controversies, dogs, ethics, healthcare

The surprising judgment that comes with seeking advanced veterinary care…

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 seven 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 Vinistrine 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.

This was Arran’s first chemo bill. It covers two treatments. As you can see, it’s very reasonable. The following week, we were billed another 445 euros for four more treatments.

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.

Arran and Noyzi welcome us home two weeks ago. You’d never know Arran has cancer, thanks to canine chemo. Isn’t this a result worth paying for? Especially when it’s pretty reasonably priced?

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.

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condescending twatbags, dogs, lessons learned, love

No, treating Arran’s cancer with chemo isn’t selfish or pointless…

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.

Last week’s treatment. It took about an hour.

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….

Still another:

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. 

and…

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.

Begging for treats last night. Two weeks ago, he didn’t even want to eat homemade chicken and rice.

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!

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animals, complaints, dogs, modern problems, Trump

Today is a day I’ve been dreading, yet anticipating…

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…

This could be plausible.

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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animals, controversies, dogs, mental health

Another day on the lymphoma roller coaster…

Today’s post title might be a tad dramatic. But then, I woke up at 2:30 am to Arran needing to go outside. He went downstairs and started to pee on my rug– a place where he’s peed a bunch of times before. But this was the first time I ever caught him in the act. “Arran!” I yelled, as I opened the door, “Go outside!” He went out and did his business, then wanted a treat, because he’s a beagle and Prednisone makes him hungry. I gave him a couple of dog cookies, then went back to bed.

A half hour later, Arran wanted to go out again. He was also obviously starving, so I gave him a handful of kibble. He went out, but not before he dropped a couple of turds on the same rug, which I stepped in with bare feet because it was dark in the room. So then I had to clean THAT up. Then, at about 4:00 am, Arran got up again, and this time he insisted on getting some food. The sound of the kibble hitting the metal bowl woke up Noyzi, who also thought it was time to eat. I made him go out while Arran ate a little more food to stave off his hunger pangs until a slightly more civilized hour.

Naturally, I couldn’t sleep after all of this activity, so I started reading the New York Times, where I read a couple of fascinating articles. One was about “atypical anorexia”, and with it was a photograph of an obese woman who, seemingly paradoxically, also suffers from anorexia. Naturally, there were many insensitive comments, as well as mean spirited laugh reactions. As someone who doesn’t look the part, but has dealt with eating disordered behaviors, that reaction really pisses me off. I thought it was a very insightful piece about a misunderstood problem that is killing a lot of people. If more people would read and understand about eating disorders with an open mind, lives might be saved. I was heartened to see a few stalwart folks speaking up about the ignorant idiots laughing at these women who are suffering from a hellish problem. I’ve about had it with the compassion challenged people in the world… especially the ones who are based in the United States. Anyone who wants to read about atypical anorexia is welcome to click the link, which should take you to the unlocked article.

Next, I read a sad update about a 26 year old retired New York City carriage horse named Ryder who, in August, became famous after he very publicly collapsed while working in Manhattan. After the collapse, Ryder got a new owner, and was sent to spend the rest of his days at a farm. But Ryder was losing weight and, on Monday, collapsed at the farm where he was living. Later, he had a seizure, and his new owner decided to have the Standardbred put down. You can read about Ryder by clicking the link, which is also an unlocked New York Times article.

The vet suspected that Ryder, like Arran, had lymphoma. I have no experience with equine lymphoma, but from what I’ve read, it’s expensive to treat, and horses who are diagnosed with it, are usually in an advanced stage of the disease. On the other hand, for those who have the means, chemo for horses with lymphoma can work. The University of Pennsylvania article I read reported that the mean survival rate for horses being treated with chemo for lymphoma is about 8 months, but that was taking into account horses who had died after just a month, and some who haven’t died yet after a couple of years. I have a feeling that, as it is with cancer a lot of the time, you just kind of have to leave it up to God.

As I know from personal experience, lymphoma often sneaks up on animals, and it varies in how bad it is. Ryder was already up there in years, so if he was still working in August and was ill with lymphoma, it’s no wonder he collapsed. Lymphoma causes weight loss and exhaustion, among other things, and unfortunately, even the best cared for animals can get cancer. While Ryder did have a new owner after his collapse, I wouldn’t necessarily assume the old one was abusive. It’s possible that he or she didn’t yet know that the horse was ill with cancer. There will be a necropsy to determine what ultimately caused Ryder’s demise.

