While I normally write about keeping vehicles on the road for longer than expected I’m dealing with a different situation in my personal life. My dog, Retro, is a pretty beat up and old at this point. I adopted him from a shelter with a strange name (Denver Dumb Friends League) about 12 years ago. He was young at the time- not quite a puppy but not quite an adult so at this point he must be almost 13 years old. Which, for a dog of his size, is quite a long life.
It’s hard to know your friend isn’t going to be around much longer. Retro and I have been through a lot. And as cheesy as it sounds he has always been there. I mean he didn’t have much of choice but it never felt that way. Now, as we get closer to the last day I find myself trying to keep myself together with jokes. That’s a lot of what this post is going to be about. This is my attempt to laugh at the mortality of my best friend Retro and think of him like an old beater that I’m trying to keep on the road for as long as possible.
Just like when you try to keep an 89′ Buick on the road year after year you’re forced to learn some things about car maintenance that you just otherwise would have never known, it’s no different from keeping a ’04 Retro dog feeling happy. Here’s what I learned:
Find a Good Mechanic
Mechanics are well known for coming up with less than critical fixes for your vehicle. Veterinarians are no different. So what makes a good veterinary mechanic? You need someone who will simplify their expert opinion and give you the information you need to make your decision. You may have a different tolerance for different problems. No A/C? That’s a deal breaker for some but no big deal for others.
You need a veterinarian who can do the same for you. You need someone who can reduce the jargon and the detail into something you can understand and decide on. Because you are responsible for your pet and any surgical or major treatment decision should be made together.
Retro has a long list of problems. He has several fatty masses (called lipomas) all across his body. For the most part, unless these lipomas get bigger, they aren’t much of a big deal. They aren’t always noticeable and they don’t seem to bother Retro. However, he does have a mass on his front right limb that could be a little more concerning. We don’t exactly know what it is without sending out a biopsy but because of where it’s located (right at the joint) and Retro’s age it doesn’t make sense to put him through surgery to remove it.
That’s a decision my veterinarian and I came to together. If the mass gets bigger or seems to bother Retro then we reevaluate. But for now, we don’t mess with it. If you need a good veterinary mechanic for your pet, I highly recommend Dr. E if you need a vet in the 80015 area code or anywhere in Aurora for that matter- the Parkside team is well worth the drive. Anyone at her clinic does a good job but for most of Retro’s exams, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. E.
Again, just like a mechanic, having a certification is important. And while not everyone buys into certifications I wanted to find an animal clinic in my area that was above and beyond the others. Dr. E’s animal clinic has that with their AAHA accreditation. AAHA stands for American Animal Hospital Association and only a handful of clinics in the Aurora area even attempt to get this. To be accredited, an animal clinic has to pass a 900 point inspection that covers just about every aspect of what they do.
Preventative Maintenance is Important
Just like in your vehicle, if you can get ahead of the problem and at least be aware of it before it becomes a major issue, everything will be easier. The same goes for our pets. Dr. E’s animal clinic offers a fair price on regular bloodwork which makes it a lot easier to get it done. What’s important to remember, though it is obvious, is that our animals don’t live as long as us. Its human tendency to project our own approach to our health on our pets. But it doesn’t work. We’re dealing with a much different system that moves a lot faster. Which makes things like bloodwork even more important.
When you take your vehicle to the mechanic they run your car through a machine that tests the functions of all key components. This allows you to get ahead of problems and while you may not do something about it then you will at least know what’s coming down the pipe.
The veterinary technicians at my animal clinic are awesome. I know Retro is a good patient too but it can be difficult to get blood from any patient. They make it as painless as possible for my old friend which is extremely important to me. By running regular bloodwork on Retro, we caught elevated liver values (which indicate liver disease) before they became worse. We were able to add a supplement to Retro’s diet which helped him keep his current liver function and stopped things from getting worse.
We are also keeping an eye on some other important values. While some other blood values may be slightly elevated if it isn’t getting worse or not causing Retro any problems it may not be time to intervene.
Try To Stay Objective
This one is a bit hard to compare but you know your vehicle. And you know your best friend. You know when things are different. You know when its time. It can be almost impossible to stay objective but you have to do it for your animal friend. You have to remember and define what normal for them is. You have to know when things have gotten so bad that its time for a change.
One day will be the last day. But you’ve always known it would come. Enjoy every day with your pet, just like you have before.
Retro is still going strong. He has no teeth, multiple masses, elevated liver values, slightly elevated kidney values and a small tumor on his lung that will likely mean the end of him. But today, he’s happy. The day that he isn’t happy, I will know what to do.