Alex Has Gone into the West.
I know. We were just celebrating his biopsy results coming back negative for any cancerous cells. And the second opinion confirmed that.
Yesterday morning, when we woke up, Alex was a little under the weather. But he has never been a morning person, and he had played hard with Bobby the night before, so we chalked it up to him being a little worn out. But when we came home from work, he was very obviously lethargic, and when we checked his gums, they were gray, suggesting that he was bleeding again inside. (He had gotten his color back to the extent that even his grandparents commented on how pink his tongue was when he was panting at Mackey's last week!) His breathing was also a little labored, and he was using his abdominal muscles to draw breath.
We took him to the Pet ER, and the vet, suspecting that one of the lesions on his liver was hemorrhaging like his spleen had hemorrhaged, recommended an ultrasound. She found no free fluid in his belly, but on a hunch, took a look at his heart, and his pericardium was full of fluid. She explained that she was 95% certain that he had a hemangiosarcoma on his pericardium that had ruptured and was filling his pericardium with blood. The biopsy likely came back negative because the tissue in his spleen had deteriorated so badly that even the cancerous cells weren't able to live in it anymore. Basically, his whole body was riddled with cancer.
There is nothing--NOTHING--that can be done for hemangiosarcoma on the heart. There is no medical or surgical solution to prolong his life. Since he was hemorrhaging into his pericardium, his time was very limited, and as she explained, could quickly deteriorate to where he died badly during the night. (I asked if we could take him home for one last night and have Dr. Baker do his euthanasia the next day, but she said that there was a significant risk that he would deteriorate rapidly in just a few hours.) And we did see him deteriorate even in the two hours we were at the vet with him.
My parents were in Atlantic City, but my inlaws, Amiah, and Erin came to the ER, and he was so happy to see them. He lifted his head and wagged his tail each time, and he even stood up for his Aunt Erin. You could almost see in his face the surprised delight that everyone came unexpected to see him! So he was peaceful and happy when the time came. (Which is why I didn't want to euthanize him at the ER if we could avoid it, because he understandably hates it there, and I didn't want him to be distressed when he died.) We surrounded him for about a half-hour and petted him and laughed over our memories of him and how he used to walk Grandmom around the apartment complex when we lived in Ellicott City and try to eat napkins that he found on the ground and pull pieces off the Christmas tree, and all the other stuff he used to do that made him Alex.
This is really hard. I have loved and lost pets before, but I have never loved a pet like I loved Alex, and I don't know if I will again. He was not a typical Golden. He was very intelligent and willful, and he did things on his terms. I always felt like he and I were cut from the same cloth, like we were truly Wallses in our manners and personalities. There was always friction between us because he would intentionally do things to irritate me for attention (I definitely irritated him too, since I would tickle his ears and feet), or I would want him to do something one way, and he had to do it on his terms, but I understood and connected to him like I never have before with a pet. Three weeks ago, when he went in for his spleen, I began to prepare for this possibility, but now that it's come, I still find myself surprised by the spaces in my life where he should have been, where I never thought to miss him and now find him gone.
We are so grateful for the time we had with him. A lot of pets with hemangiosarcoma die so suddenly that their people come home to find them dead. Or the situation could have been reversed, and the tumor on his heart might have ruptured first, and we would not have had the last three wonderful weeks with him, in which he seemed like a dog half his age, if only for a short while.
I am, as many know, getting ready to write my thesis in October. As those who work with me on fandom projects know, I am in the process of preparing those projects for my four months off. I feel like this is the moment when I am beginning to step back. I am probably not going to be around as much till my thesis is done. This does not mean that I am unavailable, and anyone who wants/needs to talk to me knows where to find me, and I am happy to hear from people, just not sure I'm quite up to being my usual hyper-energized self right now, at least socially. I hope you all know how much you mean to me and that my silence is not from lack of care or interest but because I'm coming up on an intense part of my life, and I feel very frail right now.
Alex is still at the ER. We have decided to bury him at home, so we are waiting to hear from Miss Utility so that we can choose a site and begin to dig, and the clinic will hold his body until then. He will be well provided with grave goods, and we are going to have a wake to celebrate his life. Anyone who lives in the area will be invited. I will post here when I have a date.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!