Monday morning, our dog Arran, whom we’ve counted as a family member since January 2013, had surgery on his left hind leg. A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a red bump there as Arran was headed outside for his evening whiz. Having already dealt with mast cell tumors in Arran and our late beagle, Zane, I had a feeling a new MCT had showed its ugly head. I told Bill about it when he came home from work. The next day, he called our vets in the neighboring industrial park in Wallau and told them that Arran had a tumor. They were good enough to fit him in for an aspiration that morning.
A week later, we went back to the vet’s office for the results of the aspirate, as well as basic bloodwork for our new dog, Kosovar street dog, Noyzi. The vet confirmed what we’d feared. After five and a half years with no new mast cell tumors, Arran had another one. It was in the skin, rather than under it, and she didn’t detect any swollen lymph nodes. She scheduled him for surgery a few days later. Meanwhile, Noyzi had three vials of blood taken, as well as a sample for a DNA test.
Monday morning, Bill planned to take Arran in at 10:00am. That was what was written on the appointment slip the receptionist gave him last week. Unfortunately, the receptionist got the time wrong. He was supposed to go in at 9:00am. So poor Arran had to starve for a couple more hours before he got in to have the tumor removed. I had noticed it shrinking last week to almost nothing, but by Monday morning, it had blown up again. Mast cell tumors notably do this— they’ll shrink to nothing, then swell up a lot when they’re bothered. That’s one of the telltale signs. The tumors put out histamine, which causes the inflammation and itching that comes with these types of growths.
Because mast cell tumors are typically more invasive then they appear, and will sometimes come back with a vengeance if the margins aren’t good, the vet made a very large incision on Arran’s leg. She was a lot more aggressive than our old vet in Herrenberg was. I have noticed the vets up near Wiesbaden seem to be a bit more aggressive and up to date than the ones in the Stuttgart area are. I loved our Herrenberg vet, though. She just had a more conservative approach to surgery.
Arran has been wearing the dreaded cone of shame all week. He’s been surprisingly well-behaved and calm about it. We did finally put a “Comfy Cone” on him yesterday. I had bought one for Zane a few years ago, but misplaced it in the move. The Comfy Cone is less rigid than the traditional hard plastic Elizabethan Collar is and it makes less noise. But it’s not made of transparent plastic, so it’s harder for Arran to see or hear with it on. We took it off last night, and he behaved pretty well, but we put it back on this morning after he started licking his stitches. Poor guy. This is probably driving him crazy.
We should get the results of the biopsy next week… and maybe Noyzi’s DNA test results will be in, too. Noyzi was given a clean bill of health, which is a good thing. I hope Arran’s tumor was a low grade one. I hate canine cancer, and it wasn’t so long ago that we were dealing with it in Zane. But I guess whatever’s to be will be. As dog cancers go, I don’t think mast cell tumors are that horrible. At least they can be treated and often cured by surgery. But I still hate canine cancers… and mast cell cancer sometimes turns into lymphoma, which is what happened with Zane after three years of MCTs.
In case anyone is wondering, the total cost of the operation and everything that came with it was about 590 euros, or around $700. Right now, the dollar is taking a beating against the euro. Still, this would have been a lot more expensive in many parts of the United States. We can also use a VAT form, which exempts us from paying German taxes on the procedure. At 19%, that’s a very good thing.
Sorry for not writing much on my travel blog lately. If you know me personally or have been following my main blog, you might know that the last week has been unexpectedly sad for us. I haven’t really been doing anything fun that I can write about. I’ve been too busy tending to one of the less pleasant aspects of life. We’ve been living in Germany this time since 2014. I knew we’d lose at least one of our dogs during our time here. I wondered if it would be like it is in the States. Yesterday, I found out.
Last Saturday, our beloved beagle Zane was unofficially diagnosed with lymphoma. At the time of his diagnosis, he had swollen lymph nodes under his jaw and behind his knees. Since Zane had also had mast cell cancer since 2016, the vet was pretty sure lymphoma was causing the swollen nodes, lethargy, and mild anorexia Zane was experiencing. Our local vet recommended getting him an appointment at the oncology department at the Tierklinik Hofheim.
I first heard of the Tierklinik Hofheim from our vet in Herrenberg, who had taken care of Zane and Arran when we lived near Stuttgart. She had told me it’s one of the best vet hospitals in Germany. At the time, we lived several hours away from it. Now, it’s a fifteen minute drive.
The local vet decided not to start Zane on steroids, since she wasn’t absolutely sure he had cancer. She just strongly suspected. Bill tried to get an appointment for Zane, but they are fully booked until September 20th. By Monday night, I knew that would be too late. Zane’s nodes were swelling so much that he could barely open his eyes. Bill took him to the Tierklinik Hofheim’s emergency department, where a vet aspirated his lymph nodes and the lymphoma diagnosis was official.
We started him on Prednisolone, which is supposedly easier on the liver than Prednisone is. He tolerated it well and enjoyed a couple of good days. I took many pictures, including a few in which he looks pretty normal. He ate lots of people food, enjoyed the warm, sunny days, and slept a lot. We even managed to take a couple of walks. Wednesday and Thursday, he went his regular route. I knew his time was borrowed, but I thought maybe he might make it to September. Yesterday morning, I realized it wasn’t meant to be.
Zane woke up so weak yesterday. He could barely stand. He’d get his haunches up, but his front half was stuck to the floor because he was too exhausted to get into a standing position. He managed to eat and do his business outside, but his bowel movements were dark and a bit bloody. He also had one accident in the house, although he was kind enough to do it on some tile flooring. Zane was extremely well house-trained and hadn’t had an accident in many years.
