About twenty-four hours ago, I sent Bill an email letting him know that Arran managed to jump up on our new “tall” mattress. I had just put a new mattress topper on the bed, making it taller than usual. Realizing that Arran, our sweet rescue beagle, who had been battling lymphoma for the past six months, would have trouble navigating the new height, I ordered him some steps from Amazon. They haven’t arrived yet, but Arran won’t be able to use them. We lost him this morning.
Last night, after I showed Bill the new lighting I got for our bedroom and my office, we had a very ordinary dinner. Arran begged for some of our burgers and fries. Then he crawled under the table and fell asleep. When he got up awhile later, he was very dazed and moved slowly, as if he’d had some kind of stroke. Arran had experienced some “seizure like” spells in the past. He always got over them very quickly. This time was different, as he wasn’t snapping out of the dazed state he was in. We took him upstairs to bed, and he slept mostly peacefully, with a few panting episodes. Bill spent most of the night being nudged to the edge of the mattress.
This morning, Arran didn’t wake up super early, like he’s been doing since he started his chemo. When I went in to see if he was okay, he gave me a weary look. I immediately realized that the downward spiral I had been anticipating was well in progress. I told Bill I thought Arran might need his help getting off the bed. Bill coaxed him, not wanting to pick him up, because he had a large tumor on his side that was hurting him. He finally jumped off the bed and slowly went downstairs and outside, where he took a long whiz and had some diarrhea. Then he moved very slowly back into the house and turned circles for about forty-five minutes, before he finally relaxed and laid down on his dog bed.
Bill and I had the talk we’ve been dreading… First there was the pragmatic. We have to go out of town next week, and the hotel where we’re going couldn’t accommodate Arran. As of today, the reservation is non-refundable. I didn’t like the idea of boarding Arran, since he had come to hate being boarded. I also didn’t want the staff at pension to have to deal with Arran’s sickness.
Then there was the obvious. He was at least 14 years old, and he’d been enduring chemo treatments since October. You can see from my posts that he did extremely well and fought very hard. And up until the bitter end of his life, he was very much enjoying being with us. He’d even started being nicer to Noyzi. But death is part of life… and I did not want Arran to suffer any more than he had to. He had developed another tumor on his belly, and the lymph node under his jaw had gotten bigger.
And finally, we just realized that he was very, very tired… and there was nothing we could do to make him better. Anything the vet might do today would only prolong what we all knew was coming. So we called her and brought Arran in… I had to carry him into the office, although he managed to walk out of the house on his own. He didn’t protest when I put him in or took him out of the car, and he was very patient as the vet took a look at him and agreed that it was time to let him go to the Rainbow Bridge.
Still, even up to the very end, he was fighting. The vet gave him anesthetic and remarked that he was a very strong dog. It took a long time for him to get sleepy, and like his fierce predecessor Flea (RIP 2009), he took some time leaving us. He did NOT want to die. Or maybe, he just didn’t want to leave Bill, who was his very favorite person. We stayed with him until he was on his way to see Zane… Zane died in the very same room on August 31, 2019.
We thanked our wonderful vet, who really did her very best for Arran. And then I gave him a teary kiss on the top of his head and said, “Goodbye…” Somehow it seems especially fitting that our unique and amazing dog Arran, named after a gorgeous island in Scotland after we lost his predecessor, MacGregor, should die on St. Patrick’s Day…
Below are some photos from our ten fantastic years together… This dog, born of humble origins, and meant to be a hunting dog in North Carolina, got to move to Germany and visited France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Belgium. He loved every minute of being Bill’s very best friend… besides me, of course.
I think Arran has already given us a sign that he’s okay. As we were driving down the road to our house, R.E.M.’s song, “Shiny, Happy People” came on the radio. Yes, it’s kind of a sarcastic take on Utopia, but somehow, it kind of fits. If you knew Arran, you could easily understand why.
We’re going to miss him so much. There’s already a massive hole in our hearts… and our home.
I don’t want to write a super long post today. Bill got home last night, and we have today to enjoy before he has to leave again tomorrow afternoon. He’ll be gone until Wednesday of next week, so this part of his “TDY” (temporary duty yonder) will be shorter. I’m grateful for that, because I always miss Bill when he’s gone, and because we still worry about Arran’s cancer suddenly going south.
Arran, by the way, is still doing well, except for the peach sized tumor that has formed on his left side. We’re going to Stuttgart for a few days in a couple of weeks to see our dentist. Hopefully, Arran can hang on through that time, or if he can’t hang on, he will go south at a time when Bill is here. As of right now, though, he’s still pretty vibrant. He wants to eat, take walks, snuggle with Bill, and sleep in our bed.
So… on with today’s topic. This week, the world learned that there’s a new prince and princess in our midst. That’s right– Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have announced that their daughter, Lilibet Diana, was christened. And she’s now going to be known as Princess Lilibet. Likewise, her older brother, Archie, will be known as Prince Archie.
