I’ve hosted Café several times, but I have never written on a personal topic until now. Blogs are self-indulgent by nature and I considered carefully whether my motivation was using the opportunity for my own personal catharsis.
And while your comments have allowed me this, I hope they’ve also started conversations around town among families and friends who have a decision like this in their future.
Jasper’s prognosis is a bit hazy because there is so little data on dogs and brain cancer. Not many owners go through this type of treatment. A friend thoughtfully pointed out that Jasper and I will be adding to that data pool, so there is a benefit to other dogs and their owners we leave behind.
I spoke with Jasper’s longtime personal vet, Dr. Liz Gray of Carmel Mountain Ranch Veterinary Hospital. I asked her whether she ever had to tell a dog’s owner that it was time to stop treatment. Her answer surprised me.
She said in her 20 years of practice, it had only happened twice. “Most owners know what is best. They are just waiting for me to give them permission to make the decision they know is right.”
She said we must judge quality of life based on the life lived as the dog knows it. They eat. They sleep. They play. They run. They bark. They want to protect us and connect with us. When they can no longer do these things, it is time.
I worried about Jasper in that first week after he was diagnosed. He wasn’t quite right in the head for a while. His balance was terrible and his back legs were weak. He was horribly incontinent from the medications. (Believe me, you know you are getting tougher when your jeans are soaked in dog urine and you don’t give it a second thought).
But treatment is working. The first time I heard him bark at the door again, I was elated. The first time he brought me a toy to play with, I cried. Today, he’s seemingly suffered no ill effects from three weeks of radiation. He’s still a little clumsy at times but I hope physical therapy will correct this.
For now, he’s sleeping contentedly in my office. Right where he is meant to be.
— GAYLE LYNN FALKENTHAL