Last week Cochise went to Cedarwood for his annual inspection — I mean examination, shots, blood tests, and a good, thorough poking all over. He had an unusual lump on his leg that raised some concerns.
In the end, what they found was described as “the most unusual thing we’ve ever seen.” – which is becoming a recurring theme with Cochise.
The Previous Most Unusual Thing
A few years ago he had surgery to remove three lumps, one was an unusual cyst in his neck between his shoulder blades that formed under what looked (once they removed the gunk crusted over it) like a small bullet wound: 22 caliber, maybe a pellet gun. Except no pellet or bullet was found and I was not aware of any injury previously.
They lanced it during his exam and extricated some of the contents. What was inside was black puss! During surgery they removed the whole pustule and sent it off for biopsy. It came back as “pigmented matter, benign” – no further explanation.
He healed up fine and has been doing well.
While He Was Away
It is unusual for me to take Cochise for a truck ride and not Blondie: they are usually inseparable. So when I left with JUST Cochise, that caused some concern among the others: especially Blondie Bear and Josephine. Cochise is Josephine’s hero, and Blondie’s bestest friend of many years.
When I came home without him, they both sulked. Blondie sat next to me, but made her displeasure known. At one point it clearly had occurred to her that I might not be bringing him back — the foster dogs all eventually go for a ride that they do not return from — maybe I put Cochise on The Bus!
I assured her that he *will* be coming back home.
The Current Most Unusual Thing
Last week they took note of a large, hard lump on his upper leg. I thought it was muscle. The doctor thought not – said that the size and location would not be muscle. We scheduled surgery.
During surgery they found that the lump is indeed muscle, but when they “explored” it they found a mass buried deep within the muscle, causing it to be enlarged. Chad showed me photos they’d taken during the surgery — it was indeed unusual! A forceps was at least an inch into the muscle to reach the mass. I’m guessing the mass was about the size of a grape tomato, and looked like fat at first: yellowish and pasty. But it was not fat. They examined some under a microscope, the cellular structure was wrong and the consistency was wrong, and it had globular structure to it that was wrong for a pocket of fat.
They cleaned it out and stitched him up.
They did determine that it is not lymphoma, but could not rule out that it was not some other sort of malignancy. It got sent off for biopsy, but results will take a week or more.
In the mean time, he’s on an anti-inflammatory and Tramadol (for the pain).
Marie bought him a can of Big Brave Boy Special Food for dinner that night: a can of free-range chicken and wild salmon dog food. I mixed some of his kibbles and his pills into that. Cochise ate most of it, Josie helped him clean out his dish when he’d had enough.
When the pain meds Cedarwood gave him wore off, he started limping heavily and whining. I gave him his Tramadol at bed time, but he still had a terrible night.
This morning I mixed some scrambled egg & cheese into his kibbles to induce him to eat. He needs to keep up his strength. Again, Josephine had to help him with the last little bit.
From here it should be standard wound care. We’ve done a lot of that! I’ll update this if anything unusual happens, but won’t bore you with the day-to-day details of his care.
An Unhappy End
Cochise’s surgery was done Tuesday. He came home wrapped in vet-wrap. I spent Wednesday watching his leg as it continued to swell. Per instructions, I loosened the vet-wrap to allow better circulation — twice. When that didn’t help I called Cedarwood and they said “Bring him right in.” They removed the pressure bandaging and installed ace bandaging.
He bled heavily all night long as he and I sat up together. I took him back to Cedarwood Thursday morning where they went back in to try to stem the bleeding. That was unsuccessful and they called to say that they wanted to send him to an Emergency Services hospital in Knoxville. I was welcome to ride along in the Animal Ambulance if I liked. Cedarwood’s Tessa drove us to Knoxville in her own car and stayed with us all afternoon, serving as liaison between the two medical staffs; interpreting and watchdogging on my behalf.
Emergency Services worked on him for around 7 hours and were unable to stop the bleeding, though they did discover the cause: mast cell tumors (or mastocytomas). It was advanced and aggressive. And there were more tumors besides the one that had been in his leg.
It got complicated from there. Their Oncologist told us that he recommended amputating the leg and all of the musculature on that quarter of his body and enter immediately into an aggressive course of chemotherapy to kill the other tumors. He gave us at best 40% chance of survival. And the cost was staggering.
I have, for many decades, held the conclusion that if I were to come down with cancer or heart disease that was going to bankrupt my family to treat — I would opt for hospice care instead. I am well on in years, have had a good run in life, and I am confident of my postmortem destination. I do not fear death. I am averse to pain and suffering, but not death. I applied the same reasoning to deciding what to do for my beloved Cochise BigDog.
He is 11 years old. We have spent 8 wonderful years together during which he served as an amazing mentor to 63 foster dogs. He is suffering now. The past three days have been rough, and the outlook, what with amputation of a front leg and all surrounding muscle followed by chemo, does not look good. His chance of surviving all this is not great. Is it the kind thing to put him through that when the odds are that he will not survive it? If he did survive treatment, we’d only buy him a few months more of life. PetMD.com says, “If there is a generalized spread of tumor cells to other parts of the body, surgical removal of the primary tumor and affected lymph nodes are of minimal benefit, but chemotherapy may have short-term benefit (less than 2 months). ”
Cochise BigDog, also known as Cochise the Amazing Talking Dog passed away on Thursday, May 3rd around 9:30 PM. Tessa and I brought him back to Cedarwood. By then he was conscious enough to hobble inside from the car on his own. He climbed up on the little “couch” they had set up for him and laid down, grateful for the comfort. With Cochise and I were Dr. Sandra O’Connor, and Tessa as well as other Cedarwood friends: Chad, Rebecca, Angela, and Pam: who had all stayed late or come in to bid their friend farewell.
I will always remember the way Cochise bounded into Cedarwood’s waiting room and greet his friends. He never fought me about going to the vet. He loved these people. And I am grateful for the care they provided to him over the years.