B&W Sunday: Tale of Tails: Becca Pt.2
Last Sunday, I posted a picture of our Becca getting a laser treatment for her fused spine & arthritis. I thought this Sunday I would wrap up our Tale of Tails series on Becca. You can read Part 1 here.
Picking up from Part I, we had just received a diagnosis that no pet parent wants to hear – osteosarcoma. What we thought was maybe just Becca’s arthritis acting up was something much worse. This poor girl, a fused spine, atrophied back legs, two ACL injuries, terrible arthritis and now osteosarcoma – a merciless and fast moving cancer.
We were lucky enough to get an appointment with the oncologist that afternoon. I went home, told Steve and drove back to meet with Dr. Ayl. The prognosis wasn’t good. The main treatment for osteo in dogs is removal of the offending limb – that’s the optimal way to remove the cancer. Unfortunately, Becca’s other orthopedic issues wouldn’t allow us to do that, so our options were limited to chemotherapy and/or radiation.
The chemotherapy was intended to slow or stop the growth of the tumor and next to amputation was the most aggressive treatment option. Radiation was obviously less invasive, but was only for pain management and intended to restrict the growth of the tumor. She would need to be sedated and have a series of 3 treatments.
I wasn’t crazy about the idea of chemo even though our vet claimed that it was not the ordeal that humans go through as the dosage is much lower. He claimed very few dogs react negatively to it. But at Becca’s age and her somewhat frail condition we opted to try the radiation first, she how she reacted and then revisit the chemo.
After the 2nd radiation treatment, we did see some improvements in Becca’s mobility. We had built a ramp so she didn’t have to navigate stairs anymore which helped, but she was once again picking up her favorite soccer ball for a few games of fetch. After the third treatment and continued improvement, we decided to go ahead with the chemo.
It may be true that some dogs don’t react to it, but Becca did almost immediately. She stopped eating, got diarrhea and basically took to her bed. She was miserable and very sick. The chemo was in pill form and we stopped it as soon as she showed signs of being sick. I won’t go into the gruesome details of the several days it took to get that medication out of her system, but it was a very difficult time for her and for us.
Once it was out of her system, she did come back to herself a bit and enjoyed a few good days. But she was noticeably weaker and more frail and we knew it was only a matter of time. We kept her warm and comfortable, well fed with her favorite treats, walks when she felt up to it and just enjoyed whatever time we had with her.
We were once again faced with that decision of when do we let her go – when is our sadness at losing her overshadowed by the need to relieve her of her suffering. We knew when she stopped picking up her ball on the way out the door that it was probably time. I went to visit our Dr. and remember his wise words to me “when a dog has a terminal illness and is in the final stages as Becca is, you can never be too early, but you can be too late”. Looking down at sweet Becca as she lay at my feet when he said that, I knew she was suffering and I knew it was time to let her go and for us to say goodbye to her.
We gave her a big send off on that weekend – took her down to the stream near our house and let her wade around in the water, one of her favorite things. We gave her a big steak dinner and one of her favorite bully sticks and lots and lots of love.
On Sunday, our vet came to our house and sent Becca on her way. We cried and mourned losing her. She was a warrior that Becca. Spent years and years in service of her owner and then got to come to us for her last years. We tried to teach her she was retired and didn’t have to work anymore but it was so ingrained sometimes I found her just standing next to me…waiting for me to give her a command. She was a trooper and a sweet, loving dog. Her ashes sit on the shelf of my office along with our Sally & Tino. We miss all of them everyday.
Here’s a little movie of our sweet Becca doing her favorite thing – playing fetch. Even at her worst of times, she always wanted to play a game of fetch.
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