My heart goes out to his reportedly devastated new owner, who doesn’t want to be identified, because people have been sending hate mail. As someone who also got a little bit of “hate” after we lost Jonny, the dog we tried to adopt in 2020 who escaped his pet transporter before making it into our home, I have empathy for Ryder’s owner. People can be really shitty to one another… and they justify being shitty for, frankly, spurious reasons, like tragedies that they negatively judge, often without having all of the facts or giving the situation much rational thought. What would have happened to Ryder if his latest owner hadn’t stepped up to care for him? I’m sure his owner’s loss is truly heartbreaking. The last thing he or she needs right now is shitty comments and mean spirited missives from so-called anti-carriage activists, especially if the cause of death really was cancer. People shouldn’t feel emboldened to harass others with hate mail, especially if they aren’t personally involved with a situation.

I do think that at age 26, Ryder was probably too old to be doing carriage work in New York City. I say “probably”, because I don’t like to make such statements without actually knowing the individuals involved; but in reality, I do think 26 is too old for horses doing that kind of work in a city. It’s a real shame that Ryder didn’t go to a farm earlier in his life. But, I also understand that these decisions can be complicated. One of the reasons I haven’t tried harder to get back into my beloved former pastime of riding is because I get attached, and my current lifestyle doesn’t really allow for having horses.

Horses aren’t like dogs. They don’t tend to stay with one owner their whole lives. And they require a lot of work and money to maintain. When they are part of someone’s livelihood, it’s not so easy to just decide to retire them simply due to age. But I will agree that in a just, humane world, these horses would get more kindness and consideration. On the other hand, I wish that for human beings, too. And most humans can’t afford to just take care of horses as “pets”. I also know that most horses prefer to work, especially when they are specifically bred for certain jobs. Standardbreds are usually bred for harness racing, so it makes sense that Ryder made his living pulling carriages.

I have mixed feelings about the New York City carriage horse industry, which has become very controversial in recent years. I don’t think working in Manhattan as a carriage horse is the most ideal life for equines, especially given that they don’t have a place to be turned out. However, I would rather see a horse working in Manhattan with somewhat decent, but less than ideal care than, say, being hoarded by some mentally ill nut, or being sent off to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. Also, I do believe that many of the carriage drivers do care very much about their horses. Why would they choose that line of work if they didn’t enjoy it? As it is with anything, it takes all kinds. I just hope Ryder is resting well, and wish much peace and comfort to all of those who loved him. A lot of people who are against the industry are people who don’t know anything at all about horses.

Well, I suspect I’m going to be tired today, since I didn’t get much sleep… so I think I’ll practice guitar, and consider taking a nap… if Arran will let me, that is.

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dogs, healthcare, politics, Trump

Chemo, comedians, and crazy Trump supporters who need a clue…

As I write this, Arran is about 17 hours beyond his first chemo treatment. He is noticeably better than he was 24 hours ago. I was a bit worried about him last night. He took the actual chemo treatment well. It consisted of infusions of Vincristine at the vet’s office, then some Prednisolone, and another chemo drug delivered by tablet called Endoxan. In the United States, Endoxan is known as Cytoxan, or Cyclophosphamide. I’m supposed to wear gloves when I give him that drug, and when I pick up Arran’s poop or clean up any urine accidents in the house.

Prednisone and its various incarnations are pretty incredible. We’ve given it to three of our dogs when they’ve had cancer, and the short term results are kind of miraculous to watch. However, the drug has some pesky side effects. Arran got me up twice last night because he needed to pee. On the other hand, the drug also stimulates appetite, which Arran actually needs right now. He had gained an undesirable amount of weight over the past couple of years, but has now suddenly lost some. So, eating is good, because I have seen cachexia in dogs, and it’s not pretty. This morning, he eagerly ate a full ration of his usual kibble, which he hasn’t done in a week or so.

But what really impresses me is that I just felt his lymph nodes, which I haven’t been able to bring myself to do in several days. They are noticeably smaller, and probably hurt less. The vet is concerned because Arran’s a little anemic, which apparently isn’t uncommon with canine lymphoma. It may mean he’s further along in his illness than we’d hoped. On the other hand, everything I’ve read online has told me that he should have already died by now. I knew he had lymphoma when I spotted the enlarged lymph nodes, but it took the vets about two weeks to confirm the diagnosis, because the results of the fine needle aspirates each took a week. I suppose we could have taken him straight to Tierklinik Hofheim, which is an actual hospital, and that would have delivered faster results. But, again, we aren’t hoping for miraculous cures, because Arran is already elderly. We just want a little more time… or as long as he can enjoy himself before he inevitably starts to feel like crap again.

