Charlie Sauce

Every pet is special in his/her own ways.  Charlie is special to me because he’s old (I love the seniors), he walks with me on our path (while the other dogs run around like pinballs), and he’s the best Flatcoat I’ve ever had.  An extremely gentle and tolerant dog, Charlie has helped me raise a lot of puppies.  He sired 3 litters for me with 2 different bitches.  He is my last show champion.  You see his picture on the right hand side of the blog and every time I leave a comment (that’s him getting a biscuit in my avatar).

Sadly, Flatcoated Retrievers have a very small gene pool which is rife with cancer.  All my Flatcoats have died of malignant histiocytosis – sub-listed in some veterinary books as “The Flatcoat Cancer”.  It’s tragic in that it rapidly cuts short a life which, if not for the cancer, would continue to thrive for years to come.  My Flatcoats have all been in otherwise good health at the time I’ve had to put them to sleep and I can’t help feeling robbed in a sense.  I feel like, if it wasn’t for this Flatcoat Cancer, there is no reason all my dogs shouldn’t live comfortably into their teens.  But they never do.  And neither will Charlie.

Charlie is 10 years old and this week, was diagnosed with probable malignant histiocytosis.  The lab can’t make a definitive diagnosis without getting the large mass which has infiltrated his lymph node but we won’t be putting Charlie through surgery.  We’ve got him on high doses of steroids to relieve his pain and, although it’s only been a few days, it’s been working well.  I can’t stand to see a dog suffer and on Tuesday, I came home from work to find Charlie in terrible pain.  My vet saw us right away and we got a game plan going.  When the lab results came back yesterday, I was sort of prepared and sort of not.  My vet and I discussed options and she supports me in my choice to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible without pursuing any invasive treatments which would be unlikely to buy him much more time, if any.

For me and my pets, it’s about quality of life.  Charlie can’t walk with me on the path anymore (my favorite thing) nor can he chase the ball (his favorite thing).  But he can still carry the tennis ball around in his mouth, play with puppy toys that are too small for him and come up for a scritch (and a biscuit!) when he feels like it.  I make the same promise to him as I do to all my pets:  you will not suffer.  When we can no longer ease his pain with medicine and love, we will take him to the vet for that most difficult, final act of love.  Then we will bury his body in the yard, near those who have gone before, and he will be added to the list of dogs I hope I will meet again sometime.

I don’t know how long we have with Charlie – hopefully weeks or, if I let myself get out-of-control-hopeful – maybe months.  But the length of time isn’t as important as how we spend it.  I plan to spend it doing all the little special things I can for him.  Like avocado with his dinner last night.  And ice cube treats.  And trying to keep Mulder’s annoying puppy antics to a dull roar.  Not that Charlie would complain, mind you.  He never does.

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26 Comments

  1. Clarice

     /  March 25, 2011

    I hope Charlie will have many months, filled with biscuits, scritches, avocados, ice cubes and all his favorite things.

    Reply
  2. Sorry to read this. I second what Clarice has said above.

    Reply
  3. Evelyn

     /  March 25, 2011

    How sad for you and Charlie, and how brave you are in handling it. Your post brought tears to my eyes; it’s obvious how much you love this dog! And how much you’ll be cherishing however much longer you have with him – I hope it’s longer rather than shorter.

    Reply
  4. Susan

     /  March 25, 2011

    Hugs to you both.

    Reply
  5. db

     /  March 25, 2011

    Words fail me. I, too, hope for lots of really good Bonus Time before you have to send Charlie to the Rainbow Bridge for healing.
    Hugs

    Reply
  6. Much love and many biscuits, Charlie.

    Shirley, you have the chance to say goodbye, and that is priceless.

    Enjoy your time together.

    Reply
  7. mikken

     /  March 25, 2011

    It’s damned unfair. Our best wishes to you both.

    Reply
  8. Morgana

     /  March 25, 2011

    A better homage to a companion I have never read…you have the time to BE with each other, so just BE with each other. Love can carry a heart a loooooong way…I am hugging you both. BIG prayers and lotsaloves.

    Reply
  9. Morgana

     /  March 25, 2011

    Just out of curiousity, Shirley, any way of bringing in new genes from out of the country, or do the flatcoats of EU also have the same problem? What about adding a bloodline that isn’t prone to any known disorders, but that may be from another breed, and wouldn’t change their looks? Just thinking out loud…we had a lovely flatcoat oldster in Sanctuary for a few years before she left us, and she was the best.