In spite of the recent strife between Harry and his British royal family, the Palace has confirmed the change in status. In fact, as I write this post, I’m looking at the official Web site for the British Royal Family, and the change has already been made.
What was my initial reaction to this news? Well, to be honest, I kind of groaned. I understand that as the grandchildren of King Charles III, Archie and Lili are entitled to be known as “prince” and “princess”. However, for the past several years, the whole world has heard endless griping from Harry and Meghan about how damaging and racist the royals are.
Harry has written a tell all book about his upbringing, with many shocking details about what it was like to be Prince Harry. Meghan has said that she felt “suicidal” when she was in the thick of royal duties for a short time. So why would they want to visit the burden of royal titles on their two young children? Especially when in the United States, those titles don’t amount to much of anything. There is no monarchy in the United States. Of course, a lot of us Americans enjoy watching the royals…
To be very plain, I think this move was calculated as Meghan desperately tries to stay relevant somehow. I’ve mentioned many times before that she makes my N chimes ring… and while I won’t say definitively that she’s a narcissist, I do recognize the signs and symptoms. I don’t think Harry is a narcissist. I think he’s being influenced by his wife. I also suspect that their story won’t have a very happy ending. But I could be wrong. We’ll see.
In any case, I hope the royal titles don’t result in Archie and Lili being bullied by their American contemporaries. Kids just want to belong, and fit in with their friends. Royal titles make sense to certain adults, but I suspect kids won’t be so impressed. I don’t know how factual the depiction of King Charles’s time at Gordonstoun School was on The Crown, but I do remember the show depicting him as being severely bullied because he was a prince.
Some people think it’s time to abolish the monarchy anyway. It’s certainly a controversial idea, as Brits love tradition. I just find it puzzling that after all of the complaining Harry and Meghan have done about Harry’s family, they want to include their children in what they’ve repeatedly claimed is such a toxic entity. It kind of reminds me of how Ex had nothing but horrible things to say about Bill, yet still wanted to be part of his family. Very dysfunctional.
I suspect the timing of this announcement, which was on International Women’s Day (March 8), is very deliberate. As we all know, Harry and Meghan were recently brutally roasted on South Park. Comedian Chris Rock has also had a go at them on his Netflix special. King Charles III also evicted the couple from Frogmore Cottage, where they haven’t lived in years, anyway.
The couple is not particularly well liked in the United Kingdom, and I suspect they are quickly losing their appeal in the United States. Adopting royal titles on behalf of their children seems pretty tacky and tone deaf to me, even if the titles are the children’s birthrights. Seems to me it would be better to wait until the children are grown, and allow them to choose for themselves if they would like to be saddled with the burdens of royal life.
I guess it doesn’t surprise me that Harry and Meghan are now kind of backpedaling about their condemnation of the British Royal Family. Charles is about to have his coronation in May, so that also makes this announcement also rather strategic. Naming the children as prince and princess keeps the couple in the news…
Anyway, they aren’t my kids, and aside from it being in the news, it has no bearing on my life. I won’t lose any sleep over it. I just think it kind of goes against Harry’s and Meghan’s narrative… it kind of smacks of desperation and hypocrisy. I fear the children could ultimately suffer for it… or worse, they could make other people suffer as they grow up with royal titles that set them apart in a country where the titles are mostly meaningless.
Also… it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Lili eventually adopts her grandmother’s name and starts going by Diana. Her mother, after all, goes by her middle name. Meghan’s first name is actually Rachel. I can totally see it. And I bet it wouldn’t be Lili’s idea, either. But we’ll see what happens… Maybe someday, this couple will no longer be in the news. One can only hope.
The featured photo is of Arran and Bill, just a few days ago… As you can see, they love each other very much. Arran is glad to be here with his favorite person. I’m glad we can afford to treat his cancer and keep him comfortable for a little while longer. And I’m grateful that living in Germany allows this outcome for us.
A month ago, I wrote a post about our decision to treat our dog, Arran, for B-cell lymphoma. I was inspired to write that post after reading an article in the Washington Post about the cost of treating major diseases in pets. The article in the WaPo was written by Kim Kavin, whose dog, Blue, was diagnosed with cancer. She decided to pull out all the stops to treat Blue, and it cost a lot of money. Blue initially responded to the treatment, but then suffered a relapse when the cancer came roaring back with a vengeance. Kavin’s piece ran in the paper, and lots of people had negative opinions about it. I felt badly that she was getting so many brutal comments, so I wrote my own post about our decision to treat Arran.
At this writing, Arran has had six chemo treatments. If we hadn’t done these treatments, I feel pretty sure he would have died by now. When we started the chemotherapy on October 13th, he was starting to get sick. He wasn’t eating much, and looked very sad. He spent a lot of time sleeping, and could barely manage a short walk around the block. Now, he eats, sleeps, takes walks, jumps on the furniture, and tears things up. The chemotherapy hasn’t made him feel sick. The only thing I’ve noticed is that he sleeps a bit after he gets Vincristine and/or Endoxan. But he doesn’t have diarrhea or issues with vomiting. He hasn’t lost his fur. He doesn’t even have to take medication every day. And you’d never know he has cancer.
