Bolo and the cancer battle.

I set out recently to write an update on our pack, but, to be honest, this post has been pretty painful to write. Because, as you’ve probably gathered if you’ve been reading this blog over the last few years, Bolo is a very special dog, who holds a special place in all our hearts.  

IMG_0116.JPG

Bolo has always been our Problem Child - both in the sense of having the most problems (his habit of catching small dogs like rabbits and needing to be walked in a muzzle,  for instance) and the most lovable ones (his snuggle bunny nature). His early history involved terrible neglect and a huge amount of rehabilitation. In recent years he’s been our Wee Monster’s special buddy and confidante, living proof of the axiom that second hand dogs give first class love.

IMG_0011.JPG

In recent years, Bolo has also struggled with tumours. The first appeared nearly 4 years ago on his right wrist. We had it surgically removed but, because it came from the wrist, there wasn’t a lot of spare tissue that could be removed to give a “clean margin”. Then there was a tumour on his face, which was a little bit easier to remove due to the flexible skin of the cheek and neck. Both of these tumours came back with sad pathology results, the tumours weren’t fatty lumps or benign cells, but cancer cells. Fortunately, they weren’t super aggressive cancer cells, dividing and spreading throughout the body rapidly, but the lack of clean margins meant that we knew it was only a matter of time until more tumours appear.

IMG_0219.JPG

This year, Bolo’s tumour on his wrist has returned.  Same place, same diagnosis from the initial tests. But Bolo is now 12 (although we thought he was 11 until recently when his birthday was discovered on old microchip records) and surgery is a questionable option. Although there have been advances in veterinary medicine for geriatric dogs that make anaesthetics safer, there remains an ethical question about how much we can put him through. Bolo also has stiffness and suspected arthritis in his hips and back legs. To have radical surgery on his wrist, and then ask his other legs to support him, would be cruel. So we are left to watch and wait.

IMG_0187.JPG

Bolo is tired, but so very stoic. He sometimes delights us with bursts of spirit and joy - demanding that the other dogs play and race and leap frog - but these are generally followed by days of lethargy, as his body struggles to cope and recoup energy. 

We went back to the vet yesterday, to discuss our concerns and our difficulties in deciding on a course of action. How do you know when the pain and suffering of a dog is becoming unbearable? Some dogs don’t tolerate discomfort at all, but Bolo is definitely a stubborn boy who won’t admit to being sore if he can help it! Is it better to wait until the animal is in terrible pain that can’t be masked by drugs, or is it better to halt a decline a little early? How do you juggle the needs of single dog against the needs of the pack, a pack that in this case includes a 2.5 year old, who can’t yet understand what’s going on?

Obviously the vet can’t help us with several of these heart breaking questions. But yesterday the good news was that we have quite a few options still to explore, before we have to make a final call.  We got to bring Bolo home for some more cuddles. We’re not sure how long we can hold onto him, but we hope we can cherish every moment.

IMG_0236.JPG

Husky prey drive - not safe for cats!

This morning, I heard a funny sound in the backyard. A puppy? A lost dog? A sad dog, it was definitely an unhappy sound.

I looked out and saw this... 

IMG_9894.JPG

That’s not a lost puppy or small dog. That’s my 9 year old husky. In full prey drive mode. Oh dear!  

(Prey Drive has different impacts on different breeds - selective breeding has allowed humans to manipulate it so terriers hunt rats, retrievers retrieve game and herding dogs herd sheep. In many arctic breeds, prey drive has been left unmodified, and in some cases encouraged, where dogs have been allowed to hunt for their own food in summer months, as part of the traditional lifestyles of various indigenous peoples.)

IMG_9895.JPG

I raced down the backyard. Some huskies can be trusted with small animals, but many are a danger for possums, guinea pigs and even small dogs. Bolo is walked in a muzzle because he can’t be trusted to tell the difference between a white arctic hare (not that we have many of them in Melbourne!) and a white terrier like a Westie or a Maltese. Frankie is pretty happy to live and let live - with the right introductions and combination of personalities, I could see him happily living with a confident cat or bossy little dog.

Czar sits right in the middle of these two. He has been known to catch young possums and snatch low flying birds out of the air. He attends Obedience Classes and Trials very happily, surrounded by dogs of all sizes. But off lead parks became very stressful, as sometimes Czar’s prey drive was triggered by other dogs running past right under his nose, and it was always questionable whether he would just chase or whether he would actually catch and hurt a smaller dog.

And this morning, it was Czar who had something cornered up a tree, inside our backyard. So I hurried down the back stairs and down the back yard. To my relief, Czar “recalled” beautifully, coming out of the garden bed when I called him. I’ve seen him in full prey drive mode completely unresponsive, even to being dragged on a martingale collar (in an Obedience Trial, to my disgust!) Today wasn’t so bad. I took him inside and gave him a lots of praise and treats. 

Do you want to know what he had trapped? 

IMG_9897.JPG

To be honest, I’m really a bit cranky about this. We live right by multiple areas of National Park and I’m surprised the local council doesn’t have more restrictions on cats to protect our native wildlife. Since we moved in, the Wee Monster has enjoyed spotting possums (high in the trees, out of husky reach), cockatoos, rosellas and kookaburras in our garden, and I assume that most of the locals are here to enjoy the greenery and the birds. So I’m surprised to see a few neighbours let their cats roam - they’ve been in our front garden quite a bit, but this is the first time in the back, that I know of. But I’m also really cranky about the disregard for the cat’s own safety. Nearly every house in our street has at least one dog, many have two. Maybe not all of those dogs have the same prey drive issues as huskies, but I still think many people are cavalier about their cat’s safety, if they let their cat roam. Cats can be very happy indoors and in cat runs. Why run the risk of them wandering into a backyard and into the jaws of a large dog?

Please, folks, if you love your cat, keep it safe!!