Lotsie joined the other pets - several dogs and cats over the years - and was a faithful companion to Baxter, a collie adopted from Washington State University, a few years earlier. Baxter and Lotsie served as a pet therapy team, working at hospitals and nursing homes, and she thoroughly enjoyed that. She had a healthy life, with only a few minor injuries over the years.
Lotsie was just shy of her 10th birthday when she came up with a mild limp in her right front leg. She was out running in the yard with the three other dogs, and I didn't think much of it at the time.
Within 24 hours, I could tell this was NOT a pinched nerve. She was in serious pain - much more so than "just a sprain" type of injury. I took her to the local emergency for radiographs. I knew what I would find, but just had to know for sure.
My worst fears were realized. This was so sudden. I had no time to "prepare." I was also 8.5 months pregnant at the time, and the stress of this situation caused me to require bed rest. The bone lesion was in the humerus, the bone between the shoulder and elbow of the front leg. (Osteosarcoma affects the front legs twice as often as the back legs.)
The bone lesion was also large, and I knew that it had already spread to the lungs, as up to 90% of bone cancers have spread by the time the first sign is seen. I knew from treating several patients with this disease in the past that there are treatment options - leg amputation and chemotherapy. However, I also knew that these aggressive measures are rarely curative, and at most, only bring an additional few months.
Lotsie was in tremendous pain, and I looked into her pleading eyes and made the decision, with my family, to say goodbye at this time. It was horribly hard, and as I mentioned earlier, necessitated bed rest for me. Like most pet lovers who deal with pet loss, I went through a lot of guilt -- I should have known about this, I should have done aggressive therapy, if I'd have only...etc. But in my heart, I knew it was the right thing for Lotsie and I tried to take comfort in the fact that she had a very excellent, happy, and healthy life. She brought so much joy to my family and to schools and nursing homes when she worked as a pet therapy dog, focusing on these aspects did help with my grief.
Next page: "Typical" bone cancer presentations
Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.