2011-09-30 / Columnists

Paws For A Moment

The Loss Of A Pet
Commentary by Karina B. Salvo, MS, DVM, Belle Harbor House Calls

Lucia Lucia The loss of a beloved pet can be tragic, heartbreaking and life altering ... some can get lost in the sadness.

May the following story bring encouragement, strength and shed a different light on those that may have lost a pet or are even thinking of adopting a new pet.

I bring you the story of “Lucia,” which in Latin means “the one that brings light.”

Lucia was rescued from the streets of the Bronx in February of 2007.

She was found tied to a pole on the street with a sign around her neck that read, “Please take good care of me.“

She was brought into New York City Veterinary Specialists facility in Manhattan by Animal Care and Control. Initial exam revealed an overweight, older female pit bull dog that had multiple masses under her abdomen and walked with an obvious limp. Further investigation showed that she had a complete one side radical mastectomy and the opposite side was mass after mass – not a good sign. We decided to help this dog, her demeanor was so sweet and gentle; we believed someone loved her very much and something tragic must have happened to them to have to give her up or have her left on the streets. We called her ‘Jessica.‘

We took her to surgery and removed all of her masses and all remaining breast tissue. Pathology confirmed she had malignant carcinoma …. one of the worst cancers … but the report said we also had “clean margins” …. this means that we were able to remove ALL cancerous tissue!! We still hoped that nothing had spread to the lungs. ‘Jessica’ recovered well from her radical mastectomy and a few weeks went by and off to surgery she went again … this time to fix her right knee. Overall, ‘Jessica’ underwent three different right knee surgeries so that she could walk the best that she could. She was on four to five different medications, but did very well!

I adopted ‘Jessica’ as my own … I named her Lucia ( the one that brings light) because when everyone would see her, they would smile …. as she would greet everyone with a slow walk and a wagging tail! Many of you may have met her at the dog park events, the beach or on her very slow walk down the street.

Three weeks ago she began to cough and I brought her to a place I once worked in Point Jefferson to take x-rays and found a large mass in her chest half the size of her heart ... at her age I knew surgery was not an option considering where this mass was. At any age, my first concern was quality and comfort. I began a treatment plan of medications that seemed to help her cough and allow her to breathe easier. Unfortunately, her response to these medications quickly diminished. Three weeks after finding the mass in her chest ... I had to return the favor to her, of being her friend and make a decision for her well being. I decided to humanely euthanize my Lucia. Surrounded by those that loved her, my technician placed an IV catheter, everyone hugged and kissed her and I gave her an injection to sedate her and as I whispered, ‘Until we meet again my Lucia ... I love you and you will be missed,” I gave the euthanasia injection.

She died in my arms.

Saying goodbye to a pet that has touched our lives so deeply can be one of the hardest things we will ever do. I often have the discussion with my clients when that time is near that quality vs. quantity is something to think about. When our older pets have had a long life (quantity) and the decision to euthanize them becomes difficult, their quality of life should always be considered and taken to heart. The decision I made to euthanize Lucia was an easy one to make, because I knew her quality of life would not improve ... and she certainly did not deserve to suffer at all. She had been my friend for the years I had her, and now it came time for me to be her friend.

There are many pit bulls out there like Lucia ... abandoned, previous bait or fighting dogs, etc., that are in need of a good home. Some of you have read my previous article in The Wave, “The Pain of Being a Pit Bull,” for which I actually received a phone call from a very angry reader asking me to write about how many people they kill ... and that they should all be euthanized. It is THAT mentality that fuels the media’s portrayal of this breed and continues social fear. Educate yourselves ... talk to a pit bull owner, there are many here in Breezy, Neponsit, Belle Harbor and the Rockaways. You are always welcome to call me with any questions.

Please know that any animal can bite. Pit bulls do have a bad rap within the media world because of the dog fighting that exists. This is NOT the dog’s fault or the breed’s fault ... it lies solely with the owner.

A dog, no matter what breed, should be socialized and trained by a caring owner who understands dog behavior and is willing to take the time and put in the effort; we need to change the media and the world’s view of this breed …and put a STOP to breed prejudice against pit bulls.

I invite any questions or comments about this commentary. Please feel free to email me at BelleHarborVet@gmail.com, Facebook me at Veterinary House- Calls or simply call me at 718-945-2358.

In Loving and Fond Memory of Lucia ... although our time was short together, she was truly a teacher to so many that feared her breed ... her life will continue to be celebrated as I tell her life story as a kind, gentle, loving dog ... a true Pit Bull.

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