Just before Christmas we noticed a small lump emanating from our 11-year old Shepherd mix Grania’s gum, down over her jawline. We made an appointment as soon as we could be seen by our local vet, had it biopsied, got the bad news, and made a plan — do everything possible.
I adopted Grania (note: I didn’t “rescue” her, as she wasn’t in a burning building and I wasn’t wearing a cape) from a regional humane society in Ohio. She had been found, along with her sister, wandering on a country road.
She is on the right. I like to imagine she is gesturing to the camera operator that they’re doing fine, and should be left free to roam. Look at that face — stern, judgmental.
The adoption fee for my new little friend was $60. I sold my third generation iPod (first with the click-wheel!) to pay the fee and fill up the car with gas to make the trip out to pick her up. It remains my best under-$100 bargain.
She has been with me through college (3 of them) and law school (just the 1). She has moved with me from my parent’s house on the shore, to our 1885 1,200 square foot itty-bitty mini-house, to our current 5,000 square foot zoo-house that keeps the rain off the heads of five people, four dogs, one cat, four birds, and a fish (Finley).
She has seen me decide to return to school, get accepted in to college(s), meet my wife, Gina, get married, find out I was to be a father, and meet my daughter; she has been there on her mat when we have come home from our last day of law school, when we left to take the bar, and was there when we both found out we passed. When I adopted her I was looking for a running partner to join me in the Pine Barrens where I would spend hours exploring and sorting out what direction I wanted my life to take. Now she plays in our playroom while my daughter Abigail offers her toy cups of coffee and plastic omelets. Frankly, she has seen me from a young man with nothing going on to a somewhat-less-young man with a pretty good thing going on — and she never treated me differently. I appreciate that.
As we drove Grania home from the Penn Vets tonight, following her surgery, Gina said to me that if all of the work we have been doing to set up our little family only enabled us to give Grania the best care she can have, it would all be worth it. I couldn’t agree more.
So we’re going to fight it. She has been given the latest treatment available for canine oral melanoma, a vaccine derived from human melanocytes. She shows no signs of metastasis. Her surgery went well. The surgeon believes she was able to get good margins and her lymph node, though it didn’t show signs of melanoma when it was biopsied, was taken to be cautious. She recovered quickly after emerging from anesthesia and is immediately eating and up moving around — running, truth be told. She is going to be scarred but she is tough, she has always been tough, and now she will look the part. We’re going to fight it.
We’re going to fight it and we know some day we’re probably going to lose. The odds are long against her, but we’re going to do everything we can as long as we can. One of her vets remarked that Grania is lucky to have owners with the means and desire to do everything they can for her. Trite, but, having enjoyed 11 years of her friendship, I think I have the luck in the deal. As I think is often the case with pets and their owner’s, Grania really was my friend when no one else was. I hope in some instinctual way she feels appreciated, needed.
Right now, she is napping comfortably in the playroom, a big lampshade on her head to keep from pawing out her stitches. She has more booster shots of the vaccine ahead of her, maybe radiation, probably not chemo (this type of melanoma apparently does not respond well to it). I want to wake her up to feed her (she ate already), to get her to drink water (she has already drank two full bowls), or to go outside (she has been out four times in the three hours she has been home). I just want to do something to let her know that she is cared for and we’re trying — me, Gina, the vets, everyone is really trying. I hope she understands. I hope she feels needed.
If you’ve read this far, and endured my prattling on about my dog (my next post is going to be about a dream I had — you were there, but you weren’t you) I have a small bit of useful information: check your dog’s gums regularly. If you see something abnormal or your dog suddenly has a different-smelling breath, stop reading nonsense written by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about on a blog and go talk to a veterinarian that does. Also, if you’re in the NJ/PA area — Penn Vets 💯.