Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In Limbo

Our dog, Max, is almost 14 years old.  He's a Newfoundland mix, a big guy.  Jeff bought him in Germany when he was a puppy; he's a real world traveler.  I came into their lives about 10 years ago, so he's been my dog for a long time too. 

He's been talked about here in the blog several times over the years, most notably last summer, when one of his back legs was broken.  It was a long hard recovery for all of us, but the old man came out of the whole ordeal still smiling

Day before yesterday was a normal day around here.  Jeff decided to go to the beach and fly his quadcopters in the morning, he took Max with him.  They came home, Jeff went to work, Max and I hung out.  When Jeff got home, we noticed that Max didn't come to see him.  Max was in his usual spot in the living room, appearing not to care that Jeff was home, very unlike him.  We also noticed he hadn't eaten his food.  He's always been a bit of a finicky eater, but lately he's been eating very well, even licking out his bowl.  I thought maybe he'd gotten hot; our heating had kicked on for the first time that day. 

Then we thought maybe he'd overdone it at the beach and was just tired or a little sore, that's not terribly unusual these days either.  The two of us had to all but carry him upstairs to go to bed, not just give him a bit of a push up.  We went to bed and later shared that we were afraid what we'd find when we woke up, neither of us slept much at all.  Max was much the same in the morning, yesterday.  He just wanted to lay flat on his side and would barely even lift his head.  He seemed very weak, wouldn't eat anything, not even cheese.  We carried him downstairs on an improvised stretcher and took him to the vet.

At the vet, they took his temperature, he had a fever.  They did blood work, which came back okay.  Palpating his belly, they wanted to do an ultrasound.  The tech then called in the vet midway through, who looked at the screen and said, "Tumor.  So many."  Max is apparently riddled with tumors inside, we had no idea.  The vet said he can't tell if they have spread throughout the body, but being that there are so many in the one area, he thinks it's likely.  He thinks that one of them burst and that's why Max had a fever and was so sick, so suddenly. 

He said that with Max's age, surgery to try and remove the tumors would not be good, we do know that.  He said that he could give injections of antibiotics and steroids to treat the symptoms, we would have to bring Max back in twice a day to get those.  Jeff asked if that would give us a couple of months, a couple of weeks?

"A couple of days," was the reply.

Jeff decided to have the injections done and take Max back home, to say goodbye.  He took a couple of vacation days from work to stay home with him.

Yesterday, after that first vet visit, Max didn't show much of a change, we let him rest.  We had all decided that if he wasn't showing any improvement by tomorrow (today) then it would be time to let him go.  We were trying to prepare for that.  Later yesterday, he started to perk up a bit.  For the evening vet visit, he was laying upright in the car, instead of flat on his side.  He seemed much more aware and interested in his surroundings.  Last night he got up on his own again and walked around the house a little bit.  He also ate for the first time since all of this started, scarfing up a can of prescription high calorie canned food that the vet gave us to try and get something in him.

This morning, he had some trouble going down the stairs (sort of normal off and on lately anyway), but he was able to get around on his own mostly and seemed to be his old self again.  For this morning's visit, he was sitting up in the car when the vet came out. 

When he went into the clinic to let them know we were there, Jeff told the vet how much improvement there had been and he said they seemed skeptical. 

Until they came out and saw him sitting up in the car, looking around like nothing was wrong. 

Waiting and watching for Jeff to come out with the vet

It was a huge difference from 24 hours before, when he seemed to be on death's door.  They took his temperature again and seemed surprised that his fever was gone.  The vet was careful to stress that nothing has really changed inside, as far as with all of the tumors - they are still there.  However, he gave the okay for us to switch to pills for the medications, no more needles twice a day - Max only had to do that for the one day anyway. 

Now we...  aren't sure what to feel.  We went from thinking that we would be saying goodbye to him today to him being back to his old self, but knowing that the clock is still ticking.  We just have no idea how much time is left.  The vet clearly wasn't optimistic to begin with, but Max has surprised us all - again.

It's hard to feel in limbo.  I suppose none of us ever really know how much time we have with our pets (or any of our loved ones), but this is new to me... To go from thinking that we were going to have to suddenly, unexpectedly, make that horrible decision, to 24 hours later it all seeming like a bad dream and now things are "normal" again...? 

I'm not really sure how to feel.  I'm grateful that he is doing better and I hope we will have even more time with him, but I'm trying not to be too happy, this could be very temporary.  We just don't know.


  1. My heart goes out to you. Make the most of every moment with your beloved big fella.

  2. What a difficult situation you are in! Max is SO precious! I cannot even imagine the anxiety you are living with, but I am grateful God is giving you this extra time with him. What a brave soul and loving heart he has! Love him with all you've got! Let him know how much he means to you and give him that memory to take with him when the inevitable comes. I am praying for you and your sweet Max. He loves you so!

  3. It is hard. One day at a time. I'm hoping he himself will tell you when it's time.

  4. One day at a time. If he goes 2+ days without eating, that will be a sign. Just make him comfortable.

  5. Thinking of you guys today! We've been there . . . all too recently. He's one of the luckiest, most well traveled dogs *Sending Hugs*

  6. Aww such a sweet happy face on that big guy! :) Those up and down times are hard - trust yourselves and him. Quality of life is where it's at, and your feelings are completely right and normal. Please give him a pat for me and do all his favorite things. :) Dogs are the bestest!