Henry's Surgery and Chemotherapy
$100 Raised
1 contributor
2 Years running
Henry, an 11 year old Greyhound rescue, has cancer. His leg has been amputated, and he is receiving chemotherapy. Your donation will help pay for his treatment. More ...

Henry, our 11 year old retired racing Greyhound, was adopted from Greyhound Adoption Center in 2002.  Like most greyhounds, he is sweet, wonderful, gentle and loving. Rita, our other hound, and the rest of the mutts LOVE going for walks (we have five dogs and five cats, all rescues, for those who are unfamiliar). The sound of the leashes being removed from their resting place sends them each into their own personalized frenzy (Cesar Millan would be disappointed, I'm sure).

On the evening of October 10th, Henry became customarily excited by the familiar announcement of "let's go for a walk". While making his usual run thru the living room towards the door, a run he has made thousands of times, he fell down in a heap and let out an ear-piercing cry. When I picked him up, I noticed that his rear left leg was dangling a few inches below the knee, clearly broken. Leg breaks of this nature are not uncommon in Greyhounds, though they usually occur at top speed during their racing careers, and not routinely running thru the house. Or so I thought.

Kathleen and I rushed Henry to a 24 Hour Veterinarian, who examined him and informed us that his leg was broken (gee, thanks Doc). Unfortunately, their resident surgeon wouldn't be in until the following week, so we would have to take him to another specialty center in Fountain Valley, which is a few towns over. The specialty center admitted him, gave him some pain medicine and said that they would have the surgeon call us in the morning. We left him in their care and headed for home, confident that it was just a freak accident, that his leg would be fixed, and all would be well. But there was more to the story.

The surgeon called the next morning and said that, rather than being just a freak accident, his x-rays were suggestive of Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer very common in older greyhounds, and that the leg could not be repaired, but would have to be amputated. The only other option was to put him down. He could not continue with that broken leg. Well...had Henry shown any indication that he was sick or declining, we most certainly would have considered that perhaps it was just his time. But that had not been the case. Henry had been completely healthy and normal in the moments before his accident, and, but for this broken leg and a diagnosis of "possibly cancer", he was still in good health.

The surgeon and oncologist both assured us that Greyhounds do quite well on three legs, and that a treatment course of amputation + chemotherapy would not at all be inhumane. They showed us research and case studies which demonstrated this, and we were/are convinced that it was/is the right thing to do. We gave them the green light to go forward with the amputation.

Well...Greyhounds are also prone to a bleeding disorder called fibrinolysis, particularly after trauma and surgery. Henry's probably kicked in after he fell, and surgery was not an option until it was resolved. So his amputation had to be postponed for a day while he was given Fresh Frozen Plasma treatment. The treatment worked, and they were able to get the bleeding under control.

Henry's leg was amputated on Saturday, 10/12. The surgery itself went very well. The surgeon was hopeful that he could go home within a few days, but things didn't work out that way. His recovery was very challenging. Every day featured a new set-back which would require additional treatment. And each new treatment made the cost of his treatment that much larger. Money had been the elephant in the room, as I'm sure is often the case when it comes to veterinary emergencies. We certainly didn't want our decision about Henry to be influenced by the cost, but at some point there is simply no more money. We were approaching that point, and had to make that clear to the veterinary team.

It was decided that, if he were able, Henry would go home the following day and that we would do our best to get him thru the rest of his recovery. If not, if he was still struggling to recover, we were going to have to make the tough decision to let him go.

The next day began with a call from the Critical Care Veterinarian, with news that Henry was having difficulty breathing and that he may not be able to go home that day. They had to put him in the oxygen tank (see the pictures of Henry behind the glass) just so he could breathe. She called back again to say that she wanted to do a chest x-ray to see what was going on, and then called back again to say that the chest x-ray showed something abnormal happening in his lungs. She wasn't sure what it was, but she was sure that it was not good. Shortly thereafter she called back and suggested that I come down right away because she wasn't sure he was going to make it much longer. Kathleen left work and met me there within 30 minutes.

We went in emotionally prepared to see a very sick dog gasping for air and ready to pass away at any moment. Instead, we saw Henry looking like...Henry, sitting up, alert and looking around just as he normally would. His breathing was visibly labored, but he was not the "dying" dog that I expected to see when I walked thru the door. In a strange way, this was even more upsetting. It would have been much easier to make that tough decision to let Henry go had he been sick and suffering. But seeing him look so...normal was very confusing. The x-rays clearly showed something going on in his lungs, but his appearance suggested that he still had some fight left in him. The attending vet said that she would completely support our decision to put him down, but frankly, we just weren't there yet, and we didn't think he was either.

