At Ray’s first medical examination, he was diagnosed with Stage 2 Heartworm. Stage 2 is serious, but did offer a chance for successful treatment. We had a number of options:
Commit a lot of money to a treatment program which may kill him? -We were fortunate in that we could manage the estimated $3500.00 financial burden of the treatment program, but did we want to? Ray had not been with us very long and was clearly carrying a lot of emotional “baggage” from his past. While it would be nice to believe that he would adapt to be a lovely family pet, nobody could offer us that guarantee, so we would be investing a considerable amount of money in a dog with unknown potential. Furthermore, treatment consisted of a series of deep muscle injections with an arsenic-based compound which should kill all the heartworms, however, when heartworms die, the pieces of worm can cause restrictions or even a blockage. There was a significant possibility that Ray could die from congestive heart failure. To minimize this potential outcome, a dog had to be kept as calm as possible in order to maintain a very slow heart rate. Life for Ray, and for us, would be very difficult for the next six months or so.
Do nothing? – This was technically an option but, in reality, would have been a cruel and totally irresponsible decision. His quality of life would have slowly deteriorated as the heartworms spread, causing damage to his lungs and other organs throughout his body. Death would have been his only escape.
Return him to OMHS? – We knew they would have taken him back, but that raised some issues. We would be avoiding making the difficult decision by transferring the responsibility to OMHS. This rationale is against my core belief of accepting one’s responsibilities. Returning him to OMHS also had some very questionable ramifications in that they would probably not be able to adopt him out again. Who would want to take on an unknown dog with a serious (and expensive) health issue? Would OMHS be prepared to finance the treatment of a single dog when they are totally dependent on voluntary financial contributions and are constantly fund-raising in order to maintain their day to day services?
Euthanize him? – The thought of euthanizing Ray gave me a lot of problems because of Skeeta, my first cat in Canada. Skeeta always seemed to love the company of pretty much anybody and her original owners did not feel that they had the time for her any longer, and so were looking for an alternative home for her. She made a huge impact on us all but, after only three months, she was clearly distressed and we were advised that she had feline leukemia. Her condition could not be treated and it was recommended that we have her euthanized. Looking back, I still struggle with Skeeta’s death. (Terms like “euthanize”, “put down”, and “put to sleep” are all gentle terms that simply mask the reality of killing.)
The more I thought about Skeeta, the more I decided that Ray deserved an opportunity to live and it would be my goal to ensure that he had that opportunity. My decision therefore was to keep him with us and start treatment as soon as possible. Fortunately, Carol had come to the same conclusion and so treatment was scheduled over the summer.
It did cross my mind that Carol may not be able to justify the cost of the treatment so, while I was not anticipating an issue over this, I was prepared. I had already decided that I would cover the cost on my own if necessary. Here was a dog who was less than three years old; who had not had a very good start to his life; who was clearly making an effort to adapt to a family environment; who was already making a niche for himself in our family; who was showing signs of being more than happy to stay with us and, most importantly to me, here was a dog who had invited me to be his friend.
What sort of friend would I be to now walk away from him, and leave him to whatever fate would await? Ray could well die during the heartworm treatment, but then he could also survive it. I was very happy to commit whatever was necessary to ensuring that he had the best chance possible of a long and happy life. I suddenly realized just how important he was to me. I loved this guy!
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The above was copied from my book about Ray, “Who Said I was up for Adoption?”, click/select book cover in column on right for more information.