Friday, November 20, 2009


We found out today that our dog Penny has cancer. Everybody says that their dog is the most amazing dog. Obviously I'm biased, but Penny is truly extraordinary. After growing up with cats, Penny was my first dog and our first "child". She is eight years old --- the same number of years that Judy & I have been married. In fact, we celebrate Penny's birthday on our anniversary (September 8, 2001).

Her symptoms were very vague, but very telling. She started moving slower about a month ago. She's been less enthusiastic at times, but then her same old self at others. Last weekend, Judy noticed a strange black speck in her right eye. Then yesterday we noticed a lump on her left hamstring. Penny still eats very well --- in fact, that'll the best sign for when it will be time to perform euthanasia. When that dog won't eat, there is definitely something wrong. About two weeks ago I noticed a soft cough. Since P goes to the office with me all the time, I just assumed that it was kennel cough. But deep down, I knew better.

Penny is a Boxer-mix. Boxers are one of my absolute favorite breeds, but their Achilles heal is a penchant for cancer. I educate all of my Boxer clients: "If there is any new lump, I need to know about it right away." Well, I heeded my own advice, but the problem is, there are already tumors all over her lungs. The x-rays of her chest today show the evidence in gray-and-white. Little splotchy bumps surrounding her tracheal bifurcation. So just like that, cancer strikes again in our family.

Judy's father, Curly (Poppy to the boys), passed away last summer in eerily similar fashion. He was treated several times in Spring of 2008 for pneumonia and bronchitis. When he started coughing up blood, doctors became concerned. By the time they found the tumor in his lungs, there were also tumors in his kidneys, spine, and brain. Metastatic cancer. Judy said the words that sum it up best, "I hate cancer."

Judy is really worried about how Tommy will take the news. The loss of Poppy last summer, combined with the pet losses of our cat Yeager, my parents' two cats, and Judy's dog Lexy, make for a lot of death in a year's time. I told Judy that death is a natural part of life. It must be viewed as a beginning rather than an ending. Penny will not suffer. When she cannot get up, or refuses to eat, or can't stop coughing, I will not prolong her illness for my selfishness. She will pass away smoothly and peacefully into the great beyond. Her soul will touch mine again someday.

I know the boys will understand this and pray for Penny. They will laugh about silly things she's done and enjoy pictures of her licking their baby faces. But we will miss her dearly. And I just have to find a way to heed my own professional advice and "sage" wisdom. I hope I'm right.

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