When I first met my Boxer buddy Zack and his devoted mom Jan, they were a rather intimidating pair. Both were distrustful, angry, and poised to bite – Zack with his teeth and Jan with her words. Zack wasn’t used to strange people getting into his “personal space.” I was able to approach this big beefy boy only when he was securely muzzled. I viewed Jan’s anger to be a normal stage of the grief process- not surprising given that she’d just received some awful news about her four-legged best friend. Zack had lymphoma, a cancer involving his lymph nodes, spleen and liver. Jan and I spent a few hours over the course of those first few days discussing the potential risks and benefits of treating Zack’s lymphoma with chemotherapy. That was just over one year ago.

Since the diagnosis, Zack and Jan were frequent visitors to my office. With time Zack transformed from a “Boxer bully” into a trusting, gentle boy- as if he somehow knew that all of our attention was helping him continue to feel good. He seemed to eagerly anticipate his quota of dog cookies, lots of attention from the nursing and reception staff, and the full body massages (physical examinations in disguise). Jan was able to let go of her anger, replacing it with tremendous appreciation. Lymphoma therapy provided a year of wonderful quality time for Zack and Jan. They recreated together by way of mountain climbing and Jan showed me pictures of Zack “smiling” while relishing the great outdoors. The stories I heard suggested they were profoundly enjoying each other’s company.

Yesterday, I said goodbye to this special and unforgettable patient of mine. With Jan by Zack’s side, I administered the euthanasia solution and he experienced a quick and peaceful passing. His ashes will be spread along the mountain trail where he and his mom enjoyed so much time together this past year. I feel incredibly privileged to have been along on the journey.

Dr. Nancy Kay

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