It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Everywhere you go….La La La La La La …..

We’ve euthanized 3 animals today, this may be the beginning of the Christmas death rush.  Or at least that’s how it feels.  It seems like if your pet gets sick in December, there’s a good chance it will be something dreadful and horrible and might result in death.  At worst, I get the tearful  “please let her live through Christmas”.   Usually by Christmas day, I’m ready to kill myself out of sheer depression and emotional exhaustion.  The shrink types call it “compassion fatigue”. 

I don’t know about that, all I know is I try really hard to shield myself from getting emotionally involved in these hard luck cases, but after spending days or weeks seeing these people and their pets daily working hard to either diagnose or fix the problem, they just get under your skin.   I think the worst one ever, was last Christmas; a lovely Golden Retriever named Scout, with some of my favorite clients ever for a family.  The kind of client where we sit and chat for 45 minutes after I see the dog, people I could hang out with.  The mom has this great wry sense of humor, she’s super cool with some great daughters that I’ve watched grow from little girls to young ladies over the years. 

Well, Scout’s owner called and said she wasn’t eating well, She was about 8 or 9 years old.  So she came in and I looked her over, and we decided to take some blood to make sure everything was ok internally.  As I went to raise her neck to position her for the sample I noticed her lymph nodes were enlarged.  With my heart in my throat I felt her other nodes, and they were all enlarged also.  There are lots of things that cause enlarged lymph nodes, but in a middle aged Golden Retriever, 90% of the time it’s cancer. 

I always dread this with Goldens, they have a true predilection for developing cancer and they will always, always break your heart because they have the sunniest, best personalities of any dog breed.  Scout broke my heart because I had to break her family’s heart.  It killed me, we talked about Chemo, but her mom was raised on a farm, and there was no sense in postponing the inevitable.  We tried to keep her alive through Christmas, but on Dec 6, she was miserable and we had to put her down.  I lost it after that one, I never, ever lose it during euthanasias; I’m the euthanasia ice queen, but that one got to me.  It was too soon, to too nice a dog with too nice a family.  Damn Goldens. 

So far this year isn’t too bad, we’ll see, I’ve got 3 1/2 more work days.  I thought Cydney was going to be the December tragedy for this year.  She’s a black cocker spaniel with another super cool client owner.  I’ve known Cyd for over 8 years, she’s as nice as  nice can be, but she’s getting old. 

She got sick two weeks ago (key the dramatic organ music) , it had all the right elements for a Christmas emotional roller coaster disaster case:  nice dog, nice client, (in this case the client doesn’t have any kids, so her dogs are sort of like her kids, which is another harbinger of disaster), and close to Christmas. 

I’ve got a good enough relationship with this client to warn her that things could go terribly wrong because of the Christmas curse, she was prepared for the worst.  Cydney’s liver values were up some and her pancreatitis test was positive, so we started treating her for pancreatitis. 

She responded beautifully (the superstitious pessimist in me kept waiting for her to drop dead at any moment, but she defied me).   She spent the weekend at the emergency clinic (because all the best dogs get sick on the weekend….of course!), came in for a follow up and one of her liver scores were still up and a blood protein was elevated that tends to go up with chronic inflammation.  So we decided to ultrasound her just to make sure there wasn’t anything else going on with the pancreas/liver (superstitious pessimist:  here’s where we find out that she’s eaten up with cancer).   

Dr. Cole, our handy dandy board certified radiologist, ultrasonographer came over and ultrasounded her to find, not cancer,  but a dangerously over filled gallbladder, called a mucocoele.  He said it looked like it was going to pop at any minute.  So we got Cydney scheduled for surgery at the surgery center and carted her off (superstitious pessimist:  she’ll have some sort of weird anesthetic reaction and die on the table, or within the first 24 hours). 

Cydney did great, the surgeons said her gallbladder was huge and ready to burst so they got in there in a nick of time.  That was a week ago Friday.  Cydney is doing better every day, I think we’re in the clear now.  I think she dodged the Christmas bullet, but we’ve got a week left…

Cross your fingers, knock on wood.


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