Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Dying Dog

I feel like Otis has been dying for nearly six years now. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. His vet removed twelve Mast Cell Tumors under the guise that left untouched, the cancer would spread into his bloodstream and he would die. We did two rounds of surgery on him. After the second surgery he looked like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier version of Frankenstein. I counted 120 stables in his body, keeping his multiple incisions closed and protected from infection. The vet told me that the tumors would most likely continue to grow, blaming it on the breed itself. I was led to believe that Otis was doomed because "his kind" was susceptible to MCTs.  

Not only did Otis look like a version of Frankenstein, worse yet, he was depressed as hell. He didn't sign up for this, and I, his devoted human, was determined to not make him go throw another surgery. I had already decided that I would rather just let nature take its course than put him through more pain and grief.

It was at this point I sought out Dr. Judkins, a veterenarian with a holistic approach and a healthy disdain for the makers of processed dog foods.  

"The first thing you gotta do," he told me, "is get Otis off of whatever dog food you're feeding him." 

When I replied that I only feed him the highest quality dog food he basically informed me that there is no such thing.  He told me that dogs are carnivores and they've only been eating "dog food" for 60 years or so. He was convinced that dog food is the culprit for most of the unexplained cancers and health issues in dogs these days. "So it's not that it's his breed that's susceptible," I asked.  To which he replied, "I don't see why Otis couldn't live a happy 14 or 15 years on the right diet."

That's all I needed to hear. He told me where to go and what to get. And before I left he prescribed some chinese herbs with instructions to sprinkle a little over each meal. I don't have a clue what the herbs were, but I went with it. I was desparate.

Otis never grew another tumor. Going on 13 now, Dr. Judkins told me recently that Otis has the healthiest blood-work he's ever seen in a dog his age. Still, he is 13, and that's old. After the surgeries I never imagined Otis would make it this long. As far as I'm concerned, he's been living on borrowed time since I first discovered the Mast Cell Tumors. I believe the book on his breed says his life expectancy is 12-14 years. That gives him one more year, but I feel like I've already had him for five one more years.

I remember when he healed from the surgery. I figured his time was running out so I started spoiling him rotten. I let him beg for scraps. I let him have the run of the house when I was out. I let him sleep at the bottom of my bed at night...UNDER THE COVERS! Then I noticed something wasn't happening. I noticed Otis wasn't dying. In fact, I noticed light in his eyes, a shininess in his coat, and a pep in his step. I remember the first time I fed him the raw meat and veggies. He took one bite, stopped, and looked up to me as if to say, "What in the hell have you been feeding me all these years?"

This blog is going to document the final year of Otie's life. It is my highest hope that his final year will turn into one and two and three more. If his blood work is so healthy, why can't he live til he's 16? The blog will be a biography of Otis' life. It will recount his trip around America, when he marked trees in the 48 contiguous states. It will have weird little tidbits about Otis, like how he waits for me to get out of the shower so he can lick my shins and feet dry every morning. And it will be a form of cookbook for other humans out there who might be interested in improving the health and extending the lives of their own dogs.

1 comment:

emily Tresser said...

I am reading this for the first time, and of course, once again after seeing Stella, I am in tears. This story is poignant, and I think it gives so much truth to the capacity and strength of love..The photo's of Otis meeting Stella for the first time..speak for themselves.
I think Stella has just added a couple more years to Otie's life, because now his purpose has grown. he thought he was in "retirement" in fact I think he's been waiting for his AARP magazine..but now he is ready to get back to work, he has assumed his post, and if he goes tomorrow...job well done
he loves you just as much