My dog has lymphoma.

Makes me want to utter oaths and profanities. Life, even canine life, is unfair.

Striker — a six year old black and white springer, bred from the best English stock and the brightest, most inquisitive dog I have ever known — fell ill two weeks ago. I will spare readers the description of symptoms, but this was a very depressing event for all involved.

Striker, sometimes referred to as canine royalty, knew how to strike a pose. He also knew how to chase down a pheasant.

But, cats, yawn, why would I chase a cat? Squirrels, on the other hand, we won’t suffer yard invasions by these pests. Striker would stake out the front window, quivering, waiting for a squirrel to descend the elms into vulnerable space. He would whine and bark, waiting for someone to open the front door, and out he dashed, silent and deadly, but never fast enough. The squirrels always made it to a tree. Striker barked a challenge and retreated from the field. His idiot brother sniffed the flowers and peed on the bushes while Striker did all the work.

Quinn, the idiot brother, is a separate story. How can a dog be stunningly smart and embarrassingly stupid at the same time?

So, here we are, with a wonderful dog, faced with excruciating decisions. First, prednisone, a relatively cheap therapy. It suppresses the symptoms effectively; Striker is swimming, chasing balls, sniffing habitats and, only now, eating a lot. We have to watch the last part.

Second is chemotherapy for dogs. Chemo for humans is designed to nearly kill you in exchange for a new lease on life. The symptoms are ugly. Who could ethically wish that on a pet? Chemo for dogs is designed to minimize side effects and enhance quality of life. The bad part;  only for a short time.

Chemo for a 50-pound dog is about $300 a pop, times five. The best result is perhaps another year. More likely a few months.

If this were my child, my wife, my friend, I would not hesitate to spend the $1500. But, I hesitate.

I love this dog beyond reason. People driving too fast in our neighborhood have endured my wrath because they endanger children and dogs. My dogs. I love this dog. He sleeps in our bed. The neighbors love him. He teases his younger brother. He charms walkers at the park. He’s a lover, not a fighter.

Life seems to present choices, sometimes more choices than I invited, at inconvenient times. I did not want to make a choice about a six-year-old springer spaniel, but we have to.

We will treasure every moment until the time comes. We will continue the prednisone, which allows him to be energetic, engaged and a bit obsessed with food, until it no longer works. The time will come, maybe soon, and we will have to let Striker go. With dignity. And tears.

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  1. Such a beautifully written, wonderful testimony to unconditional love that includes the heartbreaking ability to let go.

  2. I was faced with this decision last February, and my dog has done EXCELLENTLY with chemo. There was one of the chemo cocktail series that made her very unhappy — so we dropped that one from her chemo routine. The chemo has made her a happier, more energetic pup than she had been for the previous year or two (I suppose the lymphoma was growing). We are committed only to keeping her happy and comfortable, extending her time if that is possible within the framework of keeping her happy and comfortable. The good thing about chemo is that it has given us this last 9 months to enjoy each other. I know that it is likely an un-winnable war, but her primary tumor site has gone from large and hard to small and mushy. It has metastisized to her bone marrow, etc., so we will lose her sometime in the near future, but it has given us time to love her up and be more ready to say goodbye.

    Good luck!

  3. We share your pain and sorrow, as our beloved springer Hambone suffers the same auto immune disease. He is the most intelligent and intuitive dog we have known, and have enjoyed life with him for the past decade.

  4. You made the Sage Hen weep. We will be losing a shining light in our lives, but we will let him go when it is his time, not keep him going through indignity and pain. He is a wonderful dog. So smart. So handsome. So loving.
    Thank you, RT, and also the other readers who understand this difficult time.
    Kate Missett

  5. I have loved many dogs and other animals and made some difficult decisions at times – but having family members, not to mention friends – who have been through chemo, illness, terminal illness, pain – puts this in a different perspective for me. Good luck to you. I respect your sorrow, and I consider that it is our obligation to our animals to make the decisions they can’t make for themselves.

  6. I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND YOUR SADNESS. MY WONDERFUL DOG THAT WAS HOMELESS WHEN I FOUND HER WAS THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. I LOST HER SEPT 25TH THIS YEAR.
    I NAMED HER SUGAR. SUGAR WAS MY SPECIAL LOVE. I ADORED HER AND SHE ADORED ME. IT WAS A SIMPLE AND UNCOMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP. SUGAR BEGAN HAVING STOKES IN RAPID SUCCESSION. IT WAS HORRIBLE. I HAD TO HAVE HER PUT DOWN EARLY IN THE AM.
    WHEN I SAID MY LAST GOODBYE, I TOLD HER I LOVED HER AND SHE PROVIDED ONE MORE BLESSING FOR ME. SHE WAGGED HER TAIL. GODS BLESS SUGAR AND ALL CRITTERS WHO BLESS OUR HUMAN LIVES. SURELY GOD HAS A SPECIAL PLACE FOR DOGS. NO WONDER D O G IS GOD SPELLED BACKWARDS.

  7. RT, I am very saddened to hear about Striker’s condition. The inconvenient truth is that you do have choices for and with Striker. With our loss of another springer and a flatcoat, we extended their stay with us only as long as their quality of life was sustained. I wish you and Kate the best as you struggle with this hard choice. Brother Bill

  8. I recently faced a similar situation with my beloved 13 yr old Weimariner, Gus. The prednisone worked for a few weeks but it was readily apparent when he began to suffer. Fortunately, wonderful neighbors and friends helped me through the end but it was devastating, more than I ever expected. My thoughts are with you as you must navigate these troubling waters, making decisions no loving person should have to.
    Treasure these last days and pack away memories to be opened during the grim days to come. Carpe Diem, Striker! miss ginny