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Gus is still here


It is with guilt that I tell you that Gus is still alive. I say “guilt,” because literally hundreds of readers weighed in on my last few blog posts and Facebook posts, expressing the most profound sympathy for the death I told them was impending. For instance, on Thursday night I posted a photo of him with the caption “his last night on Earth.” People were very upset about that, as was I. Some of their comments moved me to tears. But, as I said, he’s still alive.

Let me explain.

On Wednesday, he started bleeding heavily from the mouth, from the gum area where the tumor is (and is getting visibly bigger by the day). I’d been waiting for weeks for “the next shoe to drop”—the symptom that would finally force me to have him euthanized. I had no idea what it would be. Could have been almost anything, given the presence of the tumor in his skull, where it could invade his eyes, nose, throat, tongue, or spread to his lungs. He’d bled a little bit from the beginning—in fact, that was why I first brought him to the vet, who gave us the diagnosis of bone cancer (osteosarcoma). But it was just a little. Wednesday’s bloodletting by contrast was horrifying.

So on Thursday, while on a long walk, I made the painful decision: It was time. I made arrangements for Friday, to bring him to the vet who would euthanize him. But them something happened. You see, about ten days ago, his regular vet had given me two new prescriptions for him: a more powerful painkiller than that one he was already on, and the corticosteroid, Prednisone. She said the more powerful painkiller would make him drowsy, something his existing painkiller wasn’t doing, while the Prednisone was an anti-inflammatory that would keep the swelling down.  

Well, his existing painkiller seemed to be working just fine, without making him drowsy, so it didn’t make sense to give him the more powerful one. The vet also warned me, in no uncertain terms, not to combine the Prednisone with the existing painkiller: there could be extremely serious contraindications. So I stuck the new painkiller and the Prednisone in the fridge and decided I wouldn’t use them until and unless things got very bad.

On Thursday night, with euthanasia scheduled for the next day, I figured, why not give him the more powerful painkiller and the Prednisone? Couldn’t hurt, might help. And that’s what I did. Gus had a very good night sleeping with me Thursday night. Just a few drops of blood. He seemed great on Friday morning. No blood! Pretty much as perky and hungry as ever, curious, happy to go out, responsive, looking for a belly rub. Clearly something, probably the Prednisone, had done something positive.

I did a little Googling on “Prednisone for dogs, cancer” and learned the following: It’s not a cure, but an effective palliative. It’s not intended for longterm use, but over a short period can provide pain relief, and a feeling of well being. Over a longer period—several months—Prednisone can have many serious side effects. But overall, it can be a marvelous drug, even for a dog dying of cancer.

Well, my mind was in a real quandary. I’d thought and thought about Gus for weeks, wondering when the end was here. On Thursday, I had made a decision—one of the hardest of my life—to have him put down the next day. Now, suddenly, it was the next day, and he was so much better. I talked to a few friends who had experience with Prednisone and animals and they told me how miraculous it was, at least for a while. So, late Friday morning, I changed my plans. No euthanasia.

My guilt is because I now feel like I unintentionally misled so many wonderful people, whom I’d told I’d be euthanizing Gus on Friday, people who loved and cared and suffered along with me. And now, I’m telling everyone I didn’t euthanize him. Please forgive me! I mean that with all my heart. Anyone who’s gone through this knows the emotional roller coaster I’ve gone through. You’re up one day, down the next, even further down the next—and then you’re back up. Tears, then hope, then tears, then hope, then…Well, as long as he’s happy and eating and enjoying life, and not bleeding or showing other symptoms of the cancer, how can I put him down now?

I don’t know how long this reprieve will last. Could be a day, or several days. For all I know, it could be a few weeks. It doesn’t seem likely to be longer than that, and as my research showed me, the serious side effects would eventually cancel out the benefits. In the meantime, I still have little Gus. He’s doing okay. I’m so grateful to you all for being there for me. I’ll continue to keep you posted.

  1. Our first cat, who died 13 years ago, had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumor, and given some medication (Prednisone?) to help with pain. That was sometime in the Fall of 2006, and his tumor (which was centered around his eye), continued to grow. Early the next year it seemed like the end was near; he was so listless. I regularly cried when I saw how he was acting. Then one day, right around my birthday, he suddenly perked up, and started to run around. I thought maybe it was a birthday present just before he would call it quits. But he continued to stay energetic, although he kept losing weight and the tumor grew visibly larger. I star5ted to thing maybe he could live for along time more, but that didn’t happen. However, he did make it until the end of August, when he simply stopped breathing. Maybe we should have put him down earlier, but we didn’t have the hea5rt, especially since right up to the end he jump on the bed with us at night.

  2. Paul Stark says:

    Don’t worry about your followers. Worry about Gus. It’s great that he’s doing better.

  3. Thanks, Paul. It is great that Gus is doing a little better. But as an old writer, who’s made my way through this world via the written word, I always think about my readers!

  4. Bob Rossi, that reminds of me my first cat. When he was about 12, he developed some kind of disease and stopped eating. He lost half his body weight. The vet strongly recommended putting him down. But I decided to wait one more week, and during that time, he began eating again. He went on for another 8 years!

  5. Iris Sluter says:

    sending much love Steve <3

  6. Just worry about Gus and his time on earth without pain…

  7. Judi Levens says:

    So happy you are able to have some extra time with your love. Hope it works well for a good long time…who can look this gift horse in the mouth? Just enjoy guiltlessly…we’re all overjoyed for you ❤️❤️❤️

  8. Thank you Judi!

  9. I’m thrilled that you have more time with Gus. Savory every moment and spoil him rotten! Be grateful and enjoy this time.

  10. We are enjoying the few more days we have together!

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