I’m walking into a veterinarian’s office with the red-haired girl. I really like her. From the moment she met me, she was kind. I was skittish and untrusting and I think I even growled at her a couple of times, but she didn’t give up. She brought me food and special treats, she walked me and spoke in a soft voice. There was something about her that I knew I could trust. Even though I tried to hide it, somehow she just knew that the lump in my belly was hurting me something awful. She could see through the anxiety and stress and realized that I was in pain. She noticed that I was losing weight in that short time, that my fur was losing its luster and that I was developing sores on my feet. I think that is why she has brought me here again. I think she was hoping that there was something this doctor could do for me. I am scared, because I think deep down, I knew that was not the case. But I am not going to tell the red-haired girl that. Although she has only spent a short time with me, I can tell that she loves me already. She strokes my black fur so softly as we wait to see the doctor. I don’t want to hurt her and I am afraid of what they will tell her.
We are called into the vet’s office and he examines the lump growing on my belly again. He measures it and tells the red-haired girl about how quickly the tumor has progressed from 11 to 15 cm long in only a week. He also says that there is a secondary tumor on my rear leg and that my lymph nodes are severely inflamed. I don’t know what all of that means, but I can tell from the tears welling up in the eyes of the red-haired girl that it is bad. The vet continues. He indicates that I am not spayed and speaks of the several litters that I have likely had. He thinks I am about eight to ten years old, that I am also suffering from severe allergies and that my right ear has become damaged from chronic, untreated ear infections. He is right about all of this. He then begins to speak of my prognosis. It is likely that I would die during the surgeries IF I were healthy enough to undergo them. Apparently, I am not that healthy and the recovery would be devastating for a younger, healthier dog. Additionally, it is highly likely that the tumors would return. The red-haired girl, trying to be strong for me, swallows hard and blinks rapidly to prevent the tears from spilling out of her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. The vet tells her that attempting to treat cancer is difficult enough; attempting to treat it in a case this advanced, in a dog this old, while residing in a shelter, is simply impossible. She nods.
The vet gives me an injection to help me relax. I lay my head down on the lap of the red-haired girl who continued to quietly stroke my fur and tell me what a good dog I am. I love her for that. I close my eyes and think back to the park where they left me. I still don’t understand. I chased the ball the man threw for me just like I had a thousand times before. Maybe I didn’t get it quickly enough. I know I have slowed over the years. And then there is the pain that has come lately. But I thought they knew that. When I came back with the ball, they were gone. I waited in the park for a very long time. It began to rain and still I waited. They didn’t come back. I don’t understand. Finally, a stranger came and brought me to the place with the red-haired girl.
The vet has returned. The girl tells me everything will be okay. Her voice shakes as if she doesn’t believe what she is saying. I lick her hand. She is so kind. She needs to know this tumor hurts. That I hurt. That it hurts to eat, to walk, to lie down and sometimes even to breathe. I love her for what she is doing for me. Her hand on my head is so comforting. My only regret, if dogs can have regrets, is that I could not say goodbye to the family that I knew and loved. I wish they could be here with me to stroke my fur and tell me they will be okay. I wish they had loved me as much as I loved them.
The vet prepares to give me the shot that will release me from the tremendous pain I have endured for weeks while this fast moving “cancer” has ravaged my body. The red-haired girl leans down and hugs me gently. She whispers into my ear, “I love you Blair.” She kisses my forehead and scratches my ears. I feel loved and no longer alone. I drift to sleep knowing that I was truly loved.
Krista A Wroldson Miller
Sonsini Animal Shelter
Blair came to the shelter as a stray with an extremely fast growing cancerous mammary tumor. Sonsini Shelter reminds all dog owners that spaying your female dogs before their third heat GREATLY reduces the risk of this type of cancer.