July 15th, 2006

Saturday. Today I had to tell a client his fifteen-year-old mixed breed dog, Rex, has malignant melanoma, a deadly cancer (of the skin and lymph nodes, in this case, though it can affect multiple organs throughout the body).

You`d might think this is going to be another depressing post but it’s not. This client, one half of a dog-devoted couple, took the news with emotion, but with an expression of purpose. His expressed goal was to make the end of his dog`s life as wonderful as possible.

Because it appears this cancer has already spread from the skin to the nearby lymph node, and because Rex has severe arthritis as well (he`s a large breed 15-year-old, after all), this owner has chosen not to pursue more extensive diagnostics or definitive treatment for the cancer. He just wants Rex to be happy.

Although obviously shaken (and audibly tearful) Rex`s owner talked about how wonderful Rex had been to him and his wife, how excellent a companion and devoted a friend he had been to them. He thanked me for all my efforts and agreed to follow-up with frequent chest X-rays and weekly follow-ups to monitor his disease. Above all, Rex`s owners want to make sure he never suffers. When the time comes, they`ve asked me to euthanize him at home. Of course I will.

This is everything any pet could ask of his owners, and from my point of view, everything a vet could ask of a client. It`s been a good Saturday.