I think he’ll be around to greet Bill when he comes home tonight, and that was one of my personal goals. Next week, we’ll get him through another business trip. He’ll have another round of chemo on Thursday. I fully expect him to make it to the appointment, although I am still a realist. Just seeing him feeling better lifts my spirits, though. I truly hate seeing suffering. I would probably make a terrible nurse, because I would get depressed and burned out in a very short period of time.

But anyway, right now he’s parked behind my desk chair, farting away… He farted after his treatment, too. The tech opened a window, because it was pretty rancid.

Moving on… (and a warning that the next two parts are more profane…)

Yesterday, I watched the below video in absolute shock.

I hope the asshole who threw that can at the comedian got arrested!

Once again, I am absolutely flabbergasted by the sheer idiocy of Trump supporters. This comic was doing her routine when she got heckled by some Trump supporting moron. The comedian handled herself beautifully, as the Trumper kept running her mouth, fucking with the comedian’s act. Comedians have to deal with that stuff, of course. It comes with the job. What they should NOT have to deal with, though, is acts of violence against them. The heckler got verbally nastier with the comedian, who refused to be cowed by the Trumper’s unhinged comments and insults. I guess the comedian’s composure was too much for the heckler, because someone suddenly threw a full can of beer at the comedian, narrowly missing her!

Without missing a beat, the comedian completely p’owned the heckler. Watch the video to see what she did. It was pretty epic.

If I were that comedian, I would definitely be pressing charges against that crazy person who doesn’t support free speech or expression and throws things at people who say things they don’t want to hear. But then, I’m not as funny as the comedian is… 😉 I’m also not as young, or as patient. I don’t suffer bullies. Edited to add: CNN reports that it was a man who threw the beer can, as the heckler had already been kicked out of the venue.

I have really had it with Trump supporters, and it’s not because I’m a “leftist”. I just want life to go back to some semblance of normalcy, when there was an expected level of decorum in our country’s leadership. In what world is it okay for someone to attend a comedy show and throw a full can of beer at an entertainer who is performing on stage? On a smaller scale, it’s the same kind of shit that Will Smith did to Chris Rock, and it’s completely UNACCEPTABLE. What that person did is against the law, and he should be punished. And it really upsets me that people have lost so much respect for each other, and for elected officials that they think it’s okay to act like that.

You don’t like someone’s comedy routine? Just get up and leave. You don’t get to be violent because a comedian says things you don’t want to hear. If that beer had hit the comedian, she could have been injured. Fortunately, the Trumper missed, and the comedian had the chance to turn that foolishness around on the stupid bitch. I don’t usually like to namecall, but in this case, I think the situation calls for it. That person obviously doesn’t know how to behave in public and shouldn’t be on the loose. In that way, she’s not unlike her hero, Donald Trump, and his fucking stooge minions, Marjorie Taylor, Lauren Boebert, Greg Abbott, and all the rest of the extremist MAGA fuckwits who want to turn the United States into Gilead.

Edited to add: The comedian’s name is Aerial Elias. CNN also covered this incident, and evidently, the woman who heckled her was escorted out before the beer was hurled by a MAN. Aerial declined to press charges against the guy, but the club is pursuing legal action. I hope he gets NAILED. I am going to do what I can to support her work. She’s got a new fan!

Edited to add again… No charges for the beer thrower. Shameful!

Moving on…

Once again, some Trumper on Amy Klobuchar’s page decided to leave me a comment when I posted that I voted all blue. The guy was more concerned about cheap gas and inflation than human rights, women’s rights to privacy, and basic decency. He claimed that Americans think Biden has turned the USA into a dystopia. I told him to speak for himself. He came back with some tripe about money, and how rising prices was making his life terrible. I was going to respond to him, but I decided that dealing with Arran is stressful enough. If he doesn’t see why having MAGA extremists in power is bad for America, and the world at large, nothing I can say will convince him. So I used my block button again.

I know that very few people care about opinions that don’t match theirs, and I don’t want to deal with strangers who think I need to hear from them, when all they care about is $1.89 gas and $20 extra in their paychecks. As a conservative white male, he doesn’t understand why taking away women’s rights to make private medical choices was a bridge too far for a lot of people, myself included. That’s why I am DONE with Republicans, because how dare they?

I just watched the latest installment of The Handmaid’s Tale. I wasn’t too surprised by what happened at the end, but I did have a flash of recognition as I listened to June talk to Serena Joy about hate and violence in the world, and the wish that their kids would do better. We used to be better than this. The Handmaid’s Tale is scary viewing, not just because it’s so violent and depressing, but because a lot of what’s in that show is frighteningly close to real life… and not just in the United States, either. I hope some people wake the fuck up and vote accordingly.

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