Sweet Sammy

I don’t write about our boys very often, but those of you who know me, know that my dogs were my first babies. We love them like they are our children and would do anything for them.  Up until we had Braden, they slept in our bed with us and were ridiculously spoiled.  Everyone told us that things would change when we had kids and that our dogs would become pets, no longer our children.  Honestly, it did change.  Our priorities shifted, they had to.  It didn’t change how much we love our boys though and it didn’t change the fact that we’d do anything to keep them happy and healthy.  That’s why our hearts are absolutely broken right now.  Our youngest dog, Sammy, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on Monday.

We adopted our Sammy Bear from a golden retriever rescue when he was a year old.  He’s had a bit of a rough time since then.  When he was two, he tore his right ACL and had Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery to repair it. Basically, they cut off part of his tibia (shin bone), shifted it, and reattached it with a metal plate. Less than a year later, he tore his left ACL and had the same surgery on that one.  At the time, everyone thought we were crazy to have a $4500 surgery performed on our dog (twice), but they told us since he was so young, that it was the best option for him.  Thankfully, we were in a position where we could afford it, so we did it without hesitation.

Soon after, Sammy was diagnosed with epilepsy.  For a while, he did okay without being medicated, but for the last few year’s he’s been on phenobarbitol twice daily to control the seizures.  He has breakthrough seizures occasionally, but thankfully we know how to handle them now (I’m a pro at valium enemas, in case you were wondering).  Other than that, he’s been wonderful.  He’s such a sweet boy and like most goldens, so eager to please.  He’s happiest when he’s sitting on your lap (all 70 pounds of him, down from 90+ when he was diagnosed with epilepsy) and you’re rubbing his ears or scratching his head or laying out by the fence in the back yard with a rawhide.

Sammy’s phenobarbitol makes him a little bit crazy.. okay, a lot crazy.  He’s hungry all the time and until recently, had an insane amount of energy.  He never really walks anywhere, he always runs or jumps all over the place.  Once Mackenzie started walking, it became really tricky for us to manage his energy with her curious nature.  He kept knocking her over, running into her, and since phenobarbitol can cause some unpredictable behavior at times, we were really worried that she’d do something to tick him off and he’d snap at her.  For the last year or so, we’ve kept both of our boys separated from the kids most of the time.  They still got plenty of love, spent the days with me in the house or lounging in the yard, and nights hanging out with Adam.  It was hard, the kids love the boys so much, but we were just so worried about what could happen.

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have been so worried.  Since his diagnosis, Sammy has been spoiled beyond belief and he and Mackenzie have become best friends.  She insists on giving him hugs and kisses all day long, runs into the kitchen asking for treats for him, and is so kind and gentle with him.  It’s like she knows there is something going on.

At the end of May, Sammy was at the vet’s office having bloodwork done to check his phenobarbitol levels.  He had a breakthrough seizure and his vet wanted to make sure that the levels in his blood were high enough to control them.  While there, she noticed what she called a thickening on his left knee.  We all assumed that it was scar tissue from his TPLO and she gave us some pain meds because he had started to limp on it a bit.  He finished the prescription and seemed fine, so we didn’t think anything of it.

Last week I noticed that he started to limp again, and then when Adam was bathing him we found a huge knot on the front of his left knee.  We figured we’d watch it over the weekend and call Monday if it didn’t seem better.  Sam wasn’t complaining about it, wasn’t wimpering or whining, just wouldn’t put the leg down sometimes.

Monday was Mackenzie’s birthday and I took the day off to spend with her. I called that morning and made an appointment to take Sammy in to have the knot on his knee checked since it hadn’t improved and he seemed to be limping more.  Braden overheard me talking to the vet and begged me to go since he’s never been, so Kenz and I met Adam for lunch, wandered around the Town Center for a bit, then picked Braden up from school, picked Sammy up, and were off to the vet’s office.  Probably not my best idea, taking both kids with me, but I really thought it was just swollen and we’d just need to keep him off of it and ice it.

