Without a Leg to Stand On

How do you say “Bon Voyage” to a leg? After much back and forth, countless tears and gray hairs on my part and I’m certain some number of years off my life; Girly Girl’s fate has finally been determined.

The good doctors and pathologists put their knowledgeable and specialized heads together to determine that Girly Girl does, in fact, have osteosarcoma.

Through two months of scans, x-rays, blood tests, consults, biopsies, aspirations, ultrasounds, more consults and pathology smears we went from osteosarcoma to bone cyst to osteosarcoma, back to bone cyst, to cancer of some unspecified type, back to bone cyst, then to hemangiosarcoma or osteosarcoma and finally settling on osteosarcoma. This was, as you might imagine, a bit of a rollercoaster ride in just about every sense of the word.

Ironically, as a result of this crazy ride, I was never so happy to hear that Girly Girl actually had osteosarcoma as when Dr. Pastor called us last night with the final diagnosis. Since hemangiosarcoma is so much more aggressive and has so few treatment options, we were far better off if she had osteosarcoma. I never could have imagined sending out an email to friends and family with the subject line “It’s Osteosarcoma!!!!” Just like I was announcing the birth of a child. When I first stood in Dr. Edelbaum’s office during the first week of December looking at the tumor on Girly Girl’s x-ray and first heard the diagnosis of osteosarcoma, I thought the world had ended. Back then I cried for days and days. From there to actually being grateful for osteosarcoma? Who knew?

For those who may not know, the standard course of treatment for osteosarcoma in greyhounds if it has not already metastasized is to amputate the leg. After that you go through a course of chemotherapy. So without further delay I scheduled Girly Girl’s surgery with Dr. Pastor. We go tomorrow. Once you get a final diagnosis, there is no more messing around.

Now that it is scheduled, suddenly, I had to take a real hard look at the fact I was preparing to hand over my heart dog, the furry love of my life, so that they can sever what appears, on the outside, to be a perfectly good leg. Up to the time it decided to give quarter to a deadly invader, it was a great leg. We liked it. It definitely served its purpose. Until it turned traitor, it had never been lame, never faltered. It has a lovely paw with pads that smell like corn chips. It is her dominant leg. When she performs her “Human Whisperer” trick that is the leg she uses. I don’t think she’ll be able to perform that trick anymore once the leg is gone.

So on the eve before the surgery it became important to mumma to celebrate her leg. It had been a good friend for most of her 6 years and we were facing a difficult procedure and recovery to be parted from it. How to say goodbye to a leg? Well, we kicked off the evening with a happy hour. We had appetizing treats. Blue, Girly Girl and I enjoyed time together. I got out the video camera and for the last time Girly Girl performed her “Human Whisperer” trick for the camera. I had never thought to capture it on film before. Funny how that is. We have performed the trick on stage together during the Pet Idol contest at the Adoption Expo at the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Track in Massachusetts before. But I had never put it on film. It seemed important to memorialize it as Girly Girl ran through it a last few times.

We followed our happy hour with a special dinner including Girly Girl and Blue’s favorite canned food. Girly Girl got an extra portion since it’s likely she won’t be eating again for a few days and even then she won’t have a big appetite. We spent the rest of the evening cuddling together on the couch where mumma said her goodbyes to the offending leg. I wondered what they would do with the poor leg once it was no longer part of Girly Girl. But then I decided I probably didn’t really want to know the answer to that. The leg still has the staples in it from the bone cyst procedure. They probably won’t even bother to remove those. This poor leg has been through quite a bit already and will soon meet an inglorious end.

The fact that Girly Girl will be a three-legged dog makes no difference to me. She will be as beautiful to me with three legs as with four. She could have two legs, or one eye, or no ears and it would make no difference to me. The piece I struggle with is making such a life altering decision for her without any idea if this is what she would want. It is very hard to know what she is about to go through and wondering if she would think it is worth it. If she would sanction it should she have a voice in the matter? These are decisions I never envisioned having to make as a greyhound caretaker though we all know cancer is a real possibility when we sign on. I wonder if the decision I am making now, to put Girly Girl through this, will leave me in her eyes, without a leg to stand on.


  1. And you once told me that you'd never have children because you are too selfish....amazing what love does.

  2. I just found your blog via twitter. I'm sorry to see that you and your heart dog are faced with this decision. Dr. Couto said once that greys adapt best with amputation because of how they are built. If you do chemo, they can provide you with free chemo drugs if you contact his office at OU - but you probably know this. Hugs to you and your pups. I look forward to following your adventure.


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