By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
I’m about to share what some would consider a First World Problem, yet in our household like many others, pets are family. Sadie, a walking, fur skeleton of a dog, wandered up to us at my mother’s lake house the summer of 2012. We assume she was lost or even abandoned in the nearby, alligator-infested swamp, likely due to poor hunting skills. Sadie’s appetite is insatiable, which is understandable, having gone through starvation. The day we met, she asked for a turkey sandwich and my son-in-law gave her one. The rest of the story is one of love at first sight. She’s been making people smile ever since and is a special part of our family.
It’s amazing how quickly life can change, and for us, simple blood work and ultrasound testing led us down a rocky path. Our goofy coonhound, Sadie, who brings smiles to the grumpiest face, received a horrible diagnosis. Our vet discovered a huge tumor on her kidney and it was attached to the Vena Cava, a vital blood vessel. Surgery to remove Sadie’s kidney and an adjacent nasty mass would be extremely risky as the chance of hemorrhaging was almost certain.
We had to make the decision to take a happy chowhound that looked skinny but completely healthy and put her through a horrible surgery, which might not work and could require the vet to euthanize her while on the table. The veterinary oncologist and the surgeon were very kind but frank about the slim chance of success. Yet doing nothing would mean the tumor would rupture and cause a horrible death for Sadie and a ghastly experience for all of us.
I try to find some purpose or lesson in tough situations and I didn’t have to search far for this one. This experience has made me freshly aware of how many people must make horrendous decisions for themselves and their loved ones, putting them at risk of death or worse in an attempt at saving their lives or making their lives better.
I realize there’s a difference between saving a person and saving a pet. However, we made the decision to do the best we could to save Sadie and hopefully at the same time, provide additional experience and knowledge to the arsenal of expertise of the surgeon and other medical personnel participating in the surgery. We saw it as our small way of helping move toward understanding and curing this dreadful disease, along the lines of donating a body to science.
The two days before surgery were some of Sadie’s best ever. Friends and family came to wish her luck and hopefully not say a final goodbye. She was treated like a queen and ate all the scrambled eggs and treats she wanted. She even ate ice cream before checking in to spend the night on IV fluids and a blood thickener preparing for surgery the next morning.
Sadie bounded into the car and strutted into the hospital with head high and tail whipping like a whirligig. I wondered if it would have been easier to leave her if she looked sick. I don’t know the answer but I think it would.
Prayers and good thoughts flowed freely for our beloved hound known as Single Stare Sadie, because she can stare and never blink once she’s laid eyes on someone. I could make a photo album of pictures of Sadie staring at someone’s food, and she can lay on guilt even better than most mothers.
The morning of surgery was a long one. I thought no news might mean good news but was afraid to get my hopes up. After a three hour procedure and an hour of recovery, the surgeon called and said, “Your girl did great. This was probably the worst kidney tumor I’ve ever seen. It had spread and encased not just the kidney but the vena cava vessel and very carefully separating it meant she hemorrhaged heavily but she made it. She’s one tough girl.”
Shock and awe. That’s what I felt and I could never thank her enough. The surgeon told me she’d do everything she could and she did. It was our miracle.
Fast-forward to the next day and me taking Sadie some turkey since she wouldn’t eat canned dog food for them. I couldn’t imagine her refusing food even if she were comatose and was relieved to watch her scarf down the turkey, and beg for more, tail and whole body wagging. I knew she would be okay. She spent two nights in recovery and observation and came home with a massive cone and a bag of drugs.
So far, so good. I’m thrilled to share her survival story and the miracle surgical procedure that kept her around to entertain us. She’s happy to be home and the other pets treat her like a delicate flower that needs tending. Maybe that’s because her huge cone makes her look like a tulip. One dog, Mandy sleeps on Sadie’s bed to watch over her. Funny how animals have such a sense about things.
April 2, 2018 at 7:31 pm
oh the poor baby! I remember when my doggie had to wear one of those…it was hysterical to see him move around and bump into everything. But I’m sure it was a pain for him…poor little guy!
April 2, 2018 at 7:45 pm
They are awkward for sure but protecting those staples is key to health. Wish I had invented those cones.
April 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm
If we get wishes today, Wish I invented Computers…hahaaa
April 2, 2018 at 8:16 pm
Ah. Dang. I chose little stuff like paper towels.
April 2, 2018 at 9:24 pm
It’s those little things that makes you say..Why didn’t I think of that. I have thought of so many things…never acted on…and someone else comes out with it and sells millions.