As soon as the vet saw what we were talking about, she told me she thought it was a tumor but he’d need x-rays to be sure.  They took him back and about 20 minutes later brought him back to us along with his scans.  First she showed me his right knee, said the TPLO looks great but that he does have some arthritis in it that could case an issue in the future.  Then she showed me the left knee.  I’m not a medical professional, but it was easy to see that something was very wrong.  The best way I can describe it is that the top of the bone was just fuzzy and going down the leg looked moth-eaten.  She explained that it was a tumor, a bone cancer, and that it was basically eating away at the healthy bone and regrowing with this malformed, over sized bony tumor.

She said our first decision is whether or not to amputate the leg. The tumor is very painful and normal pain killers will not manage the pain for long. The only way to provide him with relief from it is to amputate. The problem with that is that his other hind leg is not totally healthy due to the prior ACL issues and arthritis. Amputation would only be for pain relief, it wouldn’t slow or stop the growth of the cancer.

After amputation, we’d have to decide if we want to do chemotherapy. This could extend his life for six months to a year, but would not be a cure.  It would help to control the metastasized tumors in the chest so they do not grow as quickly, but it won’t stop them.

Our other option is to do nothing and put him on strong pain meds and anti-inflammatory drugs.  She didn’t say how much time that would give him.

I spent the day Tuesday reading everything I could about canine osteosarcoma and was left feeling overwhelmed and confused.  I had both kids at the vets office with me Monday so it was hard to talk to her and I broke down and told her I’d either call or come back the next day to talk to her when I could focus.  My parents watched the kids for us Tuesday after work so we could go talk to her again.  She said osteosarcoma is very aggressive and in 90% of cases it has already metastasized into the chest by the time it is diagnosed. We had chest x-rays done on Monday and they were clear, but she said that at this stage they are usually there, but microscopic.

We told her that our primary concern is that whatever time Sammy has left is good time. We want him to be happy and in minimal pain. We don’t want to put him through procedures to extend his life if that life is just going to be miserable for him. She was very frank with us. She told us that given his history, and the fact that he has two bum knees and is epileptic, she wouldn’t recommend amputation.  Her concern is that we’ll do the amputation and he’ll spend what little time he has left in pain and trying to recover from that. Additionally, there’s a really high risk that he’ll seize and break the other leg, that a tumor could form in the other knee, or that he’ll simply fall and break it since the leg isn’t really strong enough to support him like a healthy leg would be.  The recovery from the surgery is also difficult, especially with his age, and she said that with how fast the tumor in his knee grew, it’s possible that the mets in his chest could also be extremely aggressive and he may not last more than a few weeks after the surgery anyway.    She said if it was her dog, she’d put him on anti-inflammatory drugs, pain meds, and keep him happy and comfortable at home.

I’m so overwhelmed by it all. I feel so incredibly guilty, I feel like we need to do something but I do not want to make him suffer to ease my guilt.  Apparently this type of cancer is very common with dogs who have had TPLO and it’s related to the metal plates in his leg. I feel like we did this, even though I know that it was the best decision for him at the time.

I know our boys are getting older (Sammy just turned 8, Buddy is almost 9) and I knew this was going to happen eventually, but I am still so heartbroken over it.  It seems like just a year or two ago that we adopted him, he should still be a little guy chasing Bud around the yard.  Thankfully, he’s still himself, just a bit slower.  He’s happy and his tail wags non-stop.

We went and bought him a nice, comfy bed and put it in his favorite spot in the house.  We stocked up on his favorite treats, raw hides, and pig ears, and are pretty much letting him have whatever he wants.  We’re all making it a point to make sure that his days are happy and as stress and pain free as possible.  It’s the least we can do for our sweet boy.

We’re hoping that we have more time with him than the average 2-4 months.  This has been such an unfortunate reminder that life is too short and we need to take time every day to show our family and friends how much we love them and how important they are to us.  I have no doubt that when Sammy does pass, he will go knowing that we all loved him so very much, and knowing him he’ll still be wagging his tail, just happy to have us scratching his head.  We love you so much, Sammy Bear.

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  1. Oh honey, I’m so, so sorry to hear this. He’s lucky to you have your family. Big hugs!
    Lori recently posted…Can’t stop, won’t stopMy Profile

  2. Beautiful post.

  3. Kristina @ Blog About Running says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Sammy’s diagnosis but it sounds like he has had a wonderful life with very devoted pet parents. That’s the best kind of life for any dog and there is no doubt that he has lived a happy one.
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted…Increased Running Mileage + My 27th BirthdayMy Profile

    • Thank you, Kristina.

