There she was. Perfect markings and chestnut eyes. A Catahoula Leopard whose expiration date was today. Good thing for suckers like Chris. She was adopted and named Sage. She traipsed from Virginia to Long Island to Queens and finally settled in Westchester, with a yard to chase all the squirrels she desired. Sage is incredibly loyal and stoic, yet fierce. Her finest qualities can only be enjoyed and cherished by those she allows into her soul. It was no surprise when that dreaded day came, her loving owners would stand by her.
Sage is my husband’s dog. Although we all live together, and I picked her out, he will always be her person. It’s ok, I’m her Veterinarian.
As a Veterinarian dog mom, I have developed ‘pet-phobia’ – The fear that something I have treated that day, week or month will happen to one of my own. So, I keep all my dogs fully vetted. Shots up to date, monthly flea, tick and heartworm prevention, bi-yearly routine blood testing. Yes, the bi-yearly testing is excessive for 2 healthy young dogs, but what if I miss something?
It was September 2013, time for Sage’s blood work. Normally, I find Sagie’s blood results perfect as usual, printed and on my desk. This time it wasn’t there. Strange. Did it not go out?
That’s when Gina walked in. She was a colleague and wonderful friend, and she was giving me the same look I give clients right before I’m about to dole out some bad news. She had Sage’s paperwork in her hands.
While everything else looked great, her calcium was elevated. It must be an error, I thought, so I sent out for more blood testing. Her follow up results confirmed my fears. I could feel the lump in the back of my throat, and a pit in my stomach that I felt exactly 12 months ago when I lost my Godiva to bone cancer. It was real and now every horrible scenario was flashing through my mind. I knew elevated calcium could indicate cancer, so I started the hunt. A rectal exam and ultrasound revealed a malignant tumor in her anal gland.
I was sad, and nervous. Chris was devastated. We set up surgery to have her tumor removed, and started her on oral chemotherapy. The tumor had spread to her lymphatic system and we knew she was on borrowed time. So, I did what any good Latin/Italian mom would do. I fed her. I fed her a lot and I walked her and let her live a fantastic life, because she didn’t know she was sick.
Thankfully our story has not finished. Our perfect Sagie is still with us. It has been 10 months of worry, joy, tears and lots of hugs. The experience has made me a stronger Veterinarian, and has brought forth a more constant reminder of how impactful and important our pets are to us. I always treat my patients as if they were my own. It really hits home now when I have to give ‘the look’ to clients and their sick loyal companion. I push and shove for them, and ultimately do what I do best – delay the expiration date.
Alexandra Saura, DVM