One of my more popular posts, at least in terms of comments, was the post titled “It’s cold, can Monarch’s survive.” I listed a reference that said Monarch Butterflies can crawl at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and can fly at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve said from my own experience the caterpillars can survive freezing temperatures, but not for long.
If you’ve kept up with the Monarch populations that travel from Canada to Mexico to overwinter you already know that the population has been getting significantly smaller every year. However, this year, 2016, the Monarch’s overwintering in Mexico rose to 4.01 hectares compared to 1.13 hectares in the previous year (and even worse the year before that). Sounds great right?
Well bad news. The Monarch Butterfly population just can’t seem to get a break. On March 10-11, 2016 a severe winter storm struck the Monarch Sanctuaries (Storm Decimates Monarch Sanctuaries). The wind was blowing up to 60 miles per hour, it delivered 2.85 inches of rain, and worst of all, the temperatures dropped to 23.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
At first, despite that severe storm, Mexico’s Environmental Protection Agency said “The monarch butterflies held up under the snowfall.” WRONG! Read about the real impact from those on the ground and not in the government, Impact of the Storm, Observations from Cerro Pelon, A Sad Day in El Rosario by Estela Romero and Likely Storm Mortality in Mexico. Look at these pictures posted by Estela Romero Pictures. Dead Monarch Butterflies just cover the forest floor.
Let me go over the main points of what I learned and the important part of this post. If Monarch Butterflies are exposed to rain (or wetness) at 24.08 degrees Fahrenheit, 50% of those will die. If they are wet and exposed to temperatures of 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit, then 100% will die. Monarch Butterflies fare a little bit better if they are not wet and experience cold temperatures. If they are dry, only 50% will die if temperatures are 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit (remember 100% if wet), and 100% will die if temperatures reach 5 degrees Fahrenheit and they are dry. My references for all this information is from Likely Storm Mortality in Mexico.
In summary, things were starting to look a bit positive for the Monarch Butterflies this year where the population was at first estimated at 200 million. Then on March 10-11, a freak winter storm blew through the reserves with heavy rain, blistering winds, and freezing temperatures. This is literally right when the Monarchs prepare to leave the reserves and mate. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Their fat reserves from hanging around in the trees all winter were at their lowest levels. Then the storm hits, and it’s estimated that 50% of the population died from that storm (100 million). So much for the good news:-(.
Hello everyone. I know it’s been a long time since I posted anything, a little over 1 year in fact. I have a couple of excuses, but none that are really that great, so I’ll just be honest. It seems like I’m making lots of posts about animals and wildlife and my pets on Facebook. I held off joining that thing as long as possible, but I finally did join about 1 year ago. The second reason is that it seems like I rarely use my professional camera lens, and I just run around with my iphone taking pictures.
So anyway, let me share some news. My last post on February 23, 2015 was addressed to my previous German Shepherds veterinarians and my gratitude for the care they gave her. I still tear up a bit thinking about her, but I made a large poster of her and her life moment and that hangs in my room. On August 16, 2015, my new German Shepherd puppy was born. Her name is Kaja which translates to Princess of Gods in Polish.
Well this “little” puppy arrived at 8 weeks from the Czech Republic weighing 19 pounds. Sascha was 13 pounds at 8 weeks by way of comparison. Now this “little” puppy at just a hair over 7 months old is probably close to 85 pounds!
Again, comparing her to Sascha, I don’t think Sascha ever reached 85 pounds throughout her life. This dog is going to be huge! My Golden Retriever Maggie is still kicking at 14 years old. A little slower, not so great vision or hearing, but still the same ol’ happy dog.
My backyard is still the wildlife paradise it’s always been. I probably have 100 or more Monarch caterpillars in my backyard right now. I have a ton of milkweed as each year the seeds disperse, and they have cleared my entire backyard of any milkweed leaves.
My Purple Martin residents are in full swing right now and just started mating. I would expect them to start building their nests within the next week or so.
Last, but not least, I have an Eastern Bluebird nest with 4 babies. As of today they are 11 days old and looking very healthy.
So that’s the latest in a nutshell. Thanks for reading!:-)
I’m still mourning the loss of my German Shepherd Sascha, but I left work a little early for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to donate Sascha’s leftover medications and food, as well as to give all her toys to a locally owned pet store.
