This past Tuesday, I arrived at the specialist’s hospital with my little Vincent in tow, hoping to secure a fit-in appointment for the following day (which I managed, as you may already know). As a referring vet, I’m granted the privilege of standing in the treatment/ICU area while I wait. When I do this (often), I thoroughly enjoy reading the cage cards and treatment schedules. It gives me a heads up on new drugs I should be considering and fun procedures I’d never dreamed would be undertaken outside a University setting.

But on that day, I couldn’t help staring at one particular cage card in disbelief: “intracranial mass—surgery 11 AM.” The designated dog, an older black Lab, stared placidly out at me. She was apparently taking the news in stride, despite the CT image of her large brain tumor plainly visible from her in-kennel perch.

Wow! They’re going to take THAT out of her skull today! Someone’s got b----!

Of course, that someone turned out to be none other than my significant other. He hadn’t thought it sufficiently exciting to mention he’d be doing brain surgery that morning—so much for pillow talk.

When queried, he described this case as one where increasingly frequent, debilitating seizures had finally led the Lab’s owners to conclude that she would either be surgically attended to…or summarily euthanized.

He’d done his share of these brain tumor cases—though none since I’d met him—and described them as “easy compared to removing anal glands.” (He hates anal gland surgery, a deceptively difficult area to work in.) Still, I was impressed by his matter-of-factness. It’s brain surgery!

Perhaps I’m more awed by these situations than most. About ten years ago, my beloved Boxer, Bruno, had suffered the same variety of brain tumor-related seizures. One horrible middle-of-the-night found me euthanizing him—in spite of his normalcy between seizures. It was all I thought I could do for him.

But here, not even a decade later, sits this dog, ready to undergo what I couldn’t do for my boy.

A few hours later, brain tumor successfully extracted, this Lab was sniffing the grass behind the hospital, still clueless and comfortable—if slightly dopey. But no seizures. Less than forty-eight hours later she was resting comfortably at home. Still no seizures. Apart from the embarrassing bald headedness, she had left the hospital in perfectly Lab-like spirits. Saved.

I don’t know why but I get so misty-eyed over these cases—far more so when they’re not my own. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the stress of watching over them like a buzzard looking for road kill—expecting the worst, hoping for the best, wondering which disaster could next befall my patient. As a fly on the wall, it’s infinitely more possible to revel veterinary medicine’s successes.

Hence the way my S.O. plays off his triumph: “Give me a brain tumor over a large breed dog spay any day.” As a big dog spay hater I’d readily agree. Still, it’s not like it’s brain surgery…