    Reply
    • All Flatcoats on the planet go back to a handful of dogs who were saved in England after WWII. Thus, the small gene pool. Outcrossing to other breeds would be the way to go IMO but too many breeders are more interested in ribbons than outcrossing and AFAIK the national breed club has never sanctioned it. And many breeders today are breeding to the same few dogs (who win in the show ring) anyway which just digs the ditch deeper.

      Reply
  10. Thank you all for the kind comments and support. It means a lot to me.

    Reply
  11. Oh my, this is indeed a very rough time. Having lost two dogs in the past two years, both of which I had to make the same decision for, I do not envy you at all. I hope that the reaming time is filled with many smiles, many biscuits, and as much pain-free time as possible. Hugs to the two of you.

    Reply
  12. Ginger

     /  March 25, 2011

    All paws are crossed for Charlie to enjoy all his favorites for a long time to come, and for you to find comfort in your memories.

    Reply
  13. alice in LALA land

     /  March 25, 2011

    In whatever time we have
    For as long as we are living
    We can face whatever comes
    If we face it now as one
    I could make it on my own
    Now I know that I don’t have to
    No one really wants to be alone
    In whatever time we have

    In whatever time we have
    After all this time without you
    It’s not easy to be sure
    It’s not easy to believe

    All we know for sure is this
    Though the world could end tomorrow
    You and I will be together
    In whatever time we have

    We know life can be a battlefield
    But we won’t run
    And we won’t heel
    You’ll be my fortress
    And I will be your shield
    No one really wants to be alone
    In whatever time we have

    If at times we are afraid
    With so little to believe in
    It’s alright to feel afraid
    I will hold you in the dark

    We could live a hundred years
    Or the world could end tomorrow
    But we know we’ll be together
    In whatever time

    From this day forward nights won’t seem so black
    From this day forward we will never look back
    In whatever time we have
    We will make the most of time
    And at least we’ll be together
    In whatever time we have

    Charlie, you are beautiful

    Reply
  14. Jeanne

     /  March 25, 2011

    Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear this. I hope beautiful Charlie still has many months ahead of him–that the treatment will buy him time and keep the pain at bay. Wishing you both the best.

    Reply
  15. Hugs and love to you both.

    Reply
  16. Geri Luxenberg

     /  March 25, 2011

    Thoughts and prayers for you both during this diffucult time. Give lots of hugs and kisses to each other…

    Reply
  17. Thank you for sharing him with us. Enjoy and appreciate him as much as you can. I’ve lost five old dogs since June 2010 and it never gets easier.
    Here’s hoping Mulder’s dull roar helps with the transition. Love to you all…it’s the only thing that seems to help.

    Reply
  18. Daniela

     /  March 25, 2011

    I am so sorry.

    Reply
  19. I’m sorry to hear of the diagnosis for Charlie. I had a sheltie who died of cutaneous histiocytosis, and was told that was an issue for shelties and collies. May you both enjoy each other to the fullest for all the days you have together.

    Reply
  20. I’m very sorry to hear this. My sweet cat, Bailey, got lymphoma. We tried chemo treatments that worked for awhile, but then seemed to cause more pain than comfort so we stopped.

    I remember sitting on the floor trying to comfort Bailey in his last moments and looked up to see Patrick Swayze’s picture on the TV. They died at almost the same time.

    Reply
  21. Erica

     /  March 25, 2011

    Saddened to hear of the diagnosis and that the outcome will not be one I would wish upon anyone. I pray that you and Charlie have months, if not years, ahead of you where you can spend some special moments together that you will carry with you in your heart until you DO join him one day….

    My prayers are with you, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing yourself and Charlie with us all. You are both an inspiration to dogs and their dog lovers everywhere…(((hugs)))

    Reply
  22. vida

     /  March 25, 2011

    I am so sorry but I know that Charlie will be loved and scritched and cosseted til the end. You’ve given him a great life I am sure. I’ll light a candle for both of you.

    Reply
  23. Kerry

     /  March 25, 2011

    I’m so sorry. You inspire me daily with your blog postings. Please let all of us — your readers — help you through your imminent journey with Charlie.

    Reply
  24. You’ve given Charlie an amazing life with love and compassion and dedication. I’m sure he has reciprocated. And you’ll share these final times together as you always have. You are lucky to have each other.

    Reply
  25. Anne

     /  March 27, 2011

    good karma your way

    Reply

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