Barney had cancer.
For the last two months, I’ve had a post called, “Barney’s Bucket List” hanging out in my unscheduled drafts. It was empty. I couldn’t bring myself to write it, even though I thought the bucket list was a light-hearted way to share the news that our little doggy was dying. We found out he had cancer in January when I took him to the vet for a suspected UTI. After an exceptionally uncomfortable rectal exam, our vet told us his prostate was enlarged and recommended we test further. Tests confirmed the worst: prostate cancer—a grave diagnosis.
Our vet put him on palatable care, advised us to spoil him, and sent us home with the good pain meds. We jokingly created his bucket list, which we used as an excuse to give him everything he wanted. Like popcorn. Like, so much popcorn.
He got so spoiled that he was more Barney than ever. He barked at everything. Sprinted around the hallways. Begged loudly for food (and jumped on your lap when you didn’t oblige). He even tried to take down a big dog last week, going straight for the jugular—no “hi, hello, how are you?”—just diving right for the neck. We joked that taking down a large dog was probably at the top of his little doggy bucket list and apologized to the other dog’s owner.
How to know when it’s time?
Our dog was an enigma even in death. When we got the diagnosis, I asked our vet how to know when it’s time for him to go. She said it’s when your dog isn’t your dog anymore and gave some examples:
- “If he growls when you touch him.” Um, he always does.
- “If he doesn’t like going on walks.” Ha. He never did.
- “If he starts peeing in the house frequently.” You’re kidding right? Ironically, he quit peeing in the house shortly after his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Because none of those signs were particularly helpful to us, Mark and I talked about it and decided if he was in pain or if he stopped eating we would put him down. When he was first diagnosed, I thought this day would come fast, but he perked up and felt great most every day for the last two months—each day becoming more and more of the spunky little bastard we used to know. He taunted dogs in the hallway, barked at outdoor sounds, and stubbornly did what he wanted, even if it took him 5 tries to jump on the couch (I tried to help last week, and he bit me for trying).
The day came too soon.
Despite all his good spirits, the day came sooner than we anticipated. Prostate cancer is aggressive and can cut off urinary and bowel tracts. That is what happened to Barney. Late last week he started to have a hard time pooping, even with every stool-softening remedy we gave him. Our neighborhood accupuncturist even gave me a bottle of Chinese herbs to try when she saw him struggling.
Barney never yelped except when he was scared or in severe pain, like when he slipped a disk years ago. He yelped when he tried the morning we put him down. We didn’t want him to hurt. When we came back inside, he went directly to his kennel and skipped breakfast. He stayed until Mark started leaving for work; Barney didn’t want him to go, and he sprinted out to meet him. I knew then that the day had come.
We decided to call an in-home veterinary care service, MNPets, rather than taking him to our family vet. Barney liked our current vet, comparatively speaking (he didn’t bite), but going to the vet was traumatic and we didn’t want his last moments to be scary. Fortunately MNPets was able to take an appointment within a couple of hours of calling, and Barney LOVED Dr. Heather, the vet who came to our door, and he HATED strangers. He wagged his tail hard and jumped excitedly when Dr. Heather came in the door. He must have known she was there to make his pain go away.
Barney’s last meal
We planned Barney’s last meal a long time ago: a doggy sundae of vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and goldfish—all of his favorites. He enjoyed it so much we gave him another, along with some extra pain meds.
Dealing with a grave cancer diagnosis was hard.
Dogs can’t tell you how sick they are. Did we do it too early? Dr. Heather told us that she thought we made the right decision based on his disease and symptoms. That was comforting. Barney was in line to be euthanized 7 years ago when I adopted him, and we gave him 7 more years of life, so I can feel good about that, too.
Barney was a constant in my life the last several years. When Mark moved away, Barney was there. When grad school got hard, Barney was there. When I was unemployed and desperately needed company, Barney was there.
And now he’s gone.
Barney was loved. And he loved us (especially Mark).