During Henry's hospitalization we had developed a good rapport with the oncologist that was going to be treating his cancer. We went into a private room with her and asked her to give us her honest opinion. If he was suffering, and there were little chance of his recovering, we needed her to tell us, in which case we would make the tough decision and let him go. But if there was still a chance, and it wouldn't cause him to suffer, we wanted to take it. She tearfully told us a story about her cat having cancer, and how, when it came time to let him go, she knew, and that she didn't think Henry was at that point yet. She felt that he still had the light in his eyes, and that it was worth a shot to give him some more time and to see if he pulled thru.

We agreed that that is what we wanted to do. Of course, there was that elephant issue again. We had exhausted all funds for this adventure, and that reality hadn't changed in a day. The oncologist spoke with management at the center, and they agreed to give Henry a free day in the oxygen tank to see if he could pull thru (there have been times when I could have used a free day in the oxygen tank, but that's a story for another time). We stayed with him for a few more hours, went home to check on the other (now neglected) pets, and returned to be with Henry.

We stayed with him until midnight, during which time there was little change in his status. The overnight doctor told us that it was 50/50 at this point, and that he would call us during the night if he began to decline. We said goodbye to Henry before we left and headed home, hoping to hear some good news the following morning. The morning did, indeed, bring good news. The critical care vet from the prior day called and said that he had improved and that she was comfortable with him going home. We showed up to collect him and drove him home via PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, or the beach route for any non-Californians that have had the strength to slog thru this narrative). Henry loves the beach, and he really enjoyed the drive (see the pictures of him smiling below).

Overall, he has done very well since coming home. The other dogs gave him a wide berth initially. They could tell that there was something not quite right about him, but they couldn't put their paws on it. Now they're all up in his face again, crawling over him and whatnot. Things are back to normal in that regard. He's had a few setbacks, but he's mostly been on the right track. He gets around surprisingly well on three legs. Dogs really pick it up quick. They don't trip out about it like a human would, they just get up and go.

His first chemotherapy treatment was past Friday night 11/1/13 (God bless The Ohio State University Greyhound Wellness Program - they provided the chemo drug at NO charge). He has five more remaining. And he's very happy to be home. That was our primary goal - to get him back to his home. The thought that one minute all was well, then he breaks his leg, and he would never come back home again was unacceptable to me. Those six nights without him passed out on the floor, or bitching at us until we all scoot over and let him up on the bed (Cesar Millan is still disappointed) just felt wrong. I'm glad we accomplished that goal. If he were to pass away tomorrow, I would of course be sad, but I would be satisfied that we were able to get him home. Our second goal was to take him for a walk at Stearns Park, his park. We finally gave it a shot this past Sunday. He made it there fine...but I had to carry him home. That would have been easy to weeks ago, but he's put on a bit of weight since then. And that's a good thing. Our next goal is to get him back to 2nd St. in Belmont Shore, where he was a regular for many years. Then, once that happens, we aim to bring him back to Dog Beach, a place he hasn't been in years. Call it Henry's "Bucket List" if you will. But we realize that we have less days with him than we would like, and we want to make the most of it. We will do so.

And then there is still that elephant. Was this endeavor outrageously expensive? Yes! Are we irrationally in love with and devoted to this dog? We are indeed! Guilty as charged (though, in our defense, he is our first, and he is just a totally awesome dog). Are we going to need therapy when he finally does pass? Yep. But is he worth it? Absolutely. Life is short, and we only get to have Henry once. There will be plenty of days left for us to make money, but we only get to love and enjoy Henry for a limited amount of time. It is worth it. Besides, that's what Care Credit and credit cards are for. (A special word of thanks to SCAF, The Riedel & Cody Fund, and The Loba Memorial Foundation for their generous contributions - it really helped a lot!).

And now, for the possible motive. For those who are compelled to do so, I have set up a FundRazr for Henry's treatment. But please don't feel obligated to contribute. I mean that sincerely. We did this for Henry for our own reasons. It is certainly not the most imperative cause in the world, and frankly, it will get paid for one way or another, whether people contribute or not (but if you wish to, there it is). Well, I can't imagine that anybody has read this far, and that's ok. I like to write, and this has been therapeutic for me. But for those brave souls who did actually make it to the end of this post, thanks for reading. Be sure to check back for updates on Henry. All the best, continued success, sincerely, regards, God Bless, etc. With love, Mikey P.

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