I’ve never really been a fan of tragic love stories. They fill the audience with hope and great expectations only to spoil the ending with devastation. Our goal of writing this blog is to give hope. For us, for others, and especially for Nixon.
For Nixon’s story to make sense, you need to know the beginning:
At the end of 2014, I met the man who would become my future husband, Caleb. I was swept off my feet with this kind man who had the biggest heart and most knee weakening smile. His most amazing quality was how much love he had for his Great Dane, Nixon. He could talk about his “son” for hours and our most frequent phone conversation topic was what Nixon was doing. Actually, most of our phone conversations where Caleb talking to Nixon (you should hear his responses…HILARIOUS). I had always considered myself an animal enthusiast and meeting someone with an even greater love for his own dog made me feel like I had fallen straight into a Disney movie (obviously my life goal).
Our love story was fast and full of adventure. I remember the night I got to meet his parents… it was the same night I got to meet Nixon. All of the usual “meeting the parents” butterflies were tripled from the anticipation of meeting his pup son. Upon opening the front door, this HORSE came running at me full speed almost knocking me to the ground. Nixon showed me nothing but love and affection even though he had just met me and I felt the words placed on my heart “Christina, this is your new pup son”. I fell head over heels for both of these boys within a day. They were so full of life and full of love and touched everyone around them with these qualities. Within a year, Caleb and I were engaged (bringing Nixon’s new puppy brother Moose into the equation) and we were ready to ride off into the sunset with our little (actually HUGE) furry family. I knew Great Danes were known for having short life spans, leaving great heartbreak when they crossed the rainbow bridge. With that in mind I also knew that Caleb losing Nixon would be one of our largest hurdles in life. What I didn’t know was how close we were to this hurdle. Thus begins our scary journey and catches you all up to last Friday.
Friday morning I got a call from Caleb while I was at work. During his normal “good morning” stretch with Nixon he noticed his front left leg looked swollen and he wanted to know if I had seen it. It wasn’t a normal puffy swollen that you would expect with spraining an ankle but after extensive Google research we thought “oh yeah, it’s totally just a sprain”. He didn’t favor that leg at all but he was due for his annual appointment and I was excited about finding a new vet for him so we went ahead and brought him in. THANK GOODNESS WE DID. The best advice I can stress from our experience this week is that if you have any type of feeling that something is wrong with your Dane…BRING THEM IN. During the physical we got really awesome reports: He was very big and very strong (haha sorry vet techs). He was handsome and well nourished. His heart was strong. He was negative for all types of critters that could cause him harm. He needed to have X-Rays of his leg done because he might have cancer…..wait, WHAT?? Then our vet started to tell us the risks of Great Danes getting a type of cancer called osteosarcoma. It was an aggressive cancer causing excruciating pain and would require amputation. Now let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Caleb’s sweet baby Nixon… the same dog that gave our 9 month old puppy a run for his money 30 minutes ago because he had the toy he wanted to play with had cancer? Caleb and I looked at each other as they took Nixon to the back for the imaging with reassuring faces. No, they must just be doing this for a thorough exam. I remember thinking “they’ll feel so silly when it comes back showing his ankle is sprained”. Twenty minutes and an eternity later and Nixon was back with us followed by the vet. As the vet turned off the lights to show us the pictures, my heart dropped. Doctors don’t do all this for good news.
It was cancer.
Fast forward to today and here is what we have learned: Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer in dogs. Once diagnosed you are given options none of which include a cure. You can either palliatively treat your dog and try to make them comfortable until the end which they have projected to be two months or you can have the limb amputated and follow with chemotherapy to slow down the cancer (there is a 90% chance it has already spread at the time of diagnosis). And after all of those treatments they average that he will have a year to live a good quality life. That’s a pretty big leap from a sprained ankle.
As of today, we have met with an oncologist at UGA and we have made the choice to have the surgery and follow with chemotherapy. We are hoping to be part of a clinical trial that will help financially but either way we will follow this course. Nixon is 4.5 years old, strong, and healthy and we believe that if anyone can overcome an amputation…it is him. His surgery has been scheduled for next Thursday (12 days after his initial vet visit). It is so fast. So overwhelming. So heart breaking. We are jumping back and forth by the minute of wondering if this is the right choice but we are reassured each time that there is no best choice here…we just have to give him his best chance. Nixon currently is sore from the biopsy and sleepy from pain medications and already it is heart breaking to watch…we are dreading and flat out fearing the weeks to come. I am so grateful to have found this tripawd group since before this week I really had no idea this was even an option for Great Danes. Thank you all for your encouraging blogs and stories.
As I wrote earlier, a large goal of this blog is to give and get some hope so I end with a plea to all of the current tripawd parents for advice, support, or just kindness in general.