Saturday, January 17, 2009

When Do You Know It's Time?

Otie's POV


For a house with plenty of rooms and comfort to be found, I tend to spend most of my time sitting where I am right now - on a trendy old French bistro style barstool at the counter in my kitchen. But right now I'm sitting here so that Otis can see me. He's bedridden. We're to the point where I have to carry him outside to relieve himself. He woke us up night before last needing to get outside immediately. I picked him up and scurried down the stairs and out the door just in time for him to vomit. Morning came around and he managed to swallow a few offerings, one of which I'd hidden 2mls of Neoplasene, which is the med that is supposed to combat the ever-growing tumor. He threw up immediately. I called Dr. J who asked me some questions then told me to stop giving him the Neoplasene. Otis was panting and any movement was too great an effort. Dr. J told me to try to get him to swallow two benadryls, which would help fight the histamines that were shooting out of the tumor and making him miserable. 

I hid two benadryl in two pieces of salami, but Otis refused to take it. That alone should indicate how dire the situation is. I left them on the floor by his bowl in hopes that he would manage to get it down. In the meantime, I took trips carrying Otis in and out. He's pretty good at letting me know when he's going to puke. He kind of licks his chops like he's got peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. As soon as I hear the smacking, I run to him as fast as I can to pick him up and get him out. There is risk involved, of course. He could throw up on my feet or legs or hands, but that's nothing compared to trying to get it out of a shag carpet or sisal rug, the latter of which he doused later in the day. I thought it might have been because he ate the salami, but I soon found out that wasn't the case. That's because Huckle the cat was foaming at the mouth. Then she threw up! The evidence was plain to see. The house was suddenly a scene right out of Stand By Me when they held the pie eating contest that turned into a barf-o-rama. 

I felt bad, but I decided to keep Otis in the kitchen over night. If he needed to get sick, he would have plenty of floor to do it on. And better to clean the marmoleum kitchen floor than any other. Part of me, I'm sad to admit, was hoping that he would slip away peacefully in the night. I'm sorry, but I just don't want to make that heartbreaking ride to the vet. 

I came down in the middle of the night and sat with him for a spell, just to let him know I was there for him. His breathing wasn't labored. He seemed at peace. I told him he's been the best dog anybody could ever hope for. Then I went back to bed.

I returned in the morning to find he hadn't changed position, but his eyes were wide open and he looked happy to see me. He just couldn't move. I fixed breakfast while he stayed put. I made some bacon, which would be the true test, the way I figured it. If he refused bacon, then this would be the day. But he ate it. I hid some benadryl in some cheese and he swallowed that up. Then I put his steroids in a fried egg and he accepted that as well. About two hours later he made it to his feet and limped to the front door. There was a chill in the air, but the sun was out and I think it must have felt good to him. He stood motionless on the porch for about ten minutes before I picked him up and took him down the stairs to the grass where he properly relieved himself.

I took him back up to the porch where he stood for a good long while. I went inside and grabbed my camera for what I figured would be Otis' final photo shoot. He's had so very many throughout his life. I wouldn't be surprised if he were the most photographed dog on earth. In fact, the story of his entire life can be told through photographs. And what a life it has been.

God damn. God damn. That's all you can really say. This part is unbelievably difficult. I'm not talking about cleaning vomit or tending to his every move or feeding him hand to mouth. I'm talking about knowing when it is time. His eyes this morning didn't tell me he was ready, but I look at the aggression of the tumor, and his sudden incapacity to even move and I feel like I am doing him an injustice by waiting too long. Is he in pain? Is he dejected? Ashamed? Does he know what's happening? Two days ago he carried his trademark ball in his mouth. Yesterday and today he wouldn't think of it. The tumor has become so large. They say you can start can start to see the cancer when it gets real bad. I think can see the cancer now. It's black. It's what you imagine cancer to look like. 

I don't want my dog to have to live like this, but I also don't want to let him go too soon. It's a horrible catch-22. There are so many catch-22s with cancer. In this case, removing the tumor is not an option. So you're only option is to fight the good fight, which you know cannot be won. All you can really do is slow it down as much as possible. So you fight it with things called neoplasene, but he hates the taste of neoplasene and tends to reject any food you attempt to mask it with. All the while the tumor slowly grows. Eventually it shoots off histamines that make him sick. Then, any neoplasene you manage to get down, he reacts to by throwing up. Then he loses his appetite all together and the tumor grows even faster because you can't combat it with the neoplasene.  

The tumor is not quite to the point where it's rendering Otis motionless, but it's very close. I have a feeling that it's going to be the size of the tumor makes my decision in the end. It may not be the cancer that kills him, but the size of the tumor that makes him unable to move. So, as was this case this morning, his eyes may be happy to see me tomorrow, but his body could betray him. 

I hope that an angel comes and takes him away tonight. I hope he closes his eyes and drifts away. I would be ok with that.

Here are some of the pictures and a couple videos I took of Otis these past few days. There's a sadness to them, for sure, but I've documented his entire journey so I need to include these as part of his story. Eventually you will see the entire journey from beginning to end. I'm sorry if these are hard to look at.

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