I want to talk a few minutes talking about our beloved Ramius. Readers of this blog know how much he meant to me, and perhaps you saw my recent post about his birthday. He would’ve turned 13 this month.
One of the reasons I started this blog is that I want it to be sort of a living a tribute to my best friend Ramius, as we used to call him. Ramius was diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer in the summer of 2014 and endured a long, courageous bout with the disease. He finally succumbed to it in January, 2016. This will be the first blog post in a multi-part retrospective about his journey and courageous battle with cancer. I hope you’ll stay with us the whole way.
His journey was a long one, and even though it was extremely hard, it was joyous as well. Starting this blog is not only a tribute to him, but also, I hope it will help educate and inspire any pet parents who have a dog battling cancer.
It can be a scary and terrifying journey and I don’t want you to feel alone. Many of us have gone through this and know the struggle. In fact, our first Samoyed, Zoya, also passed away of cancer back in 2008. So we know. We’ve been there.
I’m going to try and recreate the last 2 or so years as best as I can. It’ll be a very personal and revealing journey for me as well as I explain everything that was going on with Ramius’s health and the decisions we made each step of the way. Many of these decisions were very difficult to make, and as you read this, you may find yourself making different decisions if you were in our shoes. That’s fine. These decisions are personal and painful. But regardless, I hope you will find the information useful, educational, inspiring, and even funny and entertaining. This should be a celebration about Ramius’s life as much as anything else.
So let’s begin.
Cancer – The First Signs
It was the first week of June in 2014 when we noticed something was wrong. We had just returned back from Las Vegas where we had a Memorial Day celebration for my father in law who was soon turning 80. It was a fun, family affair, a great success, and we were feeling very pleased when we returned home to Chicago.
Ramius and Sacha had a dog sitter stay here at the home with them as they always do when we go away. We’ve never boarded any of our Samoyeds in a kennel; we believe their place is in their home even when we aren’t around. In fact, especially when we aren’t around.
The dog sitter reported no problems and said he had a great visit with Ramius and Sacha. The boys were happy to see us, and everything was all good.
Ramius was overdue for a trip to the groomer, and when that happens, sometimes the area around his butt could get a little unruly. This is true of all Samoyeds. Samoyeds have very thick fur and it grows everywhere, so keeping them clean is key.
Anyhow, after Ramius went outside one day to do his business, my wife lifted up his tail to clean him. And she noticed a growth right around his anus. This growth was not something we had seen before, but we weren’t necessarily alarmed right away. Our Samoyeds have had growths and cysts from time to time and they’re usually benign. Whenever that happens, it is of course unsettling, but we take our dog to the Vet right away to have them examined.
So while we weren’t alarmed, we were certainly concerned, and we took Ramius to the Vet the next day to have him checked out. We go to McKillip Animal Hospital in Chicago and we love them. We saw Dr. Glater who examined Ramius, and he suggested that we have that growth removed. Which made sense. At first look, he didn’t think there was necessarily anything to worry about. He said the vast majority of these sorts of tumors are benign, but let’s biopsy it.
But better to be safe than sorry, so he said let’s remove the growth and have it sent to pathology to have it analyzed. Which of course is the right thing to do and that’s what we did. Ramius had his surgery a couple of days later right there at McKillip and he did great! We’d learn over time that Ramius responds really well to surgeries.
He came home with us that night, and while he was a bit woozy from the medication, and sore from the surgery, otherwise he was fine. The growth was removed and now all we had to do was wait for the biopsy results.
Waiting for the Biopsy
Well…shortly thereafter we got the call from the doctor. He said the growth was something called a perianal gland tumor, and it was malignant. We were shocked. We thought for sure it would come back benign. Dr. Glater was also very surprised. He had treated Ramius for most of his life and loved him almost as much as we did. And we could tell by the tone of his voice that he was worried. He said these things can be very nasty and aggressive forms of cancer and we needed to take Ramius to a cancer specialist right away.
This scared us.
We’d never heard of a perianal gland tumor before. We did a little research and found out that they commonly affect breeds like Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies, Cocker Spaniels, and Pekingese among others. They’re much more common in male dogs than females. And interestingly, these perianal glands are found in dogs, but not cats. So cat parents, not to worry about this particular kind of cancer.
Complicating matters further is that Ramius was diabetic. He had been diagnosed with diabetes a few years prior and was getting insulin shots from us twice/day. You can click here to read an earlier post I wrote about signs of diabetes in dogs and what to look for. On top of that, he was also 2 months shy of his 11th birthday. We wondered if worse came to worse, would he be strong enough to endure a long, intense cancer treatment?
We obviously knew now that things with Ramius were very serious. Perhaps life threatening, particularly given his age and his diabetes. It’s funny how life can change quickly. Here we were, just a few days removed from having a great, family celebration in Vegas. And now, that moment hits you that when you suddenly realize your beloved best friend might not be with you much longer.
But we weren’t there yet. You have to take these things one step at a time. And for us, the next step was to make an appointment at MedVet Chicago (formerly the Chicago Veterinary Cancer Center) to run some tests and talk to the specialists there. More on that in Part II of Ramius’s Journey which will be coming soon.
Importance of Getting Pet Health Insurance
Before I leave you today, I want to take this time to remind you of a blog post I wrote earlier about the importance of getting pet health insurance. And specifically, we recommend Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. As you can tell already, and will see in the upcoming posts in this series, there are so many factors that go into the decisions about your dog’s health when faced with a life threatening disease.
But if you have good pet insurance, at least that largely takes the financial impact of the decision making process out of the equation. Trust me, that’s one factor you’ll be very glad you don’t have to deal with. You can read my review of Healthy Paws by clicking on the link below:
If you have or have had a dog with cancer and you’d like to share your experiences, please leave us a comment. We’ll be sure to get back to you.
Thanks for reading, and please continue to read this series as it unfolds. Cancer in Dogs – Ramius’s Journey – Part II is now posted!