My purpose in this blog post is to formally state my extreme appreciation for Sascha’s veterinarians. Sascha could have been treated just like “another dog” and I never felt she was. Granted, Sascha probably wouldn’t have allowed them to do that anyway because she loved going to the vet so much and was always on her best behavior. Maybe I (Sascha) just got really lucky, but I hope any vet, or doctor will take a moment to remember why they entered their area of practice. It wasn’t for the money, it hopefully wasn’t for the prestige, it was because you had passion about what you would be doing. On every single visit that Sascha and I had, I always felt like each of you were right there with us, and I’m so appreciative of that.
Sascha had vets at two (actually 3) different places. For dermatology, surgery, and internal medicine she went to Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists at 1111 West Loop South in Houston. Two vets from there were very important in Sascha’s life and in case they ever happen to read this blog, I want them to know how special they were to me in providing care to her. First, is Dr. Suzanne Hunter (looks like she is no longer with Gulf Coast). Sascha had her spleen removed with Dr. Hunter, and her final emergency surgery was performed by Dr. Hunter. I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Hunter while Sascha was alive, but she did make time for me today where I expressed my thanks for taking such good care of her both times. There was also a Dr. Phipps that I met after Sascha’s final surgery and the day she passed. Dr. Phipps is an intern or a resident (I don’t know what they call it for a vet), but I’m sure I caused quite an emotional day when this big 6’1 guy comes in crying and hugging his dog who is dying. Thank you for spending the time with me in that room afterwards just to explain things to me and listen to my sadness.
The other vet at GCVS I want to mention is Dr. Paul Manino. He was Sascha’s internal medicine vet. He helped with her kidney issues, her spleen removal, and her compressed discs in her spine. He always explained things to me in ways that I could understand and I could just feel that he really cared about what was best for Sascha. Thank you as well Dr. Manino for meeting with me today.
There’s another section of Gulf Coast that is located in a different location at 3800 Southwest Freeway, Suite 136. This is the location of Gulf Coast Veterinary Neurologists and Neurosurgeons are located. After Sascha had her spleen removed and we were trying to figure out why she had some weakness in her back legs, I met Dr. Carley Giovanella. Sascha and I had an extreme connection. She watched me like a hawk, and I her for that matter, and for a multitude of reasons, Dr. Giovanella was one of Sascha’s favorite vets. I tear up when thinking about Dr. Giovanella I suppose because I always felt that she treated me like a human, not just a patient, and she treated Sascha as a very special dog, not just “a dog.” Dr. Giovanella was the first vet I went to visit today on my round of thanks, and she probably got the bulk of my tears and sadness. I’m so immensely grateful for the care you gave Sascha, and the compassion you showed me.
Last, but not least is Dr. Warren Resell at Atascocita Animal Hospital. Dr. Resell is my primary vet for all of my animals so he was no stranger to Sascha. I was actually seeing Dr. Resell before I took Sascha to Gulf Coast for her emergency surgery. Once he saw the x-rays and had them read, he was the one who told me she needed emergency surgery. Like Dr. Giovanella, Dr. Resell was one of Sascha’s favorite vets. I’ve known Dr. Resell for years and he’s always answered every single annoying question I have asked, and even answered some before I asked. Dr. Resell has never been a vet that was okay, next patient, next, next, next. I know his staff has even had to remind him he had other appointments to attend to when he was spending time with me and one of my animals. Dr. Resell, I don’t know if you’re close to retiring, but please don’t. You’re my veterinary rock with all of my animals. I give them the love and compassion, but I need you to help me with their care. I know it’s selfish, and I’m sure there are lots of great vets around town, but Dr. Resell is a very special person to me and in the care of my animals. We also share a passion for birding. I dreaded telling you today about Sascha because I felt you really connected with her. Thank you for all the care you provided to her over her 11 years. I know she adored you.
I’ve never been known for being short-winded, but please allow me to get a couple of items off my chest. I spent an extraordinary amount on Sascha’s veterinary care. I know many who would not do that, or could not afford to do that. For my animals I just try and provide the best care and the best lives they can absolutely have. It’s not about the money. I know a dog is a dog, a cat is a cat, and a bird is a bird. That’s just the thing though. My animals are not just dogs, cats, or birds. I give them all the love and compassion I can, and yes I’ve spent a ton on their veterinary care, but you know what? I would do it again. The love and compassion and financial resources I give and gave them is nothing compared to what they have given me. Animals, at least my animals, teach me compassion, kindness, understanding, and patience. There’s not a human being on this planet that could teach me what they have taught me (to be fair, I’m more likely to listen to an animal:-). The one thing about Sascha that I miss at this moment is how that dog would just stare at me with those big brown eyes. Her joys in life were to have a toy in her mouth, and to be around and watching me. For all of my flaws and imperfections, that dog adored me. How could I not use every resource I could to provide the best life I could for her.
