On the evening of August 7 our then 10 year old male Samoyed, Qila, gave three sharp cries. When I reached him in the living room moments later he was listless and disoriented. His gums were whiter than they should have been. After our experience just two months before with Jenny our first thought was bloat.
I examined him as thoroughly as I could and found no indications of abdominal distension even under the rib cage. We called our vet at home and she recommended that we monitor the situation, take him to animal emergency if we thought the situation warranted it, and otherwise bring him in in the morning.
The next morning Qila was much improved—practically back to normal. We took him to the vet’s where they drew blood and took X-rays. After examining the X-rays, the vet said she saw some things that didn’t look right and recommended we take him to a veterinary imaging center in the north suburbs. When we got the results of the blood test later they were completely wacky (just three months before they had been perfect).
At the veterinary imaging center the next morning they shaved Qila’s tummy and gave him an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed a large tumor in his liver which, judging by its conformation was in all likelihood a hepatoma—a malignant tumor of the liver. The veterinary radiologist pointed out other indications that suggested that the cancer had spread to other areas of the liver and to adjacent organs.
We elected not to have either a biopsy taken nor the tumor removed. The veterinary radiologist told us that with the position and extent of the tumor (and presumed spreading) the operation would be difficult, his recovery lengthy, and the prognosis poor at best. Chemotherapy would be the next step.
We would have been willing to go to the expense to prolong Qila’s life but not to prolong his death. At 10½ and with his family history, Qila’s life expectancy was likely to be no more than two years or so and we had no intention of putting him through pain and impairment for the rest of his life merely to prolong that death.
The next day we consulted with our primary vet and the next week with our rehab (and alternative care) vet to learn how we could best support Qila’s system to give him the best quality of life we could. The supplements and medications prescribed by our vets have gone a long way to improving Qila’s health and spirits and I have no doubt that the excellent care he received from the health care team we assembled prolonged his healthy, active life.
In complete contradiction of all predictions Qila lived far longer than the two months suggested by the veterinary radiologist back in August. Past Thanksgiving. Past Christmas. Past New Years and through the winter, into the spring.
He began to lose muscle mass as he lost the ability to process proteins and fat properly. We adjusted the supplements and medications as his condition changed.
I don’t know how to explain to you my relationship with this dog. I don’t look on him as my child. He’s not precisely a friend—the relationship is closer and more intimate than any friendship. I have spent nearly every moment of every day of the last ten years with him. During his puppyhood and young adulthood I still maintained an office and took him with me every day.
He has gotten me up every morning and seen to it that I went to bed at night. He made sure I got plenty of exercise. When I was sad, he comforted me. When I was lonely, he was there.
He is my own, personal therapy dog. Or, perhaps, my other self—the better part.
Last night as Qila walked into the kitchen for his evening meal he stumbled and couldn’t rise. His gums were blanched. He was weak and disoriented. We rushed him to the vet’s and they confirmed that his tumor had burst and his abdomen was full of blood. It was time. Last evening we euthanized him. He was without pain and aware to the end, surrounded by the staff at the vet’s office, tears in their eyes. They had stayed after the office’s regular closing time, giving up their own time to be with us and with Qila, a favorite for many of them.
When given his choice Qila has always wanted to walk across Peterson from where we live. On the single occasion in his life when he got away from me to my horror he ran across Peterson. Samoyeds are frequently difficult to train to come when called and Qila has always been terrible in that respect. When he got away I called and called, initially in a firm, calm commanding tone, later in a cry of despair. I finally got him under control but I have rarely felt such sorrow, fear, and despair as in those few minutes between the moment I dropped the lead and he ran away and when I finally got him back again.
Now he’s gone across Peterson forever and no matter how I call he will never come back.