This winter, my Shepherd/Retriever cross dog, aka Tutter The Mutter, aka my Best Friend Forever, started to make some funny sounds every once in a while. Sort of a throaty sound, like he was hacking up a giant loogey.
It happened very rarely; not enough to warrant concern since he was in every other way totally fine.
Then his nose began to run only on one side. He started to have sneezing fits.
I called our vet, a trustworthy “country” vet, who upon hearing his symptoms asked to see him right away. He told me this was “of concern”.
My heart dropped into the pit of my belly. I knew, then. I knew.
We tried some antibiotics, Pat did a tear duct drainage test. He called a vet he knew down at the Washington State University vet program in Pullman, WA. He pulled no punches when he told me what he and the other veterinarian thought.
Tutter has a nasal tumour. We were advised that treatment would not only be costly but would only extend his life by a mere 6-8 months. These months would be filled with uncomfortable and painful treatments. He would be very sick while going through chemo and radiation. There is no remission, only a slight extension of life.
We live in a relatively rural area where these sorts of treatments are not readily available to us, even IF we wanted to pursue it.
All my explanations aside, what I truly felt in my heart was this:
Tutter deserves a life free of agony. Free of confusion and pain and nausea caused by our selfish need to extend his life only to allow us to enjoy him for a few more weeks or months.
He does not deserve to be treated like a warranty program.
We told the children last night after my son asked point-blank if there was something wrong with Tutter. Dan and I wanted to wait until after school and after Elisabeth’s birthday to tell them. It was very difficult. There was tears and sadness and lots and lots of hugs and an epic walk with our family and our beloved dog, where we feasted (Tutter included) on the first of the season’s huckleberries.
But most of all, we all talked about living in the moment. Tutter is HERE right now. He is with us still. He is alive, loving, devoted and sweet. Every moment we have with him is precious. Every chance for a walk, a grooming, a cookie, a snuggle will be taken with open hearts and a realization that our lesson in all of this is how to BE present, in the here and now. Let’s not worry about tomorrow or yesterday. Today is happening. Our dog doesn’t care about what will happen the next day. And neither should we.
As my family ventures down this lonely and sad road, I know we will have some rough days ahead. But we owe it to our dog, our funny, sweet, smart, goofy, loving dog to give him the best possible life, no matter how long or short it is. Our compassion and empathy allows us to grant these four-legged family members nothing less than what they truly deserve: kindness, love and dignity.