Things We Wish We Could Have Known Sooner: Edited

Robertina is home safely from her biopsy yesterday, but she is thoroughly traumatized from the whole experience. Had we known how it would have all gone down, we might have decided to do things differently or to just keep her home and avoid the whole ordeal instead. 😦

Many years ago, before Robertine’s owner had people like Marty and I pet-sit while she went away, Robertina used to fly down to Arizona every year, too. Then one year, Robertine was lost en route with the rest of people’s luggage and ended up alone in Seattle. (And thus ended her stint as an international jet-setter.) For many, many hours, Robertine was left in her crate in the underbelly of Seattle’s airport, surrounded by deafening noises that the airport workers all shut out using industrial ear muffs. When Robertine’s owner was finally able to get to Seattle to retrieve her (feeling horrible, for sure), Robertine was in full panic mode. The whole area was shaking with booms, bangs, and rumbles, and poor Robertina was just quivering and afraid in her crate.

Robertine’s anxiety is a fact of life for us now. We have all worked very hard for the past few years to re-build her trust and comfort with being away from the people she loves (even for a small amount of time), but the truth is, she simply can’t be left alone for too long without the panic creeping back in. There have been some really close calls with her anxiety– one time (before we knew the true extent of her panic), Robertina jumped out of a second floor window onto the driveway, and another time, her leash got caught dangerously around her neck while she tried to hide somewhere– so now we know that somebody simply needs to be with her whenever possible.

Anyway. The vets are well aware of Robertina’s anxiety condition and thus scheduled the biopsy to happen first thing in the morning. She was to be dropped off at 8:30 am and picked up soon afterward to recover at home. She needed to fast overnight, so Robertine’s owner made sure that she didn’t eat anything after 8 pm.

But: Robertina didn’t end up going in for her biopsy until 1:45 yesterday afternoon!! (There must have been some emergency vet procedures that came in yesterday and bumped Robertine further and further down the queue.) During that whole time, she was pretty much alone in the ‘waiting area’ at the vet’s and she must have been pretty hungry and stressed out by then.  The biopsy itself didn’t necessitate a general anesthetic, so when her turn FINALLY came to go in to see the surgeons, she was just given a local injection and some sedatives. Fine. But? They ended up removing the whole lump in her neck, while she was probably being held by some random surgeon, fully aware, and panicking…

Perhaps I’m being overdramatic about the whole thing, but seriously: when I think about how she might have felt or what she was thinking yesterday while all of this was happening to her (alone!), I feel sick to my stomach.

When her owner was given the call to come fetch her, she actually didn’t think Robertine had been given any sedatives at all, because she was totally alert and freaked out. Apparently, she was given plenty of Demerol, but it was not at all evident from Robertine’s behaviour. The general sense when taking Robertine home from her procedure was that we were back to Day 1 in terms of her anxiety-reduction training… le sigh.

Marty and I weren’t even able to see her last night because her owner had such a hard time settling her down once they were back home. Five hours after she left the vet, Robertine had finally settled down into a light, morphine-induced slumber. Her owner was worried that us coming over to check in might wake her up again and keep her on alert well into the night…

The vets seemed to think that Robertine’s type of cancer might be treatable with chemo (we’ll know the official results at the end of next week, perhaps). But after yesterday’s ordeal, we seem to think that the vets will be lucky if Robertina goes to visit them ever again!! We are all trying to think about Robertine’s quality of life right now (which she still has a ton of, remember), and we wonder if there are any benefits to stressing her out again and again with all of these trips to the vet…

Hopefully we’ll get to see our bandana-clad dog today or tomorrow (she must look like an outlaw with that bandana around her neck to prevent her from licking her wound. I hope it’s a red bandana with small white polka-dots on it.) I still feel pretty wound-up about everything that transpired yesterday, but I think that seeing her again will help remind me that she’s what really matters and that she is okay and safe at home again.

Edited to add: You can imagine my relief and joy when Robertina greeted us with her usual excitement and joie de vivre on Saturday afternoon! It had taken her eight whole hours at home after her vet appointment to calm down a little, but she seemed to be back to her cheery self the next day. Totally not the mopey and sad dog I was worried we would see during our visit…

I think we all agree that Robertina’s comfort and quality of life take priority over any sort of intense treatment for her cancer, so it looks doubtful that we will take any course of chemo or opt for surgical removal of the lymphoma in her lungs. Instead, her prescriptions will continue to be lots of hikes, love, and TLC! Thank you all for your thoughts and concern. xoxo!

5 responses

  1. You aren’t being overly dramatic at all, Dana, .. just very empathetic. A good thing.
    Sure hope Robertina gets over yesterday’s trauma and being with those she trusts has to be the best way to do it.
    I can sure see how measuring the cost/benefit of more upsetting procedures for her goes straight to the quality of her remaining time. Tough call.
    Maybe she could be drugged at home before going so she is calmed/out of it when taken in .. ?

  2. I agree with Dean – is there a way to give her something at home before taking her to stressful situations?!
    SO hard when our pets gets freaked out. I’m so sorry to hear about all this, keep us posted.

  3. Hi Dean and Jabba,

    Robertine is normally fine going to the vet, so there is usually no need to sedate her beforehand. She’s honestly really patient and calm during her regular visits.

    I think the problem this time around was that she was left alone for a much longer time than anyone anticipated. Her owner thought she would be back to retrieve her within an hour or two, but it ended up being more like 8 hours alone at the vet’s…

  4. Oh Dana! I am all about quality of life. and the fact that you can’t explain things to dogs makes it a tough choice. I hope with all my heart that R’s days are filled with fun, hikes, treats and NO ANXIETY. give her a scruffle for me and enjoy her.


  5. Robertina’s usual good nature going to the vet may be de-railed after that bad experience. She may now have some degree of dread at a repeat experience. Of course you hope not, but it would seem more likely to me.

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