Meet handsome Dino Duperier. We adopted him almost two years ago when he was eight years old. We had been without a dog for several years after Gunny and Bacchus died. By chance, I saw his picture on a rescue web site, went to meet him at his foster Mom’s house, and he stole my heart. We weren’t really looking for a dog – our hearts were still pretty broken – but he seemed perfect for us and he was a dog who needed to be loved and valued, and the truth is we needed to be loved and valued, too.
I must confess that I have wished some terrible things on the man who abused, neglected, and abandoned him. What kind of a monster leaves a dog tied to a fence sitting in the rain and walks off, leaving him to be found – or not found – by someone to save him? If you are Dino, how do you ever get over that? Being abandoned, alone and afraid? I don’t know that you ever do. I suppose you just go on.
I convinced myself over these past couple of years that Dino was healing from his past. He lost a much needed 40 pounds. His coat shines. He smiles at everyone. He barks when he is happy or when he wants to play. And after many months with us, he started playing with toys and dancing around the room, play-growling and asking to play tug.
He may very well be the nicest dog I have ever met. Which, since I have worked with over 500 dogs during my years running Gunny’s Rainbow dog swimming pool, is really saying something! Gunny was magnificent and my forever great love. And he was always nice! He was also wilfull and opinionated, and not very “dog like”, and that made for a fairly tumultuous relationship at times, which I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Dino is just easy. All the time. And he is grateful. Grateful to finally have a forever home and to be loved every day, all day. I don’t know if he thinks about the future the way Gunny did. Dino is more of a typical dog who is always “in the moment”. And if the moment is good, then life is good.
Unfortunately, I recently have had to accept that the scars of his past are determining his future and that he is not as “well” as I had believed him to be. Since April, he has had a stroke, been very ill with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever contracted from a tick, had thyroid cancer, and now has melanoma. It is fair to say that his immune system is broken. And there is no doubt in my mind that it is broken from living under so much stress for so long, being neglected and abused. All my wishful thinking cannot undo his past and the physical toll that it has taken on him.
So I have agonized over what to do and what not to do in terms of treatment. Where do you draw the line on medical intervention with a dog like this? He doesn’t want to spend his life going to the vet. He doesn’t want to have surgery after surgery. He just wants to be happy. I, of course, want that for him, too. I just want it for a long time. I want him to have years of being loved to outweigh the “bad years”.
But I am not sure every day of life is “equal”. Perhaps just one week of being loved and valued outweighs years of the opposite. Or, perhaps 10 years of being loved cannot make up for 1 month of being discarded and unloved. How can I know? I don’t know how to do the math.
So I am faced with what to do and how to treat this beautiful soul who is in my care. I have cried and screamed and cursed and fretted and made myself crazy. But in the end, I must choose for him – somehow trying to figure out what he would want for himself given all that has been.
He is going to have surgery tomorrow to cut out a piece of his lip where the melanoma growth is. There is a second lesion on the roof of his mouth that we will remove and send to the lab, but we all fear it is more melanoma. And that cancer does not have a happy prognosis in dogs. But I am not going to cut into his bone and put him through a huge invasive surgery on top of all that he has survived. I just can’t.
I know that so many of you have been here – having to make life or death decisions for your dog. Asking yourself and your vet what is right for THIS dog in THIS moment.
I invite you to come with us on our journey in the coming days, weeks, and hopefully months and years. I have decided to write about it because I don’t want to go on this journey alone. Because I know that many of you have experienced similar things and I want to hear from you and learn from you. And because I think that I should share what I have learned given all the medical misfortune that has befallen my dogs. May be it can help one of you one day if you face a similar situation, just as you can help me.
I hope that you will join Team Dino and follow our story as the days unfold. He deserves a team of love and support to help him. Perhaps THAT will help to make up for being left alone in the rain, helpless, wondering what was going to happen to him next. It certainly can’t hurt. Please keep a good thought for him.