Monday, February 14, 2005


originally uploaded by drtaxsacto.
For most of the last decade an important part of our family has been a golden retriever that chose us. Right before daughter Emily went to her first year of college we decided to get a dog. We found a family that had bred their golden once and went out into the delta near Courtland to see if we could find a puppy. One ball of fur climbed into Emily's lap and we had found our dog.

We brought her home and almost immediately she proceeded to have every problem imaginable. She had all sorts of puppy diseases. At least twice we needed to shave her bare. At about two she was diagnosed with a tumor on her rear leg. Amazingly that was about the time that I had been diagnosed with a melanoma. So we lived through our problems together. I watched my surgery and watched after Molly as she went to UC Davis to be operated on.

But she became a part of our family. She was incredible in many ways. She learned one trick well. You could put a milk bone on her nose and she would flip it up and catch it in her teeth. But what she was was our Perl Mesta of the house. She would greet everyone as they came to the house.

When we went to the dog park she had two qualities that differentiated her from the average mutt. First, she was an awesome frisbee catcher. She would catch frisbees on the run either from a distance or in pursuit. But more importantly she seemed to think more of people than other dogs. She would meet and greet all of the humans in the park, in seriatum. Often one of the males would try to hump her and she would rip his head off but would then go back to visiting with her human friends.

She was remarkably social. I travel a lot and yet each time she would go wild whenever I came home.

She and I developed a posse around the neighborhood. There was Harold and Judy and a bunch of others that no one in my family knew. For a couple of years we would walk the neighborhood and gossip. Harold was a retired railroad person. Judy's husband (who eventually died) had worked for the phone company. Neither of them were people I would normally seek out. Then there was Isao - who was a Japanese national with a golden. Very organized and a big person on working in training his dog - Heidi. When someone else in our family would walk her parts of the posse would question the person to make sure Molly was OK with the other person on the leash.

Last year I spent a lot of time traveling - even more than usual. And through that time Molly began to develop lameness in one front paw. We did a couple of visits to her doctor - who she really likes to visit - remember the Pearl Mesta persona. She had a couple of fatty tumors( I read up and was relieved. But then a couple of months ago she began to develop lameness. An unwillingness to go for walks. We tried a lot of different things. We went to her vet and he appropriately thought lets take this a step at a time - but all the time she developed more and more lameness. We put on the dumb hat which was designed to limit her biting of that paw. All the while she was accepting of it but not happy about it. she lost her zip but not her demeanor.

Then we decided to increase our search. Last week we did an Xray evaluation and then up to an MRI. The MRI told us what we did not want to hear - she has a sarcoma (
in that same lame paw. The only way we can solve the problem is to amputate. We spent the weekend thinking about the options. Without an operation and that one - eventually the tumor would spread to her spine - she would eventually become totally incapacitated. Could be a couple of months or as long as a year but the prognosis is seemingly absolute.

We read in depth about the prognosis for canine amputees. The prognosis is actually pretty good. We talked to a raft of doctors. We read a lot on the net. But kept coming back to the final issue - either we act - with a pretty good chance for and extension with a significant decline in pain or we watch the progression of the inevitable.

So today was fish or cut bait day. We had two more long discussions with Veternarians and then committed to have our dog lose a leg - with the hope that her quality of life would improve. An odd juxtaposition but one that, at least on the evidence we see now to be the right one. But all the while we wait, and pray, and wait , and pray and hope that she is granted some more time to work her magic in 3/4 time.

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