Yesterday I took Sadie to the vet. She’s been limping since late Spring. I reduced her to leash walks only, tried to control her excitement when a squirrel would appear in the back yard, and cancelled all of her doggie play dates. It wasn’t helping. I was pretty sure I knew what was going on. I took her to the vet for x-rays to confirm what I already knew. I got a phone call at work. I was informed by the vet that “Sadie is an orthopedic quandary.” I already knew that…and had a lot of time to think about it during the afternoon while I washed windows and awaited my 4:30 pm consultation with the vet.
Sadie was a rescue dog. Our border collie, Bones, died the summer before we got her. There was a long list of cons regarding getting another. We are river people. Snakes, poison ivy, and dogs don’t mix well. Any dog we got would outlive our kid’s time remaining at home. There is dog poop to clean up, and dog hair to deal with. Dogs have bad breath, they wake you up by barking in the middle of the night. Food and immunizations cost money. And they die too soon, and when they do it hurts like hell. But…the one pro was that we wanted one…well, all of us but Jasper. So…I coyly waited until Emerald was out of town before choosing a dog and going out to pick her up. Jasper and Sadie soon became fast friends, though he never relished picking up her poop.
I swore I would never get another border collie….they are very intense dogs. I wanted one with short hair, and one Bones’ size (35#) or smaller. Sadie is a 60# border collie mix with long black hair. I fell in love with her face, and once you’ve had a border collie, it is hard to settle on a more stupid breed. She was immediately street smart, came to heel if there was traffic, and learned mountain biking commands on the first ride. She thought sheep and other ungulates all appropriate to herd. Horses and moose she treated with respect…and llamas confused the heck out of her. She ran with pure abandon, and could not figure out why any dog would ever swim. A bit of a klutz, she slashed her hind legs on grills, barbed wire, and ski edges. This was so regular we never had to pay for extra anesthesia to get her teeth cleaned. Just had ’em cleaned while they had her under to stitch her up.
Then, at age 4, she blew her right knee out. Emerald was dating a pre-vet student at the time who was working at his uncle’s vet clinic in Spokane. Taking advantage of the friends and family discount, we had her knee repaired. It failed, so we had it redone. The boyfriend assisted in both surgeries. I found it ironic that Sadie’s fate, if we had not rescued her, would have been a “surgery” dog at the local vet school. They would have used her to train vet students. That boyfriend is now a vet….and Sadie was part of his training. We were also told that she had hip dysplasia, and that the likelihood of her blowing her other knee was high. She had a good solid 4 years of running on the mountain, skiing at the Palouse Divide, and chasing deer through the wheat fields before the other knee blew.
Sadie is family. When Emerald would return from MT, she was glad to see her parents and brother, but the most snuggle time was spent with the dog. Jasper, in his teenage angst, would take her for long walks at night…a behavior that I recognized as my way of dealing with those same feelings way back when. Sadie accompanied Jim on every one of his post diagnosis hikes. From the first, less than a week after surgery, to the last 2 city block excursions. She often sat next to him on the couch as he watched movies to deal with the head and gut slam of chemo. She laid at our feet the night Jim died, and kept finding socks of his for weeks after his body had been taken away. Feeding Sadie got me up in the morning when it was hard. She got me out the door to run even if my running partners cancelled. She accompanied me on late evening walks when I would head down to the nature preserve and scream at the universe. Sadie made me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry.
At age 8, with an already compromised knee and hip dysplasia, I knew that Sadie was an orthopedic quandary. I knew what the basic options were going to be. I knew that knee repair would be one of the options, with no real guarantees. Her hips might be bad enough that even with a solid knee, it would still be too painful to run. Dogs don’t live that long, there is no guarantee that cancer or some other malady would take her in the next few years. I knew that doing nothing was also an option. She has adjusted to leash walks only…sort of.
When Jim decided to stop all treatment after the 2nd bout of chemo failed, he just asked one thing of me. At some level, he must have known the tumor was going to kill him. He held my hands in that examining room at UCSF, and said, “I know we’re not going to do any more drugs, no more surgery….but please, please, please…don’t give up on me and my own ability to fight.” Sadie can’t talk…but I fell in love with her face. The look she gives me as I put on my running shoes in the morning, telling her I will return later for her walk, says, “please, please, please…don’t give up on me.” I’m having Sadie’s knee repaired. It is scheduled for September 17th. She could be rehabilitated in time for the snow to fly. I know there are no guarantees. I won’t give up on her. I owe her that chance.