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The Animals Come First — As It Should Be

, , , , , , , | Healthy | March 6, 2023



We’ve had sled dogs for the past twenty years. We use them for pulling and carrying to fulfill their needs but keep them as family pets. At most, we’ve had five dogs. Now we only have one left: Gamlemor. She’s turning thirteen this March. As responsible pet owners, we visit our veterinarian at least once a year — twice a year after they turn ten.

Being a senior dog, Gamlemor is starting to get some “extra” issues as most beings do when getting old. Off to the vet we go, same as always. We’ve used this practice for eighteen years now, and we adore our veterinarian.

He’s got a good size office, with many employees with this very same type of dedication.

I take “Gamlemor” in for itchy ears and a lump on her chest. I think she needs an ear flush for the itch and the lump is just “another lump of fat”. (She’s had a few over the years.)

However, this time, her ear has some deformation and the lump is cancerous. And checking her ears, they notice that a few of her teeth need to come out, as well.

I am very emotional at the moment, so there are probably some variations to the wording. Here’s approximately how this conversation went.

Vet: “The tumor is out, and we are quite sure we got all of it plus some good margins. But she’s an old girl, so belly rubs need to happen every day and you need to be thorough.”

Me: “She already gets them. I just can’t believe we missed this.”

Vet: “Thorough?”

Me: *Through sobs* “Obviously not.”

Vet: “Now, I’ve booked a date for removing the bad teeth, but I’m more concerned about her inner ear. And we need to be clear about what to expect. This is calcification or cancer. This is serious. A CT will tell us more about where it is, but there’s not a lot to do about it.”

Me: “Okay. Is she in pain? What options are there?”

Vet: “It’s not what you want to hear, but Gamlemor is not comfortable. She’s not showing it, but her teeth alone would cause a bit of pain and the ear makes her itchy and dizzy. I’d recommend managing her condition depending on the CT. And there’s an option to remove the inner ear, but it’s extremely painful.”

Me: “Okay!” *Sobs* “What does ‘managing’ mean? Why not operate? The pain is temporary, right? How much is it? Can you do it?”

Vet: “‘Managing’ is medication. I’ll tell you the price for dental care. But… it’s my job to inform you that there are options. I can do the operation, but I won’t. I won’t subject Gamlemor to this at her age. It’s a lot of pain for two to four weeks, and there’s a chance it won’t heal well or at all. And with her age and sensitivity, it’s not an option in my opinion. There are other practices that will take care of this if you absolutely have to, but try to ask why before doing anything. Is it for Gamlemor or yourself?”

Me: *Ugly crying* “You’re such an a**hole, sometimes. You know that?”

Vet: “Yes, but you know this, too: I do business with you because you pay your dues. I like you because you listen and you care about your animals. But I love Gamlemor. Here, take this.” *Hands me a tissue* “And take a moment. I’ll print your appointment and put together an invoice for dental care.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we keep coming back. This vet is autistic. He’s not great with people. But he’s honest, direct, and hard-working. And he loves his job because he loves animals. When we show up with our pets, this practice is their voice of reason when we’re upset or not thinking straight.

When we visit, they greet our pets the way their personalities preferred it, and then they greet us. “Do you want something to drink? Great, I’ll bring your human something, too.”

A veterinarian nurse said on our second visit, “You’re the wallet; this is the patient,” while rubbing Oscar’s belly with both hands.

Gamlemor is now on medication for arthritis, inflammation, and pain relief. She’s comfortable, playful, and happy. We might be able to keep her around for a few months still, a year if we’re lucky. She’s on follow-ups every two months — something we asked for, so Gamlemor has her advocate when it’s time for her to go, but forever.

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