It’s been about six weeks since I last posted anything. That’s because we have received some surprising news from the veterinarian. It seems that Reilly is anemic and they have ruled out just about everything except, in the words of one of the vets dealing with Reilly’s case, “a problem occurring at the level of the bone marrow.”
Here’s what happened: shortly after my last posting I took Reilly in for a routine heartworm test. While I was at the vets, one of the vet techs suggested a wellness test. I said yes and within a day I received a phone call from one of the vet clinic staff explaining that Reilly’s red blood count was very low and most of his other blood levels were off. The vet asked me to bring the dog by later that afternoon for a follow up examination. Of course I complied and, at about three o’clock that afternoon, Reilly and I were back at the vets. They took another blood sample and, when the results came back, Reilly was still showing signs of anemia. The vet recommended an overnight stay at an emergency animal hospital so that they could monitor the dog’s blood levels overnight.
At this point I was in a state of utter shock. Reilly had shown no signs of distress. The only evidence of anemia that I could see was that his tongue and gumbs were light pink as opposed to a healthier rosey pink. Sharon and I took the dog to the emergency hospital and the vets monitored his blood levels overnight.
The next morning I received a call from the hospital. Reilly’s blood levels had stayed the same and they recommended an ultrasound to see if he had a mass that was wreaking havoc on his insides. The ultrasound showed nothing that would explain the anemia. By the time Reilly was discharged later that day, the vets had ruled out organ issues, dietary issues, an auto-immune problem, and a mass or growth somewhere inside the dog. They decided to treat for infection – antibiotics twice a day for two weeks.
At the end of the two weeks, I took Reilly to our vet and they conducted another round of blood work. The results came back just about the same as when they first detected a problem with Reilly’s blood. The antibiotics didn’t improve the situation so infection was now off the table. That’s when the vet said that the problem is probably at the level of the bone marrow.
You should feel comforted to know that, while all this was going on, Reilly was in great spirits — still walking, still eating, still pooping. He is still chasing squirrels he will never catch in the backyard and continues to bring toys to us for a bit of play time.
However, it is the lack of optimism presented by the five vets I have dealt with (two at our vets and three at the emergency hospital) that has been most distressing for me. Reilly is just five years old and the thought of a bone marrow issue (like leukemia) making him sick scares the hell out of me.
Last week, Sharon and I went to Cape Cod for a bit of a vacation. Our son Liam took excellent care of the dog while we were away. While I worried about Reilly, I did manage to pull myself together enough to acknowledge that our puppy may become very sick so I need to enjoy him as much as I can (something that both Sharon and Liam have been encouraging me to do since all this began). While I could take the dog for a bone marrow biopsy, I have opted to forgo this course of action. All that this will do is invite a diagnosis that will require very invasive medical action that – in the case of chemotherapy for instance – will make my dog sicker than he already is. A dog’s life is short and I am not willing to make my dog’s life about a steady parade to vet clinics for the rest of his days.
In the meantime, I have cried many tears. Potential loss softens the heart and makes you aware of the fragility of life – even when we are talking about our pets. It has also let me see how harsh I have been in my own life. More often than not, I need to give people a break.
And I need to enjoy Reilly. I hope he lives for another ten years but, if he lives for another ten months, I need to know that I have done right by him. He is the best dog I have ever had – no contest.
On the bright side, the anemia (the origins of which remain a mystery) has not taken away Reilly’s desire for his daily walks. I am off to run him around the block. Let’s hope that there are many, many more walks with Reilly.
Update: Just got back from the walk. A hot day but an energetic walk. He is on the chair beside me enjoying the air conditioning.