Like Owner Like Dog

My furry rock needs surgery.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you will probably know how important to me my dog is. We’ve been through a lot together. His health issues and mine. Turns out neither of us are out of the woods yet.

He’s covered in tumours. This isn’t new. They were thought to be benign but more of them started to spring up, and they were moveable under his skin and felt fatty. Then one popped up that was only 1cm in diameter, rock hard, immovable, seemingly embedded in the muscle in his back leg. I didn’t need to have done a histology module at uni to know that was concerning. My parents called me ridiculous, but that dog is my whole life at the moment, and my concern would not rest. He also has a lump on his left eye that needed operating on a while ago, but we decided we would wait to see if it grew… In a couple of months it has tripled in size. His cells are poops, basically.

Today we took him to the vet. He’s been a bit wary of the vet since the time we took him for a check up, it turned out he had testicular cancer, and he had major major surgery before he came home, minus his manhood, and with two huge scars in his side from where other large tumours (non-cancerous but not allowed to stay) needed removing. We sat in the waiting room, me holding his lead, and he sat between my legs, slowly reversing under my chair, constantly looking at me for reassurance and cuddles.

We went into see the vet. She was so lovely. She felt a few of the newer lumps and said she wanted to aspirate at least a few of them to take a biopsy. She said this was best done under anaesthetic, but we could try with my dog awake. So I held him as he went from wagging his tail, to laying with a huge needle in his side. He didn’t make a sound. He didn’t flinch. He curled his lip in pain and stared straight ahead. I instantly dropped to my knees beside him and started comforting him as he pawed at my leg in alarm. He relaxed immediately and looked into my eyes, relaxing enough to stop holding his breath and just focus on me. That, right there, is trust and unwavering faith. Normally when they are hurt dogs lash out, but he stayed calm as she repeated the process four or five more times. It was clear he was in pain, and he was startled, and he had no idea what was going on, and each time he looked desperately at me until I stored him and talked to him, and then I felt him relax in my arms. His back leg was most painful, it was the lump that concerned both me and the vet the most, and it was the most painful. He kicked his leg and I had to hold onto his paw, but again when I said his name and told him he was a good boy, he settled. Every time I asked him to lay back down and roll over, he did. I have never felt so trusted, and I have never been so proud of my dog. The vet was very impressed at how calm he was and how still he stayed. Turns out when a dog trusts you it will do pretty much anything.

When the vet moved away the last time, my dog ran behind my legs and hid, and would only let her near him to listen to my heart if I stood right beside him and stroked him. He pressed himself right up against my legs and stared up at me, and we kept eye contact the entire time as I calmed him down. Gradually he took his own weight, and his tail began to wag again.

The vet could only see fat cells when she held the microscope slides up to the natural light in the room, but she said that fat cells can surround anything and that didn’t mean the lumps were ok. She wants to repeat the biopsy of his leg because she doesn’t trust it, and it is so deep into his leg that she isn’t sure the needle managed to get far enough to get a true picture of what the cell type is. We refused to let her stick a needle in his eyelid while he was awake, given that my dog pulled his head away when she even gently touched that lump without any pressure or needle. I entered the consultation room with a chocolate labrador and left with something covered in white hair (there had been a white german shepherd in the room before us and it was shedding its fur, so both my dog and I looked like polar bears when we left).

He’s booked in for surgery on Monday. Because of his age and the fact that he has had anaesthetics before, there is a huge risk in giving him an anaesthetic, which we have been trying to avoid. I don’t know what I will do if that lump is what we’re worried it could be. I do know that if that dog dies from the anaesthetic I… I won’t even… I can’t even…

Anyway, I took my dog outside into the car park while my mum arranged his surgery and stuff. I couldn’t get over how amazing he was, how trusting he had been. I had been the only person in the room that he wanted near him, and I’m not going to lie, that made me feel pretty magical. He didn’t understand what was going on, he didn’t understand that the pain was necessary or that it was going to stop, he just felt an unexplained pain. And all it took was a “Good boy! I know it hurts, but you’re being SUCH a good boy…” for him to decide that it was ok. I wish I was like my dog when I was in hospital. I wish I could see through the terror and just trust in the people around me. I wish my dog could be there the whole time.

When we got back to the house, I decided I was taking him for a walk, he’s earned it and he had thought we were taking him for a walk instead of to the vets. He pulls on the lead for everyone except me for some reason, which is helpful, because I don’t have the strength to hold him if he pulls at the moment. My body has been doing much better this past week. Everyone keeps telling me how much better I look. My bloods are as crappy as usual, so this makes no sense, but I even feel better. My body is being weird in an amazing way, perhaps it has just got used to the content rubbish levels of stuff? Who knows? Who cares? I’ll take it!

Anyway, after walking a few metres my leg muscles still scream, although I’m not as out of breath at the minute. I decided that I didn’t care if I collapsed in a heap of arrhythmia or ended up with fluid on my lungs or didn’t have the energy to move for hours afterwards… My dog was getting a walk. He’s my dog. Walks used to be our time together, and before that long, long runs. It’s been months since we walked together. We both LOVED it. Only for ten minutes, because my body got outraged, but he knew not to pull and constantly checked behind to check I was there, so there was never any tension on the lead.

