This year has started off in just about the worst way possible for me. In the middle of last week, we found out our beloved Golden Retriever “Mickey” has a cancer called Hemangiosarcoma, more often referred to as HSA. In his case it is a tumor on his heart. Last Tuesday, Mickey was acting a little sluggish after breakfast. Usually this is the time of the day when he and our other dog “Janey” are their most active. For whatever reason, “Janey” goes wild after eating breakfast and she starts to run around the house and the yard, like someone left the gate open. On Tuesday, Mickey just laid down on the deck. My wife, Mary Beth found it a bit concerning and mentioned it to me. I kept an eye on him the rest of the day. He just laid around all day. Not at all normal for him. Around 5:30 I brought him to our local veterinarian, Ho-Ho-Kus Veterinary Hospital. “Mickey” had vomited a couple of times, mostly water. But it was concerning to me. The doctor took some preliminary blood tests and an x-ray and didn’t notice anything remarkable. They wanted him to stay there over night to receive fluids.
Now you need to understand “Mickey”. He is a huge baby. Not that he is not tough, but he is essentially a 95 pound lapdog. He has several rituals that he observes daily. One of them is that he barks and spins around when he sees the food bowls being put down on the floor as he is being fed. Not seeing that the first morning was a sign that something was going on. Another one of his daily routines is that he spends about 15 minutes on the end of our bed just before we all fall asleep. When he is ready to go to sleep, he moves over to the floor on my side of the bed. Where he remains for the night. Every morning around 6 he climbs on the bed and squeezes in between my wife and I. He just lays there and essentially wants to cuddle with us. He does this almost every single day. So to say “Mickey” is like a member of the family, really doesn’t do the relationship justice. His personality is bigger than life and not having him in our bedroom that first night felt weird.
About 11:00 the phone rang. Our vet called. He decided to stop back to check on “Mickey”, because he just wasn’t crazy about the way he looked when he left. He felt something was going on and that needed to go to Oradell Animal Hospital. Oradell Animal Hospital, is a larger hospital nearby, with round the clock care available. Mary Beth and I raced to get our clothes on and hurried to MIckey’s side.
When we got to our Vet’s office, “Mickey” was lying on the ground, very listless. He had an intravenous drip in his leg, but his color was almost white. Something clearly was not right. Our Vet and his girlfriend were definitely going above and beyond the call of duty to be there. Probably not the best date she ever had.
At OAH (Oradell Animal Hospital)we got a very young doctor. Oddly enough, almost all the doctors and technicians in the hospital were young women. I am not sure why men don’t want to go into the field. If you are a young guy and love animals and want to meet women, I highly recommend going to Veterinary college. Anyway, our doctor was a young woman, who quickly identified by an X-ray that Mickey had fluid around his heart. There are a couple of causes of this, but unfortunately one is HSA. Usually seen in very old dogs and “Mickey” is not even 6. Hopefully, there was another reason…less serious.
After a couple of hours we left, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. We got a call early the next morning from the Cardiologist at the hospital with the horrible diagnosis. Literally, he could pass away any moment. But our plan was to get him stable and get him back home. With a little luck, we can have him for a couple of months. But it could be a couple of days.
Those of you who don’t have dogs may not be able to relate. But a great dog is like a great best friend. Mickey is just such a dog. I grew up with dogs. My parents bred English Setters, Poodles and Bichon Frises. All good breeds and we had some good dogs. But, there is nothing like a Golden Retriever. Mickey, is also an extraordinary Golden. The technicians at the hospital and “Mickey’s” cardiologist fell in love with “Mick”. The doctor made a point of telling me his staff was paying way more attention to “Mickey” than they were to the other dogs in the ward. One of the technicians told us that “Mickey had a lot of girlfriends in the back”. He is that kind of dog. You are immediately drawn to him. Despite his size, his face and smile say, “come over here and play with me”. I realized when he was in the hospital for a couple of days, what a huge presence he is. He has a huge personality. He enters a room like Kramer. Things just light up when he arrives. It was just too quiet was he was gone. It will be very, very difficult, when he is gone for good.
Hearing this news was like being punched in the gut. My whole family is heartbroken. We have him back and we are enjoying having him for as long as we do. Yesterday morning he climbed up into bed with my wife and I. Remember he is 95 pounds, but as always he found a very gentle way to squeeze his way in between us. He seemed to linger a little longer than usual. He seems to strut around the backyard with just a little bit more resolute. He seems to be taking everything in, for just one last time..I realized when he was in the hospital for a couple of days, what a huge presence he is. He has a huge personality. He enters a room like Kramer. Things just light up when he arrives. It was just too quiet was he was gone. It will be very, very difficult, when he is gone for good.
As I said Goldens are special dogs. Unfortunately, they have been closely bred and the breed has issues with Cancer. Our breeder in particular seems to have a reputation for having their dogs die young. We had another dog from Gold Rush (our breeder) and he died of essentially the same disease. He was not old, almost 8…but who would have thought we could have such bad luck twice. Gold Rush dogs have phenomenal personalities and they are also very beautiful. I felt it was worth the chance. But as much as I love their dogs, I can never buy another dog from them. It is just too heartbreaking.
Again, if you are not a dog lover, it is probably impossible to relate to this. But, I work from home and I probably see my dogs more than I see anyone else. They are constant companions. They can’t talk (which is a good thing), but you definitely know what they are thinking. They make good days better and bad days tolerable. Unfortunately, dogs in general and these dogs in particular, live just long enough to break your heart. We love having him home for us, as long as we can. My wife is planning an Irish Wake for him, so all his human friends can come visit one more time. On Facebook, my profile picture is of Mickey and I. Mickey is the handsome one.