In this article, contributing writer Elise Harvey tells us about discovering that her dog, Honey, had cancer, and her post-op life as a tripod dog.
“Your dog has cancer.”
For people like me, whose status goes beyond that of simple dog lover and begins to broach on “crazy dog lady,” this is quite possibly the worst news you can ever receive. In the space of a few vet visits, the whole family’s world is turned entirely upside down as you’re forced to contemplate life without your beloved, four-legged friend.
Taking a pessimistic view of this situation is, of course, entirely understandable. After all, the ‘C’ word has the power to fill us all with dread in almost every context. And, yet, my family – or, rather, my tripod dog, Honey – is living proof that there is hope, and the fear of waving goodbye to your four-legged friend sometimes results in nothing more than welcoming them home again as a three-legged friend.
Our story starts almost three years ago, by which time Honey had been a part of our family for two years after we rescued her from a local shelter. She had suffered several minor ailments since we brought her home, including needing some teeth out and developing haematomas in both ears. We put these issues down to her turbulent start in life and went through with the minor operations, all in an effort to keep her as happy and healthy as possible.
And she was, until the early months of 2015...
Lounging around the house one day, I noticed a protruding lump on Honey’s shoulder. After consulting Dr. Google, it seemed likely that it was a hygroma: a fluid-filled lump that develops after repetitive contact with hard surfaces (I should explain that, despite having a bed in almost every room, Honey is the kind of dog that sits in the middle of the floor, getting under everyone's feet!).
We kept an eye on the lump but, after a few days, decided that it could wait no longer, so off to the vets we went. After undergoing a biopsy and awaiting the results, it became clear that we had more than a hygroma on our hands.
"Your dog has cancer."
I'd like to say that we spent a long time reviewing our options, but the reality is that, the minute we were told that amputation was her only real hope, we went for it. After a detailed consultation with a specialist vet who informed us that, while the tumour was too large to remove without amputating the leg, the cancer otherwise seemed to be localised, we booked her in for surgery.
A few weeks later, we dropped her off at the clinic, expecting to be reunited in two weeks’ time. But, like she continues to do every day, Honey defied all odds and was back at home with us just four days later, resembling something close to Bullseye from Oliver Twist!
She hobbled over to us, clearly drowsy and confused, but wagging her tail nonetheless. A few days later, while still on strict bed rest, she started bouncing back to her bubbly self, almost unaware of the fact that anything had changed at all.
Almost three years later, not much has changed. She still plods through life blissfully unaware of her difference to other dogs. We've had a few scares since then, and a few operations, but the fact of the matter is that had we not taken a chance on her - and on amputation - she wouldn't be here today.
But she is.
With regards to Honey's progress, she gets stronger every day and, with the addition of a few specialist products, she is able to live her life just like any other dog. With minor aids, such as a carry bag to break up longer walks, she really is a normal dog with heaps of energy and a lot of love to spare.
So, I suppose what I am trying to say is that amputation is not the end of the world, despite seeming so. Whilst I agree that it should be a last resort, taking that chance has given my family more years with Honey than we could ever have hoped for. I'm not suggesting that it’s an easy road to take, but I would urge anyone to consider it as an option should they be presented with that unimaginable ultimatum. In the same vein, if the possibility of re-homing a tripod dog arises, I would entirely encourage you to see past what may initially be an off-putting idea and seize the opportunity to make a dog - who has gone through more than their fair share - very happy indeed.
I don't doubt that they'll make you every bit as happy.
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