When I got back, I set up the hammock I bought this morning (my mum took me for my first ever pedicure, we were getting along really well, we went to the supermarket and I bought a cheap hammock because I’ve wanted one for ages, she bought my little brother one because he’s all precious to her like that, she shouted at me in the middle of the supermarket, I bought my dog a toy and one for next door’s puppy, went next door and chilled with my surrogate mother and the puppy for 2o minutes, then returned to my parents’  house and took the dog to the vets… And now you’re up to speed).

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For so long when I’m bed-bound and miss the outside I’ve wanted a hammock so I can lay around out in the outdoors where I love to be. I’m unwell at the moment (I always am, shockingly so compared to healthy people) but so much better than I have been, so I just got to enjoy the hammock for no other reason other than the fact that it is AWESOME. I genuinely love it. 

I laid in the hammock with my book reading for ages, with my dog laying right next to me because he refuses to leave my side.

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My furry rock laying beside the hammock (beside him is the remnants of an old football because he insists on bringing me all of his toys for some strange reason).

Eventually of course, my dog ended up curled up on top of me IN the hammock, which I didn’t mind, because I love a good cuddle. Then my mum stood over the top of me. (Background, my knees are shot. The cartilage behind my right knee was crushed when I was 15. Sailing tore ligaments and irritated tendons. My right patellar tendon HATES ME. My right knee dislocates at least once a day and the ligaments frequently strain and partially tear… Both knees hurt and do things they shouldn’t… My mother knows this). My mum stood right over my knees and I was like “No don’t sit down my knees!” But she sat. And my left leg got out of the way in time, but my right knee joint was hyper-extended, with all of her weight on top of it. She laughed and tried to stand up, but fell back down onto the same knee, which I’m not going to lie, hurt a lot more the second time. She stayed sat there for a while, by which point I was shouting at her to stand up. So she pushed off of my stomach to get to her feet… and pressed down on my infusion site where the needle from Bob Jr. (insulin pump) enters my stomach. This time I put the needle right by a nerve so it’s been very painful if I even knock it. To have all her bodyweight through that needle hurt beyond belief. Not to mention the fact that her weight in addition to my 49kg bent the frame of my brand new hammock so that the whole thing wouldn’t work any more.

She got angry at me for saying it hurt. It made her feel bad. So I shut up. We went and got another hammock, and I thought I was walking normally despite the massive pain in the back of my knee (and one of the ligaments I partially tore sailing), but apparently I had a pretty bad limp. Mum wasn’t angry that time, I told her I was fine, because let’s face it, physical pain I can handle (I walked around with a broken arm for 10 days, then a couple of years later wandered around for three weeks while an inpatient in hospital with a broken arm that the doctors knew was broken but I told them wasn’t and just dealt with the pain until they looked at the x-ray properly and shoved a cast on it)… But she decided that I hadn’t been saying I was hurt to make her feel guilty, and I knew she felt bad so didn’t say anything else. I took my pump needle out as soon as we left the supermarket because something ridiculous was going on with it in terms of pain levels. There was a huge lump of insulin just sat under my skin, which probably had a large part to play in my level of pain. I then sat on the needle because I’m an idiot, but I saw the funny side.

Edinburgh this weekend is not happening. I should care, sounds bad that I’m really not bothered, doesn’t it? But I have multiple hospital appointments tomorrow, which means I have to go back to London, for the heart this time. I need a cardiac MRI and I don’t know why but at the minute I’m just done with hospitals and the hospital is really new and nice and the largest heart hospital in the world (I think, at least the country anyway), and it is in a lovely part of London, and the staff are lovely, and my consultant there is lovely, and the theatre team were lovely and made me laugh so much (and last time I had an MRI, while every doctor in the imaging department tried and failed to get a line in me and eventually gave up, the consultant said I looked like his baby sister, and so afterwards took me into the room with the computer and talked me through an entire MRI of my own heart, which was SO COOL)… But I just can’t face it. I am closing down and freaking out at the thought of it. Plus, I am still not well enough to battle the stairs of the London Underground, so my dad is going to drive me and that… That will be… Fun… So I’m reagent that.

But I’m hugging my dog a little tighter tonight, because although there are a lot of big fish in my frying pan at the moment that I can’t even figure out how to blog about, he comes first. I always come last on my own list of priorities to everyone and everything, and that dog has saved me in so many ways, and earned his place in the number one spot. He’s asleep by my feet now, and my mum has started talking about how I will react if he has to be put down. I don’t know. He is me. He keeps me going. So many times that dog has been my only reason for living. I have grown up with him. I named him. I trained him. I slept on the kitchen floor after he had surgery and couldn’t get up the stairs or lay down by himself. He is the only living thing I trust, and I trust him wholeheartedly, with all of me, which is also exactly how much I love him. I have a connection with him that I am incapable of making with any human. Humans hurt me, humans let me down, humans left me for dead, humans made me wish I was dead, and through it all this dog was there. So many times I reached for a hand and found nothing but his paw. When I have surgery, when I have nightmares, when I have flashbacks, when I cry but can’t let anyone see, when I just need to hold and be held, when I am happy, when I have heard things I don’t want to hear at my age and faced things I don’t know how to face… He is there, without question, without judgement, without a thought of being anywhere else… He is right there. He isn’t a dog. He isn’t just a dog. He’s my furry rock. He is my unmoving pillar amidst the chaos and I cannot lose him. But I won’t let him suffer just to keep me whole. If you love something, let it go right? I won’t let him suffer. I’d rather fall apart.

Why am I crying?

Damn. I need to go hug my dog.

No way but through. For both of us. We’re tougher than we look. Together we get through anything, my dog and I.


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