What has his treatment cost us so far? So far, we’ve paid for six weeks of treatment, which consists of weekly IV pushes of Vinistrine, a chemo drug. He takes two Endoxan pills per week– on Thursdays and Saturdays. Every other day, he takes three 5 milligram tablets of Prednisolone. This regime will continue for another two weeks, and then it will change to one that is less extreme. Total cost here in Germany? Still less than 1000 euros. And he feels much better with a great quality of life, while we’ve been able to enjoy his company for a little bit longer. I think he’ll make it to his tenth anniversary with us. That’s all we could have ever hoped for.
A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran a story titled “How Much Would You Pay to Save Your Cat’s Life?”, by Sarah Zhang. The story was about the veterinary hospitals in the United States that give cats kidney transplants to save their lives. Their owners shell out $15,000 for the surgery, which involves using a donor cat’s kidney, implanting it in an often elderly cat. Many times, the owners end up adopting the donor cats, too, as they are typically young and healthy and in need of a home. As it is for most humans, cats can get by just fine with one kidney. In one case, the prospective donor got adopted anyway, when the cat that needed a kidney passed from heart failure before the surgery could be done.
It was noted in the article that kidney transplants are the only transplant surgeries available to cats. The donors are not killed. Apparently, transplants are not yet available for dogs, because “the canine immune system is unusually reactive, leading to kidney rejection.”
Zhang wrote about a 16 year old cat named Strawberry who got a new kidney. Strawberry’s owner did not want to be identified, as she feared backlash from people about the cost. The surgery alone costs $15,000, but with travel, follow-up care, and other costs, it can end up being twice as expensive. And Strawberry’s owner didn’t want to deal with a bunch of negativity about her choice to spend that money. Zhang writes that she interviewed a dozen cat owners who had opted for the surgery and also wanted to remain anonymous. One person quipped, “I wouldn’t think of saying to somebody, ‘Wow, that’s an expensive car,’ But people seem pretty free to say, ‘Wow, you spent a lot of money on a cat.’ ”
I remember the very negative and judgmental comments on Kavin’s article in the Washington Post. I expected to see similar comments on The Atlantic’s article. Much to my surprise and delight, The Atlantic’s readers seem to be a lot more open-minded. Or, at least they aren’t as full of judgmental bile about what people will spend their money on, as well as the mistaken belief that cancer treatment is always unpleasant and leads to sickness, as it often does in humans. And one person wrote a very astute comment, which I think really highlights why people tend to have strong reactions to other people’s choices to treat illnesses like cancer in their pets. Facebook user Isaac Suárez wrote:
The issue is not “is a cat’s life worth saving.” A cat is a companion, to be loved and cared for. There is no shame in wanting to preserve this bond and prevent unnecessary suffering.
Rather, the judgement comes from the fact that some have $15k to burn on pet care while the vast majority of people don’t. I know many people who’d happily pay the price to help a friend; I know very few who have the money to do so.
Sadly, a cat with kidney failure is just one of innumerable occasions where the stark class divide of our country manifests. Instead of talking about “are cats worth the price” we should be asking “why is the price so high” and “why do some people have the freedom to make this choice when the vast majority don’t?” As with many topics covered by Atlantic, the question is misframed and a valuable opportunity to address a visceral and important issue is sidestepped.
Another Facebook user liked Isaac’s comment, and responded thusly:
Brilliant and eloquent response! Its heartbreaking that so many must choose to have their beloved pet euthanized because the treatment cannot be afforded or people take on a hideous amount if debt in order to save their pet. Either way, there is a great deal of needless pain.
I also really related to Isaac’s comment, especially as an American who lives in a country where healthcare and veterinary treatments are much more reasonably priced than they are in the United States. If Bill and I were living in the United States, Arran’s treatment would no doubt cost a whole lot more. It would probably be undertaken at a high speed referral center, rather than at our local vet’s office. And we would be paying much more for his medications, as well as every single thing that would be done for him. We love Arran very much, but we’re practical people. He’s already an old guy. I can’t see us spending many thousands of dollars to keep him going. But in Germany, we can easily afford the treatment, and it makes him feel better. So he gets this comfort care at the end of his life, which will allow him more time with us, and give the vet more valuable experience treating lymphoma. It’s a win-win.
Many Americans resent how some people can afford to provide such advanced care for a pet, while human beings are going without care because they can’t afford it. And yet, so many people continue to vote for the same leaders, who do nothing about this problem. The United States is among the richest countries in the world, yet so many Americans lack the ability to pay for their own healthcare, let alone that of their pet’s. But a lot of us would never bat an eye at buying the latest iPad or tennis shoes. We don’t roll our eyes when a neighbor takes a trip to Hawaii or buys a Tesla. A pet can give a family intangible things that an iPad or a Tesla never can. Why should anyone be ashamed to spend money on their best friends? And why should anyone feel the need to judge someone negatively for making that choice? It’s not as if that person who can afford the advanced veterinary treatment for their dog or cat is going to be paying for their neighbor’s treatment.