This post was supposed to be about Sascha and my appreciation for all of her veterinarians. It still is. Words don’t do justice to how I feel on the inside about the care that all of Sascha’s veterinarians gave her. I know Sascha will not forget you, and neither will I. Thank you!
I’m going to keep this brief, just because I’m so mentally and emotionally exhausted right this moment. I had to say goodbye to my 11 year old German Shepherd, Sascha. In short, she had to have emergency surgery yesterday (Friday). Got a call from the vet yesterday and today saying surgery went fine and she’s recovering. I went to visit her today at 11. She was semi out of it, but she did raise her head to look at me and make eye contact. At 2:30 I got another call from the vet saying Sascha was going downhill. I asked if I could return. At 2:45 I got another call saying things are really bad and she may be gone by the time I get there.
Sascha being Sascha of course hung on until I got there. They suspected she was having numerous clots and the outlook wasn’t good regardless. I said my goodbyes, as you can hear in the video, and thanked her for her wonderful companionship. Shortly after I ended this video I heard her groan and said that’s enough. She’s hurting, please put her down.
While they were euthanizing her I just kept saying, “it’s okay, you can go now, thank you, let go, it’s okay.”
Obviously I’m grieving since this just happened a few hours ago, and her presence is all over the house with toys, food, medication, etc, so it’s tough. I’ll write more in the next day or two.
Sascha July 26, 2003 – February 21, 2015
Saying Goodbye To My German Shepherd Dog
Someone asked me to post an update to this since I made reference to it on Facebook. A couple of weeks ago, until just yesterday, it has been very cold and rainy in Houston. On a few of those days it was supposed to be below freezing so I moved my Milkweed plants to the garage, and all of the Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars indoors.
Raising Monarch Caterpillars indoors is not difficult, provided you have enough Milkweed and to clean the cage you keep them in.
Before I get to far, I have always assumed that extended temperatures below freezing would kill the Monarch Caterpillar. Perhaps that’s still true, but I can say with 100% certainty that one of my Caterpillars survived temperatures down to about 28 degrees with no problems.
Here’s how I raise Monarch Caterpillars indoors. I have several of those plastic containers that you get at the pet store to house Hermit Crabs or whatever. Within that container I put a couple of twigs so that the Caterpillars can crawl to the top of the cage to form a Chrysalis, and also to balance some of the Milkweed so it’s just not piled on top of each other. I place a paper towel in the bottom to collect the frass (poop). I change the bottom of the cage every day or two, and add Milkweed as frequently as needed depending on the size of the Caterpillars and the quantity. That’s it! Below are 11 Chrysalises, and 2 remaining Monarch Caterpillars whom I hope will change to Chrysalis soon as I’m running out of Milkweed.
Monarch Chrysalises on Plastic Container Lid
Monarch Chrysalis on Twig
I did something exceedingly rare today because we had some rare weather. The sun was actually out today! Finally.
My original intent was just to replace the netting over the top of my pond. That turned into, well why not clean the pond. Five hours later I called it a day.
Someone asked about an old post I did on Goldfish Diseases and if the disease was ever identified (it wasn’t). I responded to one of the comments saying this happens every year to a couple of my fancy goldfish. They do eventually die from whatever this is.
Below is my pond with most of the water drained.
Pond Cleaning 2015
These next 2 pictures are of one of the fancy goldfish that I captured to take a picture of. Those lumps on its body are consistent with what every sick goldfish has. I’m not sure how many goldfish I have at this point, but I’m talking about perhaps 2 fish per year have this problem, always goldfish, never koi.
Goldfish Disease on Head, Nose, and Gill
Goldfish Disease on Head, Nose, and Gill Down View
Does anyone have any idea what this disease is? I saw references to a fungal infection, but I don’t think that’s it. I’m suspecting tumors, and according to this site this is exactly what it appears to be. There is no known treatment for tumors, and although it does suggest you can cut off the growths, with my luck I’d try that and have a dead fish in my hand.