And then I noticed his belly. Part of it was distended. He resembled a lactating female, as part of it hung down like a teat. We had to wait until 9:00am to call the vet’s office. One other nice thing about being up here near Wiesbaden is that our vet regularly offers Saturday hours. In Herrenberg, different vets were on call.
Fortunately, the same vet who saw him last week answered the phone. Bill explained what was going on, and told her that we felt it was time to let Zane go. She scheduled our euthanasia appointment for noon, then asked Bill questions about what we wanted done with Zane’s remains. Since we move so frequently, when our dogs have died, we’ve always just had them cremated and don’t pick up their ashes. The ashes don’t mean anything to me. What matters to me is the special memories and the great love we shared.
After breakfast, which ordinarily Zane would have shared with us, he went to the front door. Bill said, “He’s expecting us to take him for a walk.” I doubt Zane would have made it very far, but he was a very routine oriented hound. He wanted us to get up and go to bed on a schedule, feed him and walk him at certain times of the day, and give him time in the yard. If something wasn’t done routinely, he would protest, usually in the form of soft whining.
Since he was so weak and exhausted, we spent a couple of hours with Zane out in the yard. He’s always loved sunning himself, and we had great weather for it yesterday. At one point, just before we clipped the leash on him, Bill looked at Zane in the eyes and told him how much he loved him.
We arrived at the clinic at about 11:45. I helped Zane out of the car and he gave a little yelp. It was the first yelp I’ve heard out of him since this ordeal began. In contrast, his predecessors, Flea and MacGregor, also died of cancers and theirs were much more painful. I’m grateful Zane’s last days were full of exhaustion and weakness rather than agony and excruciating pain. As cancer deaths go… at least in Zane’s case… canine lymphoma wasn’t so horrible. I would definitely take it over the prostate cancer that killed Flea, or the spinal tumor that killed MacGregor.
Zane greeted the vet with a sniff and a slight tail wag. Then we walked into the exam room. Zane got halfway on the scale, which amused me slightly. He was always such a good boy. Bill lifted him onto the table, since the exam room didn’t have the kind that raise electronically. The vet checked Zane over and drew blood, noting that it was kind of “watery”. She saw his belly and said she thought his spleen might have ruptured. It was good that we brought him in yesterday, because the vet felt he wouldn’t have survived the night. He likely would have gone into shock within hours.
I let Zane lick liverwurst flavored paste from a tube while the vet explained what she was going to do. She didn’t really have to, since we’ve been through this a few times. In fact, my first job was working for a veterinary hospital. I witnessed dogs being put down as part of that job.
Our last three dogs were euthanized in the United States. All three of the American vets sedated our dogs before giving them the shot that would end their lives. The German vet did not do that, but it also didn’t seem necessary in Zane’s case. I also noticed that the medicine she used was clear, rather than pink. I read somewhere that in the United States, euthanasia meds are colored pink so that they’re less likely to be given by mistake.
Bill put his arms around Zane and felt his heart. He does this whenever we lose a dog, so he knows when they are free of pain and sickness. I stroked Zane’s head as the vet administered the medication. It was over in seconds, and very peaceful.
I am so grateful to Dr. Glenn. She was very kind and compassionate. She chatted with us for a few minutes about Zane and we told her a brief version of his story. She gave me a big, sincere hug, and even shed a couple of tears herself, even though she really didn’t get a chance to know Zane like our old vet in Herrenberg, Dr. Schube, did. I’m grateful we didn’t have to ask Dr. Schube to end Zane’s life. They had a bond. Much like his predecessor, Flea, Zane was very much a canine ambassador. He never met a stranger.
Dr. Glenn told us they would send us the bill and we were welcome to spend as much time as we needed. Bill and I stayed with Zane’s body for about ten minutes, then went home to Arran, who seemed confused and upset about being left home alone. He brought us a toy and ran around the house frantically, until he finally settled down and hung out with us all day. He seems little unnerved about being the only dog now, although I could tell he knew that Zane wasn’t feeling well.
We usually get another dog soon after we lose one. I think this time, we’ll hold off on it for awhile. Arran is himself about nine or ten years old. He’s still vital and likes to play, but he doesn’t share well. He gets jealous and picks fights. I’ve also heard that Germans don’t like to let Americans adopt, thanks to the jerks in the military who dump their dogs rather than taking them with them. We’ll see what happens.
It seems to me that our dogs that have passed have inspired me to find new ones… In a lot of cases, it’s almost as if that dog was sent to us by his predecessor. When we got Arran after we lost our dog, MacGregor, we noticed he did some things that were very much like MacGregor. It was like MacGregor was sending us a sign. The same thing happened with Zane and his predecessor, Flea, although Zane and Flea had totally different personalities. As Zane got older, I’d swear I’d see glimpses of Flea coming out in him. I know it sounds like a lot of woo and it probably is… but it’s a comforting thought, just like the Rainbow Bridge story is.
Anyway… now I know. German style euthanasia is much like American style euthanasia. It sucks either way… although I’m grateful for a lot of things that made yesterday go better. Ultimately, I’m grateful that our sweet dog is no longer suffering and that we had each other for almost ten years. Although all of my dogs have been special in their own ways, I think Zane’s imprint on my heart is the most indelible. The next days are going to be hard as we adjust to life with Zane’s leadership. He kept everything on a schedule.
Edited to add: On September 13, we received the final bill for Zane’s euthanasia. In all, it cost about 230 euros for the procedure and cremation. We also received a “death certificate”, which I thought was kind of odd. However, the certificate listed Arran as the deceased dog, so we’ll have to get that corrected.I have really been missing Zane a lot. He meant so much to me… and for many reasons, his death has hit me particularly hard.