April 2, 2018 at 8:01 pm
I love a story with a happy ending. Thank you! And best wishes and psychic treats to Sadie.
April 2, 2018 at 8:15 pm
Ooo she loves all kinds of treats.
April 2, 2018 at 8:04 pm
Not sure why anyone would give a dog a megaphone. 🙂
April 2, 2018 at 8:15 pm
Oh how beautiful that howl is with the megaphone enhancement.
April 2, 2018 at 8:27 pm
Great story. It reminded me of our Ray who tested positive for Heart-worm at his first checkup with us, and was estimated at Stage 2 …. being serious, but could possibly be treated. The treatment however presents its own problems, as the heart-worms die and start to breakdown. Congestive heart failure is frequently the outcome. Like you, we had a tough decision to make and, like you, we made a good one. Ray got off to a pretty bad start in his life. He was estimated at 2 years old when he adopted me, and the rest is not only history, but has been recorded in a book “Who Said I was up for Adoption?” (How a dog adopted himself out of a shelter and into my heart).
April 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm
Oh. I love that. We also had a rescue dog who came to us with heart worms. It was the first dog my husband and I had inside because we had to keep Booboo from making sudden moves during the arsenic treatment. So scary. He lived many years like your doggie. Great decision.
April 2, 2018 at 9:09 pm
Yup … no regrets! 🙂
April 2, 2018 at 8:57 pm
I hope she continues to heal. I think problems are problems no matter where in the world we live.
April 3, 2018 at 1:42 am
Thanks Elizabeth. Well said.
April 2, 2018 at 9:58 pm
What a wonderful story, Lisa. I’m so happy Sadie’s story has ended well. You need to write a book!
April 3, 2018 at 1:40 am
Hey Jill. Thanks for saying so. I am working on a book as we speak. Same title as my blog. Hopefully before year’s end.
April 3, 2018 at 8:47 am
April 2, 2018 at 10:57 pm
I am so very, very happy for all of you. What a wonderful story of success. Beautiful dog makes a beautiful recovery and is loved ever after. That’s the way fairy tales should end.
April 3, 2018 at 1:39 am
Thanks so much. I wholeheartedly agree.
April 2, 2018 at 11:29 pm
What a lucky girl! Glad it all went well and you’ll have many years with your faithful companion.
April 2, 2018 at 11:49 pm
Thanks. We are beyond thrilled.
April 3, 2018 at 5:30 am
so glad you took that chance for her – it must have been an agonising decision
April 7, 2018 at 2:38 am
Yes it was tough but I’m so glad we did.
April 3, 2018 at 8:51 am
So wonderful and heartwarming. A few years back we had to make a similar decision but without going into details we lost our beloved Aussie, Mango too soon. We miss him dearly still, but the memories of his life and the joy he broyght us all are with us forever. I could hardly bare to read this. I had to skip to the end first to make sure it ended happily before going back to read it, with tears welling up.
Such a lovely and lucky girl indeed.
April 7, 2018 at 2:37 am
Thanks so much. Mango. What a cute name. I’m sorry. Thanks for reading.
April 9, 2018 at 10:36 am
April 9, 2018 at 2:44 pm
April 25, 2018 at 9:13 am
I am so glad Sadie made it through her op. She is a treasure. Wishing yer a wonderful recovery 🌼
April 25, 2018 at 5:03 pm
Thanks so much. She makes smiles happen.
May 13, 2018 at 11:29 pm
hello lisakunk its dennis the vizsla dog hay i luv a storry ware the lost dog finds a home and beets the odds to survive!!! like this storry rite heer!!! i am sending lots of tail wags to sadie!!! ok bye
May 14, 2018 at 12:12 am
Thanks Dennis. It’s great to hear from you. Sadie is wagging right back at you.
August 29, 2018 at 11:29 am
I like the teaser backstory for your memories, Lisa Batten Kunkleman
August 29, 2018 at 1:43 pm
Thanks so much. She is indeed our miracle critter.
August 30, 2018 at 9:07 am
It’s my pleasure Lisa Batten
August 29, 2018 at 11:50 am
That was so nice to see, Lisa Batten.I love your evocative words that so beautifully show your lovely picture
August 29, 2018 at 1:44 pm
Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate your time reading my story.
August 30, 2018 at 9:08 am
August 30, 2018 at 9:11 am