A few weeks ago I brought my dog Romeo for his routine wellness visit. Besides the vet informing me he could switch to “senior” dog food now that he was seven years old (what? My baby isn’t a senior!) it seemed uneventful. They did test a small cyst in his backside but I wasn’t worried
However, a few days later I received a call that the cyst came back as mast cell cancer. We would need to do a chest x-ray to check if any other tumors had developed and bloodwork to be sure he was healthy enough to undergo surgery to remove the cyst. Thankfully, all came back clear so he had surgery. A few days later we received the good news that they were able to remove all the cancer and he was bound to live a long and healthy life. Relief.
Less than a week after his surgery, I left to go pick up my two year old daughter Emmy from school. Even though I almost always remember to close the kitchen gate-to prevent Romeo from stealing food off the counter- for some reason I forgot to close the gate that day. I came back from getting my daughter to see an empty 16 oz bag of raisins empty and shredded on the floor.
Shit! Raisins are poisonous for dogs.
I called his vet immediately and they said to bring him in so they an induce vomiting. I thought that would be it, but they informed me they would have to keep him overnight on an IV to flush out his kidneys. They would do bloodwork in the morning to check his liver levels to be sure he was okay. I cried right then and there. Again? We had to leave our first baby out of our care where he was scared? My husband, Steve, and I were both very upset.
The following morning we decided to get out of the city and distract ourselves. Steve had been on the lookout for a new bigger car for our growing family and he found a good one in New Jersey. We made the drive out and test drove the car. We really liked it and decided to move forward buying it.
While waiting at the dealership I got a call from the vet informing me that Romeo was doing well. He ate a bit and went for a few walks. She suggested they keep him one more night as they wanted to monitor him for 36 hours. Another night? Well, that sucked but I wanted to be sure he would be okay so I agreed.
About two hours had passed since we arrived at the dealership and Emmy was getting antsy. Steve and I decided I would take her home, and he would stay at the dealership to finish up all the paperwork.
We had a birthday party to get to later that afternoon so my plan was the find a parking spot near our apartment, hang out at home for an hour or so, and then head over to Westchester for the party. When we arrived back in the city there were no spots to be found even after I circled for about twenty minutes. I double parked in front of our building and ran upstairs to grab the presents for the birthday girl, Emilia. We would just drive over to Westchester early and maybe stop for lunch.
In the meantime, I warned Steve my phone was dying. I’d charge it when I got to the party.
About twenty minutes into my drive with 10% battery left on my phone and no charger, I got another call from the vet.
“We have some alarming news. We ran bloodwork and while Romeo’s liver levels look normal, his red blood cells came back extremely low. We did an abdominal ultrasound and found a mass in his stomach has ruptured and he’s internally bleeding. He needs to be transported to another hospital as soon as possible for surgery.”
I made a quick exit off the parkway. At this point Emmy was screaming in the back seat. “I want to go to Emilia’s party!” I have no idea where I am and I get lost. I call Steve to tell him what’s happening as my phone battery dwindles to less and less power.
My mind immediately starts racing. I have 8% battery.
I need to get directions to get home first. Then I need to figure out which hospital to bring Romeo to and where it is. I have to coordinate with Steve who is stuck without a car at the dealership while all the paperwork goes through.
I call my dad who lives in the city. I tell him what’s happening and say we need help. I’ll need help with Emmy when we get to the hospital. He’s away for the weekend but says he will call my stepmom Leslie.
I get the name of the hospital. I call my dad to tell him. I call Steve to tell him. Emmy is screaming, guttural screams. No doubt reacting to my high anxiety and stress. She’s confused. “I want to go Emilia’s party! NOW! I want to go NOW!”
My dad calls. “Are they bringing Romeo to the hospital or are do you have to.” I begin to say “I need to pick him up and…”
My phone dies.
Now we are on our own.
I’m on track getting back into the city. At this point Emmy is completely unhinged and trying to climb out of her car seat. I try to get her back in from the front seat but have to keep driving.
