I woke up at 6:15 am on Friday August 3rd. My plan was to walk Ginger, get the kids off to school, eat breakfast, work out, pack and then shower/get ready for my flight to Seattle. I needed to leave to get to the airport at 11:45 am.
I walked out to the kitchen at 6:20 to find that Ginger had crashed and couldn't stand up. I picked her up off the floor and she seemed OK. Not great, but OK. I put her leash on and led her to the door. We got to the front door and she just looked up at me, completely unable to walk outside. That had me slightly concerned since we hadn't missed a morning walk in more than two years.
Spencer got up and told me that he had been up during the night and he thought that Ginger was really sick. THAT got me really concerned. If she was acting strange enough that Spencer noticed in the middle of the night, something was going on.
I sent a Marco Polo video to Michael around 7:00 am telling him I thought he needed to come home early to take Ginger to the vet because something was going on and I was going to be at the airport.
I took a screenshot of that video. I was showing him how her muscles were twitching.
I called the vet around 7:10 and made a 2:30 pm appointment for her. Then at 7:20 I called back and cancelled the appointment because I decided she was sick enough that we needed to see the emergency vet. I drove the kids to school at 8:10. I left Spencer and Ginger in the car (engine on, AC running) while I walked Elliott in and also took more asthma medicine for Spencer into the nurse. Then I went back out to the car, Spencer walked in alone, and Ginger and I headed to the vet. By the time we got there a few minutes later she had thrown up all over her bed, which she has never, ever done.
They knew I was coming in for an emergency appointment so they already had a room ready for us. I sent Michael and my Sisterhood group Marco Polo videos from the exam room.
I was convinced that Ginger's Valley Fever had returned so, while I was worried about how sick she was, I thought we'd get some medicine, get her started and in a few days she would perk up.
After I talked to the vet and she did a physical exam, they took Ginger out to do an x-ray and to draw some blood.
They brought her back within about 10 minutes and then we just had to wait for the vet to come back. I was getting a little concerned about time because I still needed to shower and pack, but I figured I'd just do a speedy job on both. It still never occurred to me that I wouldn't be going to Seattle that day.
The vet came back about ten minutes after Ginger came back. With one word. Cancer. Hemangiosarcoma to be specific. Ginger's whole belly was full of tumors. She had a huge tumor on her spleen and more than they could count in her liver. Even then I thought for sure we had months left with her. My brain wouldn't let me think anything different. Ginger had the skin version of hemangiosarcoma before, and was fine after we had it surgically removed, so I figured we'd take her home and give her pain meds and make her comfortable, and in a few months the cancer would get worse and then we'd make some decisions.
I was absolutely stunned that the vet had anything but "valley fever" to say, and I told her I was supposed to leave to fly to Seattle in a few hours. She turned around, shocked, and asked who was taking care of Ginger while I was gone. I told her my husband Michael, and she said, "well, sometimes dogs are closer to one owner, so if she's closer to your husband, that's understandable." And that right there told me all I needed to know. With that (not heartless, but certainly not correct) statement, I knew I needed to cancel my flight and I wasn't going to Seattle.
I got on the phone with Expedia in the vet's office and after ONE ENTIRE GODDAMN HOUR of absolute ineptitude and talking to complete morons, I got the flight cancelled. It took the entire time that they gave Ginger some treatments (an IV of fluids, and some anti-nausea medicine) to make her more comfortable, the entire time that I paid the bill, the entire time that I drove home, and the entire time that I carried Ginger in, cleaned her bed, carried her outside to pee, carried her back inside and made her comfortable on her bed. I have never been so livid in all my life. I will never, ever, book a single thing with Expedia for the rest of my life. And I will also be writing them a rather wordy letter about how awful they were.
Once we were home I started researching just what we were up against. The discharge papers indicated they were discharging her to hospice care but I needed to figure out a timeline.
This is the article that told me everything I needed to know.
I recently euthanized a dog that greeted me at his front door with a goofy grin on his face and a wagging tail. This type of appointment just breaks my heart, yet I was fully supportive of the owner’s decision to euthanize. Why? Because the dog had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma of the heart. Faced with this disease, I would much rather euthanize a week "too early" than a day "too late". Read on to find out why.
What is hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is an aggressive, malignant cancer of the blood vessels that often grows as a mass in the spleen, liver, or heart, but can also be found in other parts in the body. Animals usually present to their veterinarian for sudden collapse due to internal bleeding from the mass. In most cases, by the time the animal is showing clinical signs, the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs. HSA can be diagnosed with X-rays, ultrasound, aspiration of abnormal fluid accumulations, and biopsy of the mass via exploratory surgery.
How is it treated?
Unfortunately, while there are treatment options available, there are no cures for this disease. Surgery may be an effective option for removing the primary tumor and temporarily stopping bleeding, but it is not capable of removing all of the metastatic disease, which is usually microscopic at the time of diagnosis. Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with surgery to help combat the cancer cells that have spread throughout the body.
What symptoms can present as the disease progresses?
loss of appetite
possible distended abdomen
possible increased respiratory rate and effort
persistent early stages
panting, gasping for breath
possible black, tarry stool
unable to rise
Crisis — Immediate veterinary assistance needed regardless of the disease
Profuse bleeding — internal or external
Crying/whining from pain*
*It should be noted that most animals will instinctually hide their pain. Vocalization of any sort that is out of the ordinary for your pet may indicate that their pain and anxiety has become too much for them to bear. If your pet vocalizes due to pain or anxiety, please consult with your tending veterinarian immediately.
What is the prognosis for hemangiosarcoma (HSA)?
A diagnosis of HSA almost always carries a poor prognosis, the only exception being HSA originating from the skin with no internal involvement. If treatment is not an option, euthanasia should be considered to prevent suffering from internal bleeding. Surgery alone to remove the primary tumor carries a median survival time of 1-4 months, while chemotherapy in addition to surgery carries a median survival time of 6-8 months.
Even with surgery and chemotherapy, the disease will progress and the cancer cells with continue to metastasize, creating masses throughout the entire body. Hemorrhages may occur from each cancer site, which may cause transient weakness until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding does not stop, the patient will start showing signs of shock and collapse. To save both the dog and owner from the horrors of this experience, I always prefer to euthanize sooner rather than later when faced with a diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma.
Michael came home from work around noon that day, and Spencer got sent home from school early because of his asthma. Michael made all of the phone calls to set everything up once we decided that we needed to do something that day. The mobile vet that we decided to go with was able to come around 4:00 pm.
Ginger and I spent a couple of hours together in the bedroom.
And then a couple of hours together in the family room.
The vet arrived around around 4:15 and Ginger passed away on this bed, her favorite bed, at 4:35 pm. I don't think I'll ever be "over it".