Our Dog, Sarge

On a recent, regular check-up for Sarge, our German Shepherd, the vet found an enlarged spleen.  An X-ray and sonogram showed how enlarged, and the danger of a rupture that could cause massive internal bleeding and death. We didn’t think twice.  Take out that spleen!

As Sarge was prepped for surgery and his belly shaved, two tumors came into view.  Samples were taken as the splenectomy got underway.  The spleen turned out to be so big it had folded over three times and took up a large space in the abdominal cavity, putting pressure on other organs, including the heart.  Once removed, it measured 14” long and weighed three pounds!  The vet had the results of the tests on the tumors and removed them as well, taking tissue samples to see if the cancer had spread.

We waited for the results.  We had decisions to make.  We were warned another surgery might be needed, and it could be far more invasive that the first.  If all the cancer couldn’t be removed, chemo was available.  Our dog is only seven.  It was a blow. While Sarge recovered from the nine-inch incision and removal of his spleen, Rick and I talked about whether we would do more if necessary.  We decided no.

We both love our dog dearly.  He is part of the family.  Neither of us could imagine putting him through another surgery, let along chemotherapy.  But there were other important reasons as well.  He is a dog, not a human being. Because he is a dog, he wouldn’t understand why he had to hurt and suffer for weeks, possibly months until he got better.

Add to those reasons another practical one.  We are supporters of Smile Train.  The money it would cost for a second, more invasive surgery and follow-up chemotherapy to save one dog’s life could pay for cleft pallet surgeries that would change the lives of a dozen children.

Before I went in for the consultation, we had made our decision.  We would let Sarge continue to recover, and enjoy him as long as he was comfortable.

The vet had the results.  Although the tumors were malignant, he felt he had gotten “good margins”.   Sarge is recovering nicely and already chasing the wild turkeys off the lawn.

The experience made me acutely aware of some painful realities. Our local SPCA received an influx of donations to build a new state-of-the-art facility. Dogs now have private compartments with bed and TV.  No dog is euthanized. Meanwhile the homeless population grows and people are living in cars or canvas shelters.  Babies are being aborted on an hourly basis. And we’re passing laws to make doctor-assisted suicide easy.

We are a first world nation in serious need of a heart transplant.