In a state of complete anxiety and panic we eventually make it to the vet. I double park in front and grab Emmy out of her seat. She has ripped of her socks and shoes. “I need hugs mama. I need hugs.” she says. My sweet girl is confused and scared. I am
too. I’m trying to breathe. I walk into the vet panicked with a thirty pound shoeless toddler in my arms.
Did I mention I’m also 18 weeks pregnant?
I manage to calm Emmy down with hugs, explanation and swaying. I get the address of the hospital from the front desk worker and within a few minutes Romeo is brought down to us. We give him huge hugs and kisses and I tell him it’s time to get in the car and go to the hospital. I tell him he’s going to be okay.
In the back of the car I have the birthday present for Emilia, who is Emmy’s age. To get Emmy back into the car I tell her she can open the presents and we can play with them at the vet. This is probably one of the biggest blessings in the shit storm we are in. Thank God for those much needed distractions at that time.
We get to the animal hospital and my stepmom Leslie is standing right at the front desk. “Is this Romeo?” the man at the desk asks. I tell him yes and within seconds they are bringing him downstairs to take a look at him. I hug Leslie. Seeing her there waiting brings me the first feeling of comfort I’ve felt since I got the call. Leslie sits with Emmy, opens the presents and they play.
The vet comes up to speak with me. “Romeo has a large mass on his spleen. It is most likely a very aggressive form of cancer. We are taking a look right now to determine the next steps. This kind of cancer typically leaves dogs 6 months to live.”
Steve walks into the door minutes later. I tell him what’s happening.
We go to talk privately in another room and are in total shock. We are devastated.
The vet comes back.
“We took a look and it indeed a large tumor on his spleen. In 2/3 of cases a tumor of this size is an aggressive cancer. He could maybe have a month to live. We suggest going straight into surgery to remove it as he is bleeding internally. We will write up an estimate and bring it up as soon as possible.”
While she delivered this news with the utmost warmth and compassion it was a horrible horrible shock.
We asked the vet what she would do if it were her dog. “In this case, I would go forward with the surgery. I wish it weren’t this expensive but it is. I totally understand having a family and if this isn’t an option for you I would understand why you’d want to euthanize.”
We just bought a car. We just paid for another surgery but if there’s a chance he could survive this and we get more time, we had to move forward. We signed the paperwork. Do the surgery.
We eventually head home and wait for word that he’s prepped for surgery. He goes under and surgery goes forward. I get a call that he’s stable and awake, though very out of it.
The next day is the NYC Marathon. My sister in law is running in it. I want to see her at the finish line. Meanwhile we wait for word on Romeo. Can we pick him up?
We finally hear in the late afternoon after a brutal day of waiting that we can pick him up. The hospital is near the finish line of the marathon and there’s tons of traffic. I don’t care. I’m going to get my boy.
As I sit in traffic I track my sister in law on the NYC marathon app on my phone. She’s crossing the finish line as I park my car to pick up Romeo. I’ve got tears in my eyes of pride for her and fear for my boy.
He comes out with a huge cone on his head. Obviously confused and out of it but calm as always.
The first night and day home are the hardest. He’s in pain. He won’t eat. He won’t move. He lets our little whimpers every now and then. I feel so helpless watching him suffer.
With each day he improves a bit more until we see the normal Romeo again. The one who is within inches of you every time you have a snack. The one who quietly follows you around so he’s always unassumingly close by. Our sweet sweet boy.
It takes a few days, and a scare where his incision opens up a bit and bleeds bringing ANOTHER visit to the vet, but we eventually get back the results.
Romeo has beat the odds and his SOFTBALL
sized tumor has come back benign.
He is part of the 1/3 who survive this kind of thing. He is going to be okay.
After the emotional roller coaster of it all, we are left now digesting this traumatic and scary incident.
As I write this I wonder how the hell raisins managed to save his life. Had he not eaten those, his tumor would have eventually quietly burst inside of him and we would have never known. It would have been too late once we realized he was sick. We would have lost him.
I’ve not much more to say besides God works in mysterious mysterious ways. And what can look like an utter shitty and hopeless series of events can lead to a saved dog, a grateful family, and a whole lot of appreciation for this precious, fragile life.