Remy (or, fostering is contagious)

Remy is a handsome, young, large mixed breed dog.  In the fall of 2011, he was surrendered to Triad Veterinary Clinic in Kernersville to be euthanized.    All of his hair had fallen out, he had lost weight, and was in pitiful shape.  Remy wasn’t sick – he had an allergy to fleas.  His owners didn’t want the hassle or expense of treating him and repeated their request that he be euthanized.  They didn’t want to stay for the deed.  Once they were gone, Dr. Marti decided Remy was too young, had too much potential.  He decided to keep him, get him well, and then put him up for adoption.

At some point during the treatment a food allergy manifested as well.  A few tests, a diet alteration, and his recovery continued.

Remy quickly became the clinic pet.  Staff members would take him home on weekends.  He spent his days lounging at the reception desk.  The big friendly fellow reveled in the attention.  He was well on his way to the rest of his life.

Things were definitely looking up for Remy.

Then, during a routine checkup in early 2012, Dr. Marti found that the glands in Remy’s neck were a little enlarged.  He felt a touch of dread even as he ordered blood work to confirm what he had already surmised:  Remy had lymphoma.

Treatment for lymphoma in dogs is difficult.  The chemo drugs are harsh and cause most dogs to become very ill.  Chemo can set back the inevitable for a few weeks, sometimes even months – but lymphoma in dogs is incurable.  Remy was going to die no matter what.

Dr. Marti was faced with some tough choices.  Treat Remy, or not.  Allow the disease to proress, or euthanize the young dog immediately.

The decision was made not to treat the lymphoma.  Why prolong an illness with drugs that would just make him sick?  But neither would Dr. Marti euthanize him.  Remy deserved to live however long he had left in happiness and comfort.

This decision led to another:  Remy should live in a home, with a family, not at the clinic.  But where to find a foster home willing to take a dying dog?

Dr. Marti mentioned him to Mona.  Mona, who lost a senior pet to lymphoma back at the end of 2011, was instantly sympathetic.  She had made the same decision with her beloved Tiara – no chemo, and a lot of love until the old gal’s time came.  A few phone calls later, Mona had a foster home lined up.

Remy loved being with the older couple who fostered him the first few weeks – but the woman was concerned he was going to hurt one of her cats.  He couldn’t stay.

On hearing this news, I called my mother, affectionately known as Bubbles by my children and the world at large.  (Don’t ask how Vannesa, at one year old, managed to turn Mamaw into Bubbles, but she insisted on Bubbles, and we of course captiulated.)  I explained the situation to Bubbles, and warned that Remy was known to chase cats, and asked if she’d still be willing to give him hospice.  She never even hesitated to agree, though she did remark that it was a damned fine thing for me to ask her to take a dog who would only break her heart.

Remy has been on Bubbles’ farm for just a few weeks.  He loves it.  He is never tethered and has figured out the dog doors so he can come and go as he pleases, along with the rest of the pack.  He only chases the cats that run and has no intentions of hurting one – he just runs them for the sheer pleasure of the chase.  Besides, it’s not like the rest of Bubbles’ pack doesn’t chase cats.  Those cats are VERY used to being chased.  Remy’s cornered a few of them, but he just barks and teases until the cats run again.  He doesn’t want to catch them – he just wants to chase them.  He enjoys going for rides – he doesn’t care where he goes, he just wants to ride along.  If he gets to get out and meet people at the end of the trip, all the better – but if not, at least he got to ride.

This past Monday evening Bubbles noticed a swelling in the elbow of his left foreleg.  It was not badly swollen, was causing Remy no pain or discomfort, and she decided to wait til his appointment Wednesday (today) to discuss it with Dr. Marti.  Yesterday evening I went over there (the reason for that trip is the subject for another blog), and while there I took the pack and walked the small farm, checking on my blueberry bushes and grapevines (well, the grapes are mine, but the majority of the blueberry buses are well established and spreading without my help) and enjoying my time with Bubbles’ pack.  I love her dogs almost – almost – as much as I love mine.  The swelling still wasn’t that bad yesterday evening.

By this morning his whole leg was involved.  I spoke with Bubbles after Remy’s appointment with Dr. Marti and she declared herself heartbroken.  Dr. Marti thinks something stung or bit him and the initial swelling was just an allergic reaction – but the Prednisone that Remy takes is an immune depressant and Dr. Marti fears that an infection might be lurking under the surface.  He is keeping Remy for the rest of this week for tests, treatment and observation.

We HOPE Remy will be able to come home Friday.  Yes, we do think of him as ours, and Bubbles’ farm is his home.  And yes, we’re well aware that Remy is living on borrowed time.  Lymphoma in dogs is usally a fast cancer, bringing death within three months of diagnosis.  It’s June – Remy passed the three month mark long ago.

He enjoyed walking the farm with me last night.  I’d like to have a few more weeks worth of walks with the big goofy guy before his time comes.  I know Bubbles hopes for a few more weeks.

We went into this knowing we would lose the big guy soon.  HWe knew we would love him, and we kenew we would grieve his passing.  We took him anyway.

This is what we do.  Remy is one of the reasons we do it.