I was asked recently about Monarch Caterpillars and cold weather. Generally I have found that the caterpillars do just fine as long as it’s above freezing, but if it’s supposed to be below freezing I take some extra precautions.
I have several of those small containers that you get at the pet store that house hermit crabs. I simply cut off a few stems of milkweed and leaves, place those in the container along with the caterpillars.
One thing you have to be prepared for once you bring them inside, is they will become much more active since they are no longer cold so make sure you have plenty of milkweed on hand.
Here’s what my setup looks like
Caterpillars in container up close
Caterpillars in Container
I’m a little tired tonight, but not much detail is needed. Pulled out the camera again, and despite the horrendous afternoon light, took some pictures of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Dragonflies, and Gulf Fritillary Butterflies, and a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly laying eggs on my Lemon Tree.
Can you find the Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird in the picture below?
Hidden Male Ruby Throated Hummer Among Dead Zinnias
Male Ruby Throated Hummer Getting Nectar 2014
Blue Dragonfly On Hummingbird Bush
Blue Dragonfly On Hummingbird Bush Close Shot
Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird On Pomegranate Tree
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Laying Eggs On Lemon Tree
Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird In Flight Wings Spread
Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird In Flight
Side Shot Of Gulf Fritillary Butterfly On Pink Zinnia
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly On Pink Zinnia
I’m back after a long hiatus. I finally decided to pick up the camera again, after using my iPhone to take just random shots. The afternoon light was horrendous, but I still had fun.
Giant Swallowtail Laying Eggs On Orange Tree
Maggie Posing Sept 2014
Sascha Eating Poo
Small Lizard On Passionvine
Giant Swallowtail Butterfly In Flight
Gulf Fritillary Wings Spread On Pink Zinnia
Ruby Throated Hummingbird Wings Spread
Ruby Throated Hummingbird Getting Nectar
Gulf Fritillary On Pink Zinnia
Gulf Fritillary On Pink Zinnia Getting Nectar
Decided to do a Saturday morning check on the 2 Purple Martin houses I have. Previously I counted 60 eggs. This time I counted 73 eggs. It looks like it’s going to be a very busy year for the parents. A couple of the nests have 7 eggs. On those nests, those parents really have to work hard to keep those babies fed. So far we’ve had a relatively good year in terms of rain, and the temperatures have certainly been lower. Hopefully the can hunt down lots of dragonflies when those babies start getting really hungry!
Below are the current nest and egg counts
Nest 20 – 7 eggs (was 6)
Nest 25 – 5 eggs (was zero)
Nest 5 – 5 eggs
Nest 3 – 4 eggs (was 2)
Nest 4 – 6 eggs
Nest 8 – 6 eggs (was 5)
Nest 6 – 6 eggs
Nest 7 – 6 eggs (was 5)
Nest 11 – 5 eggs (was 4)
Nest 9 – 7 eggs (was 6)
Nest 10 – 6 eggs
Nest 12 – 6 eggs (was 5)
Nest 2 – 5 eggs
Nest 1 – 0 eggs
Total = 73 eggs (was 60)
I first got the call from the vet surgeon on Thursday. I think she said something like, “well, we got the pathology results back for Sascha.” I had prepared myself mentally for just about anything the vet would tell me, except for what she actually told me.
Sascha did NOT have cancer and Sascha does NOT have cancer. The tumors in her spleen were not cancerous tumors. “Excuse me, what?”
Sascha did not have cancer and does not have cancer. It’s very unusual (I can’t remember if she said they have never seen it, or rarely seen it), but Sascha’s tumors in her spleen were the result of a blood infection, not cancer.
Let me back up a bit and re-describe my meeting with the internal medicine vet on the day of surgery. Sascha had at least 3 very large tumors in her spleen. In all likelihood it is cancer. In 75% of cases of tumors in the spleen the cancer has normally spread to other organs. In about 25% of cases the cancer is contained just in the spleen. I’m sure he said of course there are some unusual circumstances, but that’s how my brain translated the information.
Thus, Sascha’s results were extremely rare, and quite frankly, there could not have been a better outcome. I’ve been asked by a couple of people was it even necessary for her spleen to be removed. Absolutely! The spleen was enlarged, and had at least 3 very large tumors inside. The chance of the spleen rupturing and Sascha bleeding internally was very high.
So what about the 2-6 months time frame that Sascha was expected to live? Well, I think you can throw those numbers out the window. Assuming we can treat the blood infection with antibiotics, Sascha should be just fine. She still has the spinal nerve degeneration, which I wasn’t even considering treating because I didn’t expect her to live long enough.
