The Norman Transcript

April 4, 2013

Dignity of an old, afflicted dog

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: Thank you very much for your sensitive and helpful response to our July 2012 letter regarding Loki, our 13-year-old mixed-breed dog. We deeply appreciate your empathy for animals and those who care for them.

The following is an excerpt from our 2012 Christmas letter to our friends and family:

“Loki, poor Loki. In addition to having Cushing’s syndrome and being blind, he was diagnosed this summer with vestibular disease — that means he is dizzy (and he’s not even a blond). He has, however, developed a certain sense of decorum.

“One night while being walked by Jon (dog-sitting while we were away), Loki picked up something from the street. Jon didn’t notice it until walking up our driveway. He saw that it was a sandwich, probably discarded by construction workers next door. He tried to pry it out of Loki’s mouth, but the dog would not give it up. Into the house Loki marched, went to his dog dish, deposited the sandwich and then ate it. I guess that legitimized the food. Not bad for a former street dog from Brooklyn.”

Thank you again for being there for our pets.

— J. and M.H.,

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Dear J. and M.H.: I have taken the liberty of sharing your intimate account of your beloved former street dog from Brooklyn.

In spite of his infirmities, he displayed better manners than many of our own species. Thanks to your devoted care of this old dog, he was not only able to enjoy some quality of life, but also to demonstrate a degree of sensibility that helps us deepen our appreciation for other creatures who enrich our lives in countless ways.

I like to think that we are beginning to settle the score of our indebtedness after centuries of exploitation and abuse of creatures — wild and tame — as more people support their local animal shelters, advocate animals’ rights, oppose cruel factory farms and support wildlife and habitat protection and restoration at home and abroad.

Your story of Loki reminds me of a captive kit fox who deposited morsels of food around his cage mate who had died suddenly. As with humans, saving food can be a token of affection. For Loki, perhaps not gobbling the food he found in the street but bringing it home to eat in a civilized manner was a tribute to his preferred existence under your roof.

Dear Dr. Fox: I just lost my third dog to cancer. They were all about 10 years old. They all had a sudden onset of acute symptoms, followed closely with euthanasia after finding metastatic disease.

By the time the symptoms appear, it is usually too late for treatment. My heart is breaking for this most recent loss.

Is there any clinical way to prevent this?

— K.W., Tacoma Park, Md.

Dear K.W.: My sympathies go out to you and all those people in your situation, where cancer is discovered in a beloved animal and it has spread so much that nothing can be done.

Part of the problem is that it is not always easy to know when an animal is in pain or not felling well. Whenever in doubt, go to the veterinarian. Also go to the veterinarian every six to nine months for a checkup when you have an animal in the “old age” category and annually up to the end of middle age, which can be around 6 or 7 for some breeds and 9 or 10 for others.

Going in on this schedule, and not just when the animal needs shots or seems ill, can lead to early detection of cancer, which means that effective treatment would be better assured.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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