      He has had a wonderful life and for that, I am thankful. I am at peace with that, I know we did the best we could for him and I know he’s been happy and well-loved and that at the end of the day, that is what is most important.

  4. So many hugs, Kristin. I am devastated for you guys, but I know you will make Sammy’s remaining time wonderful. Lots of love to you all.
    Jenn recently posted…in which i win the best mommy awardMy Profile

  5. Sarah @ Sweet Miles says:

    Oh Kristin, crying at my desk right now for you. So many hugs for you and your family! I can’t imagine how broken hearted you feel right now. I’m such a sucker for animals, this just killed me. Sammy will surely be happy for the remainder of his days, look at that smile! You’re doing the right thing :)
    Sarah @ Sweet Miles recently posted…One of Those WeeksMy Profile

    • Thank you, Sarah. I’ve been crying off and on all day too, so many people have so many kind words for us. It helps to know that others think we are making the right choice. I just hope we can keep him smiling for a while longer, I’m not ready to let go of him yet.

  6. Karen @runloverepeat says:

    Oh goodness, this post brought tears to my eyes! I don’t have any dogs but we do have two cats and I have the same love for them. I am so sorry to hear the news about his diagnosis. It’s a difficult decision to make but you are doing everything you can to make him comfortable and as pain free as possible while giving him lots of love. Keeping you and sweet Sammy in my thoughts.
    Karen @RunLoveRepeat
    Karen @runloverepeat recently posted…I Run This Body, I Choose Happiness, I Believe I Can AchieveMy Profile

    • Thank you, Karen, I appreciate it. I’m trying my best to make sure he’s happy and comfortable.. and keeping his favorite treats on hand.. it’s the least we can do.

  7. Jodi @ 13.1 Miles to Disney says:

    Lots of hugs coming your way, Kristin.
    Jodi @ 13.1 Miles to Disney recently posted…BWAP: If I Could Be Anything In The WorldMy Profile

  8. theres patch says:

    I am not sure how I missed this, but this is a beautiful heartbreaking post. I know these are your first babies. Lots of hugs and love. Thank you for sharing all of the sweet pictures of those pups!

  9. Aww Kristin, I am so sorry. Pets really are our furry children and it’s the worst thing in the world to see them suffer. It sounds like you’re doing all you can though and you have given Sammy such a great life. He is so, so lucky that you rescued him!
    Jen recently posted…Breastfeeding: Weaning a toddlerMy Profile

  10. Abby @ BackAtSquareZero says:

    I am practically in tears for you. Pets are like members of the family. That is horrible. You are in my thoughts.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Thoughts on Rest DaysMy Profile

  11. Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Families says:

    I know that our pets are very spoiled too. We have too small dogs and I was very nervous when I was pregnant with my youngest. I wasn’t sure how my female dog would handle having a baby around. She is one of those nervous dogs that like to try and bite when she is trapped into a corner or you are doing something she doesn’t like. Plus she was used to being the baby. After I had my son, she did a lot better than I thought she would. She typically stayed far away from the baby and now they are friends as long as food is involved…lol. We were careful and taught my youngest to be gentle and pet her. He does fairly well with her. Then when the baby was a year old we got another puppy to grow up with him. Its been fun having two dogs.
    Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Families recently posted…Top 15 Must Haves to Pack into Mom’s Hospital Bag During PregnancyMy Profile


  1. [...] plan has built in bail days and this was one of them.  I chose to use it.  We found out about Sammy today and I was in no condition to [...]

  2. […] a vet appointment for Sammy later in the afternoon.  The same appointment where we found out that he has osteosarcoma.  Definitely not a fun part of the […]

  3. […]  First up, Sammy.  Thank you so much for the all of the wonderful comments on the post about his diagnosis and for […]

  4. […] expected to be a sobbing mess, but I didn’t shed a single tear! I really think I was just all cried out.. it was an emotional week for us. I know it’s good that I didn’t though. Braden is […]

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