As you likely know, Oz has been bouncing back and forth, healthwise, for a few weeks now. Well, today he took a bad bounce, one there’s no real recovery from.
It turns out, in addition to his digestive issues, his bladder stones and his arthritis, that he has had some 50-cent word or two that mean a cancer of the blood. This cancer doesn’t show up in blood tests, and wasn’t readily presenting itself on the x-rays taken just a few weeks ago. But it does start causing tumors to form on blood-processing organs like spleens and livers and hearts — he appears to have them in all three places — and while the tumors were encapsulated, at least one of them ruptured, perhaps a couple days ago, and he has started to bleed into his abdomen.
Surgery might be a possibility, although we would have to go to a bigger city where they could transfuse blood, and even if he didn’t have digestive issues, bladder stones and arthritis, the post-surgical prognosis in 90 percent of these cases is one to four months. So we have opted for palliative care, which may get him a month, or a week, or maybe not even through the night.
We are very fortunate to already have a relationship with — actually, we are just fortunate, period, to have a vet here in town who specializes in hospice medicine. She deals with geriatric patients and comes to our house to provide laser treatments for Na Ki’o’s arthritis issues. She actually wondered several months ago if Oz might have a tumor. She turns out to have been right, even if it didn’t show up in any of the extensive testing he has undergone lately. His regular vet was totally shocked when she x-rayed him today, only to confront a cloud of blood obscuring enlarged organs.
As were we. Even though his lethargy last night and this morning reminded me of other, previous, companions as they approached their final days, I figured his stomach was just off again, and some medication would clear everything up and put him back on his feed once more. Instead, I had to run through the five stages of dying, all in a couple hours, although the first, denial, didn’t last very long. And I skipped right past anger, although I suppose at some point I could come back to it.
I was big on bargaining — surely there is something that can be done — before I passed right over depression, although I suspect that one will come creeping back — onto acceptance. There really didn’t seem to be any other choice, not if we don’t want him to suffer.
Which is the main goal. As selfishly as I want him to be around forever, I don’t want that if he has no quality of life. As long as he’s comfortable, and eating little bits of chicken stew (from the full case I purchased just yesterday) and drinking water, we’ll all hang in there. He’s sleeping now, on the coat Lynn put on the floor because it seemed like the cats liked it, only to have Oz help himself.
As Lynn just noted, he’s our “wedding dog.” Within days of our wedding five and half years ago, I went to the Gunnison Valley Animal Welfare League website and found his picture. I held my computer out to Lynn, who said, “We can go look at him.”
We got there behind a college girl and someone else who had called to express interest — after he had been languishing there for three weeks, the apparent by-product of a divorce somewhere on the Front Range. The college girl said she wanted him; the GVAWL volunteer said she would need to fill out an application, and encouraged us to do the same.
I don’t think it was much of a contest: we got called half an hour later and told to come pick up our dog. The college girl probably didn’t have much of a chance anyway, but I apparently cemented our case by noting, after we were told he had severe separation anxiety, that if he behaved himself, he could come to work with me.
Which is what he did, every morning since he joined our household. Other than piling gobs of black hair on the sleeves and hems of shirts we have set out for retail sale, because he insisted on going under the racks rather than around them, he was a darn good shop dog.
Which means we made a lot of people sad with our news today. Gilly, who loves loves loves Oz and gave him far more Milk Bones than I ever thought about; and James, who gave up bites of his avocado toast to my mooching dog; and Vann, Oz’s first stop every morning for head scratches; and Vann’s daughter Mahthilda, with her own houseful of pets but who still had room in her giant heart for my big puffy dog; and Kara, my friend of decades, one of our bonding points being the pets we have given our lives to throughout the years.
Other work places may not understand the significance of the loss of a pet, but the Pat’s peeps totally get it. All of their support will carry me right past “anger” and will lighten “depression.”
When we went back to the shelter to pick up our new, gently used dog, we planned to change his name, like we did with all our other pets. I wanted to go with Xerxes, a fine name from the Persian Empire, but Ozzie loved his name so much that we settled for the odd hybrid of Ozzyx, which raised more than one eyebrow at the various vet clinics we visited in the past five-plus years.
For simplicity, I told most people who asked for his name that it was Ozzie. He could have been Ozzie Bear, or sometimes I thought I should have opted for Onyx, since he came with his big shaggy black coat, but to me he just became Oz, my wingman at work and home and on the road.
Soon now, too soon whenever it is, we will have to learn to go on without him. Maybe I can accept that, but for now I am unutterably sad.