He has terminal cancer. Earlier this month, both of our dogs started coughing a lot, probably some virus they caught at a dog play (they were both vaccinated for kennel cough). Wondering if they were fighting infections as well, Ann felt their lymph nodes. Jasper, our Boston, felt normal, but Lucifer Sam’s right lymph node seemed swollen. We took him to our vet where they took a fine needle aspirate of the lump, but the results were inconclusive. They sent us to the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Hospital, and discovered that he had a malignant melanoma which had started behind an upper molar and spread to his lymph node. The molar was removed, along with a bit of jawbone surrounding it, as well as the lymph node and some surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, the margins of the excised area were not clean, meaning that cancer cells were left behind, and will most likely regrow in the near future as this is an aggressive form of cancer with a poor prognosis.
He spent two nights in the hospital, where he recuperated very well and probably won the hearts of the people there. He is at home with us now. We take him back to get his stitches removed next Tuesday. Each day he gets better and is more active. Even the first day he came home he tried to spin for his food as both he and Jasper do (we didn’t train Lucifer to do this, he just taught himself, and Jasper learned from him). But we realize that even though he may come back to normal and make perfect multiple 360s before every meal, that will be short lived with this horrible disease.
The doctor at the UW told us that Chemotherapy does not respond well with this form of cancer. The other options are an experimental vaccine which is very expensive with only a 20% rate of success, and radiation therapy, which sounds like a horrible ordeal to put a 10 year old dog through. We will try to give him as much comfort as possible in his final weeks, months. or wishfully, years. Stan is concocting dog biscuits for him that are high in anti-oxidants (made with Aconia berries) which might inhibit cancer growth.
We will remember the fun times at Pug get togethers and dog parks, where he happily joined in on running herds of Pugs with his “squeakbarking” and his constant food begging when anyone brought out the treats. We’ll remember how he loved to travel with us when we went to Colorado, like all the dogs we’ve had. And mostly we’ll miss his velcro-ness, a constant companion to Ann when she tried to work during the day (sometimes having to extract him from her side and relocate him to a different place to sit so she could work) and to Stan on the couch/futon in the evening, loving to snuggle under blankets.
It seems too brief of a time to have had such a wonderful dog. It was February 17, 2003 when we lost our first Pug, Hieronymus. And only May of 2010 when we lost our first Boston, Plato. This is too short of a timespan for hearts to heal. If Lucifer Sam hadn’t come down with a cough and Ann hadn’t felt his throat, the progression of the cancer might have been worse.
We do not know how much longer he will be with us, and we will appreciate every remaining minute of his life.