Thursday, May 7, 2009

Samarka's Mystic Sage

The perfection of life with a gun dog, like the perfection of an Autumn, is disturbing because you know, even as it begins, that it must end. Time bestows the gift and steals it in the process"
George Bird Evans
"An Affair With Grouse"

The quote above was sent to me by a friend and while Samoyeds aren’t a bird dog, the quote was truly fitting.

If anyone has ever had the opportunity to be around a Samoyed, you know they are the dog with the smile in their eyes.

At first glance, this story has little to do with my endurance endeavor but in many ways has everything to do with it. It's kind of taken the wind out of my sails of late with just about everything, including wanting to condition for endurance with Rebel. Sage was co captain during our rides. She was always right there with me, trotting along. I'll bounce back I am sure, but it may take me some time.

For the last several weeks, we have been dealing with ever increasingly difficult health issues with our 121/2 year old Samoyed, Sage; aka Ice Bear , aka Poochey Girl. It was complicated ... she had various things all going on simultaneously, that of which included Lupus and Thyroid issues. About a month ago her Lupus was ramping up and causing a lot of problems for her. After several discussions with the vet, and trying several things, all failing, we finally broke down and started her on prednisone. The vet was confident that it would help. We were hesitant because it can be pretty nasty stuff, but the symptoms of the Lupus were proving much worse.
About two weeks ago, Sage stopped eating her regular food but was willing to eat canned dog food. One week ago, Sage began refusing can food as well but if I insisted and hand fed her she would oblige about 50 % of the time because that is just how she was. A good girl. (unless there were leather goods to be found) The hand feeding with the canned food lasted only couple of days and pretty soon, we were down to feeding her raw meat from the beef in the freezer, or chicken. She ate those things, but only half heartedly. I knew then, we were fighting a losing battle but didn’t really know why. Prednisone should help increase her appetite. It didn’t make sense. Typically, Sage never missed a meal and now she had no interest in eating.
Last Thursday I came home to find her belly all bloody. When I laid her down to take a look, I couldn’t believe my what my eyes were seeing. Towards her back legs, lied a huge ugly looking growth on one of her mammaries, atleast 2x2 in size and bulging 1 inch. She had been licking it which was causing it to bleed. How could I not have noticed this? I knew that it had been atleast a week since I last checked her for lumps as I often do so this growth wasn’t there at that time. I check Sage for lumps routinely because a few years ago , she developed several small mammary tumors, all of which were benign and not growing. We opted to not do surgery on those tumors as they didn’t bother her.
Friday morning, I took Sage into the vet so he could take a look at this growth, which seemed to come on quickly. Was it one of her tumors that had become malignant? I didn’t know. Upon examination, the vet thought it was something that would be easy enough to remove and he thought she should get immediate relief. He would biopsy at that time. So, that was good enough for me and we scheduled the surgery for Monday, 5/4, and went home for the weekend.
I tried to keep Sage as quiet as I could throughout the weekend but she was always a fighter and wanted to be in the middle of all the activity, especially if there was any horse activity to be had. Whenever I rode, Sage would always be right alongside of us. It was her way of keeping tabs on things. Saturday I had to keep her in the house as I didn’t want her to over do it and cause more issues. Boy, was she mad and barking to let the whole neighborhood know. By Sunday night, Sage had taken a turn for the worse. She was panting heavily with a rapid heart rate and was having difficulty moving. We called the vet again late Sunday night, now fearing for her life. The vet met us at the clinic 10:30 that night. He looked at the tumor again and was astonished at how much it had increased in size. It has also become very inflamed and the inflammation was traveling down her leg. The vet quickly left the exam room and was gone for a while. Tom and I weren’t sure where he was headed or what he was doing. When he came back , he brought with him a large veterinary book which I thought was a bit odd . He said he wanted to show us something. He explained that he had researched things a bit more after seeing Sage on Friday and had suspected that she might have what was called Inflammatory Mammary Carcinoma but he wasn’t sure at the time. He had planned to talk to me Monday morning and reevaluate surgery. Now, seeing how this tumor was so aggressively growing, it was obvious this was exactly what he was showing me in the book. All the symptoms over the last several weeks fit and here we thought it was her Lupus. What he especially wanted to show us in the book was that it indicated surgery was not an option with this and especially not recommended for tumors beyond a certain size. The tumor Sage had was well beyond that. It went on to explain that if surgery is attempted, the outcome is very grave and usually ends up that the dog has to be euthanized shortly afterward. To add, the location of her tumor made matters worse. It was in the absolute worst area for healing. If we operated, we would face huge issues getting the incision to heal properly due to the amount of movement. To add, the book went on to explain that w hen these tumors are operated on, it causes the malignancy to become more aggressive.