And, if you’re curious about how Sascha is doing and feeling, I can tell you she is acting completely normal, just like she was before all the medical events. She constantly has a toy in her mouth, digs in the trash to eat paper towels, occasionally barks while in her crate just to annoy me, and loves to snack on an occasional piece of dog poo when I’m not paying attention:-). Frankly, I don’t care what she does anymore, I’m just happy she will likely be around for a little while longer. She gets her staples out on Tuesday so I should have more information to share at that time.
Sascha Day 9 After Spleen Removal
I decided to do a nest check today in all of my Purple Martin houses, and I hit the jackpot. I’m just including one picture just so you can get an idea. All told, there are 60 eggs so far in twelve different rooms. I’m sure some of the counts will go up, especially in the nests that just have 2 or 4 eggs.
First Purple Martin Eggs of 2014
Nest 20 – 6 eggs
Nest 5 – 5 eggs
Nest 3 – 2 eggs
Nest 4 – 6 eggs
Nest 8 – 5 eggs
Nest 6 – 6 eggs
Nest 7 – 5 eggs
Nest 11 – 4 eggs
Nest 9 – 6 eggs
Nest 10 – 6 eggs
Nest 12 – 5 eggs
Nest 2 – 5 eggs
Total = 60 eggs
Well today is day 4 since Sascha had her spleen removed. I’m still awaiting her pathology results from the surgery.
In the interim, let me share the latest. Sascha is back to her crazy self. I didn’t do a post on day 3, but this photo below explains it all.
Sascha Day 3 After Surgery Back to Chewing Her Bed.jpg
See the cute German Shepherd with her ball? Look in the bottom right hand corner. See the missing piece of her bed? Well, that’s good ol’ Sascha. I’ve never, ever been able to put a bed in her crate, even the supposedly indestructible ones because she loves to tear them up. She’s also back to eating dog poo, “accidentally” dropping her toy in the pool, just begging me to throw her toy. She also is wolfing down her food like the old days.
Now for the day 4 update. It’s basically the same as day 3, she just seems even more energetic and has her old loud bark back when the UPS guy drives down the street to make a delivery. Tonight I was attempting to eat an apple, which Sascha immediately noticed and started giving me those puppy dog eyes. She then proceeded to lay down, then sit, then lay down, then sit, trying to figure out what she had to do to get a piece of my apple. My Golden Retriever Maggie (12 years old) also noticed Sascha acting like a “Jack-in-the-box” so she too proceeded to lay down, sit up, etc trying to get a piece of my apple.
Day 4 Sascha Wanting Piece of My Apple
Day 4 Sascha and Maggie Wanting Piece of My Apple
Before I forget to mention it, thank you to all the folks who wrote to me personally on my first post regarding Sascha’s cancer. I appreciate all the thoughts.
So today is day 2 since Sascha had her spleen removed because of three tumors. We don’t know if it was benign or malignant, and as I think I mentioned in my first post, I probably won’t find that out until mid to late in the week. In short, Sascha appears to be doing great, and quite honestly I’m amazed that she is pretty much acting like her normal self. I know I sure wouldn’t just two days after surgery, but Sascha ate a full meal today (first time since before surgery) and is carrying around a toy wanting me to throw it so she can retrieve (which of course I cannot do until she heals).
While I can’t promise daily pictures and posts about Sascha going through this event, I am going to try and document as much as I can. That being said, let me take you back to early Saturday morning when I got the call from the vet that Sascha was already eating and walking around and that I could come pick her up. Needless to say I was over-joyed to be able to bring her home as quite frankly they mentioned that may not be likely since she has the spinal myelopathy and would have to be on her back during surgery and would probably be pretty sore.
They bring Sascha in the patient room, and Sascha looks pretty much like she always does, just a little slow, and with quite a bit of fur shaved off around her stomach. Her tail was wagging when she saw me, and she tucked her muzzle into my chin as that’s her normal behavior when she’s really trying to connect with me (or at least my interpretation of her behavior).
We walk out to the truck with no problems. I lift her in the back of the truck and she lays down on her new bed I bought her to be placed in her crate. That look on her face is not what I expected. She looks bright eyed and happy. Compare to me if I had my spleen removed and you’d see a guy with a scowl on his face wondering how someone could want to take a picture of me after I just got out of surgery. Just another reason why pets can be so awesome!
