Today I’m taking my dog, Hooey, to the vet. He is a five year old red border collie, and is my devoted companion. He tolerates everyone else in the house, but I am his person. Have been since the day we picked him up. He was originally supposed to by Cyris’ high school graduation present. But Cy got his own puppy before he knew about my surprise. So, I kept him.
He has a lupus condition known as DLE. It affects the skin on his nose. The end of his nose is smooth and swollen, at times very pink and at other hardly pigmented at all. There is an obvious ridge on the top of his nose that shows how the condition is spreading. I was told a few months ago that it would eventually go into his mouth, and I’m afraid that’s what happening.
In Hooey’s case, it also affects the pads on his feet. One in particular has always been dry and cracked. No amount of oil or lotion or wraps helped. Some days he can move fine. Others, he limps and can hardly walk. I noticed this morning, it has almost surrounded one nail and that one will probably fall off in the next few weeks.
I’ve noticed a lot of additional symptoms the past couple of months, including hair loss, choking and coughing, loss of coordination, constipation, temperament changes, and just a sense that he doesn’t feel good. It’s possible these have nothing to do with the lupus, but in my heart I know he’s struggling.
The hardest part of treating a chronically ill pet is that they can’t tell you what hurts, how much it hurts, if it has gotten worse. Or when they want to stop taking medication.
I haven’t had Hooey on constant meds. Both my vet and I feel that a constant prescription of steroids would cause a whole host of other issues. So, a couple times a year he takes some oral steroids. I keep sunscreen on, as best I can, when he’s outside. And I monitor him.
He has gotten cranky in the past two weeks, snapping at the other dogs and becoming more possessive of me. That tells me he is hurting and just wants us to leave him alone. He has also gotten much cuddlier. He likes sleeping on my bed, but at the foot. Lately, he has been tucked in by my side as close as he can get.
The last visit we had this summer, the vet told me there are meds that can help once it goes into his mouth, but they have nasty side effects and only prolong life a few weeks. I won’t do that to my dog.
As long as he is happy and can eat, he’ll be here. But if he starts refusing to eat and is in obvious constant pain, I’ll let him go. He is the most loyal dog I’ve ever had, and the best way I can repay that loyalty is to let him live as long as he can, then help him cross that bridge in peace.
The veterinary field is moving toward the same path that our medical field has become: to maintain life at all costs. But to me, quality of life is much more important than quantity.
My son’s dog was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in his mouth. He isn’t expected to live more than a few months. But right now he looks and feels great. His vet suggested chemo and surgery, which would have topped at around $20,000! And only given him a few extra weeks. There is no way to justify spending that kind of money on a dog.
So, I’ll find out in a few hours what we’re looking at with Hooey. And depending on the severity of the progression, we’ll make a plan to move forward. That may mean forming a bucket list for him, so he can enjoy the days left to him. Or it may mean he has a couple of years left. Either way, he will remain my dutiful friend as he battles this condition.