I had read enough. Our hearts sank. Maybe in disbelief, shock , denial or all of the above , I asked the vet why he had said he could operate on Friday and now we were facing no options? The logical part of my brain that normally drives my ability to make good decisions was suddenly turned off. While I knew the answer, I suddenly couldn’t or maybe I didn’t want to grasp what the vet was telling us. When your world turns upside down in an instant, reality sometimes takes a minute to sink in. It took me some time to come to grips with the fact that this was not just a mammary tumor that got ugly that could easily be removed. This was something worse, something that we could not beat. Inflammatory Mammary Carcinoma was a completely different monster that was going to take my baby from me and there was nothing I could do about it. Surgery would only extend her pain and suffering.
As much as I didn’t want to, I could see the answer in Sages eyes, the distress she was in told all me enough. The vet gently explained that euthanasia was really our only option. Tom looked at me and asked if we should go ahead with it right then. The floor felt like it dropped out from underneath my feet. I wasn’t ready. I know during times like this it, it shouldn’t be about the human but I just wasn’t prepared for this. It hit like a bullet to the heart. I needed to come to terms with what I had just heard. I needed a chance to say goodbye.

I asked the vet if he felt we could manage her pain well enough with medication for the night so that I could take her home to say goodbye first. He felt that we could. We didn’t want Sage's last memory to be scared and on an exam table. I couldn’t live with that. The vet gave us some Tramadol which is used in cancer patients to manage pain and we made arrangements for the vet to come to the house the next day, Monday, to euthanize in the comforts of her own home.
I stayed with her all day on Monday and tried to keep her as comfortable as possible. She wanted to be outside and would go over to her kennel area and just sit. The other two dogs were terribly worried. Since she didn’t get her Sunday knuckle bone( a weekly thing we give each dog every Sunday)I gave it to her. She chewed on it for a while but then it got to be too much for her. She seemed to want to be alone a lot . That was a hard one to take. Anyone who knows me knows I am a fixer. In all the years, the various hurts and cuts and things I had nursed her through, I couldn’t fix this one. I couldn’t even do much to comfort her. I just sat with her, and pet her. I brushed her when she would allow it and wash her face with a warm cloth which was one of her favorite things. When her pain level seemed to increase, I gave her pain meds to get her through the next couple of hours while we waited for the vet to arrive. Unfortunately, he would not be arriving until after clinic hours. About half way through the day I regretted making her wait for what seemed to be a lifetime. I just had no idea how painful this was going to get.

It was the longest day of both of our lives. Tom arrived home in the afternoon and shortly after that, the vet finally arrived. It was such a relief to see him to know that she would not have to endure the pain any more. We had our time to say goodbye and I knew she was ready for me to help her one last time, to end her pain. It was all over so quickly and painlessly, peace for her at last.

We buried her near the kennel area under a tree, where she loved to sit and be on look out, always guarding, always watching, as a good Samoyed always will. Sage was so very special to everyone who met her and she brought sunshine and happiness with her whever she went. I have lost a large part of my heart with Sage’s passing. Farewell, sweet Sage, my Ice Bear. We love you and will be greatly missed until we will all be united again someday to play forever in the fields beyond the Rainbow Bridge.

Love Mom, Dad, Morgan, Loki and most of all Munci.

P.S.( I will post a photo of her soon)


Stephanie - Siouxzeegirl Designs said...

I am so sorry for your loss of Sage. Always sad to lose one that was part of the family, I hope all the sweet memories of good times with Sage stay with you forever

All Who Wander said...


I am so heartfelt sorry for your loss. For some of us our pets become our children (even if we already have some of those in two-legged form). Only two weeks since my Molly Brown was let go. I'm glad you were able to do that for Sage at home. I wish we'd have had that option, but we did not. Hugs lady.


Jonna said...

Steph- lots of great memories for sure. We will cherish those forever.

EG- thanks for the hugs. Amazing how these 4 legged critters touch our lives. Hugs right back at ya for Molly.

ellescee said...


I'm so sorry for your loss--I'm still playing catch-up with my regular blogs. I completely know how you feel, and you were very wise to take care of things before they got awful. Mammary tumors can grow into monsters in a remarkably short time, so you were very quick. There's still nothing worse than waiting for the vet to come in and end your friend's life, though. I've been there, I'll be there again, and it's not my favorite place.


Jonna said...

Thanks Elly-

Thanks- I was amazed at how aggressive in nature that tumor was and how painful it was as well. I have two more dogs and one other one is 14 and not doing the best. I hope for my husbands sake she will carry on a while yet.