I remember when I first read Pema Chodron and how she talks about Hope and Fear. I deal with this every day in my work, maybe we all do. It’s really in your face when you’re dealing with your own best buddy’s health, the fragility of their health.
Tanner had his left hind leg amputated 6 weeks ago. The bone cancer had taken over the femur and pretty much had dissolved the bone. He tripped or slipped, or maybe did barely nothing at all, while I was out, and when I got home his leg was swollen and dangling. I knew it was broken and that I had 2 choices.
At that point I was no longer a veterinarian. If I ever forget how to relate to the stress and angst and painful responsibility that my clients are struggling with, I will think back to this difficult decision.
I chose to have his leg amputated.
The days following the amputation were difficult. Tanner, my talkative, cheerful, silly guy was painful, confused, depressed, disoriented. In vet school we were taught not to ascribe complex human emotions to animals, not necessarily because they don’t have them, but because it’s not useful for treatment. Perhaps this is true, but how could I ignore the look of “what have you done to me?” when he would try and get up and didn’t understand why he could no longer walk to the park and pee.
I am grateful for many things at this moment when I think back to those very difficult days: supportive friends and family, Tanner’s previous homes who were sending love and emotional support, and Dr. Sue Armstrong, who is my homeopathic vet in England. I know what it’s like to be a client and to have a vet who I can trust to respond, who will stay calm and tell me what to do when I panic.
I’ve made the difficult choice not to do chemotherapy. I couldn’t put the Tan through any other procedure that might compromise his quality of life in any way, now that he has bounced back and is almost his full self, minus one leg, again. I’m putting my trust in homeopathy and in an experienced compassionate homeopath and veterinarian who I trust. I don’t know if we’ll have a miracle, but I can hope for one. I fear the return of this cancer, and I also know the Tan dog will not be with me forever. For now, I’ll try to enjoy every walk we go on, our weekly swims at Waterworkz pet spa, every time he talks to me in his growly voice when I arrive home.