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Theo & Teddy
In November of 2002, I noticed that Theodore, my seven year-old Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie), had started begging to go out more. When I took him to the vet for his regular check-up Dr. Maves told me that there was probably a new cat in the area and Theo was checking it out. I found this odd because I have an indoor cat and he'd never bothered with her at all.
Unfortunately, I didn't pursue the matter further.
By January 2003, I noticed some droplets of blood on our staircase. Not knowing at the time that they were indeed blood (I have two little boys who occasionally drip juice), I just cleaned it up and thought nothing more of it. Theo continued to beg every couple of hours during the day to go out.
In April, my family went to California on a vacation and Theo went to my mother's house to stay for the week. When we came back, she said she was concerned because Theo had been yelping when he tried to jump up on the bed.
I watched him carefully and did notice that he seemed tender in his back area at times. I immediately called his vet and made an appointment to come in. I prayed that he didn't have hip dysplasia or arthritis at his young age.
Dr. Maves looked him over and pushed on his hindquarters and sure enough Theo yelped in pain. He then took x-rays and told me that it didn't look like anything was wrong and his hips looked just great. He diagnosed Theo with a bladder infection and prescribed antibiotics.
For two weeks I gave him the pills. He started yelping when he went to the bathroom outside. I called Dr. Maves again when I found blood on his bed. We saw a different vet this time, Dr. Brown and she prescribed a stronger antibiotic and said she'd culture his urine.
Another week passed and she called to say that his culture hadn't grown which was alarming to her. She said she'd confer with Dr. Maves and get back to me. He called a few days later and told me that he was going to refer me to a chiropractic vet.
When I went in to see the chiropractor, Dr. Brown met with me instead. She said the chiropractor had taken a look at his x-rays and had discovered "fuzzy spots" underneath his spinal cord. She prescribed stronger pain pills for Theo and told me she'd once again confer with Dr. Maves.
Dr. Maves called a few days later and said he'd like to see Theo again to take more x-rays and do another culture. It was now the middle of May.
I took him in and had the x-rays and culture done. I waited in the room with my two rambunctious boys, anxious and scared. Dr. Maves came in and told me that the x-rays still showed the "fuzzy spots" and that the culture had some "angry" looking cells. He said that he thought Theo had prostate cancer.
When I asked what I could do, he told me "there was nothing I could do."
I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry -- my grief was incredible. And there before me was this beautiful, regal Sheltie looking at me with his soft brown eyes questioning why I was so upset.
It just wasn't fair.
I drove home sobbing, with my boys asking me what was wrong. What could I tell them? That their dog was going to die? That my prayers had been answered with a resounding NO?
A few days later Dr. Maves referred me to an oncologist. I made an appointment for that week and picked up all of Theo's x-rays and files to take with me.
The oncologist was a wonderful woman named Dr. Graham. She spent a long time with Theo and me, going over his x-rays and explaining what each image was. Then she carefully examined him. She said that his prostate was swollen and that his lymph nodes were large and were squeezing his intestines, which was why he would cry if he jumped onto anything or when he went to the bathroom. (By now, he was crying whenever he had to go.)
She concluded, as had Dr. Maves, that Theo had prostate cancer.
She said that we could have an ultrasound done or even a biopsy, but that at this stage, time was of the essence and she was very sure it was cancer. I chose to put him on Piroxicam, which has been shown to shrink cancerous tumors and kept him on his pain medication. I called back a few days later to tell her that I wanted to just go ahead with chemo.
I faced that with such apprehension, but I couldn't just sit by and watch him suffer either. He would have to go through 3 treatments and then be re-evaluated to see whether the tumor was shrinking.
I took him for his first chemo appointment on a Wednesday. They called after it was over (it took about 4 hours) and he came walking out to me, looking beautiful and so happy to see me.
All I could think of was that this was going to work. No matter how much this was costing me financially and emotionally, this was going to save my dog. He didn't live to have another round of chemo.
On Saturday, he was outside playing ball in the sunshine. On Sunday, we could tell he wasn't feeling good.
By Monday, he could hardly walk. I had to carry him outside for him to do his business and he shrieked and howled the whole time he "tried."
Tuesday morning he was in agony. He couldn't use his hind legs at all and hadn't been able to defecate. I called Dr. Graham and she told me that she didn't think that this was caused by the chemo. She told me to bring him in the next day to have him examined.
I carried him outside that day and sat in the sunshine with him and just stroked him. Somehow I knew that I would never have that time with him again. I just could see the pain in his beautiful eyes. He still hadn't eliminated at all in almost two days.
When I went to carry him back in the house, he was in so much pain that he bit me. He looked so sorry after he did it and I knew he didn't mean to do it. By that night, he was crying and trying so hard to drag himself to the door so that he didn't soil himself. My husband and I couldn't take seeing him like that. We carefully put him in the car and drove him to the vet.
They put him on morphine right away and said that they would make him comfortable and try to establish what they could do for him. I hated leaving him there and I knew that he would probably never come home again.
Dr. Graham called in the morning and told me that he was still on the morphine and that she didn't think there was anything else that we could do for him. She said that if I wanted, we could try to wait a few days and see if the chemo would make any difference, but that she really didn't think that it would. I told her that we would come in as soon as my husband got home and we'd have him put to sleep.
I've never cried so hard in my life as I did that day.
I felt like my heart was being broken into a million pieces. I kept praying that they'd call and say that he was up and feeling better. I put all of his things away so that I didn't have to face them when I got home. I was so angry with God for not making him better.
I'll never know how I got through those last minutes I spent with him. They brought him into the room and he looked so sad and in so much pain. My husband and I sat on the floor with him and stroked his fur and told him what a good boy he was and how much we loved him and that we would never forget him. The doctor let us have as much time as we needed. She then told us we could wait in the hall while they administered the sedative. He was so good -- he never flinched or tried to bite them. We got to go back into the room then and we held him while they administered the final shot.
The last words he heard were me telling him how much I loved him and would miss him. I couldn't believe when the doctor said that he was gone.
I lost it. I asked her why he had to die. She just held me and told me that she didn't know, but that I'd see him again someday. She let me sit with him some more and then she carefully wrapped him in the blanket and carried him from the room.
We had him cremated. It was horribly difficult to pick up his ashes a few days later and drive home with them. All I could think of was that he'd driven to the vet's in my arms and he was coming home in a box. I keep his ashes with his picture in my bedroom so that I can see him every morning when I wake up. I think of him all the time. For awhile, even though I thought it would be better not to see his things, I took them all back out and even slept with his pillow, just to have his scent near me again.
If anyone can learn anything from Theo's death, it's that if you sense something is wrong with your pet, pursue it.
I will always wonder if I'd persisted in having a urinalysis done way back in November 2002, if Theo would be alive today.
The guilt eats at me.
It's been almost eight months now and not a day goes by that I don't miss him. I've thought about getting another dog, but I just can't. He was my "forever dog" and he will be in my heart always.
Thanks for letting me tell my story,