Just over a week ago, I took Huckleberry Hound and Peek-a-Boo Kitty into the clinic where I work for their annual wellness exams. They were excited to meet the doctors and techs I had told them so much about and promised to both be on their best behavior and to both be healthy (ahem, cheap).
The day before the appointment, I noticed a bump on his back left leg. It was scabbed over, so initially I thought he picked up a thorn on our recent hike. It wasn’t red, hot or painful. It wasn’t oozing anything. But it was there, almost as big as a dime in diameter and raised. Since it was a mystery, and many mysteries remain to me in this world of veterinary medicine, I decided to ask the doctor and learn something new.
Doctor K examined the mystery bump and decided to do a cytology. I told her to throw the proverbial book at my dog and make good on my employee discount.
When she phoned later that day with the results, they were disturbing. Doctor K told me the cells she took from Huck’s mystery bump were all different shapes and sizes, some presented with multiple nuclei. She actually didn’t call it a “mystery bump,” she called it a “round tumor.” She recommended we remove the round tumor and sent it in for biopsy. From there, we would know what it was, if it was benign or malignant and possible degree of malignancy. Best case scenario being benign, of course, and worst case being aggressively malignant that would require follow-up radiographs of Huck’s lungs/liver to make sure it hadn’t spread before we cut it out.
I scheduled the appointment, hung up the phone and told Huck that he was not allowed to grow anything cancerous on or in his body. He sometimes obeys me. I hope this is one of those times.
Huck’s appointment was today.
I didn’t sleep much at all last night. Huck kept trying to comfort me and nuzzle me and it was making it worse. I was more afraid of him going under anesthesia than anything. I haven’t learned much about anesthesia, but I have learned that sometimes patients crash and die, even when they seem perfectly healthy (aside from the round tumor they may have, of course).
I asked the doctor if I could be present during the mass removal, as long as I didn’t cry. I promised I would leave if it was too difficult for me to see my own dog go under the knife.
Of course it wasn’t going to be too difficult. Sure, there was my beagle on the table, but as soon as his leg was shaved and scrubbed, all I focused on were the numbers that represented his vital signs, the biopsy punch, the color of the tissue, the weight of the suture, the depth and size of each bite the doctor took in stitching his skin back together. He was still my pup, but on the table, he was a patient and I was fascinated.
He gave me a little bit of a scare when he was initially put under. The ET tube was in place and he was hooked up to the monitors. The tech told the doctor that the patient was ready for his mass removal, and he started kicking his legs. His entire body moved. Since this was my first time witnessing a patient under anesthesia, I was pretty sure the excessive movement wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know if it meant he was waking up or dying from multiple organ failure. I decided to take a step back and watch, wondering if I was about to witness my first Intracardiac injection of epinephrine.
Instead, they turned up the isopropyl phenol gas as one tech said, “Huckleberry, stop holding your breath. You have to breathe the gas in order to go to sleep.”
Once he started breathing again he stopped moving and my heartbeat stopped racing. I made a joke about my stubborn little dog who would just hold his breath forever so he didn’t have to go under anesthesia.
The mass removal and suture took all of 5 minutes. It had actually shrunk significantly and the doctor made a joke about me being possibly a wee bit too high strung as a dog mom. I told her to send the sample in for biopsy anyway. I told her Huck and I were prepared to lose his leg if necessary.
Huck was out for about half an hour. It was cheaper to do the mass removal as an “add-on” to a dental cleaning, so his teeth look fantastic.
When it was time to recover him from anesthesia, I sat with him in the kennel for over 2 hours. While I was focused on making sure he made a full recovery, I was also a little bored, so I grabbed my phone and decided to fully document Huck’s recovery.
He woke up slowly. At first, unable to focus his eyes or hold his head up. He kept his head in my hand and sniffed my arm.
My heart melted.
I kept petting him and cuddling him. Pretty soon he could lift his head to the crook of my elbow.
We sat like that for a long time. He didn’t cry or scream like that animals I’ve heard coming out of anesthesia at the shelter. It made me realize how difficult it must be for them to be all alone. I was so thankful for the opportunity to be Huckleberry’s nurse. He didn’t know where he was or why his legs were not working like they should or what had happened to him. But, I feel like me being there helped him feel more secure.
It will be about a week before we have the biopsy results. I’m feeling hopeful and I think Huckleberry is too. If he could talk right now, he’d probably say today was one of the worst days of his life. Maybe second only to the day he got neutered. I hope he would say that it was nice to have me dote on him and worry about him and carry him up the stairs, even though I kinda sorta dropped him and my take out Thai food because, lets face it, I’m all love and no coordination.