Friday afternoon, the phone rang. Well, it rings many times a day, including on Friday afternoon. But this one was different.
I could barely understand the person on the other end when she started talking, mostly because she was sobbing so much at the same time. Her first words were: My Sheltie has just been diagnosed with cancer, and we can’t afford the surgery to treat her; will you take her into your program?
I reassured her that we never refuse to accept a purebred Sheltie, regardless of his/her medical condition. The woman was clearly relieved, but her sobbing didn’t diminish a bit, for good reason — her Sheltie had just been diagnosed with one of the scarier diseases known. I started asking her questions about her Sheltie and about the diagnosis to try to figure out whether things were really as bleak as she believed and also to begin planning how we would work her Sheltie into our environment.
Daisy (imagine that: in 20-odd years of rescue, we’ve never had a Daisy, and now we’ve had two in two weeks!) had a small lump on her neck that they discovered on Monday, so Daisy’s mom make a vet appointment for the following Monday (tomorrow). On Friday morning, they woke up and the small lump was now about the size of a racquetball and they thought that Daisy was having trouble breathing. In addition, Daisy had thrown up some blood and her poop was also bloody. So, of course, they raced over to the vet with Daisy and had her checked out.
Some $500 later, they had the diagnosis: Cancer. The vet wasn’t so sure about the bloody vomiting and poop, but suggested that it might be an ulcer caused by the stresses associated with the toll that cancer was taking on her body. A couple of meds were prescribed and they sent her home for the weekend. Oh, one more thing: They estimated surgery costs at about $1200.
Well, this is Utah, and let’s just say that Utah doesn’t pay the highest wages in the country. And the woman’s husband works construction, and you can just imagine how much work he’s getting in this economy. So the $500 was money that they didn’t even have (they had to put it on a credit card), much less the $1200. And that was why they sought Sheltie Rescue — to save their beloved Sheltie’s life, even if it meant giving her up.
We made an appointment for the woman to bring Daisy over the next day, Saturday, but she phoned back within a half hour to say that Daisy had "blood coming out of her bum". They asked if we could take Daisy right now before she was too weak to move, so we said they should come right over (they live about 30 or 35 miles from here).
When they (the woman and her mother) got here, I sat on the floor checking Daisy out. She was pretty freaked out, in part because her mommy was still sobbing her heart out. But we spent nearly an hour interviewing the woman about Daisy overall, especially the doctor visit and the diagnosis. We checked out the meds, too, and they were, ummm, not exactly what we would have been giving for a suspected ulcer. It’s not that they were harmful, but that they wouldn’t be effective very quickly. (We started Daisy on sucrylfate immediately after they left, which is the best thing we’ve found to stop an ulcer from getting worse, and then allowing the dog to eat something for nutritional purposes.) While they were still there, we realized that Daisy was fairly dehydrated, so we gave her a "backpack" (subcutaneous fluids in the loose skin of the back).
Well, Barbara took Daisy to our vets (Cottonwood Animal Hospital, Dr. Porter in this case) for an exam and evaluation. Dr. Porter concurred with the bleeding ulcer diagnosis and confirmed that we were giving Daisy the proper meds (as opposed to what the other vet had prescribed) and that giving her the subQ fluids was necessary. He also aspirated the mass (which, by the way, is very hard, but also very much detached from the underlying tissue, making it likely that the surgery won’t be complicated) and examined the cells. His conclusion was that "it could be cancer, but it’s not completely obvious", meaning that the cells were abnormal, but not necessarily cancer, and not necessarily virulent.
Daisy will probably have her surgery this coming week, as soon as we believe that she has recovered her strength enough to be able to take the surgery…and she’s coming along very well, which is a Reall Good Sign. We don’t know how much it will cost, but we’re hopeful that it’ll be a lot less than the $1200!
Here’s what’s different about this: We agreed with the family that, if Daisy pulls through the surgery fine and the prognosis for the future is good, they can repay us for the medical and associated costs, along with an additional donation, and we will allow them to re-adopt Daisy from us.
This DOES NOT mean that we’re going to become a medical service organization — give us your Sheltie, we’ll pay for everything, you get the dog back, and we hope like hell that you repay us. No way! In fact, we’re not at all sure that we will ever do this again, especially if they end up not repaying us and we have to reposess Daisy and then place her with somebody else. It’s a very limited experiment.
One of these days, I’ll start to feel like I’ve gained enough karma to make up for whatever reason I got sent back to this lifetime as a lower being than the Sheltie I was in my former life!
(If any of our readers feel that they are able to contribute even a little towards Daisy’s surgery and other expenses, please, please, please click on that PayPal donate button over on the right side of the screen!)