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The Diagnosis

We have another dog, a disaster of a Great Dane named Spaghetti. Spaghetti had a bad few weeks of being a clumsy hot mess. We were dogsitting a friend’s Westie and he stepped on her foot and made her sore for days. He was running up the stairs and knocked my husband Kevin down the stairs. It wasn’t surprising when I got home from teaching one evening and Kevin told me that Spaghetti ran into Atticus, and Atticus had a sore leg.

Spaghetti has too much face.

The next day I kept an eye on Atticus, and he seemed fine until I let him outside during lunch. My heart sunk when he came in three-legged lame, holding his left hind paw up. I called our regular the vet the next day, and they could only fit him for a drop-off appointment two days later. I gave Atticus some carprofen we had on hand, and in two days he was weightbearing, but still slightly off. I debated cancelling the appointment, because he was so improved. Ultimately, I took him in because I had a nagging worry he had done something bad like torn his CCL.

I dropped Atticus off at 8am, and they would work him in for an exam and probably x-rays in between appointments. Atticus is pretty crabby when it comes to vet exams, so I thought it was likely he would need to be sedated for x-rays, and he’d be there a while. It was a little disconcerting when 4pm rolled around and no phone call.

Atticus and Spaghetti terrorize Maggie, our Westie friend, by blocking her way up the stairs. This is the last photo I took of Atticus before he came up lame.

I called the vet, and they put me on hold for the doctor. He picked up, and got right to it.

“I’m sorry I haven’t called. I have some bad news.” My heart dropped. He tore his CCL, I thought. How much is surgery to repair? There goes $5000. Maybe he can get rehab instead…. The vet kept going. “When we did x-rays, we found an osteosarcoma tumor.”

I couldn’t breathe. I had dropped him off because he sprained his leg. It just couldn’t be osteosarcoma. A good friend lost a dog to osteosarcoma. She took her dog in for what she thought was a sprain, found osteosarcoma. The dog was put to sleep that day. Would I even get to bring Atticus home?

My husband got home a few minutes after I got off the phone. I had to tell him the worst news  imaginable, and see his heart break. We both had the reaction. “Any dog but Crunch.”

We pulled ourselves together and went to pick up Atticus. Our vet showed us the X-rays, and told us the poor prognosis. He cautioned us about the risk of pathological fracture, and how at this point the cancer had probably already spread to his lungs, even though couldn’t see it on x-ray. He told us that this was awful for us, but Atticus didn’t know his terrible diagnosis, and wasn’t sad about it. He also gave us information and encouraged us to speak to an oncologist.

My sweet, broken Crunch hobbled out to see me- exactly the same as when I dropped him off, but know I had the terrible knowledge about the insidious thing hiding in his leg. I hugged him, and he buried his head in my chest, like he always does. I knew at least, for this weekend, we’d be together.

One thought on “The Diagnosis”

  1. I’m so sorry you guys had to get that news. It’s not what anyone ever expects, and it’s so tough when your vet is straight with you and gives you all the worst case scenarios. They have to do it of course, but it’s still what we tend to focus on when we hear the word cancer. I’m so glad the vet referred you to an oncologist though, that’s the sign of a great doc!

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