At the time, I thought I handled the news really well. In retrospect, I did not. On the drive home, I decided some things needed to change. First – walks. The vet had recommended short, slow walks to keep up her muscle tone. Second – weight. The vet recommended she drop a couple pounds, which had never been easy for Josie – she loves food. Third – monitoring the symptoms. I decided to log her symptoms daily to track any progress.
We started walking. I cut back on her food – she lost more than a few pounds, so I had to adjust that. And I watched her symptoms like a hawk. Her nosebleeds seemed to get better. She sounded so much better – no more heavy breathing. Sleeping through the night again.
The first weekend was hard. I spent more time than I should have reading other people’s stories on the internet. It was always the same. Nosebleeds. Congestion. Eye discharge. Treated with antibiotics that appeared to work but than came back. Turns out, Josie was just following the status quo. Then I started to read what to expect – in particular – the nosebleed that doesn’t stop, or sneezing out part of the tumor, or the eye bulging out or other facial deformities, or behavior changes if the tumor invades the brain. I was learning not only is my dog going to die, she is probably going to suffer. And it is going to be messy. And I’m going to have to decide when enough is enough.
No matter what her progress, no matter how much I thought I was doing ok, I found myself look at Josie and thinking “My dog is dying. She’s dying. At any moment, her nose could start bleeding and I won’t be able to stop it.” I started to over analyze her face too – looking to see if one eye was bulging out. And behavior changes, no matter how slight – was that the tumor?
Then there was the night I realized she was only breathing out of one side of her nose. The right side was completely blocked. This, more than anything, confirmed in my mind it was a tumor. And it had grown enough to block her nasal passage entirely.
Life went on like this through the holidays. We travelled south, and I recalled 12 years ago making the same journey without her and coming home with her. I tried to relish every moment. But, unfortunately, all I kept thinking was this was probably the last time she would join me on the journey. Her last Christmas. Her last time on my parents dock. Her last time playing with my sister’s dog Bailey. Her first and last time meeting my other sister’s dog Play-Doh. Her last chance to be awesome for my sister’s kids.
As that trip wrapped up, her symptoms started to get worse again. The bleeding started to pick up. So did the reverse sneezing, as the blood would trickle down the back of her throat. I got really good at knowing when it is was bleeding just by the sounds of her incessant licking. All this just confirmed for me – she is only going to get worse.
But how long did she have? What did I have to expect? Would her eye bulge out? Would it invade her brain? Would it start to poke out her nose? Too many unknowns. I needed answers.