As any dog owner knows, the worst part of owning one is that you tend to outlive them. I have had a dog in my life (always a beagle) since I was 4 years old. I think the longest I’ve gone without one was a year, the shortest, 3 days. My latest dog, a field hound named Petey is a rescue. We think he’s 9 or 10. We think he’s a mix of beagle and blue tick hound. He is 100% hunting dog. Like any hunting dog living a domestic life, he’s a big ball of trouble and fun. Petey gets into everything. He is a big talker, very opinionated, food motivated, and loves to bury things in the yard in particular very expensive brand new toys, or anything of mine that is not nailed down, usually to prove a point. He’s my jogging buddy, mountain bike companion, beach walking and swimming partner, varmint hunter and self appointed horse guardian. Anyone who has walked by our field, especially when the horses are grazing have had their wits scared out of them (among other things) by his charging the fence line roaring like a lion. He also is my biggest garden pest. He’s eaten all the tomatoes, dug up the carrots and I have not had enough raspberries or blueberries stay on the bushes long enough for me to gather enough for jam. I had to put an invisible fence around my veggie patch to keep him out of it. He gorges on the apples that fall from the trees and gets drunk by digging up the fermented crab apples from under the snow.
But this year, sadly, what began as a limp on a jog on Cape Cod in September, progressed to full blown aggressive soft tissue cancer in December. We are now in hospice mode, enjoying every good health moment, battling every painful crisis setback, managing pain and nutrition and having as many adventures as we still can. Out of all the dogs I have had in my life, Petey is the fighter. He needs to do things on his terms. And I hope to be able to fulfill my obligation as his steward and thumbs to see he lives the rest of his days his way in as enjoyable way as possible.
Each week I send Petey’s vet Dr. Lewis of Eagle Rock Vet Hospital an update. I try to make them as upbeat as possible. Petey has gone from an eating machine on the scale of a great white shark to a food refuser rivaling the most finicky feline. Every day a different food is jettisoned and we play the game, “what will Petey eat today?” One day it’s cottage cheese, the next bacon, smoked turkey, dry kibble soaked in broth, maple glazed ham. There’s no rhyme or reason, just frustration as I try to get his meds in him. He’s also endured some very painful stomach spasms that just do him in.
But after each episode he bounces back. The fact that he’s young is a heart break, but also a bonus as he’s still strong and feisty. He’s managed to maintain his weight. I’ve surmised that since he’s a hunting dog, his body is geared to be in motion, and when at rest either eating or sleeping, so I try to maintain an exercise regimen. We go for walks but he dictates the length and direction. I don’t pull him as there’s a tumor deforming one leg and shoulder, poor guy, but he alternates between a walk and a trot and seems to follow our old short jogging route, so away we go!
Every time I count him out he rallies. This week he has gone from refusing all food and drink and lying on his side with his eyes crossed and very labored breathing to popping up for walks, eating anything we put in front of him, getting up and going to his water bowl and drinking by choice, going in and out the doggie door, resuming his quest to kill the garbage man (he steals the good smelly stuff, TWICE A WEEK!) and most unbelievable of all, no longer limps at the walk, the tumor greatly diminished in size!
We can only hypothesize that the meds he’s on are taking effect. He’s on Tramadol, 1 pill 3 or 4 times a day depending on his discomfort, Quellin twice a day and artemesinan once a day. The artemesinan is supposed to shrink tumors. He’s been on it 5 weeks now and we think maybe it’s taking hold. He hasn’t had a stomach episode in 2 weeks and has slept through the night for almost an entire week so far. Humans, canine, horses and feline in our household are all breathing huge sighs of relief and enjoying this wonderful stretch of Petey’s good health!