Updated: Jan 25
In October of 2009, I decided to take a trip to Maine with Jezzie and my dad. My aunt lived near the ocean at the time so we stayed with her for a couple nights. We went to the beach and we hiked Mount Agamenticus. My aunt’s friend video taped the trip and we all took lots of pictures. It was such a fun visit. Thinking back on it now, it seems like we chose to do that at the perfect time.
A few weeks after that trip, I brought Jezzie to meet an agility instructor and to see if she could take part in an agility class. I thought it’d be fun to get her out doing something, and she was quite smart, eager to please, active, and agile (sometimes), plus I had always wanted to do agility. When I was younger, I used to set up hula hoops and cones in the yard for Scruffy and Luke, and pretended we were doing agility and that they were show dogs. Jezzie and I did our best prancing around and doing commands to show the instructor she had what it took to join the class, without taking the required classes prior to it. The teacher allowed it. I told her I would get back to her to let her know if we would attend.
However, before I could sign her up for the class, Jezzie began limping. At first we thought it was because she fell getting out of my dad’s car one day (one of her “Grace” moments), and then ran around the front yard with Luke and Tulah, and may have hurt herself. I think it was the first week of November that I called our regular vet clinic to set up an appointment. One of the vet techs there suggested we go to their partner clinic. She figured we’d probably have to get some X-rays done, and our regular clinic didn’t have an X-ray machine.
So Jezzie and I headed out that afternoon and my mom met us there. While waiting in the lobby, Jezzie wouldn’t put weight on her foot, and I remember being horrified when I heard the receptionist say, “It almost looks broken.” We went into the exam room and the vet came in and attempted to touch Jezzie’s leg. She started whining as soon as the vet poked her shoulder, which was just Jezzie being her typical hound drama queen self. In order to centralize where the pain was, they had to muzzle her. Once she was muzzled, she only showed the pain when the vet touched her wrist area, which was clearly swollen. Then she was taken away to get X-rayed.
When the vet returned, she put the X-rays up on the back-lit screen and my mom and I went over to see what was going on. It was a relief to know it wasn’t broken, but we could definitely see that it was swollen. The vet said Jezzie had a bruised soft tissue injury around her wrist, and she prescribed Rimadyl for pain. I was filled with relief that it was something so minor.
Within a day, Jezzie was walking on her leg again. We still had a strict leash-walking only rule, which was killing both her and me. No daycare, no running, no going out back in the fenced yard, no running around the giant dirt pile, and no walks. I was supposed to go to my boyfriend’s and since she seemed to be doing better, I did end up boarding her for the night at my work, making sure everyone knew to leash walk her and not socialize her. Later in the week, I even put her in daycare on a calm day with not many dogs. That was her last time in daycare.
After her medication ran out, she started limping again. I drove down to the vet quickly before they closed so I could get a refill of her medicine. They gave me more meds and I assumed she’d be fine.
By mid-November, she started limping again, while still on the meds. I stopped into the vet clinic to get more meds on my way to my college classes, and told the vet tech what was happening. She went in the back and talked to one of the veterinarians. The vet said again that she probably hurt her leg by over-extending the leg, which was why it was taking so long to heal. I made an appointment for the following week.
On November 24th, we met with that same vet. Jezzie was still taking the Rimadyl. The vet moved her leg all around, and said that Jezzie didn’t seem to be in pain. She even said we could start cutting back the dosage to once a day. She also drew blood to check Jezzie’s liver. I mentioned to her that Jezzie had been having diarrhea the past couple of days, so she gave me a probiotic to put on Jezzie’s food to help.
I left for class that night, giving instructions to my parents on what to give Jezzie with dinner. When I got home from class, they told me that they had given her her food and meds, and about two hours later, she threw it all up. We weren’t sure what that was about, but declared it as not an emergency. I decided to leave Jezzie at home the next day while I worked. My mom stopped into the vet clinic Wednesday morning and asked about the diarrhea and throwing up, since the clinic was about to be closed for Thanksgiving and the weekend. A different vet was not concerned.
When I got home from work on Wednesday, my dad said that Jezzie and Tyson (the Puggle puppy my parents got in September) had been with him in the office all day doing nothing, which was extremely odd for the two of them – previously, they had been absolutely insane together. I brought Jezzie right outside and on the way back in, she vomited tons of water all over the steps and rugs in the garage. I ran back outside with her, where she continued to vomit liquid. After I threw the rugs outside (where they then hung on the fence for a very long time), I went back inside, changed, my mom came home, and my boyfriend came over. We were all in the kitchen and I think my mom had started dinner, and Jezzie was just laying under the table. She wouldn't eat her dinner, which was extremely abnormal. She wouldn’t even eat the chicken we tried to give her. My dad and I kept putting off the vet emergency call.
