If we’ve not met, this probably won’t mean anything to you unless you’re a dog lover.
If we’re friends, you may know that Cisco is a Black British Lab, who was a service dog for my late wife (who spoiled him out of being a work dog, but never made him less than perfect). After my lovely wife passed away suddenly, Cisco was my roommate. He was why my house was never empty, and why I was not alone.
In June of 2009 Cisco was taken to an emergency vet because he had a bloody liquid in the sacks around his lungs and his heart. They drained 750 ml from the sack around his lung, and wanted to wait until the following Monday to remove the liquid from around his heart. The Vet, a young female doctor, told me that he had a tumor on his lung and that, while she could not determine what type of cancer it was, if it was aggressive, he might die in just a few days. Her suggestion was that she could perform lung surgery and that might resolve the problem, but there was not certainty.
In an emotional meltdown after that call, I asked a friend to speak to the vet to get some clarity on the best way to proceed. When they spoke to the Vet , they were as confused as I was about what the best choice for Cisco would be, but they suggested that I bring him home for a couple of days, take him back on Monday for the rest of the procedure, sand see what happened. That Monday, I spoke to a second Vet handling the procedure, and asked if there was anything I could do to stop the bleeding and prolong his life. He recommended a Chinese herb, which I immediately began giving to Cisco.
Poor Cisco couldn’t sleep through the nights – not because he felt bad , but because I was so nervous that I kept waking him to see if he was OK. After a week or so I took him to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital where Cisco was examined by Dr. Mark Rondeau. Dr. Rondeau tried a biopsy, but it was inconclusive. He recommended that we keep Cisco on the Chinese herb and see what happened. The herbs seemed to stop the bleeding and Cisco didn’t have any liquid in his body when we went back to check. After a year, we took Cisco off those herbs when he had a couple of seizures, and stopping them seemed to resolve that problem.
Its been about 17 months since Cisco had his reprieve, and we have had real quality time. When I come home, he was usually waiting at the top of the stairs when I opened the door. When I watched TV, he laid next to me to get his back scratched or his ears rubbed, tasks I performed willingly, and I hope satisfactorily. During this time many of my friends, knowing about the close call he had, asked about Cisco in a cautious manner, fearful of bad news. I don’t want them to have to keep worrying about that.
Last week, after returning from speaking in New Orleans, Boston, and Scranton, Cisco came back from the dog-sitter ( a family of friends that has watched our dogs as long as we have had them) with a limp. Since he’s 10 1/2 and he tends to play hard with their dogs, I hoped that he would be ok with a little rest. Instead he seemed to get worse. On Friday he was taken to the Vet and they found that his bone density was different in that leg than his other legs, and a concern about Bone cancer was raised. Yesterday Cisco went back to University of Pennsylvania and they determined that he has an aggressive and malignant cancer which is causing him pain. If I were to have his leg amputated, and he was treated with chemotherapy, he could possible extend his life by maybe 6 months. I can’t be that cruel or selfish. I know that though I am still not happy to lose Cisco, I am emotionally more prepared than I was 17 months ago, and I am willing to undergo sorrow to forgo his going through any more pain.
So today I said Good Bye to Cisco. I can’t ever thank him enough for what he has added to my life, or what he has meant to me. I’m not clear about what I think will happen when he passes, but I’m choosing to believe that he will be with Sheila and our other dogs Pepper and Patches. In my mind and heart they are playing like puppies, making Sheila laugh and sharing the special love that bonds dogs and their human families.
Thank you all for your love and your concern.