If you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago whether or not I had plans for the new year, I would have said, yes. Like making 2018 a year of more two-wheeled adventures (sorely lacking in 2017). Seeing more of my family and my friends. Working less and playing more in general (my job was very demanding in 2017). Getting back to the hobbies I enjoy — reading and writing blog posts, quilting, crafting, furniture painting, photography, etc. — but am always too tired for.
The unpredictability of life has a way of changing things, though, doesn’t it?
I learned a few things over the holidays, and now my outlook has shifted a bit. I still have plans, just different priorities.
Let’s talk about happy stuff first.
All of our kids, their spouses, and grandchildren were together at our house for Christmas this year. The last time we were all together was April 2013, for our son Eric’s wedding. Why so long? Because we all live in different states, have busy jobs, our own interests and commitments, and rarely enough time and/or money to get together as often as we’d like.
It really was great having everyone together. Hubby Mike drove to Maryland on December 20 to pick up his mom. Shannon and Chris flew in from San Diego on a Christmas Eve red-eye. They told us they’d be arriving the morning of December 26, but surprised us on Christmas morning. Amy, TJ, and the grand kids drove down from just outside of Indianapolis on December 26. Eric and Kelsey drove down from Maryland on December 28 and 29. It was a happy time.
It’s hard having the kids spread so geographically far apart. We want them to live their own lives doing what they want, where they want to do it, but we do miss seeing them more often.
Everyone left on Saturday morning. Eric and Kelsey drove back to Maryland, Amy, TJ, and kids left for Indiana, and Hubby drove Mom to Maryland before dropping Shannon and Chris at the airport. Which meant I was left home alone with the dogs.
This is the scene in our driveway that greeted me on Saturday afternoon…
Now for the not-at-all-happy stuff…
That image perfectly captures the happy chaos of Christmas week. It really was awesome having everyone together. Just imagine how quiet and empty the house felt after everyone left.
It was just me and the dogs. I hadn’t been able to think too hard about the dogs since the day after Christmas. In fact, I’d had to consciously push focused thoughts of the dogs to the back of my mind for that entire week.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we noticed K was having a bit more difficulty than usual getting around. She was having trouble with her back legs. We don’t know exactly how old she is. We adopted her after she’d been pulled from a kill shelter, so we don’t know her history. They guessed her to be about three at the time we adopted her, which would make her 12 now, but I think she’s two or three years older than that. She no longer hears well. She’s had cataracts for a while now, so her vision has been getting progressively worse. She has a heart murmur. And she’s been slowing down. She’s always been a loud breather, but that’s been getting louder, too. It’s not laryngeal paralysis, which seems to be common in Brittanys, but we hadn’t been able to figure out why it’s been getting worse. She’s had unusual head twitches and tremors for awhile, too, which are apparently not uncommon in older dogs, but can look like a dog has neurological problems.
Long story short, her health has clearly been declining with age, but her rear-end weakness was very concerning. So we went to see her vet the day after Christmas. After a very thorough exam, including full blood work and x-rays, the vet was surprised to discover that she has very severe arthritis in her hips, which explains the rear-end weakness. She’s apparently been hiding chronic pain for quite some time (instinctual in animals). Her spine looks great, though. Sadly, the vet was also very surprised to find a large mass in the front lobe of her right lung. There’s no evidence of cancer in her lab results, which means if it IS cancer, it’s not a blood malignancy and it is still encapsulated.
Removing the mass would require invasive and very painful thoracic surgery. The anesthesia that would be required is very risky in dogs her age. Lung cancer is not very common in dogs, so there’s a good chance it’s some other sort of cancer that’s metastasized to her lung. We could have it biopsied to try and determine exactly what it is, but that would require anesthesia, too, and would be painful. Knowing what it is would not change anything. We don’t want to subject her to surgery or any other painful, invasive procedures. If it is cancer, we wouldn’t subject her to chemo and/or radiation at this age either. She’s just too frail.
We WANT her to live forever, as a healthy, happy dog. But we do not feel like it would be fair to subject her to pain, prolonging her life for our own sake. So we are doing what we can to manage the arthritis pain and make sure she is happy and enjoying life. That’s the status quo for now. Of course, we have no idea how long that will last, so we are struggling with this knowledge daily.
She’s still got a strong appetite. She’s still able to get around okay and the meds seem to be managing the inflammation and pain. We are all trying to go on as usual, but are taking each day as it comes, hoping the inevitable is in the distant future, but preparing to handle the worst, but most humane thing for our Special K, whenever the time finally comes.