But all of a sudden, I started noticing Jezzie’s face was looking odd. Her head and face started getting these little bumps all over, which looked like some kind of allergic reaction. It was the strangest thing. That’s when my mom got on the phone. The on-call vet was a new clinic that had recently opened. While my mom was speaking with the on-call vet, the bumps continued to get worse and I got more worried. Now we had reached emergency stage. So we hopped in the car, my boyfriend went home, and off we went to the vet.
Once inside the vet clinic, we were shuffled into an exam room. Jezzie laid right down as we waited, which was also unusual for her. When the vet came in the room, we went over some basic stuff and brought her up to speed on what was going on. She looked at Jezzie laying on the floor quietly and asked, “So this isn’t normal for her?” and all three of us said “No.” The vet and tech drew blood and took Jezzie out for a stool sample. They came back with what they thought had been a urine sample, but was actually stool with blood in it. The blood test also showed an extremely high level of sugar, to the point where the vet thought Jezzie was diabetic.
The vet then explained to us that Jezzie was so dehydrated she was almost septic. At that point, I think we all thought we were going to lose her then. The vet said she was going to keep her overnight and give her fluids to get her hydrated again, and she’d let us know the next day - Thanksgiving.
I remember Thanksgiving being a fairly normal day. We told the whole story to the rest of the family. After dinner, we watched the video that my aunt’s friend had recorded of all of us in Maine. I remember my aunt saying, “Is this hard for you?” And I said no, very casually, almost laughing. I was thinking to myself, “Why would it be hard? She’s going to be fine.”
The vet had wanted to keep Jezzie one more night, so on Friday, she called to say we could pick Jezzie up, but since she’d been off her pain medication, she had started limping again. I was so excited to go get her. I remember writing on my Facebook, “Jezzie comes home today!” and sharing the good news with everyone at work. My mom and I went to get her. First they brought out a bag of special food, as well as Metronidazol for the diarrhea, and lots of instructions. And then they brought out Jezzie. I squatted down by the counter, and she limped over and fell into me. She was whining and wagging her tail and so excited to see me. We then went to the other clinic to retrieve the X-rays and drop them back off at the new vet for a second look. And then back home we went, blissfully ignorant.
The Thing I Never Expected
The rest of the day was spent on the couch. My boyfriend and I watched the movie Up, which I will forever associate with that day, and Jezzie slept on her bed next to us. I still had to take her outside often, since she had so many fluids at the vet. As the night went on, her limping got worse. Eventually later that night, she wouldn’t put any weight on her foot.
Saturday morning, November 28th, I was woken up by my mom yelling up the stairs, “Haley, get up! We’re going to to the vet!” Still half asleep, I jumped out of bed, threw on my glasses and some clothes. My mom had called the new vet to see if it was normal for Jezzie to not be walking on her foot at all. The vet said to bring her in right away.
The new vet pulled up the original X-rays from the other clinic. Looking at the same exact X-rays, she instantly saw something was off. Within the swollen area that the other vet said was a soft tissue injury was a tiny blackened area. The vet thought that was abnormal. She decided to take more X-rays of the hurt leg, along with Jezzie’s other leg for comparison.
When the vet came back, something was wrong. She put up the new X-rays and there it was - the blackened area had grown, and there was no black spot on her good leg. It was obviously not getting better, and was obviously not just a soft tissue injury. She threw around the idea of some fungus that Southern dogs could get, but said it would be odd for it to show up a year and a half later. And then she said maybe it was bone cancer. It’s funny because even when she said that, I still didn’t think it was.
She said that she had an oncologist friend who she was going to e-mail the X-rays to, to get yet another opinion on them. She prescribed Tramadol and we made a follow up for the coming Tuesday.
The rest of the weekend, we did what the vet told us not to do - we looked all over the internet. My mom kept saying things like, “I think you’re going to have some tough decisions to make.” I kept ignoring her. Although I was doing my own research, and reading the same things she was, I didn’t want to talk about it. Or think about it. I said, “There’s no use in worrying about it until I know for sure.” And to be honest, I really didn’t worry about it much. I must have been in some weird stage of denial because I thought there was hope.
Monday came around and I got the phone call from the vet. The oncologist and a radiologist that also saw the X-rays confirmed that it was bone cancer. My heart sank. We said see you tomorrow and hung up the phone. I went downstairs to where my parents were - where my mom was getting ready to go to my Great Uncle’s calling hours. I stood at the bottom of the stairs and told them, and then I went back upstairs and laid on my bed and cried. But despite how bad I felt, and despite how much I just wanted to stay home in bed and cry and give up on the world, I got dressed up in nice clothes and went to the calling hours. I went to the calling hours where I had to face my aunts, uncle, and grandmother, who I knew my mom had already updated, and who I knew would say something to me. I didn’t want anyone to ask how I was, or if I was okay. They didn’t say much to me though; they just looked at me, and it was all over their faces.