Super mega adorable puppy photo
Super mega adorable puppy photo

I wanted to thank everyone who sent us greeting cards and let them know how much I appreciate hearing from people during this time of the year. I am sorry I am a holiday deadbeat. There have been times when I get cards out, but a lot of years the weeks between Thanksgiving and the new year turn into a plate of mush. This year’s two week business trip in Dec., coupled with a sick dog and a litter of puppies left me thinking, “Wait, it’s the holidays? Maybe I should cook a chicken, or something.”

The dog nominated for multiple vet visits was Ruby. She started having an issue with vomiting and anorexia that our regular vet couldn’t figure out. After returning from my trip, we found ourselves at the veterinary specialty center for an ultrasound. We were a squeeze-in so I left her there for a few hours while I went across the highway and back to work. While Ruby was there, she demonstrated her vomitous tendencies by filling an entire ICU kennel with breakfast, water and whatever dog puke happens to be made of.

I’d like to add that vomitous is an actual word, even though both spell checkers missed it. You can find it at

The bad news was in. They found something in Ruby’s intestine that didn’t belong there. We knew something had to be wrong. She was pretty much skin and bones despite our better efforts. All agreed that she would stay on fluids overnight pending surgery the next day. It was a week before Christmas. “Unidentifiable mass in the intestine, ” aren’t words anyone wants to hear about a dog or human. We’ve had our share of rocks taken out of dogs and those are easy to find and diagnose.

Ruby in the waiting room
Waiting for one more ultrasound before Ruby was released to go home.

It’s difficult to leave a dog behind at the vet, even when you trust the circumstances. Because it’s a specialty center, the vet has an actual ICU unit. The surgery was 90 minutes long and ended in the removal of 12″ of intestine, including the mystery mass. Ruby was still dazed and confused when I saw her several hours after the surgery, but she was comfortable. The run in the ICU had a heated floor, monitors, blankets and constant supervision by nurses on staff. She had two more days in the hospital to make sure the intestinal resection wasn’t leaking and then she could come home.

60 staples. Yep… 60…  and I won’t be remodeling my kitchen or buying a car any time soon.

When I spoke with the surgeon, she was a little cryptic about what the mass looked like.

“So you’ve opened up a lot of dog intestines in your time as a surgeon, what, in your opinion, would a mass like this typically be?”

“I think given it’s size and position, it could be an intestinal Adenocarcinoma, but I’m not a microscope so we’ll just have to see what the pathologist has to say”.

60 staples...
60 staples…

The sample went off to Colorado State University’s cancer lab. They warned me it would take a while to get results.  Christmas came and went. The vet let me a voice message saying what they found looked promising. I was not sure what that meant. I can appreciate that they do not want to guess. Apparently they decided to biopsy the entire 12″ of intestine, including the mass, just to make sure they could rule in or rule out cancer.

I was making cookies New Year’s Eve when the phone rang. The vet was on the other end.

“I was going to track you down if I had to find you in a bar tonight, “she said. “I had all of your phone numbers and I was ready to dial. It’s not cancer.”

I’d already accepted that it might be cancer. I guess that’s what having a lot of time to think about the possibilities brings a person.  Whether you’re waiting for dog test results, or human test results, it’s normal to go over the “what if” scenarios. We’ve lost both dogs and people to cancer. I had plans for the right kinds of treatments, or, what it was going to involve to give her a good life for as long as possible without letting her suffer. I’d set it free I guess, just letting time pass and enjoying my dog in the present.

Yadda yadda yadda… horray it wasn’t cancer! It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

Ruby had an intestinal perforation, which, in an attempt to heal itself formed tissue that caused an intestinal blockage. The remainder of her normal parts of her intestine had very little or no inflammatory processes taking place. This also means she is not suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.  The moral of the story is eating sticks can be really bad for your dog. We knew that anyway, but let this be a cautionary tale for you and your yard-snarfing dog! (@*#%^).

The best news is we will have Ruby for what I hope will be the rest of her natural life. All of her bloodwork and organ functions were normal. Losing a 7 year old dog to cancer certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility for anyone, but I am so happy it wasn’t her time.

Ruby 2 1/2 weeks post op
Ruby begging for some oatmeal, 2 1/2 weeks post operation. Hazel (tongue out) and Piper at the corner also trying to get into the action.