This season has been one bad dream. I live my entire year for fall, and I’ve yet to have anything go right. Wednesday I attempted to get out to salvage the vacation that was ruined by the blizzard that hit South Dakota. After getting some office work done in the morning I loaded the three dogs up in the truck and headed for some public shooting areas.
Lily was on the ground first and is really coming along with her work in the field. I’m still not doing anything more than taking her for walks, working on obedience and laying the groundwork for retrieving. With that being said, she is a blast in the field nonetheless. Next up was Belle. There was still a fair amount of snow on the ground, and it was in the process of melting quickly. I was soaked after running Lily and figured we would just be going on a walk, because I suspected the pheasants would want no part of the melting snow. Almost immediately Belle went on point and up popped a tight sitting rooster that I managed to connect on. Next up was a hen point and a second rooster that sat so tight I kicked the cover multiple times before finally stepping on the bird. Belle had done her part, but the close-sitting bird had managed to scare me, and I promptly whiffed on three quick shots. We continued with two more stellar points on hens. Belle had been somewhat iffy all season and her performance was nearly perfect and her intensity on point had returned.
It was getting late in the day and I needed to get back to town to take my beautiful bride out for her birthday. Not wanting Maggie to be left out I took her out for a quick 15 minute run down a fence line and back. When I got back to the truck from running Belle a friend was in the parking lot and walked with me as Maggie burned off some pent up energy. I lamented on how good of bird dog she was but was just a walking accident due to only having one speed while working. Back at the truck all seemed fine after a quick once over and we headed for home.
At home I went to let the dogs out of the truck only to find Maggie not using a back leg. Initially I wasn’t too concerned, as the crusty snow had dinged up their feet and I figured it was a momentary irritation. I went about unloading the truck prior to letting them in the house. She was still carrying the back leg so I decided to have a closer look. I nearly threw up when I felt her calf: it was huge, rock hard and painful. All of these can be symptoms of a ruptured Achilles, but with her history I was also worried about some type of weird tumor that had been traumatized during the run. I would have only been thinking injury; however, she was completely normal at the truck and it was whatever happened during the ride home that resulted in the lameness. We canceled our dinner plans, started icing the leg and hoped for the best.
We awoke the next morning to a leg that was about three times normal size. I took her into the clinic for x-rays, which only showed the swelling and was quickly on the phone with one of the best veterinarians I know, thankfully still practicing at my alma mater, Iowa State. After a quick rearranging of the clinic schedule I loaded up an overnight bag and headed for Iowa State.
After being examined by internal medicine specialists, surgeons and radiologist, an injury was highest on the list, but with the oddity of the swelling (none of them had seen anything like it) cancer was also on that list. On ultrasound there was a defined area within the swelling and I was going to have to wait overnight for the results of the aspirate. That night in the motel room I took some pictures of the affected leg:
The next day we returned to the hospital and the news was not good. The samples taken from the swelling within the muscle showed cells that were highly suggestive of cancer. This wasn’t a guarantee of cancer, but it suddenly rose to the top of the list of possibilities. I couldn’t have been more devastated. Even though it was the very reason I made the trip, I had hoped it was just an overreaction on my part. The rest of the day was spent doing more ultrasounds and x-rays of Maggie, looking for any sign of cancer in her body. Thankfully everything kept coming back clear.
The surgeons took another look at her to determine whether they could go in and take a look for an exploration of the abnormality. It was determined that the best course would be to wait through the weekend and hope some of the swelling and hemorrhage in the leg resolved. Late in the day on Friday we pointed the car back home and drove the five-hour drive in rain, sleet, snow and wind.
We have spent this weekend icing Maggie’s leg and giving her a cocktail of medications to help with pain, discomfort and swelling. I’m very happy to report that she appears to be responding well to the treatment, and while it doesn’t necessarily help with the diagnosis we’re at least going in the right direction. For comparison here are some pictures from today:
and one from the inside:
We’re heading back bright and early in the morning for a follow-up ultrasound, followed by a surgery to explore the site, if the suspicious mass is still present. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the next couple of days. This little dog has been nothing but trouble since day one, but at the end of the day she is a one-of-a-kind and we love her. I’ve never in my life wished so much that a dog had a terrible muscle injury, but in this case it would make me a very, very happy guy.
I’ll keep you posted.