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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Decision and peace

Last night, we made our decision about how to handle S's cancer. Yesterday, biopsies confirmed that the cancer had invaded his lymph nodes. So, all treatments are deeply invasive and have debilitating side effects. Given that S is approaching 14 years old and has neurological deficits in his hind end - including reduced strength and stability - the treatments might be too tough for him to live happily. So, together with his former guardians - my brother and his wife - we unanimously agreed not to pursue aggressive treatment. Instead, we'll shower S with love until the end, however soon or faraway that may be.

For me, in a way, it's harder to decide not to aggressively treat S than to fight like fury. Surrendering to a capricious disease is not in my nature. But, after making the decision, peacefulness settled into my soul, telling me that it was best. S is alive and happy at this instant - so I'll love him and treasure him.

Yesterday evening, I took the three labs, including S, out for a pre-storm ski. S kept up easily, even stepping on the tails of my skis at times. He contentedly moved through the woods with his pack. As we turned toward home, the storm nipped at our heels. The sky turned dark, and I could hear strong wind approaching from the distance as it howled through hills and trees. Just as we arrived home, the wind and snow hit.This morning, snow blobs hung on the pine trees and snowflakes still drifted down from the sky. K and R joined me for a long ski on our trails, all of us working hard to pack a path in the new snow. The sun began to burn through the heavy layer of clouds about halfway through our ski but the storm still completely obscured the Divide - telling me that our storm wasn't over.I was surprised to see that deer had been moving through the forest overnight. They must have been very hungry to leave the protection of their hide-outs in the driving snow. Moreover, a bobcat had hunted on the meadow's edge, meandering along checking every rock and bush for rodents. Snow obscured the details of his tracks but the shape and spacing fit, and the tracks came and went from a favorite hide-out of his that I've been watching over the past months. It's beneath a huge southeast facing boulder pile on the meadow's edge. He leaves fresh scratchings and scat there at least weekly, and he might fit inside a small cavern under the rocks in a snowstorm. I've stopped checking this den regularly so that I don't scare him away.

Glimmers of K's usual verve sporadically burst through. She played a stick wrestling game with R.Later, they dug deep holes and synchronously buried their heads in them.We increased K's thyroid medication only a few days ago so it's surprising to see behavior changes already. However, I perused my notes from last summer's thyroid medication adjustments, and we saw the first sparks of energy and boldness within a few days each time, continuing an improving trend for a month or so each time.

At one point, R tried to climb a tree. My friends have seen this behavior from their dogs when a lion or bobcat is lounging in the branches so I rapidly scanned for predators above us. It turned out that R was trying to reach a femur that my husband had perched out of his reach. It's a gargantuan femur and not terribly old. If cattle grazed here, I'd think it was from one of them. It was undoubtedly from a big animal.

About halfway through our ski, the sun finished burning through the clouds and blue sky greeted us. The snow rapidly became wet and sticky, much to my displeasure. I didn't glide even an inch for the rest of the outing because snow stuck to the entire length of my skis.

It turned out to be the only glimmer of sun all day - as soon as I arrived home, snow started falling again. I tried to ride my Fatback in my ski tracks but the tracks weren't sufficiently packed yet. The dirt roads were slurries of muddy snow and slush so I rode my indoor trainer to loosen up my back. Believe it or not, with the powers of my Fatback and the Stumpjumper with studded tires, this indoor ride was only my second this year. Most years, I do the majority of my winter riding on the indoor trainer - so I think that my winter mountain biking experiment has been a huge success!


  1. I know it's difficult but I think you've made a wise decision with S. Dogs live in the now and if now is good, I think it's better to let him enjoy it than to do aggressive treatments that might lengthen his life (also might not) but will certainly shorten the time that is enjoyable for him and for you. My thoughts are with you.

  2. I'm glad you are at peace with the decision because it was the right one to make. You were able to put aside your own hopes and needs and do what is in S's best interest. That is a difficult and selfless thing to do. I will hope that every day with S is a wonderful one.

    Beautiful photographs of the snow and the dogs.

  3. Thanks to both of you for your thoughtful comments - your support helps my morale. We all feel like we've made the right decision, and I'm trying hard not to think about what's to come - rather, just to enjoy each day with our S.


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