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Sunday, January 16, 2011

What does K want?

Today, with no hesitation, K headed toward the bike room to go riding with me. It took only one day to convince her that I wouldn’t be leaving her home with a paltry frozen kong to assuage her heart. She started galloping with abandon from the first instant of our ride.
We did a short ride, just like yesterday, because I am trying hard not to ask too much of her paw. It is so much harder to gauge the “right” pace of recovery for a dog than for myself because K doesn't tell me when it hurts. In fact, Labs seem to specialize in hiding pain. They look dignified and happy all the time.
As I rode and K romped, I thought about the journey that K and I have traveled since September. I identified the moment that nearly tore my heart to pieces. It was after we knew that her tendon surgery had failed, and we knew that she had either bone cancer or a bone infection in her toe bones. We needed to decide whether to amputate the toe or do a trial of antibiotics to see if we could save the toe. Because the vets put the odds at 50/50, either cancer or infection, my mind jumped from one side to the other with every shift in the breeze. I felt like K and I were teetering on the edge of a cliff.
Finally, after a long and inconclusive conversation about the pros and cons of amputation versus antibiotics, my vet asked me a simple question: “What does K want?”. That question pushed me off the cliff into a torrent of tears. The reason was that I knew that being alive and being loved trumped running for K. It was my selfish yearning to have K join me on alpine adventures that was complicating my thinking. So, by asking one simple question, my vet gently led me to a decision. I would do what K wanted… and have her toe amputated, thus maximizing her chances of surviving while perhaps stealing her athletic ability.
It seems ironic that, although I thought that I was making a decision that would hinder K’s running, she’s back romping by my side now. She’s flying high – and I couldn’t be more thankful.
It's a question that I won't forget when faced with a tough veterinary decision in the future. What does my dog want?


  1. Absolutely gorgeous pics! While I love them all, I have to say, the one with K on the rock set against the sky is just amazing!

  2. And that is the mark of a good vet - challenge the human to think of the dog. Funny how simple it sounds, but how hard it is to do when you are in that situation.

    We love seeing K running through the snow!

  3. The Herd Hu-dad is so right. That's how we are trying to deal with Phantom right now.

    Hard to believe it is possible but every day your photos are more and more awesome. That new camera is wonderful, not to mention the skill of its operator.

    And the answer to why it is Ciara in the prime spot - whatever Ciara wants, Ciara gets:)

  4. I think you made such a great point! It's so hard to separate your emotions from tough decisions sometimes. Looking back on it now, it sure seems like you made the right decision for K! :) She certainly looks happy!

  5. That is one good question! Sometimes being the guardian of a pet comes with some tough descions, it's being able to realize your friends best interests over yours that seems to be the biggest challenge!
    Great pictures of K!

  6. I so agree with the others -

    I usually try to think of the canine involved - they truly are an equal piece of the puzzle!

  7. Kia ora KB,
    How fantastic to tune in and see these photos of K romping and stomping like a puppy! I have been away from the online world for the most part over the last month so to catch up here and witness the delightful progress and outcome really warms my soul. That question the vet asked you brought tears to my eyes, "What does K want?" Just wonderful.
    Kia kaha to you all e hoa.

  8. I agree, it's a tough one to face. I'm glad K's doing great, and your peektures are wonderful!


  9. Both you and K have made a remarkable recovery! Surely being alive and being loved is what most of us want - human or dog.

  10. As easy as this question seems to be to answer after asked, I don't think I've ever heard it asked so succinctly and clearly. Insightful vet - a keeper!
    Clearly you made the right decision and it worked out for you both ;)

  11. Flying high! A great outcome. A great vet. And, a loving owner.

  12. What a wise vet (just oposite the one Angus had to deal with!). Happy for you both. EM

  13. Yeppers, ditto to what everybuddy just said. It's fur sure K ain't gonna be held back by a little amputation...dats purty obvious in da fotos.
    What a great question dat vet asked. But I wonder if other peoples dat is owned by dogs could answer dat question....ther I go thinking and wonderin' again...hehehe!


