Monday was a tough, sad day. I euthanized Chloe, a dog that I had been taking care of for several months. Chloe had lymphoma, but her owner had opted not to treat her. Instead she made sure that Chloe’s last months were filled with love and yummy treats and a lot of kisses. I never questioned or disputed the owner’s decision, because I felt that she knew better than I did how to make a decision whether or not to pursue treatment. You see, Chloe’s owner is in remission from lymphoma herself.
I first saw Chloe, a nondescript black dog with a blaze of white across her neck, when she came in after having been bitten by a neighbor’s dog. She was a typical family dog, with a gentle sweet demeanor, and worried brown eyes. Her owner was just as sweet and kind as Chloe . The wounds were fairly straightforward, but as I ran my hands over her in the course of my normal exam, I felt something that made my stomach lurch. A large firm painless mass sat ominously under her throat where her submandibular lymph nodes should have been. Chloe submitted patiently to my thorough exam of all of her lymph nodes, her owner watching me curiously. I explained that I had found a suspicious mass and she consented to allow me to do a needle aspirate. I explained my concerns; that a hugely enlarged painless lymph node without any other clinical signs, made me suspicious for lymphoma. I began to tell her what lymphoma is, but Chloe’s owner stopped me gently. “Dr. Mantione, you don’t need to explain it to me. I was treated for lymphoma last summer. I know what it is.”
The slide came back from the pathologist as highly suggestive of lymphoma and recommended a biopsy of the lymph node. Chloe’s owner declined any further workup. She said that Chloe was a good dog, an older dog and she didn’t wish to subject her to anything painful or scary. Lymphoma was an enemy that she had fought before and she knew firsthand how tough that fight could be. So we decided just to keep her happy and spoiled for as long as possible. Chloe lived four months from the time of her diagnosis. This past week she stopped eating and had trouble getting herself up.
On Monday, Chloe and her owner came in one last time. Chloe was quiet and weak and her owner had tears in her eyes as she told her what a good dog she was. She said goodbye as Chloe quietly slipped away, her tears falling on the shiny black coat. We sat together for a minute as she told me that Chloe was the best dog she had ever had. It was a privilege to be the veterinarian for such a brave pair, and it will be a long time before I forget her.