I am probably not one of those people who would opt for a kitty kidney transplant, especially on a cat who is 16 years old. But now that I’ve experienced giving a dog chemo, I might opt to do it again for another dog… if I think the dog is well enough to be treated and wants to fight. I would probably pay a fair amount for that option, even if I’m living in the United States, where it will undoubtedly cost a lot more. Here in Germany, it’s a no brainer to give chemo a chance, although not all dogs respond the way Arran has. The response depends a lot on the animal and the type of disease. In Arran’s case, he is resilient, and he has a type of lymphoma that responds to treatment. We have the money. Why not treat it? What makes it any different than treating him for heartworms or diabetes or any other disease that people don’t think twice about treating in their pets? And if someone else has the ability and the desire to pay for advanced treatment for their cat, who am I to judge them? I’m not involved in the aftermath of that decision, and it’s really none of my business.
Anyway… I found Sarah Zhang’s article thought provoking on many levels, especially since we’re dealing with a pet who has cancer now. Arran is our fourth dog to get cancer, but he’s the first one we’ve been able to do anything for… and it really does feel good to do something. I can see, every day, that Arran is glad to be here. No, it’s not fun for him to get intravenous medications every week, but that’s only for about a half an hour. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be getting the IV meds less frequently. We’ll see how long he can make it before it’s time to let him go. I’m just glad we have the luxury of being able to prepare for the end, and enjoying every minute with our beloved Arran. If we weren’t in Germany, I’m not sure we’d have that. This shouldn’t be something that other people judge us negatively for doing, simply because our healthcare system is so fucked up and prices for humans and animals needing medical care are so ridiculously high. It seems to me that Americans ought to be demanding lower healthcare costs. I know that’s the way I’m going to be voting from now on.
The featured photo is Arran this morning. He was able to jump up on the bench for the first time in a couple of weeks. Two days ago, he jumped up on the bed by himself. Why? Because he wanted me to share my lunch with him.
Wow… Wednesday, already! Tomorrow, it will be time for Arran’s third chemotherapy appointment. I don’t necessarily enjoy hanging out in the vet’s office for an hour while he gets his treatment, but Bill and I have both been loving the results of the chemo. It’s giving us precious time with a very special and wonderful dog. Arran clearly feels so much better than he did a couple of weeks ago. I still don’t know how much this will cost, but at this point, I think whatever it is will be worth it.
Last night, as I was watching Arran interact with his beloved Bill, I went looking for blog posts by people who have also made the decision to treat canine cancer. I didn’t end up finding any blogs, although I will admit that may be because we were distracted by The Trump Tapes. It’s a new Audible book put out by the veteran Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, that reveal 20 interviews he conducted with Donald Trump. I can barely stand to listen to Trump speak, but I decided that book would be interesting, so I downloaded it. Bill and I listened to a large part of it last night, although I will admit as the evening wore on, we were less attentive.
In any case, while I wasn’t paying attention to Woodward’s interviews with Trump, I went looking for first hand accounts of canine cancer treatments. I found an article that was published last summer in the Washington Post. I have unlocked it here for the interested. The piece, by Kim Kavin, was titled “My dog needed advanced cancer treatment. The price tag stunned me.” Kavin, whose article was published on July 24, 2022, wrote about her 12 year old dog, Blue, and the cancerous tumor he developed that was causing him to have a watery eye. Kavin happened to have pet health insurance for Blue, which enabled her to access the high tech treatment for the dog’s cancer. Still, the cost of treating the cancer was formidable. From the article:
It was a cold shock of reality when I added up Blue’s total projected expenses on paper. Getting the best available treatment for his tumor could cost more than $15,000 — and that was if everything went right. I’d already spent a lot. And it was unclear how much time it would buy him.
The oncologist at NorthStar VETS in New Jersey said they make sure pet owners understand up front what they’re getting into financially because many people can’t afford that kind of cost — many don’t have enough money in the bank to cover their own, or their kids, medical care. The call like the one I got is usually the heartbreaking beginning of the end of their pet’s story.
Kavin happened to live near NorthStar VETS, a high speed veterinary clinic that offered advanced oncology services for dogs. She had also spent about $700 annually to insure Blue. Because of that, she had the opportunity to access cancer care for her admittedly old mutt. Kavin still had to use her credit card to pay for the services until the reimbursement came from the insurance company. Also, Kavin explains that there aren’t a lot of veterinary oncologists available, particularly given the huge surge of “pandemic pets”. She was fortunate, though, in that the vets were able to get to Blue and start the treatment before the cancer killed him. Kavin writes:
Within a week, the CT scan and consult with a radiation oncologist were done, and within two weeks of the initial trip to my regular vet, he began the first treatment. About 48 hours after his treatment was completed, he was back to bounding around the park and chasing squirrels in the backyard. He had no side effects other than temporarily needing drops in his eye, which was dry. There was a lump on his face where the cancer mangled some bone, but he’s on the doggy version of ibuprofen and showed no signs of discomfort.