Sascha laying down in the car after surgery
I get home and several of the neighbors are outside because we were having a community garage sale. A couple of the neighbors knew about Sascha and were curious as to how she was doing. I lift Sascha out of the truck, and she literally pulls me towards the neighbors. This silly dog apparently has no idea she just had surgery one day previous, and also has some spinal degeneration.
After she greets the neighbors and they all pet her, I take her inside to take a picture of her once again, and took a new picture showing her incision.
Day 1 after spleen removal German Shepherd looking at camera
Day 1 incision after spleen removal in German Shepherd
You can see from the picture above, the incision is pretty long, running almost the entire length of her stomach. It’s also rather red around the incision area. Compare that to day 2, where much of the redness has decreased.
Day 2 incision from spleen removal in German Shepherd
While I may sound rather upbeat about Sascha’s behavior just two days after surgery, I’m under no illusion about the seriousness of what is occurring. While I won’t know the results of the tumors found in her spleen until later in the week, as well as the results about knowing whether or not the cancer has spread, the odds are that it was malignant cancer and it has indeed spread. But, as I promised myself in the first post, I’m really trying to only focus on the present day, not starting a countdown until she may no longer be around.
For those folks that know me personally, there is nothing that I won’t do a little research on to try and gain a little knowledge. The same is true of Sascha’s cancer. I ordered a book from Amazon called Dog Cancer: The Holistic Answer: A Step by Step Guide. My plan is to gather as much information as I can on traditional treatments as well as holistic approaches so I can make an informed decision on how best to treat Sascha.
Last, but not least, I read something last night that I really wanted to share that really helped me put things in perspective. Assuming Sascha is in the statistical averages regarding her cancer, she may only be around 2-6 months, and depending on the type of cancer, could get chemotherapy which may prolong her life by an additional few months. If you think like a normal human, you might be thinking that if the average German Shepherd only lives 10 years, 4 months, having an additional few months of survival doesn’t sound very significant. However, if you think like a dog, or at least in dog terms, if her life is extended by say 1 year, that’s almost 10% of her entire lifespan! Of course the realist in my quickly returns and reminds me that I will not do chemotherapy, or even continue chemotherapy if Sascha has significant deterioration in her quality of life. If she suddenly stops carrying around a toy, doesn’t want to follow me everywhere I go, and doesn’t have that spark in her eyes, then I refuse to have her endure any type of treatment just to hang around for me. If dogs have memories, then I’m going to do my best to ensure that the memories of her life were full of wonder and joy, of hoarding all toys in the backyard, of chasing squirrels, of swimming in the pool, and always keeping a watchful eye on me and wagging her tail. It will not be of the sickness of chemo, that toys that used to be fun to squeak and hold now take too much effort, and that looking at her owner used to bring her joy but lately it just takes too much energy.
Well this is certainly not a post I want to do, but perhaps through my blogging about it, perhaps it may help someone else, perhaps I will learn something to pass along, or perhaps a miracle will happen.
Let me first offer some background. About three weeks ago Sascha, my 10 year old German Shepherd would not eat. Not one bit. Not even one little piece of kibble. I immediately took her to the vet the next day as obviously something was wrong. Since Sascha has been healthy her entire life and has had no medical problems the initial diagnosis was some type of infection, and we treated that with antibiotics. After about three days of antibiotic treatment Sascha was back to her old self and eating her food. Now about two weeks later, Sascha once again refused to eat (this was on a Friday). I took her into the vet first thing Saturday morning. After a brief discussion with my vet, I saw this certain look on his face that something was not good. I asked him to share what he was thinking. He mentioned that it was a little premature, but he was suspecting cancer or some type of tumor. The next step was to get some blood work and take some x-rays.
We did the x-rays and they showed an enlarged spleen, and blood work said she was anemic. He suggested we give her some IV fluids that day, and then on Monday bring her back and give her more fluids, which I did. On Monday we discussed next steps. The next steps were to take her to another specialist vet to get an ultrasound on her spleen. I should mention that throughout this last week or so that Sascha had been experiencing some weakness and instability in her hindquarters as well.
