Trust your instincts
When we first created dogdoggiedog.com, Tip 9 discussed the fact that your dog's appearance may change during chemo. We've incorporated that information in Tip 8, because we want to discuss something much more fundamental here: how important it is to follow your instincts about your dog. By "your instincts", we mean the intuitive sense -- that blend of feeling, knowledge, and understanding -- of your dog that arises out of the human-canine bond and that only you have about your dog. This intuitive knowledge is the third critical component. Always use it, together with the factual information about your dog's condition, and your hope and determination to do what's best for your dog.
Even though Berry had been with us only 3 months, we sensed something was wrong when he was first diagnosed in February 2000. The signs were small and ambiguous because he was still new to us, but there for us to read them. During his three-plus years of treatment, we gave every pill, and kept every appointment, because we knew Berry's life depended on it. But we also knew in our hearts when he was doing well -- he was active, strong, and joyous.
When a small lump appeared on Berry's elbow in May 2003, I took him in. He had still been in remission at his Oncology visit in April and his next follow-up was not scheduled until July. But the lump was worrisome -- as were other small changes like letting Otto take the lead on our morning walk and lying down on the floor when we volunteered at the nursing home instead of standing to be petted. My suspicions were confirmed: Berry's lymphoma was out of remission, and the lump was a spindle cell tumor. We started new chemo knowing that this summer might be his last.
Over the summer, it was difficult to determine what of Berry's behavior might be a chemo side effect, and what disease progression, but by September, when we consulted those same intuitive resources, we knew in our hearts that Berry was in his final weeks of life. Even though VHUP's clinical information was positive (his lymphoma was in remission), we could feel Berry withdrawing from his home life. Within two weeks, VHUP tests confirmed he was rapidly losing ground, and while the cause was unknown, it was not his lymphoma. VHUp's information was helpful, but not essential. Once we had let ourselves understand and experience our intuitive knowledge, our path was clearly marked: it was time to prepare to say good-bye.