Wednesday, December 01, 2010, posted by Q6 at 2:02 PM
With sadness, we must convey the passing of our beloved dog, Belle.

Last night, after bringing Belle inside to warm up a bit, we noticed that she was limping pretty badly on one of her front legs. This was about ninety minutes after our daily walk, and she's lately been a little worn out after those, but never limping so severely. Also, given a combination of her age, her arthritis, and rugless hardwood floors (from which it would be difficult for any canine, long nails or no, to find traction) she was unsuccessful in even being able to stand up. As late as it was, and the vet's office being closed, we took Belle to a local animal hospital. (It should be noted that although she had to be carried into and out of the car, she seemed to enjoy the car ride; and, true to her typical behavior, she bypassed all the towels I laid out in the back seat and opted for the car's upholstery. Also, I also have no idea what was so fascinating under the passenger seat.)

The emergency vet confirmed that she was, in fact, limping badly; but we learned that this was not her biggest problem. We're not certain over what period of time (it could have been gradual or very recent), but Belle had developed what the doctor called a "significant mass" in the area of her spleen. Without doing extensive bloodwork and scans we could not know if the mass was benign or cancerous, though there were some indications that it was the latter. The options presented to us included scans and surgery, then analysis of the mass to determine if chemotherapy would be warranted. It would be major surgery, requiring recovery; it would have had no impact on her mobility problems; and there's no telling how long her life would have been prolonged (though it's safe to say the recovery would take some time). Dogs of Belle's breed, according to the vet, have a life expectancy of about twelve years; Belle was almost seventeen.

The thing about dogs (or any animal) is that although you get to learn certain signs and signals over time, there's no effective way for them to communicate how they're feeling. We're told that Belle's mass was probably causing her regular discomfort, especially given the size of the mass. We all know that major surgery late in life can be difficult from which to recover, and that full recovery, especially without a spleen, isn't a guarantee of anything. My wife, My son, and I were all there last night, listening to the doctor explain Belle's prognosis and going into detail about the options.

And, in the end, though the decision was difficult (far more difficult that I had expected, and I've been running this scenario over and over in my head for almost a year), we decided that we didn't want to put Belle through it. The idea of major surgery recovery and the possibility of chemotherapy really didn't seem like the kind of thing to put her through for the short period of time it would have extended her life. I don't know how much pain she was in on a daily basis, nor do I know how much of a "brave face" she put on for us (though, knowing Belle, I have my suspicions). We spent some time with her, we took pictures, we held her, and then the vet helped us see things through to the end. It was peaceful, she seemed content, and she passed with her head on my lap.

And we will miss her.

"Good girl. Go on, now; go chase squirrels. You've earned it. We love you. Good puppy."

Goodbye, Belle.