This incredibly sad beast is not as bad off as we thought. Or so we think.
We made an emergency trip to the vet this afternoon because he seemed to be getting weaker and basically looked like he might kick off at any second. The mass had hardened into a stubborn chest plate of meat maybe twice its original size, tucked just up under where his collarbone would be. It was the size of a pickup truck ash tray. No longer did it move freely when I grabbed it. It was stuck, as if woven into the bone and soft tissue. In three days it had spread from his chest down into his arm, which jiggled like a sack of jelly, and up into his shoulder and neck.
I figured he was a goner. Lil Mountain Ash cried all day. We coaxed him into the car and drove down at 2:30 to meet our amazing vet, Patrick, who’s from Uganda. He arrived with his kids, since his wife was working, and Ash, so smart, had brought all the kids books we had to entertain them while Patrick and I worked the Doc over.
The Doc limped into the waiting room and stood unsteadily, like a drunk eyeing a bar full of strangers. He turned to go. “Hang on, Doc,” I said. “This is serious.” He looked right in my eyes as he always does when he wants to understand, and walked obediently into the examination room.
We muzzled him just for safety and Patrick stuck him with a horse-sized needle to get some cells out of the bass and the fluid around it. It wasn’t comfortable. When he pulled it out the blood dripped freely, rich and red, while Blender lay with his head in my hand. He looked at me again, not sure what we were doing but willing to trust, even though it hurt.
After a bit of analysis Patrick came back. “I’m not seeing anything that makes me really nervous,” he said in his inimitable accent. The cells he saw were more consistent with an infection than cancer.
Sometimes critters get abscesses from wounds we don’t even see. Bacteria gets under the skin and the whole thing blows up. “Eighty-percent chance that’s what we’ve got,” Patrick said.*
For his part the Doc is milking this thing for all it’s worth. He limped into the kitchen this evening as I cut steak for the grill. I could hear his plodding gait before I saw him. He stood just beyond the counter, looked at his empty bowl (he’d been fed earlier) and back at me, hangdog and forlorn. Then he gave me the low wag. A sign that, perhaps, he was on the mend.
*Yes, there’s still a chance he has a cancer deep inside, deeper than we were able to get with our needle. We try not to think about that.