Several years ago, at age 12, one of my family's golden retrievers, Amos, was diagnosed with nasal and paranasal sinus adenocarcinoma. This type of cancer only occurs in about 1-2% of dogs. His prognosis was very poor and, with the outcomes only giving a slight increase in length of life with treatment (radiation is the most effective treatment, average survival is about 12 months with treatment, 3-6 without), with the possible side effects impact on quality of life, we opted to fore-go treatment and just do supportive care (pain meds, etc), using quality of life as our guideline for when it would be time to let him go.
To our, and our vets, surprise, progression of the cancer seemed to stall. He had great quality of life, and seemingly only suffered problems that any elderly dog would. He slowly became deaf, with total deafness by age 13.5. He was a little slow to get up in the mornings, slept a lot (which can hardly be a sign of anything in older golden retrievers
), he had to go outside to pee often. He would still play, loved his walks, doted on any kids he encountered, and he even taught Dropkid how to walk!! He would lay down next to her, let her get a grip on him, and slowly stand up. He would then take tiny, slow steps while she held on, and would repeat the process when she fell down.
When he was 16, our other dog, Molly, had to be put to sleep due to advanced hip dysplasia. Within about 3 weeks of Molly being PTS, he started showing signs that his cancer was advancing again (started getting nosebleeds, sneezing all the time, difficulty breathing, etc). Within 3 months of Molly being PTS, we made the decision that we were being unfair to Amos and it was our duty to give him peace. He couldn't go for walks anymore, his breathing was too labored. He didn't chew his bones anymore, as he couldn't breath while doing it. and he just seemed to tell us that it was time.
It was the most painful decision we'd ever made (but not hard, we loved him too much to let him suffer). Just after Christmas 2002, we let him go.
He surprised everyone, and left a huge hole in our lives, and in the lives of all who knew him. His winning personality, his patience, his intelligence, his drive, his giant heart and incredibly gentle nature set the standard for all dogs to come. He taught us to cherish every moment with our pets.
His life influenced me to pursue becoming a vet tech. I graduated from school just 4 months after he passed. I immediately decided I wanted to work in research, with a focus on cancer, because many of the advances in veterinary cancer treatment can be directly attributed to findings in research done for human cancers in animals.
Here he is with Dropkid in June the summer before he was PTS, a grey old man.