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Being a veterinarian is an amazing career. It is a job filled with many highs; but while we are part of some of the happiest times, we are also there on the saddest of days. Those happy times look like families bringing in their new puppy or kitten for vaccinations. Recently for me, it’s been vaccinating a family’s new steed for the upcoming show season. But sometimes, we have to deliver heartbreaking news to clients about their furbaby’s health.
Two years ago, one of my patients, Brutus, a now 12-year-old Dachshund, was not feeling well, and his owners were quite concerned. Sean and Jillian McMichael, his owners, reported that Brutus was just not acting right. After taking a blood sample, we agreed that Brutus needed a sonogram to see what was going on. That sonogram found that there was a very large tumor associated with Brutus’s left adrenal gland, an organ beside each kidney that is the sole source of a number of vital hormones. Brutus’s family elected to take him to a larger hospital in Westchester to have a CAT scan done to get a better idea how large the tumor was and if surgery would be an option. Sadly, the findings of the CAT scan were not that promising. The tumor was already nearly three centimeters in size and was intimately involved with some vital blood vessels in the area. If we were to take Brutus to surgery, there would be a tremendous risk, even with the most skilled of surgeons, that the blood vessels would rupture and Brutus would bleed to death right on the operating table. With that information, Brutus’s owners took him home, understanding that, as time went on and the tumor outgrew its blood supply, he could still bleed to death. They planned to make that spring and, hopefully, the summer the best for their little Brutus.
Over the course of the two years, I saw Brutus many times for various medical conditions. The two most critical visits were when we found that Brutus had become a diabetic. The tumor caused him to have erratic blood sugar levels that prevented his body from being able to produce enough insulin to keep up with high sugar levels. Even still, Brutus was happy and had the will to continue. His owners accepted the treatment plan and started Brutus on insulin therapy twice a day at home with strict diet management. Giving insulin to animals is not an easy task and takes extreme dedication and cooperation on behalf of the patient. In addition to being a diabetic, Brutus also lost his vision. Despite having a large abdominal tumor, diabetes and being blind, this little dog continued to enjoy life and bring joy to his family. He enjoys life by the water, going camping and jumping in the snow. Brutus has had his share of ups and downs over the past two years. Each time we are concerned that he may not recover, he proves us wrong and makes amazing improvements.
Timelines and outlook are not always correct. Despite the best medical testing and expertise, we can be proven wrong one way or another. In situations such as Brutus’s, a couple of months can turn into years, and that is nothing short of amazing. Life is just too precious and short to let the little things get you down and bad news extinguish your outlook. Enjoy each day to the best of your abilities.