin’s!
    Sending love, and pats. Lots of pats.
    Skye

  8. I’m sitting here rubbing the belly of a stray cat, born under a backyard shed last summer and the only one of his litter who made it, and I’m thinking Vicki has a point.
    If anything should happen to “Duke” I’d want another just like him. High-born or low, these furry creatures become a part of us, enhance our lives immeasurably, and we wonder how we ever got along without them. And how we’ll ever be able to part with them when that time comes. Of the two questions, the last is by far the hardest. My deepest sympathy and a loud “meow” from Duke.

  9. Gil & I experienced this a year ago March with my lovely Lark, a 14 year old yellow Labrador. She had sailed through left caudal lobe cancer surgery in January (2015) and had almost 3 months prior to the limp and lump. I chose palliative radiation & pain management. May 12, my birthday, I let her go. I still can’t breathe when I think of her. We have 3 dogs, our limit (foster failed over last summer) so I am missing a yellow Lab. I’ve had one since 1989. My big boy dog – part Bullmastiff – keeps getting more tan on his sides. Gil says he’s trying to turn into a yellow dog for his mama!

  10. Love and hugs as you walk this path… May her pain be well controlled, may your time with her be filled with joy, and, eventually, may her passing be peaceful. May your memories then help to fill the void that will be left.

    • Thank you Jan. These words mean a lot to me. I hope we are making the right decision in not being more aggressive. M

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