The part I hate the most about being a veterinarian is when I have to tell someone their pet has a terminal disease. Be it trauma from a car, extreme parvo, or old age, it just kills me to see the sadness on their faces. I’ve gotten better with it as I’ve been in practice longer (otherwise I couldn’t do my job!) and thought I had found my peace with it.
But then it became personal. Some of you might know this lovable fellow…
If you don’t know him, this is Augustus Dominic Geis. We call him “Gus” for short. Now Gus is a delightful three year old St. Bernard that enjoys people, venison, and hanging out on the farm. He spends most of his time with me in South Dakota, but when we went to visit Carolyn’s folks around Christmas we left him at my parents place so he could hang out with my brother’s dog Ajax Bartholomew Nimble Geis, whose nickname is Jack. We have a thing for dignified dog names in our family.
When we came back we noticed a small bump on his leg that had grown significantly. Concerned, we took an X-ray of it and found this.
We couldn’t say for sure what that ugly bump could be at first, but a very likely cause in his breed of dog is an osteosarcoma, a type of cancer. Especially in that location. And to top it off, if it is cancer it is almost certain that it will have metastasized before we even could know it was there.
Carolyn and I were extremely upset to say the least. We had a good cry session. After that, we decided to try our best to diagnose and treat our pup. We took a bone biopsy and sent it in to be tested, and started Gus on some medication in case he had a bone infection instead of cancer.
We got the results back this week. The good news is they didn’t find cancer, but the bad news is they couldn’t guarantee he didn’t have cancer. We decided to treat him for the bone infection and hope for the best, because taking bone biopsies is very painful and we didn’t want him to go through that again.
Just when I thought I was okay with giving sad news, it happened to my dog. And now it reminds me every time I have to tell other people that their pet is in a bad way that Gus might be on his way out too.
This event has given me some cause for thought about pets and people. Our pets have a larger impact on our lives than we realize. We feed them, play with them, and care for them every day, but its not until we find out they could be gone soon do we see how much room they fill in our hearts. No matter how this turns out, I’m glad that we’ve had Gus in our life and for all the fun times he’s given us.