Yellow Lab Ziggy's Cancer Battle
by Lisa Wollenslegel
I took my 9-year-old little guy Ziggy in for a wellness check - he had lost some weight and was butt scooting. I really thought he might have worms. While at the Vet's, he suddenly hunched up. They thought perhaps he had to pee, but when I took him out in their courtyard, his back leg dragged, his face was scrunched up in pain, and it became obvious that it was something serious. They initially thought it was a back injury. They shot him full of pain meds and sent him home with me.
The next day I was home with a very bad flu, and my boy lay with me, but acted normal - happy ding dong doggie with a big goofy grin! The next morning, however, we found him in the far corner of our back yard - hunched up in pain, wouldn't eat... for my baby boy not to eat - that was very devastating, as he was that typical food hoarder Lab.
Back to the Vet we went, and this time a biopsy revealed prostate/bladder cancer and fluid in his abdomen - NOT GOOD! The root of his pain was a blocked urethra. The very grim prognosis was given, and they recommended sending him home with a catheter to spend his last weekend with me to give me a chance to spoil him and say goodbye, and then bring him back in to be put down.
As it turns out, he yanked the catheter out. I took him back for another, and another... I had that catheter replaced 6 times in one week, until I finally came to the heart wrenching conclusion that he was trying to tell me something - no more catheter, and so I prepared for the worst.
During that time I had him on 100 mg. daily dose of Rimadyl, a daily dose of stool softener, and I immediately changed his diet to a homemade concoction of white rice, canned salmon, and pumpkin. I fed him Asparagus as a daily treat. I also purchased 2 K-9 supplements made by "Silver Linings" called "Foundation" and "Blood Cleanse".
Miraculously, the yanked catheters seemed to serve as a roto rooter effect on Ziggy's urethra. That, and the Rimadyl, as Ziggy could potty normally again. He picked his weight back up, and was my happy energetic puppy dog once more - active to the point of keeping up with our 10 month old Britt puppy.
He lasted 11 1/2 weeks past his devastating diagnosis before he got to that fateful point of not being able to potty once again.
I had promised him "no more clinics" and at the point that he let me know it was "time", I made his final appointment - he had refused food and spent that evening staring up into my eyes with that "I'm in pain - please help me" pleading look.
That next day was to be his final appointment. I went to my office long enough to let them know what was going on and then rushed home. Much to my surprise, Ziggy met me at the door with a huge grin and wagged me to his food dish - he was hungry!!! So I fed him whatever he wanted, canceled the appointment, and praised God that I got to keep my doggie around for one more day.
That was short lived. As it turns out, he was not able to pass that glorious food, and as the night wore on, for the first time since his initial diagnosis, my boy whimpered. All of those catheters being shoved up his pee pee and he ever uttered a sound... until now. Yes - it was definitely time.
I called the ER and we loaded him into our van. I stayed in the back with him with my arms wrapped around him, comforting him while my fiancée drove. Ziggy rested his head on my shoulder the whole way. We parked in the parking lot of the ER and the Vet came out to the van to administer his final shots. Ziggy and I lay back on the bed. I was scared to death to have to witness the euthanization of what I considered to be my soulmate-in-the-form-of-a-dog.
I own Ziggy's 13yr. old mama (Marley) and when she was delivering her pups 9 years ago she had labor troubles. I ended up tearing the umbilical sac away and massaging the chest of that first puppy to get him to take that first breath. That puppy followed me everywhere from the time he opened his eyes...to now...
So here he was, my Ziggy-boy, getting ready to take that last breath, and I didn't think I could bear it. I finally decided that I had to suck it up and just be there.
When he got that first tranquilizer shot, he let out this tremendous sigh of relief, and so did I - no more pain. The built-up anxiety left both his body and mine at the same time. He immediately began to snore. I cradled him in my arms and begged the Vet to let me just lay there like that for awhile - he was just so incredibly sweet just lying against me, but the Vet explained that there was maybe a minute left, at the most, before that tranquilizer would time out. So with that, I hugged him close and let them do what they had to do.
It was by far the toughest thing I've ever done in my entire life, but I am SO glad that he left this world hearing my voice and having my loving arms around him. For me to be there with him when he took his first breath and to have my arms around him when he took his last, was a true once-in-a-lifetime bittersweet blessing.
My boy had a very happy life filled with lots of dog hikes, swimming holes and camping adventures. The one thing that keeps me from lying in an inconsolable fetal position sobbing uncontrollably is knowing that. Also knowing that I chose the right moment, the right loving environment, and having that one last moment with him where he wasn't feeling pain was absolutely priceless.
My heart goes out to any of you that are faced with a canine cancer diagnosis, but know this - my Vet told me after the fact that she had never heard of a dog with Ziggy's diagnosis lasting longer than several weeks. For him to have lasted nearly 3 months is nothing short of a miracle. Don't give up on the idea that your dog may also defy the odds and live longer if you are willing to take those extra few steps with his/her diet, medication, etc., and give what is most important - LOVE.
(Submitted Thursday, March 28, 2013)