Sadly, in Blue’s case, the cancer did come back with a vengeance in June. In July, Kavin wrote that Blue didn’t have much time left. But she also wrote this:
He has been comfortable, and on pain meds, and I’m at least comforted that I did everything possible for him. We gained another two to three months of walks in the park, swims in the river and snuggles in bed.
If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing.
I’d pay double.
I’ll be honest. I was very skeptical about trying canine chemo. When we learned that Arran had lymphoma, I figured we would be saying goodbye to him within weeks, especially given that it took some time to get the diagnosis and arrange for the chemotherapy treatments. Arran is 13 or 14 years old, which means that he’s lived a full life. The practical side of me told me that treating him was a dumb idea that would cost too much money, and be inconvenient and annoying for us, even though I know that healthcare and veterinary care is significantly cheaper in Germany than it is in the United States.
I didn’t worry about Arran being sick from the treatment, as I knew that dogs don’t get the same amount of medication that humans do. The focus on treating animals with cancer isn’t so much about curing it. It’s about improving the quality of life for the time they have left. I had expected our vets to give us some steroids to make Arran comfortable, which is what we did for our previous dog, Zane, during the week we had him after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Zane wasn’t as healthy as Arran is, and we caught his cancer later. I also suspect that the type he had was more aggressive than what Arran has (B cell lymphoma).
Our vet said that they didn’t typically give steroids to dogs with lymphoma that weren’t undergoing chemo. Basically, it sounded like we could choose chemo, or we could just wait for Arran to get really sick and die. Bill had to go away on business for two work weeks this month. Arran and Bill have a very special bond, and I worried that Arran would decline while Bill was away. The vet said she thought that, in spite of his age, Arran was a good candidate for treatment. Moreover, we could get the treatments in her office, which is maybe two or three miles from where we live, rather than at the local high speed vet hospital. So then we decided that we might as well give chemo a try. At worst, the treatment would kill him, which the cancer is eventually going to do, anyway.
Two weeks ago today, I sent Bill an angry email, because Arran was getting sicker and was in obvious pain. I was pissed off, because I didn’t want him to hurt. Our first chemo appointment was for the next day. Bill called the vet, who prescribed painkillers. I picked them up and gave one to Arran, who seemed to feel better after taking a dose. Then, on Thursday afternoon, October 13th, we finally went in to see the vet for cancer treatment… You can see from the photos, Arran looks a little bit sad.
I took Arran home with some Prednisolone and Endoxan, another chemo drug. I gave them to him with his dinner. Then, he slept for the rest of the evening, until the wee hours, when he woke me up for a bathroom break.
The next morning, Arran was clearly feeling noticeably better. As he was getting sick, he was not wanting to get up in the mornings. But on Friday morning, October 14, he was up early and ready for his breakfast. He continued to improve all week until last week’s treatment, when the vet said that based on his blood test, Arran’s bone marrow appeared to be working to replace his low red blood cell count. He’s had almost zero side effects from the chemo whatsoever. His lymph nodes have gone back to normal. He’s eating, sleeping, taking walks, and demanding food. Best of all, he made it through Bill’s business trips, and they are now spending precious time together, making their last memories.
After I read Kavin’s article in the Washington Post, I checked out the 734 comments that were left by fellow readers. Much to my shock, the vast majority of them were about how stupid, pointless, and even cruel it is to treat canine cancer. I noticed a lot of comments from people who complained about dogs getting treatment that human beings can’t get. Below was the first comment– it was one of eight highlighted by the WaPo:
I’m actually kind of mad that veterinary medicine is expanding into things like cancer treatments and canine dissociative order. I love my pets with every fiber of my being and yet, putting them through these treatments doesn’t seem like kindness. You can’t explain to your dog or cat that scary and painful days at the vet hospital are “for their own good” and will, hopefully, make them feel better eventually. They are just scared and alone and in pain. It’s one thing to improve on surgery techniques so that a dog hit by a car has a better chance to fully recover. Putting them through radiation treatments to get a few more months of walks in the park just seems selfish. I ugly cry when my pets pass on because I am personally devastated, but I know it was time. I don’t want to also feel guilty because I didn’t do absolutely everything the vet suggested.
This was the third comment:
I am a dog lover. I have always had a dog. My Blue Heeler is curled up beside me as I type. I am also a Buddhist who believes, as the Buddha said in so many words, that the root cause of suffering is clinging to the delusion of permanence. Everything ends, and it was this dog’s time. I can’t conceive of putting a canine through chemotherapy with no chance of a cure. But that’s just me….
Are you doing this for the dog, or for yourself?
The overall average lifespan for dogs across breeds is 10 to 13 years. Subjecting a 12 year-old dog to the discomforts and fatigue of radiation treatment, making the last months of life a combination of misery and confusion, doesn’t sound like you’re doing it for the dog.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of young dogs needing adoption. Give one of them the gift of a long and happy life instead.
