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Gone Too Soon

Craig Koshyk

Yesterday I posted a sad note to my Facebook account. Lisa and I wanted to let everyone know that we were nursing broken hearts after the passing of our dog Henri. Naturally, I couldn't resist including a photo tribute. If you'd like to see it, just click here.

My wish is that Henri be remembered as a freakin hunting machine in the field and a mama's boy on the couch. He was a goofy, fun-loving, stud muffin Weim, who enjoyed more than one roll in the hay with some very special females. He was Silvershot's Pocket Rocket, named after the legendary hockey player Henri Richard. He was not his disease. It took his life, but it will not define him.

In this blog post, I would like to share some information on the specific health issues and challenges that Henri faced so bravely, until the very end. But please keep in mind that I am only doing so in an effort to explain the circumstances that lead to such a young, healthy, vibrant dog leaving us so quickly and far too soon.

At the beginning of February, we noticed one slightly swollen lymph node (about the size of a walnut) under Henri's chin. The vet's first thought was infection, so we treated with antibiotics. The node responded, shrank to about the size of an olive by the end of the 14- day course.

Then, a few days after stopping the meds, the node blew up to about the size of an apple. So back to the vet. He removed a piece of the very swollen submandibular node to have biopsied, and took a fine-needle aspirate of one of the prescapular (front of the shoulder) nodes as well. We also decided to do another course of antibiotics.

14 days later, the huge node had gone back to about the size of an olive and the prescapular node was so small it was hard to find.  And when we got the biopsy results back, they were negative for lymphoma! All they saw was just a ton of reactive cells. So we popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and figured it was a done deal. No lymphoma, just an infection that the meds would eventually take care of.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, after Henri had been off all meds for about 10 days. I noticed a bit of swelling in the first node again, and in a node under the arm pit. So, back to the vet. This time, just to make sure, he took another aspirate of the node under the arm and sent it to the lab. We also decide to try another type of antibiotic. And again, within just a day or two of antibiotics, the nodes started to shrink.

BUT...when the newest aspirate result come back, it said 'positive for lymphoma'. Obviously it is not the sort of news we were hoping for. But it is also a very confusing diagnosis since almost nothing that had happened up to that point was how classic lymphoma cases present. For example, cancerous nodes, once they get big, stay big. And they don't respond to antibiotics;  they don't shrink until they are treated with chemo. And besides, the first tissue biopsy of the biggest node and the first apsirate was negative.

In any case, we were now basically back to square one. So we did another biopsy, this time of a complete node. We also decided to do some imaging to see what was going on in the chest/gut area. Our thought was that if he did in fact have lymphoma, it might be something like indolent lymphoma, which is a relatively uncommon, slow-moving form of the disease.

The good news was that he was 100% asymptomatic. He seemed perfectly fine! He was eating, pooping, running and trying his best to hump our ancient, spayed 'life partners', Uma and Souris, just like he always has. 

Then, about three weeks ago, we finally got a definitive diagnosis based on the biopsy of the full node and an aspirate of another. It was not good. In fact, it was about as bad as it could be. Henri had T-cell Lymphoma.


Naturally, as all this was going on, Lisa and I had gone over various 'what if' scenarios. And every discussion ended with the same decision: we will always do what is best for Henri, not what is best for our credit card, or for our work schedule, or anything else. So when we were asked if we wanted to treat the disease, and give him a fighting chance for another hunting season, we said yes. And when we were asked if we wanted the throw-everything-at-it-except-the-kitchen-sink version of chemotherapy (Madison Wisconsin Protocol), we said yes as well.

And for a little while, it worked! Henri handled his treatments like a champ. He was basically his normal self most days. Once in a while he seemed a bit tired, but with Henri that just means running at subsonic speeds instead of at Mach 1. 

Unfortunately, last week either the meds, or the disease (probably both), seemed to catch up with him. On Wednesday he started vomiting. A lot. On Thursday, we got his stomach under control with more meds and he seemed to rally. On Friday he was actually pretty perky. He ran around the back yard trying to catch squirrels with Uma and Souris after supper and then headed to bed at his normal bed time.

Then, just after midnight, the wheels fell off.

He was restless. About every 1/2 hour, he needed to go out, NOW, to poop. And every time he came back in, he was a bit wobblier than the time before, and looked like he had aged a hundred years. Around 5 in the morning, his breathing became laboured. He trembled in pain.

It was time to get him to the vet ASAP.

On our way there, things went from bad — but still treatable — to full blown catastrophe. A 7-year-old dog who was a bit under the weather only 12 hours prior suddenly looked and acted as if he'd been stricken by e-freaking-bola. I'll spare the details. They're horrific. But it was crystal clear that it was no longer a question of treatment. It was time to say goodbye.

Fortunately, we were able to get him into a wonderful vet clinic that I'm pretty sure is staffed by angels. From the moment we arrived they all treated Henri, and us, with a graceful compassion that we will never forget. They supported us, consoled us and commiserated with us.

And when it was time, they helped us guide Henri to the happy hunting grounds.

The tears we shed for our dogs
are good tears. 

They are made of
the unconditional love we receive from our dogs
and the love we give them in return. 

That's why we never run out of them.