Planning to be out of town for any amount of time necessarily requires that you make some kind of plan for any animals in your care. Prior to the trip to Greensboro Right To Carry rally, Mrs. Knitebane and I made arrangements at a local boarding facility for our two retired racing greyhounds.
Considering how successful and peaceful the last rally in Virginia had been I had only a few worries that attending might result in not being able to come home for a while but we felt that boarding them was a prudent move. If anything untoward would happen they would be fed and cared for. If nothing happened they would spend the day playing with other dogs. As we occasionally drop them off at the same facility just for the day they it wasn't anything unusual and as they know the place and the people there they are always happy when they walk through the doors there.
So we dropped Miss Kitty, our 14-year old female and Nixon, our 6-year old male at Lucky Paws on Friday so we could have Saturday to pack, travel and return. We arranged to pick them up Sunday.
Pick up isn't required until 5pm on Sunday so we lazed about the house, secure in knowing that they were probably enjoying their stay as usual, but at about 1:30 in the afternoon the phone rang.
It was the boarding facility: There's a problem with Miss Kitty
As we understand it, Miss Kitty and most of the other dogs were napping when a small, excited dog began harassing her. Kitty expressed her displeasure and the dog went running off, stirring up other dogs. The human minders stepped in to calm things down and then noticed Miss Kitty having difficulty getting up.
Her right tibia and fibula had snapped in two.
Kitty, being 14, has had a few health issues over the years. She's had the beginnings of some kind of neurological deterioration that causes occasional incontinence (especially when sleeping) and some weakness in her left leg. The weakness has progressed somewhat over the last year or so and she had started to have trouble determining which part of her foot was the bottom, generally only after she had been asleep. She would occasionally drag it behind her but it would clear up after a few minutes so we kept an eye on it. The vet wasn't sure exactly what it was but told us that as long as it cleared up there wasn't really a problem.
The incontinence, on the other hand, was something of a concern. It was either a neurological condition, a muscular atrophy in her bladder control muscles or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, aka Doggie Alzheimer's. Kitty routinely passed the cognitive tests that are given to test for CCDS, so we dismissed that as a cause and began a treatment program with doggie estrogen. It was somewhat effectful.
None of her observed conditions can explain the sudden breaking of two leg bones. It is our opinion, and the vets at the NC State University Veterinary Hospital, that it was caused by osteosarcoma. Bone cancer is the number one killer of greyhounds and is known as The Silent Killer because it has no outward symptoms. The most common indication is often an unexplainable bone fracture. The x-rays taken of Kitty's leg seem to confirm this and they'll be sending a sample to the lab for confirmation.
We rushed to the boarding facility and transported Kitty to the vet hospital. She was awake and alert which was good at first but Kitty being Kitty, she wanted to get up and see where we were going. Mrs. Knitebane eventually convinced her to stay lying down and we arrived without incident. We left Nixon at Lucky Paws until we knew what we were dealing with. They were very concerned for Miss Kitty and sent us a deeply appreciated message of hope and support. It is likely that the news will cause them considerable grief and sorrow and we certainly don't hold them responsible in any way for what happened.
Upon reflection, having this happen at the boarding facility was probably something of a blessing. Had the leg broken while on a walk half a mile from home or home alone while we were at work it would have much more traumatic and painful for her.
The doctors on duty at the vet hospital were very good. They rushed her into triage and kept us updated continuously as they made their examination. They quickly confirmed that the leg was badly broken and wheeled her into X-Ray. The came out and explained that getting results from X-Ray would take somewhat more than we would normally expect because as a teaching hospital they go slowly and thoroughly so that the process also trains the veterinary students. They made sure we understood as usually the longer the wait, the worse it is.
It didn't really matter in this case but the attention to our concerns was quite nice. What did matter was that Kitty had a badly broken right rear leg, a weak left rear leg, and some gradually increasing neurological conditions related to incontinence and walking.
The hospital offered a few options. We could try to rebuild the leg. This would involve multiple surgeries and inserting metal parts to shore up the bones. Rehabilitation would take months and Kitty would require extensive full-time care to prevent her from hurting herself by attempting to be as independent and pushy as she was known to be.
The next option was amputation. This carried fewer risks but due to her inability to put all of her weight on her remaining leg, this option carried considerable risks as well. Multiple surgeries and rehab would still be required.
Additionally, osteosarcoma kills. If she did indeed have it she would likely have only three to six months to live.
We had to decide whether to torture her with numerous surgeries, painful rehabilitation and small chances of success in exchange for having her with us for only a short period of time. In the end, we decided that 14 years of life shouldn't end in months of pain.
At approximately 7pm Eastern, Sunday August 15th, 2010, Miss Kitty closed her eyes for the last time.
She will always be in our hearts and she will always have our thanks for her unconditional love.
Goodbye dear friend. I will miss you terribly.