There can be a point where care is more about the humans than the animal.
These weren’t the worst of some of the judgmental, and frankly ignorant, comments left on this piece. Here are a few more samples from the comment section:
All who were surveyed said they would do anything to save their pets. But, would they all subject their beloved pets to radiation and/or chemotherapy, not to save them but to prolong their lives for months, a great part of which is treatment and not good times? They have a shorter life span than humans. You will have to grieve at some point.
Would you put a 70-80 year old human through these painful treatments at the end of their life? I hope not. Not even our SCOTUS fools would make someone go through this to “maintain” life!
I understand the impulse to do anything you can for your beloved pet. I love my own dog to distraction. But I also feel deeply ambivalent about extended medical treatment for pets. They cannot be protected from the pain that cancer patients go through. They cannot consent. They do not fear death, as we do. The veterinarians are making a fortune off of people’s delusions. Many of these owners cannot afford these treatments, and they are often done on dogs who are within a few months of their natural lifespans. People bankrupt themselves for their pets out of love, but also out of guilt. Think of what you are putting your beloved pet through for the potential of a few more months of limited life. Ask yourself if you are being selfish. Think about whether your vet is taking you for a ride. Sometimes the best thing is to send your dear one off to chase balls in dog heaven, spared from months of agonizing treatments. Think of them, not yourself, and ask it it’s time to let go.
I adore my dog, but I am damned if I am going to torture her so my mourning of her death gets delayed by 6-12 months. One of the many reasons dogs are superior to humans is they do hot have our irrational fear of the inevitable.
Nope. I wouldn’t do this. You put your dog through a hell which he did not understand.
To torment an animal for your own guilt is unconscionable. We had a galah with major medical issues. She received 5 medications twice daily for 3 years. She was clearly miserable. We probably spent $50k between the time she became obviously ill and when she finally died. I hated it. I don’t begrudge the money, my husband’s bird, his money, I had no right to complain. But it broke my heart to see her tortured and tormented and so obviously feeling miserable. I shed a lot of tears over the poor thing. She finally died over a three day weekend when she cratered badly and we could not get her to her vet because they were closed and did not do emergencies. The question, to me is, are you prolonging the agony because of your own guilt? Or for the “benefit” of the animal who has no idea what is happening?
It’s disgusting that expensive technology and expertise that could be used to heal people is being used on pets. We are so wealthy and pampered in this country that even the slightest inconvenience and sadness to us is worth the price, we would never consider spending this money on a poor human that we did not know. Do the right thing, shoot the dog and donate the money you saved to a charity that helps heal people instead. People are more important than pets.
Oh, judas priest. It’s a dog. A 12 year old dog. If it’s in pain, you put it to sleep. Otherwise you let nature take its course. And then you get a new dog. Which you’ll do anyway, since a 12 year old large dog has a life expectancy of around 0. People have their priorities so amazingly f’ed up these days.
So many people cannot afford healthcare, and people are using tens of thousands of dollars to extend the lives of dogs, whose lifespans are little more than a decade. That seems gross, no matter how much you love your dog.
It’s not that I don’t see their points, on some level. Like I said, Bill and I weren’t keen on putting Arran through any “painful” treatments, either. But before we made our decision, I noticed how he was behaving. In spite of his swollen lymph nodes, he was still engaged with us, and even wanted to play with his toys. He still wanted to take walks and cuddle on the couch. And you’d really have to see how bonded he is with Bill. He adores him.
We had another dog who was like Arran when he had cancer. That dog, whose name was Flea, had prostate cancer, which was truly horrible and painful, and defied treatment. He didn’t want to die. It was very obvious to us, even on the day when we decided it was time to let him go. He was still fighting, even as the drugs were taking effect. We see the same spirit in Arran. I hasten to add that our other dogs who have passed– CuCullain, MacGregor, and Zane, did not have that spark to keep going. They were undeniably ready when they passed.
In Zane’s case, he was definitely going to die of the lymphoma on that day, even if we didn’t opt for euthanasia, because he was bleeding internally. In MacGregor’s case, he could have lived a little bit longer with his spinal tumor, but he was clearly in agony. And CuCullain had a very rare, contagious, and painful disease that was certainly going to kill him, but because it was contagious, we couldn’t take him home. We couldn’t afford to keep him where he was, but it would have been pointless, anyway. In those cases, yes, treatment was futile. But it’s not futile in Arran’s case. Treatment can give him some precious time, and allow us the chance to set up his exit from life in the best way.
It’s true that Arran will likely die soon. I don’t know how long the chemo will work. I am at peace with the fact that he’s going to die. Neither Bill nor I are expecting a cure. Even if he got cured of the cancer, he’s old enough to die of natural causes. But I can’t deny that right now, he’s feeling much better, and that is priceless. We have the means to do this, and Arran is obviously up for it. So I don’t feel like what we’re doing is “for us”, or pointless or stupid… To a dog, a week or a month is a longer time than it is for a human being. Six extra months may not seem significant or worthwhile to a person, but to a dog, it’s akin to years of a human’s life.
