It never occurred to me that Chewie would die when I first posted his pictures on my facebook page and this blog. I know none of us live forever and dogs have shorter lifespans than humans. But the average toy poodle life expectancy is 12 years. And if a dog is healthy and well cared for, they can live 14 or more years. Somehow, I always expected Chewie to outlive the normal expectancy. But that was when he was 9+ years old and before Thyroid cancer.
We first noticed Chewie's bark starting to turn hoarse. Then during his annual vet visit, the Dr noticed a slight thickening in his throat. Turns out that Thyroid cancer in dogs is very rare and most often strikes Beagles. How my precious Chewie got it is a mystery.
He loved to play with everyday items as much or more than toys. His favorites were empty water bottles and balloons. He would play "vollyball" with a balloon until it popped. He was so obsessed with balloons that we reserved them for special occasions, like his birthday or Christmas.
When I made my office he was sure my chair was reserved just for him!
Thyroid cancer is not only rare, but it is an aggressive and ugly cancer in dogs. There is no cure. The only treatment is to surgically remove as much of the tumor as possible, but know that they will not get it all. Then chemo treatment to try to slow the metastases, but eventually it will metastasize and the dog will die. Because this cancer is so rare, there are no qualified surgeons in our area - the closest one is hours away in another state. Some dogs don't even survive the surgery. If I had an aggressive cancer that I knew would kill me regardless of treatment, I would opt to forgo treatment to allow as much quality of life as possible in my last days. I could do no less for Chewie. So instead of invasive surgery and chemo, we opted to make his last days as comfortable and pleasant as possible.
He loved to spend time outside in the afternoon sun. So we tried to spend a little time each day out there with him.
We took lots and lots of photos of him, while he still felt good.
This is my favorite picture of him. The dappled sun highlights his coat as he looks up to my husband. Don't you just love the cute bushy tail in the foreground?
Chewie was a lap dog, but he was always in control. He chose the lap and he would always have just a tad of resistance as you held him. He would put his paws on you with a gentle pressure to let you know he was holding you too.
I knew the end was near, one day last week when Chewie wanted me to hold him. This time he provided no resistance and only wanted to be cuddled and comforted.
As Chewie's days came to an end, he struggled to eat and breathing became the final struggle. I am very grateful that the Dr at the emergency vet hospital was kind enough to let me hold and comfort Chewie in my arms as he administered the lethal dose. This cancer has been so uncontrollable it was comforting to at least be able to make his death as intimate and loving as possible. I will never forget how finally peaceful his limp body was as I handled it over to the doctor. Thank goodness he is no longer suffering.
Rest in Peace, Chewie.
9/11/00 - 2/13/11