Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Older Dog Wisdom - Grace 2: Cancer Surgery

Grace had surgery. While difficult on her, I do believe it was worse for me. 
I first noticed the problem in February when she began licking her front right paw. She didn’t seem to be in pain, she wasn’t limping or crying out when she jumped down from things. There was only her persistent licking of the paw. Then she began limping slightly.
I took her to the Vet when I noticed an odor emanating from the paw. It could have been because she was licking it all the time or it could be that something worse was going on. I hoped it was the former. 
The vet examined her, declared it was only an infection, and sent us home with antibiotics, pills to reduce the swelling, and a medicated shampoo in which to soak the paw. 
We followed the vet’s orders. She took the pills like a trooper (mainly because they were buried in globs of peanut butter, one of her favorite foods since she’d been a puppy). We went back to the vet. He pronounced her cured. I was immensely relieved.
She was not, however, cured. The licking persisted. She began limping even more. Things were getting worse, not better. We returned to the animal hospital (which I had asked around about and got glowing reviews on it so I took Grace and Tux to see a vet there), but saw a different vet. She examined Grace, and said we needed x-rays to determine what was really going on. When asked, she said she thought Grace might have cancer.
No! I cried out silently. Not my Gracie. Not cancer. 
The x-ray did, indeed, show that she had cancer of the toe, and it had already eaten away a goodly portion of her toe. 
The first vet never uttered the word cancer. His misdiagnosis of the cancer allowed the disease to eat away at Grace’s bone, and worse, perhaps spread to other areas of her body.
I took the x-ray to a different practice, and the vet there agreed it was cancer, and Grace needed to have the toe removed. Surgery was scheduled. The toe was removed.
Grace came through like a trooper, even managing to have the staff and doctor fall in love with her along the way. At home, she wasn’t able to jump up on the bed so she was lifted up and down. She quickly adjusted to the huge bandage on her paw. Within a day or two, she was running on three legs while holding the casted leg out in front of her. 
After several days, Tux, her brother, was rolling his eyes, sure that she was faking the effects of the surgery.
The pathology report came back confirming that it had been cancer, but also confirming the doctor had been able to remove all the cancer. She now has to return to the vet every three months for an x-ray to confirm that the cancer hasn’t spread.
Now, six weeks after the surgery, she is back to her old self. Reasserting her alpha dog status and wrestling the title of alpha dog from her brother, Tux, who is resisting her attempted coup since he had taken over while she was recovering. He wasn’t about to give up his hard-won title easily. 
One of the manifestations of Alpha Dogism in our family is who leads who out the back door and into the back yard. For a short few weeks, Tux got to go out the first. Then Grace recovered and now she’s back to leading the charge outside.
I have no idea who’s going to win the Alpha Dog War nor do I care. I’m just thankful that the two of them are healthy again.

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