Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rags - Sweet Survivor

Rags is my 12 year old Lhasa Apso. So many things have gone wrong with this poor dog, it's amazing that he's alive. That he is so lovable is a bonus.

I got him when he was 18 months old. We drove 40 miles to see him based on a newspaper ad. The house was unoccupied, the result of a divorce. The husband met us at the house. There was Rags, a female, and a puppy. Rags came right up to us, tail wagging.

Despite him being a dirty, matted bundle of fur, we bought him and took him home. He was thrilled to be in the car, looking out the window, tail still wagging. But he stank something awful.

First thing, we gave him a bath and cut the mats out of his long hair. That left him nearly bald and exposed not only that he was very underfed, but he had a hernia.

A trip to the vet solved the hernia, and neutering, issues. A trip to the groomer evened out the butchered hair. The underfeeding left him edgy around food and, at first, he put on too much weight to compensate. It took him over a year to realize the self-feeder would not run out.

When he was five, I took him to the vet because of a lump in his stomach. The vet figured it was a fatty tumor and operated to remove it. During the evening at home, the stitches began oozing some yellowish fluid. It was the only time I've ever heard him whine. That called for a trip to the emergency vet, who cleaned and bandaged him up and gave him a shot for the pain.

The tumor biopsy came back cancerous and I was referred to a veterinary oncologist. I didn't even know they existed. It was the 'best' kind of cancer: a MAST cell tumor in an easily removable location. But the first surgery hadn't been extensive enough. Rags had another surgery to remove the edges of the cancer. To this day you can feed the zipper-like scar tissue on his belly from the two surgeries. Surgery was followed by chemotherapy every quarter for a year.

Not long after he finished chemo, his urinary tract was blocked by bladder stones and he had to have emergency surgery. This was followed by a couple of uneventful years for him.

Since then there was the broken tooth that needed to be removed. And while they had him under anesthesia the vet was going to remove a harmless fatty tumor. But the dental x-ray machine broke. Since they had him under anyway, they removed the tumor, which was benign.

I had to take him to the dentist to have the tooth looked at. (Again, who knew there were dentists for dogs?) The dentist said he could cap the tooth instead of pulling it. So now both my dog and I have one crown.

Last year, another hurried trip to the vet when he suddenly shrieked and wouldn't put his back leg on the ground. The vet said it was muscular, like a footballer's knee injury, and prescribed muscle relaxants. I think perhaps Peanut wanted to play and caught Rags unprepared and he twisted his knee.

Next week, back to the dentist. He has more cracked teeth. I'm convinced it's a side effect of the chemo. The vet wanted to pull them, but I want to see if they can be saved like the last one.

No wonder Rags trembles violently when we get to the vet's.

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