It was just over a week ago that Alayne and I had been talking about blind Patti's remarkable health -- since her initial eye surgery after coming to us way back in 2003, we couldn't remember another trip she made to the vet clinic other than for routine care like dentals.
Maybe we shouldn't have said anything.
Last Sunday evening, as I was bringing Patti into the house for dinner from her yard, I noticed she wasn't her usual bouncy, springy self -- she usually bounds through the gate and twirls, happy to be going in for supper. But she almost meekly went through the gate, as if she didn't have any energy. I had to take her by the collar and guide her up the ramp to the back door. A few minutes later it was clear she wasn't interested in eating. The next day she seemed better; her temperature remained normal, there was never any vomiting or diarrhea, and no outward signs of anything wrong. Just not her usual energy. The only other odd thing we noticed on Monday was that she wasn't lying in her favorite spots in her yard, but was picking some unusual locations. Something wasn't right.
I called our vet clinic in Whitefield for an appointment; they didn't have any openings until Wednesday, but we could drop her off on Tuesday morning and our vet, Dr. Chris Plumley, would take a look at her in between other appointments. Only a few hours after Alayne left her at the clinic, Chris called. He had already managed to do an abdominal ultrasound and found a large mass on Patti's spleen. He could operate to remove her spleen, but he cautioned that he couldn't tell from his ultrasound whether the mass had spread elsewhere. If it had, we might be putting her through surgery unnecessarily. The mass could be benign and limited to the spleen, or it could be cancer and might have spread throughout her abdomen.
I told Chris I wanted to take Patti to our internal medicine specialist in Burlington, Vermont, Dr. Bryan Harnett, for more detailed diagnostic imaging. My hunch was that we weren't looking at a benign mass limited only to the spleen. I didn't want to have her opened up, only to get a call while she's on the operating table, saying they had found other organs were involved and we probably shouldn't wake her up from anesthesia. (We've been in that terrible situation before.)
In the meantime, I asked Chris to go ahead and run a full blood panel on Patti, so I could have it ready for Bryan's consultation. I called his clinic for an appointment, and Bryan's first opening was Thursday morning. When Alayne went to pick up Patti and brought home her blood work, I took one look at the results and thought, "uh oh." Several values were off-the-chart low.
I scanned the blood work in on Tuesday evening and emailed it to Bryan. I told him that I had an appointment with him for Thursday but thought he should see the lab results in case he decided we should do anything different before then. At 8 p.m., he emailed back, asking us to bring in Patti as soon as we could on Wednesday and he'd fit her into the schedule.
So on Wednesday morning, we bundled Patti into the back seat of the truck and Alayne headed to Burlington with her. Alayne took the photo above of Bryan doing a physical exam on Patti.
With his advanced imaging, Bryan was able to determine that the mass had spread throughout Patti's abdomen -- to her liver and intestines, including the mesentery, the tissue that connects parts of the small intestine to the back wall of the abdomen. She was, in fact, riddled with multiple masses. He concluded that this was most likely hemangiosarcoma, a cancer that is so aggressive that she could have developed it only within the past two weeks ... but certainly within the past two months.
There was, in short, nothing we could do for her at this point except keep her comfortable with pain meds. The episode of lethargy we saw on Sunday and Monday, Bryan said, was probably from one of the masses rupturing; as her body reabsorbed the blood and fluids, she began to feel better -- and indeed, the rest of this week she's almost been her old self. She's eating, her tail is wagging, and she looks downright happy ... just as she did right up until last Sunday.
But this will be a repeating cycle, and we may only have a couple of weeks left before having to let her go.
For the girl who's been the picture of pefect health for so many years, we were stunned at the sudden reversal of fortune. Long time blog readers know that she has been one of our "icons" here. She came to us after suffering unimaginable pain and abuse, but through her very sweetness and affectionate nature, she showed us how animals are immensely capable of forgiving -- if not forgetting -- what people have done to them.
Another Shelter Challenge begins -- and No. 3 again already!
The new Shelter Challenge started October 3rd and ends at midnight on December 18th. Grand prize in this round is $5,000, plus $1,000 for weekly winners and $1,000 for state winners. There are also other categories ... please see the Shelter Challenge website for details.
And remember, you can vote every day, so consider bookmarking the voting page to make it easy.
You can vote in the Shelter Challenge here.
Please note: Use Rolling Dog Ranch for our name and NH for the state and our listing will come up. [Yes, we are still listed as Rolling Dog Ranch for the purposes of the contest, not Rolling Dog Farm.]
Because of your votes, we just won $1,000 as a weekly winner in this round of the Shelter Challenge. Please help us win more money for the animals here by voting every day, and by encouraging your family, friends and colleagues to vote every day, too. Thank you!