Today is Friday and I’ve spent the last five hours at the veterinary specialist. The results were not good. Basically Sascha has at least three large tumors in her spleen, degenerative myelopathy, and possibly some kidney dysfunction. The vet was very frank and honest with me. Since the spleen processes a lot of blood, with the tumors in there there was a significant risk of rupture which could be fatal. Additionally, even with surgery (splenectomy) prognosis is poor (3-6 months on average). Here’s how my brain was processing this information and how I felt emotionally: “Perfectly normal healthy dog will likely be dead in 3-6 months even with surgery.” Obviously heartbroken as Sascha has been the protector of the house, the guardian of Maggie (my Golden Retriever), and ridiculously loyal to me, wanting to follow me wherever I go and always wanting to just watch me.
I asked the vet when could they do the surgery, and how much it would cost. The surgery would be $3000-$4000 depending on if they needed to do a blood transfusion. That was on top of the x-rays, ultrasound, urinalysis, orthopedic consultation, and examination which cost a little over $1000. It turns out they could do the surgery late this afternoon and I said “just do it.” There really wasn’t a question in my mind on whether to do it or not. I would do it no matter what the cost.
Got a call around 5:30pm saying that Sascha is out of surgery and is doing fine so far. They will reevaluate her in the morning to determine if I can bring her home, or whether it will be Monday before I can do that.
I thought I would add it some little tidbits about what I’ve learned today, as well as what are some of the questions folks have asked me.
1. Does Maggie notice Sascha is not home, or notice that she is not sick? – From what I can tell, Maggie hasn’t noticed a thing yet. Whether that’s because she’s 12 years old, or because Maggie is much more into people than animals, I’m not sure. Behaviorally Sascha has been acting relatively like her normal self, so I don’t suspect Maggie would notice anything different at this point in time. Also, Sascha’s cancer has not greatly affected her physically just yet, so I don’t think Maggie suspects anything. Now once Sascha comes home from her surgery, and once Sascha starts to deteriorate, I would suspect that Maggie would notice. Whether or not she experiences some kind of depression or sense of loss remains to be seen. Sascha was always more observant of Maggie than Maggie was of her, so I really have no answers at this point in time.
2. How or why did you decide to do the surgery versus just putting her down considering the poor prognosis and the high cost of treatment? – Putting Sascha down is/was not even a consideration, because previous to her surgery today and being slightly anemic, Sascha has been acting the same as she always has. Always had a ball in her mouth, always loved being outside with me, and always wanting to lay next to me when I watch TV. So, Sascha hasn’t experienced any loss of quality of life so putting her down didn’t even cross my mind. However, despite how much I love all of my animals, once Sascha’s quality of life is no longer present, I refuse to keep her alive just to satisfy my own needs to keep her alive just so I don’t feel sad. She’s given me more joy over the last 10 years, so I will not have her suffer in any way just for my own emotional needs. Once that time comes I will do what needs to be done, but not without considerable sadness and loss, but I feel I owe her that dignity.
3. How are you going to deal with such a short period of time with Sascha? – Well statistically the odds are not in Sascha’s favor, but there is a chance that she is a statistical outlier and the cancer would be totally removed from the spleen removal. Second, I’m going to do the best as I can do just focus on the present, to enjoy each day that I have with her, rather than focusing on I’ve only got a few months left with her. When I start thinking how little time I have with her I just get incredibly sad. Focusing on the present makes me appreciate each day instead. As my primary vet suggested, “just think like a dog.” They don’t focus on the past or present, they just focus on the moment.
4. Why don’t dogs live a long time after the spleen removal? – From what I have learned, and from what my vets have educated me about, dogs don’t live a long time even if you removal the cancerous spleen because by the time the spleen has been removed, the cancer has likely already spread through the bloodstream. I also asked my vets about the dying of a dog with this condition. What they both told me is that in general, it is not painful. The dogs may have some labored breathing and loss of energy, but they are generally not in any pain (again it depends on the type of cancer). When the time comes that Sascha no longer enjoys a good quality of life, or begins to suffer or struggle in any way, then I will do what (in my view) is the only respectful thing to do.
Those are the main questions, but if anyone has any other questions feel free to ask, and I will answer as honestly as I can. I know the primary focus of my blog is on nature and wildlife, but thought this post might help others, and it also gives me a little outlet to express what I have learned, what’s on my mind, and perhaps one day to look back on and remember what I was thinking. I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be posting on Sascha’s condition just because of the lack of time, but I will try and provide fairly frequent updates, as again, it may help someone else who experiences this type of situation in the future, or maybe someone has some experience that they can share that I can learn from.