Life, death & dogs: The cost of a few more years

Pricey surgery to remove a tumor could extend Lucy the dog's life by a few years

Lucy, a New York native, has a cancerous mass on her lung. Doctors say a pricey surgery will extend her life. (Colin Miner)
Lucy, a New York native, has a cancerous tumor on her lung. Doctors say a pricey surgery will extend her life. (Colin Miner)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As it turns out puppies don’t live forever.

Let me back up a little. Just over 10 years ago I was living on the Upper West Side of New York City. Because of a foot injury, I was restricted on how long I could walk each day.

Lucy the Beagle-Border Collie mix was adopted in NYC over 10 years ago. (KOIN)
Lucy the Beagle-Border Collie mix was adopted in NYC over 10 years ago. (Colin Miner)

One afternoon in April, I passed a local pet store where the North Shore Animal League would bring in pets for adoption. As they say, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a long-term relationship, just some cute, furry moments of fun.

I had never had a dog before.

I walked in to find 6 dogs pretty much all sound asleep. One, though, reached her paws up, wanting to be held. I obliged and she fell asleep in my arms. A store clerk took a photo, which I emailed to my better half (better 83%?) with the subject: “What should I do?”

“Bring her home,” my better 83% reluctantly said.

And that is how Lucy, a Beagle-Border Collie mix became a part of my life.

It quickly became apparent she was a New Yorker, filled with attitude, opinion and self-confidence.

Like most puppies, she tried to torture older dogs at the dog run. The only time I remember her backing down happened when she got a good barking-to from an older dog whose hot dog she tried to steal.

In New York, she hated the rain. If we reached the awning of our apartment building and there was precipitation, she would turn around and suggest maybe later.

Although she didn't like the rain in NY, Lucy is a big fan of it here in Portland. (Colin Miner)
Although she didn’t like the rain in NY, Lucy is a big fan of it here in Portland. (Colin Miner)

That changed when we moved to Oregon and her paws seemed to become webbed. She could not spend enough time out in the rain. I think it has something to do with the earthworms that come out in the field behind my house when it rains.

Can’t be sure. Don’t really want to know.

Unlike many dogs, she is not an early riser. My better 83% and I can be showered, dressed, ready to start the day. Lucy will roll over and yawn, as if to suggest maybe we try again around early afternoon.

Another thing, while she clearly loves my better 83% very much, she is kind of my dog; probably having to do with the fact that I rescued her and spent much of her early years working from home.

You know those YouTube videos of hysterical beagles greeting soldiers returning from war; acting as if this was the greatest thing ever? Honestly, I kind of get that when I return from taking out the garbage.

So, here’s where we are now.

A couple of weeks ago, Lucy Dog was coughing a lot so we took her to the vet. It turned out she has a cancerous tumor on her lung. Surgery will cost a few thousand dollars.

The doctors are upfront: surgery could give her a few more years, but there is a chance it may not end so well.

A friend of mine told me she took her 3 1/2 year old dog in for surgery that everyone suggested was necessary. Her dog died the next day.

These things happen.

The question is: how do you balance spending a few thousand dollars on surgery that may or may not work with the simple fact I want to give Lucy – who has given me nothing but love – every chance to live as long as possible?

Lucy the Beagle-Border Collie mix was adopted in NYC over 10 years ago. (Colin Miner)
Lucy the Beagle-Border Collie mix was adopted in NYC over 10 years ago. (Colin Miner)

Don’t get me wrong. I spoil Lucy every chance I get. At the same time, I always know she’s a dog; a member of my family but still a dog.

And If I forget she’s a dog, she will search out cat poop on a walk and remind me.

I want her to live forever — or at least as long as I am around — but her recent diagnosis has reminded me that won’t be the case.

That I am even taking money into consideration makes me wonder if I am a bad person.

For 10 years she has pretty much given me nothing but unconditional love. Well, maybe not entirely unconditional; I have no doubt that some of it has to do with food, treats and countless pillows. Is it wrong to even consider money in this equation?

Right now her quality of life is pretty good. She has slowed down a little, coughs a bit. The doctors, though, are pretty clear about what the future holds.

Do I want to spend the money to make her life better, or because I can’t bear the thought of losing her? If she doesn’t get the surgery, the end is written.

My sense is: spend the money and hope for the best.

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