  14. You are right, that's always the question to ask. Though in those scary moments, it is sure is difficult to stay calm and keep this in mind.

    Your pal, Pip

    P.S.: those cliff shots are always beautiful and terrifying at the same time - my mom is afraid of heights!

  15. Hi Y'all!

    If Humans make it with amputated limbs, and dogs handle three legs just fine, why would a little toe slow us down?

    Maybe someday I can get my Humans to head out to the Rockies and romp in those mountains...looks so free!

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  16. I had previously commented on your beautiful pics of K, but have been thinking about your post a lot since yesterday. Your vet asked a good question. My one Sibe, my wooly boy, had developed seizures two years ago right after he turned 3. One day, he had four in a row, I got him to the vet hospital when he began his fifth and they gave him injection in the hopes of breaking the cycle. It did, thank God. He was transferred to my regular vet that following Monday (he spent the weekend in the hospital). My vet suggested medications. I discussed with her the pros/cons. I never wanted him to suffer another seizure. Ever. Of course I know even on meds, that can happen again. But I'm thinking positively. I worried (and still do) about long-range liver damage, and the other side effects of the meds. I tried to keep him quiet, to keep him from getting excited, running, etc. But my wise and wonderful vet said something similar to me. She simply said, "Let him live his life."

    Somehow that really clicked. She followed it up with telling me to treat his symptoms now, make him healthy now to give him a quality life and to just keep loving him and let him live his life each day. (I'm tearing right now. It still gets me, so I know you must be going through the same type of inner emotion). I let him be with the pack family as he feels fit. And he is very happy. I don't know what the future holds for him, and I still worry about him everyday, but her words stay imprinted in my mind. I think it's human nature to waver between the "what should I do?" factor...but obviously from those beautiful photos you have posted - K is very happy and enjoying life. That is our proof that the decisions we make are right for them.

    May he continue being healthy and happy and you knowing you made the best decision for him and he is doing "what he wants."

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Sorry for the deleted comment! My reply posted twice, so I removed one.

  19. K *is* flying!! I was so excited to read yesterday's post! I can imagine how freeing it must feel to have those medical questions behind you and K with your bike again.

    These past months must have been so's to that tenacious mountain lion...

  20. You made the right decision for K and got what you wanted, too!! There's a lesson in there somewhere!!

  21. You have a good vet. I love seeing the pictures of K running so joyously. And I will keep those words in my heart, for when I need them (and those of us who have animals will need them, at some time) What does your cat, dog, horse, want?

  22. Some people would say this is a very hard question. But I think the closer you are to your dog, and the better you know him/her, the easier it is to answer it.

    Big decisions about a dog/cat who is ill are never really easy, but knowing the animal well, just makes it easier.

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo for Stella and Zkhat

  23. Your vet sounds like a very smart person. What a tough question! It is wonderful to see her flying through the snow!


  24. The statement the vet asked was so insightful,, a very wise question.
    Another one I have had to ask myself is "what would that animal say, if they could talk"
    Would we hear what they said, or would our heart be so rapidly quivering that we would not be able to hear? And so the best question is the one you answered. What would K want.
    Your decision was the one with the answer.
    K is so beautiful in her photos,
    we just cannot get enough of her beauty,,, that this miracle

  25. That was such a tender post. You brought tears to my eyes. It made me think so strongly about a friend of mine who is dying of cancer, and her family trying to hold on to her... Thank you for giving me a clearer perspective.

  26. That is a wonderful question to ask... you have a very wise vet.

    PS - I love the silhouette shots!

  27. It was a tough situation and a tough decision, for sure. Like you, I hope I can always ask and answer that question with our dogs' true best interest at heart.

    But, I won't pretend NOT to be full of glee that your combined outcome is what it is. Great to see K out running again.


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