Monday, May 19, 2014

Sophie's Peril


Dear George,
Donna called last Friday afternoon to say that Sophie had had diarrhea for several days, had started vomiting, and now was oozing blood.  I drove over to the vet’s office to join Donna after her call.  Sophie was lethargic and didn’t look well.  The vet, Dr. J, said she had a very nasty intestinal condition which he diagnosed as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.  I’d never heard of that, but it sounded awful, and I later learned that it was frequently lethal if left untreated.  Dr. J had also felt a large hard mass in her stomach area.  He brought out X-rays that showed a hazy area over the spleen and the liver area, suggesting a large mass of some sort.  Dr. J said that the mass could be benign or it could be cancerous.  If it were just attached to the spleen, it would be potentially treatable by surgery.  However, like people, dogs only have one liver, and if a tumor had spread to the liver, it would be time to euthanize Sophie.  That was a total shock.  Dr. J said Sophie should be checked into a local animal hospital where she could be treated for gastroenteritis and where they could do an ultra-sound to give a more definitive diagnosis of the mass in her stomach area.  He mentioned several 24/7 emergency hospitals.  In fact, Sophie had been to one of them years ago when Duffy bit her on her eyelid, and Donna picked that one.  I rode along to the hospital, and Donna left her there for the night, not an easy matter.  Sick dogs, like babies, are just the saddest thing.  There’s no way of explaining anything to them. 

Donna, of course, was very distressed.  Just two weeks earlier she had had her cat, Buddy, put down after a winter-long, incurable respiratory infection, and having Sophie suddenly have a life-threatening condition simply seemed unreal.  Katja and I were very upset too.  Sophie, who is our sheepdogs Mike and Duffy’s younger sister, is practically a member of our family.  The three dogs have spent tons of time together over the last eleven plus years; Sophie has usually stayed with us when Donna has gone out of town; and she responds as if her brothers’ house is her second home as well. Donna came back to spend the night.  We all drank some red wine, played some Jumbles, and talked about our dogs and their aging. 

The emergency hospital is a big, brand new place on the east side of town.  Donna was very pleased with Dr. R, the vet there who took over Sophie’s case.  He explained on Saturday morning that Sophie had two unrelated conditions: the gastroenteritis which they were treating with intravenous antibiotics and fluids and several tumors attached to her spleen.  All of Sophie’s visible symptoms were a consequence of the gastroenteritis, and they were concentrating on that problem for the time being.  No one would have even known about the tumors if they hadn’t taken X-rays to check out the gastroenteritis symptoms.  Dr. R said that the chance that her tumors were cancerous was about 50-50.  If the tumors were benign, there was still the risk that they could rupture and cause death.  In either case, Sophie’s spleen and the tumors could be removed through surgery.  The tumors had not spread to her liver which was excellent news. Sophie was already looking better from the intravenous fluids she’d been receiving.

Sophie started eating her first solid food and drinking water from a bowl on Sunday, and by Monday morning Dr. R judged her improved enough to come home.  I went along for the pick-up.  Like hospital costs for humans, the bill seemed to me like a small fortune.  With dogs, though, there’s no insurance company that pays the bill.  Donna had set aside a pool of money to buy a new car, and she was relieved that she had that available to apply instead to Sophie’s medical costs.  She was just elated to see Sophie doing so much better and to have her heading for home.  Like Mike and Duffy, Sophie’s an older dog now.  It’s time like these that you realize how important our pets are to so many aspects of our lives.  It’s a great relief that Sophie seems to have come through her health crisis, and we are all looking forward to many happy days to come.

G-Mail Comments
-Donna D (5-20):  this is great, david.  thanks.

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