My dog Sensation came with a warning label. “Caution: Not Your Typical Companion Dog” All our chow friends cautioned us from adopting him. He has some special needs, and they knew it would be a lot more work than we could imagine. Specifically, Sensation is epileptic. We didn’t care. Maybe we could get special license plates. Now, I know what you’re thinking – what are “chow friends?” For several years, we were loyal members of the Golden State Chow Chow Club. We attended dog shows, organized our own dog shows, and even showed our dog Goldie in the Veteran category, which I don’t recommend. Goldie is not a fan of being shown. She just wants to enjoy her quiet life ever since she retired from the ring.
So, all our chow club friends knew Sensation well. In fact, Jackie and I had our eye on him ever since we met him as a puppy. My wife boasts that he could walk on two legs like a human. This description is a bet deceptive. He didn’t walk around on two legs in an open yard, carrying a beverage in one paw, and greeting guests with the other. Instead, he would jump up and use the fence to keep him up at our height for extended periods of time, excited to suck our scent through his nostrils with a vengeance. So, when we heard his owner had passed away (sadly by her own choosing), we jumped on our collective two legs to pick him up and bring him home.
Despite his gorgeous muzzle, and his disarmingly gentle personality, he has challenged me over the years. Seizures come every several weeks without fail, and they require a lot of attention. After a 14-hour workday, a 2 am seizure can tip me over the edge of insanity. I realize it’s horrible, but I have fantasized in those moments about letting him run into traffic. Then I sit myself down and give myself a sobering pep talk, until my smoker neighbor taps me on the shoulder to point out that I’m self-conversing out loud.
Honestly, the insanity doesn’t come very often any more, as I’ve eased into the unpredictability of his brain schedule. He is my master on those nights. Who am I kidding – he’s always been my master. But, the more I can surrender, the quicker cluster-week seems to end. It’s a good lesson in letting go (but not the leash!) His seizures don’t really bother me any more. I admire his determination. The odds were against him, but he has managed to live long beyond what might be expected for a dog with his condition. He just refuses to die.
Now that we seem to have his seizure schedule down to a controlled pattern, he enjoys a blissful existence 6 weeks in between every cluster of seizures. It’s difficult to imagine that anything else could befall him with his to live a long life. And yet, our vet discovered some lumps a few weeks ago, and immediately concluded it was lymphoma.
They conducted many tests, but the tests mostly resulted in guessing because the lumps turned out to be filled with fluid, not a cancerous tumor. Just to be safe, we met with an oncologist, who confirmed it was indeed cancer. Then, he ran his own tests, again surprised to find the lumps filled with fluid. The biopsy came back INCONCLUSIVE. At this point, I was starting to wonder why everyone is so convinced he must have cancer, especially when nobody could explain the liquid. So, the oncologist sent off a sample to a special lab. The lab finally confirmed last Friday that he does have cancer. But, it’s the GOOD kind of cancer.
The cells are indolent, which means the cancer grows very slow. And the chemotherapy has a proven track record with dogs for a high survival rate. Once the cancer is treated, it doesn’t grow back for years. So, Sensation (now 12) will most likely live the rest of his life before cancer becomes an issue again.
So, the treatment has begun. I give him the medicine that will save his life every 48 hours. As with all chemotherapy, it’s poison. Yay! I really enjoy giving my dog poison. I must wear gloves so that I don’t get any poison on myself. But, I guess having my dog ingest it should be no problem, though. I quickly get over the contradiction because the science is solid. So far - so good. He hasn’t had any negative reactions to the drug, and he still has an appetite.
Once again, the dog that was guaranteed to live a short difficult life has defied his odds. I personally think it’s his positive outlook on life.