Aw, I love the name. What happened?
It’s a bit of a long story. One that kind of explains why I’ve been down lately.. uh.. I guess I can share, though.. just hope you like reading.
My family is a dog family. We’ve had our oldest dog, Patches for almost 13 years now and we’ve always had Australian Shepherds. We got Mystique when she was about 4 months old around the time I was 10 or 11. She was pretty much my dog. She slept in my room, followed me everywhere..she was my best friend. And growing up, kind of my only friend. I didn’t make friends in school. so.. Anyway. I showed her at fairs and won a lot, both in showmanship and obedience.. uhm.. when we got Bronx, our boy we had 2 litters of puppies with them, and they all went to loving and great homes. She was a great mom with those pups, too.
Last year I got employed to work at Petsmart where my mom had worked for about a year and I got certified as a dog trainer and Mystique was pretty much my partner when I taught classes. She was what we called a demo dog, I used her for demonstrations and examples and she was good to play with the other dogs. I mostly taught puppy classes so she was really good with them, she’d break them up if they were playing too rough. She was just a really great dog and I can’t really put into words how important she was to me. I sort of feel like I’ll never be able to explain it and no one will be able to comprehend or understand fully the amount of love I had for her.
Last year around the end of summer I noticed that a few days in a row she hadn’t eaten much and she looked like she was losing weight. A day later she started vomiting, and I took her to the vet that Friday morning, it was convenient that she was scheduled for an appointment anyway for an update on her shots, so I let them know what was going on. They took some x-rays of her and they said they wanted to keep her there for a bit so we went back home. About midday they called back and said they had found a mass somewhere in her abdomen and were trying to pinpoint where it was. They were concerned it was on her pancreas, and if it was there wouldn’t be anything they could do about that.
When we went back the x-rays showed this cantaloupe sized mass in her belly, and Mystique is a very athletic dog.. she did agility and was a very hyper active girl so to see something of that size and look at her it was kind of one of those.. “where the hell did she put that thing” you know. They referred me to a doctor a few cities over that had a better x-ray and an ultrasound that would be able to tell what and where it was exactly, so for the weekend he gave me some specialized food to feed her and suggested I give small spoonfulls at a time.
We saw the specialist on monday and he determined the mass was attached to one of her liver lobes and the way it was positioned what was happening was it was so large that it had begun to press against her pancreas, and it was causing her to get sick and that’s why she was vomiting and losing weight. He was confident that he could remove it and she should be fine, and it wasn’t until after they remove it that he would be able to tell if it was malignant or benign. We went with the surgery and she came home the next day and she had 25 staples in her belly but she recovered great.
I got a call back later that week from the surgeon and unfortunately it was cancerous. It was a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma. It forms in two ways, the first way is a bunch of little tumors that spread to other places like the lymph nodes and the lungs and the other way is just one giant mass, which is what she had. They made sure to check for any other tumors and she was clean and was expected to make a full recovery with a low chance of a relapse, so despite the extremely high cost of the surgery it was worth it. My parents had been paying off their credit card debt for a while, and it was kind of a miracle to me because the cost of the surgery was an exact to the dollar amount that my dad had free on one of the cards he had payed off.
At around the end of November she started to lose weight again. By the middle of December she had lost about half her weight, but she was still eating and drinking and going to the bathroom fine. My parents didn’t have the money to take her back to the specialists, who gave me an upfront estimate of around 600 dollars just for x-rays and ultrasounds and screening. They promised me they would have the money by the new year, so we were forced to just kind of wait it out and hope she could make it through.
New years eve at around 11pm she started bleeding from her nose and mouth. We rushed her to the nearest vet hospital that was open, about a half hour away and they did tests on her to see what was wrong. the doctors there told me that they could only assume that although they removed the mass, some cancer cells may have remained in her blood stream and it had infected her liver and that’s what was causing her to lose weight and become anemic. The only thing they could do was offer a blood transfusion, which would hold her over for a little while but it wouldn’t help long term.
I had made the decision when I found out it was cancer that if there wasn’t a long term solution for her that I would have to put her down. So she passed away on new years day at 12:35 am.
It was the first time I’d lost a dog. And I’ve still not completely recovered from it. Everyone has a sort of idea of what their life will be like in the next 5 or 10 years.. where they want to be and what sort of things they want to have accomplished.. Mystique was always a part of that plan for me, at least for the next 5-7 years. She was only 9 when she died, and like I said our oldest dog going on 13. The hospitals that knew her and treated her made donations in her name to cancer research foundations for dogs, I think totaling around 2,300.
I quit my job after she died. I wasn’t able to continue teaching without her. I likened it to being a school teacher and having your child die. My parents have encouraged me to think about getting another dog. And I’ve considered it.. I visited a corgi breeder in the middle of the summer, but. I sort of go through phases where it seems like a good idea.. and then the thought of it just makes me sick. I don’t know. I will probably get another dog in the future. But she was very special to me, and I’m not the same without her.