Aside from that, chemo for dogs is not as horrible as it is for humans. If it was, I would never agree to do it. And when it appears that the chemo isn’t helping or is causing distress, of course we’ll know it’s time to say goodbye. Not everyone who opts for canine chemo is out of touch with reality or selfish.
What really stood out to me in the comments on that WaPo article, though, are the truly mean and nasty comments some people had, calling treating canine cancer “gross”, because humans are “more important” than animals are. First off, how do these folks think cancer treatments are developed? They get tested on animals. Every time a vet treats a dog for cancer, knowledge and experience is expanded, and that makes it more likely that they can help other animals or… perhaps even human beings!
And secondly, most people who opt not to treat their pets are NOT going to donate the money they “saved” by opting out of treatment. It would be nice if they did donate to charities that help humans, but most of them won’t do that. Many of the people opting out of treatment their animals are doing so because they can’t afford it, or because they think it’s pointless and will be painful. I’ll admit, a few weeks ago, I thought it was pointless, too. But now I know better. And the vast majority of people who “save” money by not treating their pets aren’t going to be donating that cash to save humans. I doubt the people who suggested donating money for humans would do it, either.
I was glad to see a few people leaving comments that challenged those who posted that treating canine cancer is “gross” or somehow decadent. I especially liked this lady’s comment:
You can’t save all the people, you can give your pet pet a better quality of life. You can be a drop in the bucket to strangers or provide meaningful benefit to someone your family loves and has contributed meaningfully to your life. I’d say ignoring someone who has been unfailingly loving and supportive in favor of a stranger would be gross.
I also love what this commenter, a veterinarian, had to say:
A lot of these commenters don’t actually know much about veterinary medicine. I’m a veterinarian and when you take into account the advanced medicine that is being performed, this is quite a steal. Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer, receiving gold treatment care (including radiation) and it costing $15,000 total? Is it for everyone? Of course not, but if you can afford it, it should be a choice. I don’t see why spending that amount of a beloved pet is ridiculous but people spend more than that on vacations, cars, etc. additionally, treatment for cancer in pets is very much focused on quality of life and not just “time.” Although surgery of course can be painful and have a recovery time, most chemotherapy and other options on our pets have few side effects. I refer people to oncologists all the time for advanced care and if they decide not to treat, I do my best to provide palliative care and/or euthanasia when it is time. And for people saying animals don’t understand, I agree, but neither do babies and young children yet no one is saying we should withhold care from them.
I would have been all for opting just for palliative care. For some reason, that wasn’t offered to us at this time. I’m glad it wasn’t, because this is a valuable learning experience for all of us– including the vets who are treating Arran. I know that doing this for Arran will inform us for the future, not just for other dogs, but also for ourselves, should either or both of us be unlucky enough to have cancer.
Finally, here is the best comment I read regarding Blue’s saga:
There’s nothing cruel about trying to give our companions the same kind of advanced treatments we have available for humans. For each pet and each family, it’s a decision that must juggle the age of the pet, the expected lifespan after treatment, the budget — with or without pet insurance — and the families’ needs. Not every dog can get radiation treatment, nor can every family afford this for their pets.
I’ve made this calculation for my own pets, and sometimes it’s a go for treatment, but other times, it’s palliative care and euthanasia. Either way, no one has any business telling pet owners that they’re cruel to make either decision. If it’s not your pet, it’s not your decision.
When the time inevitably comes to say goodbye to Arran, we’ll send him to the Rainbow Bridge with his favorite people around him, loving him as his soul leaves the mortal coil. And, in the fullness of time, after we have had some time to mourn, we know he will send us a successor. All of our dogs have done that… even Flea did that, and he was the biggest “male diva dog” of all of our rescues combined.
Arran has been a faithful, loyal, and loving family member for almost ten years. I would like to see him make that ten year mark. Maybe that makes me “selfish”, but I can tell that the treatment is making him feel better, and giving him extra time with his favorite human. I don’t see that as cruel, selfish, stupid, decadent, or “gross”. Right now, it doesn’t appear to me that the treatment is causing him to suffer, and it’s the least we can do for him, after everything he’s done for us. When the situation changes, of course we will act accordingly and do what must be done. But we’re not sending him to the Rainbow Bridge before that time, simply because other, uninvolved, judgmental people think that treating canine cancer is selfish or decadent! Those people can seriously get bent!
Today’s featured photo is of the moon, which I didn’t see last night… If it had been out, maybe being repeatedly forced to get up in the wee hours of the morning might have been more interesting for me.
It’s finally Thursday, which means that today Arran gets his second chemo IV push treatment of Vincristine. All week since last Thursday, I’ve been giving him Prednisolone, which truly is a wonder drug. However, it also has some significant side effects that can be quite annoying for both man and beast. For most of the past week, Arran has been handling things like a trouper. But as I wrote yesterday, the steroids are now causing some noticeable side effects that are interfering with things like my being able to sleep. Arran has to go out often, because the drug makes him pee a lot, and he constantly wants food, because the drug makes him hungry.
