After reading about Winger’s experience and death due to mast cell cancer, Matt wrote me a similar heart-wrenching story about his special dog Maggie. Here is his email:
Lisa, I read your article today about your dog Winger, and I am sad to say that I read it because I had to put my 11 year old Black Lab down this morning. Myself nor the vet were never 100 % sure of exactly what the problem was until I just read your article.
Maggie was very much like your Winger, she was fun, loved the water and playing ball was her favorite. A couple of years ago we noticed a lump on the back of her neck and she also had one on her chest. When she was ten years old the lump on the back of her head and a new lump on her front elbow area on her front leg got extremely large. I took her to the vet and he decided to remove them, but was concerned about the amount of the tumor he could remove from the leg area. He sent part of the tumor to the lab and it came back inconclusive, but it was recommended that the entire area be removed. After the first removal, another even larger tumor appeared on her hind leg. I brought her in and that area was also removed (approximate 8 inch incision). It wasn’t long after, a tumor started on the incision on the front leg from the prior removal and not long after that another tumor reappeared on the hind leg as well. The tumor on the back of her neck never came back because what I now believe was successful because of the large amount of skin she had available there.
The past five months we found her drinking water excessively, she started with a small cough that only seemed to get worse and more frequent. We were dealing with her constantly scratching her skin and licking the tumor areas, which would result in them splitting open. The scratching turned to licking the non-tumor areas, which resulted in hot spots and loss of fur. I took her to the vet and he treated her for allergies with an injection and an antibiotic for her open sores. I found her getting somewhat better and her appetite would increase as well as her weight. When the antibiotics ran out, a week later the allergy symptoms returned. I took her back and we started her on Prednisone, which gave her some relief from the allergy symptoms, but she was unable to hold her urine and was urinating on the floor at any time (she was the girl with the iron bladder). My wife and I both work so it was difficult to leave her alone knowing that we would come home to a wet mess. Kenneling her was something we never did and so confining her to the kitchen during the day and at night was the only option. This was a dog that would sleep with me nightly, so it was difficult for her to be alone. The Prednisone did not work and we tried to treat her allergies one last time, but when the meds wore off and the antibiotics ran out we were back to the same problem. During this time a tumor on the base of her tail had formed and another approximately 2 inches from her anus. Her stools were extremely soft and she urinated often. Every morning I would come down stairs to find her pillow soaked with her saliva and I knew she had spent the night licking her tumors and skin until they were raw. Finally Friday night, October 26, 2007 I woke in the middle of the night to hear her scratching and crying. My wife woke a bit later, hearing the same crying. I knew for over a week that it was time, because I knew her quality of life was diminishing. The hardest thing was that I could not bring my self to do it, because regardless to how she felt, she was always up to a long walk or an excessive amount of ball playing. I would think, “how can I put this dog down when she can still physically do so much”, but I had to be fair to her suffering.
Saturday morning October 27, 2007 after hearing her cry as she tried to relieve her skin ailments, I told my wife I had to take her to the vet to have her laid to rest. That morning I took her for a long walk, fed her an enormous amount of treats and table scraps and played ball one last time.
At 11:45 am on that morning I took her to the vet and he understood why I thought it was time. I held her in on my lap and put her head to mine. I could feel her heart beat as my hand was holding her up by her rib cage. She had to use her one leg to help her support part of herself up, as the doctor shaved her leg for the injection. She never moved, which I don’t know if I am thinking this to console myself, but it seemed by her lack of movement that she knew it was time. As I witnessed the injection going into her I heard her last breath and felt her last heart beat. My little girl was gone and I sat with her for some time. I have never felt such pain and never thought a dog would cause so much heart ache, but she was not a dog, she was my friend. No matter what my mood was she was always there for me.
I later had guilt, asking myself if what I did was right? Could I have done more? I wondered if she would forgive me? I remember her lying there after she had past and saw how peaceful she looked as I was crying over her and petting her fur. I write this e-mail with tears falling from my face and as I know my guilt and pain will pass, I pray that she is in a peaceful place and that one day when I pass, she will be there with a ball in her mouth ready to have some fun with no pain and no illness.
Thank you for telling your story and thank you for allowing me to tell you my own. The story you told about Winger has given me an understanding about my own dogs illness and has helped the healing of a heavy heart.
Thank you again,