I don't want to think about how long it has been but it's been too long of a wait to write about what happened.
I accompanied my partner and his mother to the Mayo Clinic. There was a mass in her uterus. Thankfully it was benign and everything was okay but she still needed surgery. Coda was left with a friend that has the same type of dog. The friend's dog insisted on a game of fetch when I went to pick him up. Eventually Coda joined in the fun and they got into a loud but harmless scuffle over the ball. Suddenly, he starts screaming like I had never heard the dog scream ever in his life. This dog is tough and doesn't scream for anything.
The initial screaming subsided quickly but he didn't have any control of his leg. This wasn't anything new, however, as he had problems with the leg a couple other times in the past. Without expensive neurological testing, the vet couldn't find anything wrong. This was just a pinched nerve, perhaps.
A friend of mine was having a small get together to celebrate receiving the National Science Foundation scholarship so I laid him on his bed on the rug in the living room and left on some music. There wasn't any improvement a few hours later. I carried him to the bedroom and we laid together during the night where he calmly whined through the night.
The next morning, the leg had swollen up to about four times its normal size and this is when I began to get seriously concerned. I don't drive so I rented a car but in my rush to get him to the emergency vet, it was scheduled for the wrong day. The rental company didn't have anything else available.
The friend that had dog-sat was kind enough to get us to where we needed. The initial examination didn't give a clear picture of what could have been wrong. The vet said that this kind of swelling was abnormal. A bite from the other dog would not swell like this (there weren't any puncture wounds anyway) so she wanted to do an ultrasound and x-ray on the leg.
They were not able to do the x-ray because it was too painful to lay him on the table with that leg down. They asked if they could give him some morphine. The news was bad. The leg was broken and since it was the femur, it could not be cast. The options were either to perform a major surgery (with pins and rods) or to amputate the leg.
During the initial part of the examination, the vet said there was a remote possibility of cancer, since there was so much swelling and it was unusual for a dog this age to break his leg, but she didn't really want to mention it. It was at this point that I started to cry. In my heart I knew that was what was wrong.
However, the vet didn't see any evidence of cancer in the leg but would send it to the radiologist to be sure. They sent us to another facility that could perform the surgery.
Upon arrival to the surgeon, the prognosis became worse. In the time it took to transport Coda to second clinic, the radiologist found an abnormality in the bone that caused the break. The surgery was no longer an option and amputation was necessary to keep it from spreading.
It was at this point they began talking about euthanasia, no one would blame me if that course was taken. The only other thing to do was do an x-ray of the lungs to see if the cancer had spread. The plan at that point was to monitor him over night and do the amputation in the morning. They would call me in a few hours to let me know how he was doing and to give the results of the x-ray.
The wait was excruciating. The anxiety and tears became more intense as the time they said they'd call approached and passed. I could do nothing but assume the worst.
They finally called and although the cancer didn't appear to have spread to the lungs yet, it was most likely, since this form of cancer is extremely aggressive, and that the leg broke so easily, that it was still in the lungs and just hadn't grown large enough to show up on an x-ray. Even with the leg amputation, he had six to nine months to live. This new vet (there were three in total) began to talk more of euthanasia. I'm not sure how he could be so forceful but delicate with that recommendation.
I didn't understand much of what he said to me on the phone but I knew that a decision had to be made. I left my partner's house and walked around aimlessly, chain smoking along the way, to calm myself down enough to think clearly and speak without breaking down. I ended back at my apartment and called the vet and asked him to repeat what he said earlier.
After that discussion, there was no choice but to put him down .. he had already gone through too much pain and there would only be more during his remaining six months.