Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
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On February 5, 2009 – my best friend Timber decided he was ready to be rid of OS and move on to his next big adventure. It was a truly peaceful departure, and we are relieved he can be running around in doggie heaven like the total spaz he was here on earth. I'll keep the story as short as possible, but felt I needed to share a few major experiences, and how they impacted our treatment decisions.
– Timber was a 110lb. malamute diagnosed on May 29, 2008 with a OS tumor in the right distal radius. We signed up for amputation immediately, but talked to another OS patient here in Boulder who told us to go to CSU in Ft. Collins first. No problem. Drove up to CSU, ran some more tests, and found out there was another tumor in the left distal tibia. Amputation was no longer an option, so we decided to rock the radiation and pamidronate circuit for 9 months. Yes, it was expensive, inconvenient, and somewhat epic every time we went. Timber HATED the vet, and we're not talking like kind of freaked out, wet the floor kind of stuff…I mean like a wild animal that has to be fully sedated with a muzzle on kind of freaked out. It made us sick, but you know what, after the first visit, he started to mellow out…and this was a 9 year old dog who was always anti-vet! Sure we had to give him a little ace promazine before hand, but he was always quick to forgive, and really began to love the staff at CSU. I think he must have known that coming out of there feeling better, was worth being there for a few hours once a month.
– The pain relief from the radiation was evident almost immediately, and for about 4 months after diagnosis, we were still going on camping trips, short hikes, and 2-3 short walks a day. Of course we had to get used to a leash again to restrict his movement, but we learned that he was happy just getting out to see the neighbors, marking his territory, and enjoying the scenery.
– About 5 months in, we noticed that the walks needed to be a bit shorter, but we took him on one last camping trip in late November, and took a road trip down to TX for Christmas. Seeing our whole family was tremendously uplifting for everyone. He was still using his doggie door, eating voraciously, and of course demanding his short walks.
– On January 2, 2009 we noticed he was really slowing down, and the pain was catching back up to him, so we made an appt. at CSU for more radiation. He was different at this appointment. We walked in, and he laid down right away, as if to say “I am so @#&@* tired of this.” We still did the treatments, and he cooperated quite nicely, but only after I promised him no more vet trips. That was it, we knew we only had a few weeks left with him, and it was on his terms, so it was OK.
– This last part is for everyone, but especially those of you who have never experienced opting for compassionate euthanasia of a dear friend. I've never been responsible for making this decision, and I was scared out of my mind….all I could think of is “what does you know when it will be the right time” actually mean. It drove me crazy until that moment came, and then it was as clear as day. For Timber, it was very, very fast. Within 2- 3 days he went from pretty active to not making it to the end of the driveway. We were very in tune with Timber, and knew his passion in life was being outside, hiking, running, losing his mind in the snow, etc. As soon as those things weren't possible, we knew it would be time. Yes, he was still eating, and acting like a silly old clown, but we wanted him to leave our world with spunk and dignity…which he did. The end was a beautiful moment for our little family, and even though there is an emptiness now that is more expansive than I could've imagined, keeping him here any longer would have meant a great deal of suffering on his part, which I promised I would never let happen.
My favorite book is The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho and I read it during times of struggle….this being no exception. The day we decided to put Timber to sleep, I came across my favorite quote from the book, which I have been clinging to tenaciously:
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
For me, this is true…worrying about loss, is far worse than the actual loss. I know Timber is in a beautiful place, searching for his dreams, and that one day I'll meet up with him again, and we can continue searching for our dreams together.
All our love,
Erin, Robbie & Timber (in spirit)
25 April 2007
… we wanted him to leave our world with spunk and dignity…which he did.
Good for you. We felt the exact same way.
This post is a must-read for anyone faced with cancer in their dog and end-of-life decisions. You definitely have the quality of life concept down. I'm sure Timber thanks you for living up to your promises as responsible pack leaders. Thank you so much for sharing these details, they are certian to help others down the road.
Funny you shold mention The Alchemist – we recently re-read it again after Jerry's passing. The sharing of your story here brings great truth to another favorite quote from the book …
“The closer one gets to realizing one's destiny, the more that destiny becomes his true reason for being.”
We are certain now that Jerry's desitny – his reason for being – was to create this platform of support so those in need of may learn from the trying experiences of others. Thank you for being part of our pack! Timber may not have been a tripawd, but he'll always be a canine cancer hero in our books.
Jerry – Thank you for your kind words…we know you can relate 100%, and that in itself is a huge comfort!
One thing I really wanted to emphasize, but kind of failed to do in my first post, was how I feel about amputation. Making the initial decision to amputate was excruciating, but having the option taken away from us was just as painful. We found the strength to pursue alternatives, and we made it through the illness without incident, but it was very stressful worrying about those legs all the time.
Timber was in great shape other than the cancer (sounds weird to say that), and I feel if we had been able to amputate, we probably would've had a year or more with him, PLUS the added bonus of not constantly worrying about breaking a leg. That being said, I'm not dwelling on how things could've been, because we made it quality, and that is what matters in the end.
Dogs really are so much more resilient and bad @#$ than we will ever be, but no one will ever know your dog as well as you do. I promise you will make the right decision, and long as it is made with love and compassion!
28 May 2008
Erin and Robbie and Spirit Timber – thank you for sharing this beautiful, beautiful story. I fear and dread the day that I lose Zeus, and though I live “one day at a time” with him and enjoy each and every moment and I go to sleep thanking God for the day and for all my loved ones, but knowing that my time with Zeus is very much borrowed…mine for the moment, but borrowed from God. You gave me a beautiful picture to keep in the back of my mind and brought me some comfort and peace too. I loved the quotes and I know we have the Alchemist around here – I've seen it, but I never really gave much thought about reading it. I will now.
Love the destiny quote Jerry…thanks for the little reminder 🙂
Love to all ~ you guys rock!
Heather and Zeus
Heather and Spirit Zeus - Our life changing journey…from the earth to the heavens…one day at a time…always together
18 May 2008
Dear Erin and Robbie,
Thank you for sharing your story~
I'm so sorry about Timber. Your post made me cry, knowing how hard it is. I couldn't imagine either how we'd know and then, like you said, you just do know when it's time. I dreaded the day and yet knew it was right when we said good-bye to our Abbey 4 mos ago… This site was HUGE to me the first several weeks and I continue to visit several times a week. The support and understanding you'll find here is priceless and authentic.
Your tribute to Timber is amazing and I know he must be having a blast running and playing, young and strong again. He must be so grateful to you for releasing him in love like you did. It really is the unselfish thing for us to do. He is BEAUTIFUL and so fortunate to have shared life with you two.
You are in my thoughts and prayers for peace and comfort,
15 January 2009
4 December 2008
I'm so sorry you lost your boy. That really sucks that you couldn't have done the amputation.
If you are ever in the KC area, Tika says come say hi! She would love to give you big Tripawd Malamute kisses. She could be the twin of your guy!
Thank you for sharing, I know when our time comes with Tika, I'll remember your words about making that choice for your baby.
–Kim and Tika
Kim and Spirit Tika http://www.tika.....ogspot.com
28 November 2008
A beautiful and inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
Shanna & Spirit Trouble ~ Trouble gained her wings 3/16/2011, a 27 1/2 month cancer survivor, tail wagging. RIP sweetheart, you are my heart and soul. Run free at Rainbow Bridge.
The November Five - Spirits Max, Cherry, Tika, Trouble & Nova. 11/2008 - 3/2013 An era ends as Queen Nova crossed the Bridge.