Fortunately, today we will start giving him 5 milligrams less Prednisolone. I also see, based on the schedule the vet gave me last week, he will be getting it less often. For instance, tomorrow, he won’t take any medicine at all. Saturday, he’ll get the reduced dose of Prednisolone and the Endoxan (Cytoxan) chemo tablet, then he gets another day off from the drugs on Sunday. I have noticed that the drugs have been very effective. A week ago, he was having trouble eating, had low energy, passed slimy, mucousy, bloody poop, and was shivering a bit. He was also in pain, as his lymph nodes were very swollen. This week, the lymph nodes have shrunk almost to normal. His eyes are bright. He wants to take walks and eat. His poop is also much more normal.
So far, the Endoxan seems to make him tired, so he’s now resting on the blanket on the floor in my bedroom. In a couple of hours, I’ll drive him to the vet to get his infusion, and he’ll probably spend the rest of the day recovering. However, he will also get to see his favorite person in the world, as Bill has finished his latest business trip and will be coming home today.
Arran and I have both been looking forward to Bill’s return. I’ve missed having him at home, as it gets pretty boring here by myself. We’ll probably get the first bill today, and it may be painful… but I suspect it will be less than what we’d be paying in the United States. Canine cancer is a real drag, but every time we experience it, we learn new things. This is our first experience with chemo, but it probably won’t be our last. It won’t surprise me if what we learn from taking care of Arran will even help us in our own lives at some point. There’s every chance that either Bill or I or both of us will have cancer ourselves someday. And I can almost guarantee that we will have another pet who has it, unless this experience turns me off of pet ownership. I can almost guarantee that it won’t, though. As I have mentioned a few times, we’ve definitely experienced worse pet cancers than lymphoma. At least this one can be treated, and isn’t as terribly painful as the others have been thus far.
In any case, so far, the treatment hasn’t been terrible. I’m reminded of a hopeful book I read a few years ago about a woman whose dog had an aggressive form of mast cell cancer. Both Arran and our previous dog, Zane (RIP), have had mast cell cancer, which is also often very treatable, but then leads to lymphoma. That book, which was written by a twice divorced lawyer whose dog had mast cell cancer, was also about the author’s own breast cancer diagnosis, which happened at the same time. I reviewed the book for the original blog and have reposted it here, for those who want to read about it. Unfortunately, a lot of us dog lovers are dealing with this shit… and a lot of us Google for hope. I know this, because I often see people hitting my post on the travel blog about homemade dog food and holistic help for cancers in dogs.
Anyway, I don’t want my blog to turn into a canine cancer diary, so I think I’ll move on to another topic. Unfortunately, I don’t have a happy one to write about today, as I’ve mostly been here by myself all week, taking care of Arran and watching the news, as well as YouTube videos about the news. And so much of the news is about Donald Trump, and his multiple legal woes, desperate attempts to avoid accountability, and inflammatory public statements. I can think of two he made recently that were blatantly racist/anti-semitic. It’s hard to understand why a regular person can be quickly “canceled” for doing something like complaining and/or calling the police, while Trump can pretty much do what he wants and get away with it. I am glad to see, though, that there are finally some officials who are at least trying to take him to task.
The other alternative is to read about inflation, high gas prices, and Putin’s war against Ukraine. I have a good friend who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Russia in the early 90s. He later worked in Armenia, which is where I met him, then embarked on a global career. He married a Ukrainian woman and had two children, then immigrated to Canada, which he was able to do with relative ease, because his mom is from Canada. My friend often posts about what’s happening in Ukraine, as his wife’s family is still there. Yesterday, he posted about a young woman he knew who had worked in a wine store he used to frequent when he lived in Kiev. The young woman was happily married and six months pregnant with her first baby when, the other day, she and her husband, as well as the developing baby, were killed by one of the Iranian drones Putin has deployed to Kiev.
Such a tragic story! People need to wake up to evil of some of the world’s leaders.
I could spend some time reading about Kiev, feeling more hopeless and angry and frankly, depressed… I could read more from MAGA idiots who are bitching about expensive gas. I could engage in unpleasant interactions on social media with people who pop off at the slightest provocation (and in fact, I just had one with someone from the Czech Republic). But, as it’s Thursday, and I’ve been looking forward to, and dreading, this day, maybe I should just focus on getting through the next chemo treatment with Arran. He’s now parked in my office with me as I type this. In an hour, I’ll put his harness on him and head the 2 kilometers to the vet’s office, don a fucking face mask, and get him this week’s treatment. Hopefully, the coming week will go as well, or even better, than last week did. He will be getting less Prednisolone, which may, at least, help me get a full night’s sleep, right?
And finally, I wish to share a funny meme I saw on Twitter yesterday. It about sums up my mood…
I did buy a bunch of books this week, too. If I could get through the one I’m currently reading, maybe I’ll have a crop of new book reviews. Especially now that I have the right contact lenses and can read properly again.
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