My dog has cancer

little winston.jpg



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Last night, after an hour
waiting for the sonogram to be completed, I got the news–my dog has cancer.
Winston, the big, genial American Bulldog I’ve had for almost 11 years–now has
a fast-growing, malignant tumor on his heart that will kill him in a few

“Because of the way it wraps
around the heart, it’s inoperable, it can’t be sectioned,” the vet explained as
I sobbed into a wad of crumpled tissues. “All you can do is make him
comfortable at this point.”

Winston has been in my life
for 11 years. He wasn’t meant to be my dog–when we bought him, I was living in
the New Jersey suburbs with my husband and 13-year-old son, both of whom
thought having a giant bulldog would be fun. But somehow, I was the person the
dog ended up loving most, and when my ex-husband and I split in 2005, he was
insistent that the dog (and the cat) go with me. In the 5 years since then,
Winston’s been my constant companion through three moves, an equal number of
relationships, and a complete re-thinking of what I want and who I am. Always
good-natured, always ready for a walk (or a pat), Winston’s been one of those
loving animal friends who keep humans’ blood pressure down and hold depression
at bay.

Sadly, though, it’s these
giant breeds–Rotties, bulldogs, Great Dances in particular–that can get these
malignant tumors as they age–on the spleen, the liver, or the heart.  Manifested through weakness, vomiting,
swollen tummies, and general malaise, these fast-growing cancers cause internal
bleeding that manifests as anemia (pink, pale gum) and malaise, and ends up as
weakness, heart attacks, internal bleeding and, yes, death.

It is so hard to look at my
dog–begging for bits of toast in the kitchen this morning, then snoring at my
feet as I type, and recognize that, three months from now, he will probably be
feeling quite different–sick, weak, frightened and in pain.  That thought keeps making me cry.

How can I protect and care
for this pet I love without cutting him time short too early? How can I make
sure this cancer doesn’t steal away his life?

I can’t.

No matter what I do, Winston
is going to sicken and die. I can be witness to it, I can be owner and
supporter, but a process has started I do not have the power to unwind.

And so, I cry.

I cry for my dog, for the
years we spent together, for the affection and good humor he has given me. I
cry for the future, for the pain and suffering he can’t see, but that I imagine
is to come. And I cry for the end of life, the death we will come to together,
that moment–natural or imposed–when Winston will die and cross that rainbow
bridge, leaving me to remember the best, most-loved pet I’ve ever had.

Buddy, I love you. And I cry
for that.





Latest Comments

  1. says:

    Susan I am so deeply sorry about this news.
    I’m sending big long hugs and sitting in the knowledge that you will be surrounded by so much love throughout this entire process and beyond, as will Winston.

  2. laurie says:

    Susan, I am so sorry.
    My dogs saw me through similar life changes and at 13 years together my Punkin was my longest-term companion yet. :) The cliches are all true – he made me a better person and I miss him every day.
    And you’re right, there’s nothing you can do but go through it with him and make the best decisions for him based on what he “tells” you he needs, because he really, really will.
    Bless him he looks like such a sweet guy. But then again all the very good ones do. Many hearts will be with you in this one.

  3. Elisa Camahort Page says:

    Susan, I’m so sorry. I had my two cats 15 and 20 years respectively before I lost them, and it was very very difficult. I totally understand what you’re going through…and it sux!!

  4. Tom says:

    I was so, so sorry to hear about this, Susan. He had better still be doing well when I am out there next month. I would like to hang with him.

  5. Liz Gebhardt says:

    Susan –
    I am so sorry about this. As you know I lost my oldest sheepdog Sona 2 1/2 years ago to pulminary edema. She seemed perfectly fine util she collapsed on a walk – and she was in an oxygen tent at UC Davis Vet Hospital a few hours later. We had a month together after that.
    If there is anything I can do, let me know. If you dont mind, I will make a few suggestions here. Some things I wish I had prior to my experience , but that I found ( and still helped me afterwards.)
    There is a wonderful book by a Sonoma based vet – “Speaking for Spot” that I think could be very helpful in your situation. Very helpful in tough health care calls.
    Also, Betty Carmack, who has been affiliated with grief groups at the SF SPCA has a book ( and a private practice in SF) called Grieving the Death of a Pet. Not just about grief after passing, but about the grieving process we go thru when we have a very sick companion animal we deeply love. She helped me in the month before Sona passed.
    Dont know if it makes any sense, but I have gone out to UC Davis Vet Hospital for vet consults in the past under difficult circumstances. They may provide some usefull infr/help.
    My heart and love is with you and Winston.

  6. says:

    Susan, I am so sorry to hear the sad news. Please take it easy, life is a journey, no matter for us human beings or our beloved dogs.

  7. Cathy D says:

    Hi Susan —
    I’m so sorry to hear about Winston. I met him at Andrea’s day care place when you spent the summer in Boulder, and he is a great dog. It’s never easy to lose our best friends. Hugs and treats to Winston and you.

  8. Chad Dickerson says:

    Susan, I am really sorry to hear about Winston. My thoughts are with you. I lost three dogs in the past several years and I know how much they mean to people.
    Hang in there, and hugs to you.

  9. Sam says:

    So sad. Our cat is going on 12 years and has started snoring. I wonder if there is a stop snoring mouthpiece for cats?

  10. Chuck Broes says:

    I am so sorry to read this, I hope he lived a long fun life and brought your family plenty of joy! – Chuck Broes

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