Story told by D. Bodei
Grady was a number when I found his picture online at the Burlington, NJ Shelter. My husband and I are partial to Rottweilers and the day we bought house with a big yard in 2006 we were elated that we could adopt several dogs. Our 130 pound female Rottie (a shelter adoptee from three months earlier) was two years old when my husband decided a puppy was a good idea. My stubborn nature had me challenge him by finding a picture of a full grown male Rottie in south Jersey. We adopted both on New Years Eve of 2006.
In his pen he was all curled up by the wall, skinny and looking very sad. All they told us was he was a stray brought in October of 2006 and that he was a “gentleman”. My husband was cautious but something about Grady convinced me he was our guy. We paid our $35 donation and he bounded out with a burst of energy. He was the tallest Rottweiler I had even seen with long legs like a deer. He was dusty and his nub was wiggling so hard that it was throwing the dust from his butt all over the front waiting room. He acted as if he knew us and I almost cried. We loaded him into the car and he was ours.
Grady was my boy for seven years. His head stood past my waist (I am 5’8”) so that I could easily wrap my hand under his chin and scratch him there while he leaned against my leg. He was perfect. My job has me work from home 95% of the time and Mr Grades was never more than three feet away from me as I moved about during the day. His bed was right next to mine and he carefully chose his favorite tiger toy (Tig) and carried it to bed with him each night. The last thing he did before he fell asleep was look up at me earnestly and I would tell him he was the love of my life. Everyone who met him loved him and he loved everyone. He had the biggest smile and most expressive eyes a Rottie ever had. During his seven years with us, he had two torn ACL’s repaired and went for physical therapy at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital where the ladies there playfully called themselves “Grady’s Ladies” because he had won their hearts over.
It was March 27th, 2013 when I heard the slightest winge from Grady where I was working at my desk. I turned to look at him on the big futon he laid on when he worked with me and immediately knew something was wrong. His eyes were glassed over and very small and sunken his head. His big bright brown eyes seemed to wince as he struggled to look at me. We rushed him to the vet who immediately referred us to Garden State Vet in Tinton falls (a toped ranked vet specialist hospital that we are lucky to live only 30 minutes from). The ophthalmologist treated his eyes for pressure and inflammation while the oncology department tested him for the cancer they suspected. They hoped it was lymphoma but sent the tests off to the lab while they kept Grady overnight. As I drove home balling for having to leave him, I thought back to November 2012 when I brought the funny looking form in his left eye to the attention of our vet and he said “ah that’s nothing, just a benign tumor they sometimes get”. We thought we were doing the right thing by our dogs by getting pro-active geriatric (the regular blood tests don’t tell you enough) for years and taking them every six months to the vet for the past 7 years. Now we know we need to rigorously manage and direct our pet’s healthcare as we need to manage our own. No doctor (people or pet) seem to have a sense of ownership when it comes to health care. They easily refer you off to a specialist or several and they all only own a very small piece of the diagnosis. We scrutinize all of our dogs closely and more often now.
We picked Grady up the next day and had to wait 4 more days over the Easter holiday for his results. They treated the inflammation in his eyes and he seemed normal and energetic as ever winning over the hearts of everyone in the hospital in his usual fashion. We gave him 4 kinds of eyes drops every few hours (which he did not like to keep the pressure steady and the inflammation down.
During the discussion with the doctors the following week, we were introduced to the term Hystiocytosis Sarcoma. We came to know over the next week and a half that it is common in Rottie’s and means a death sentence. It was aggressive they said and he had it in his liver, spleen, lower left lung and probably his brain which was pushing the tumor into both of his eyes. It was in his eyes where it manifested itself to us and I was so focused on treating that so he could see, that we opted for a the Lomustine chemo drug which they told us had a 50% chance of reducing the tumors. We had to wait 5 days before we could also give him Prednisone because he still had Rymidal in his system that they had given to treat his discomfort from the tests and eyes. I hopefully thought if we could get him another enjoyable summer it would be great. Reality hadn’t set with me yet. When they said the drug had a 50% chance of staving off the end for 4-6 months I only focused on the positive because I wanted my Grady to be ok. My husband silently thought to himself about what happens the other 50% of the time.
For two more days Grady was his usual self and enjoyed life to the fullest playing with his siblings and us, taking walks and smiling at us the whole time. Two days after the chemo he laid down and could barely move. He couldn’t go upstairs to get to his bed so I slept with him downstairs as did our two other dogs. He barely lifted his head to drink water. He hadn’t eaten in two day. I saw pain in his eyes again on Monday morning, April 8th.
We called the vet oncologist and she said there was a blood test that could tell us if the disease was progressing or if this was a reaction to the chemo. The disease was progressing and our hearts fell. I asked the doctor to be frank with me and let me know if we continued with treatment if Grady had months or weeks left. She was honest and said that weeks was the probability. We spent a few more hours in the waiting room among so many other folks you were there for similar reasons when we struggled with our decision that April 8th would be Grady’s last day with us. We had always made our decisions about our pets for them and not us. Making Grady suffer through pain over weeks and still have him go blind was not what we wanted for him.
He laid on the floor and I sat with his head in my lap as they gave him the sedative. I kept hugging him and telling him what a good boy he was and assured him that I loved him so much. He threw his head back to look at me one last time with those beautiful eyes that were now swollen and clouded over with glaucoma just as he fell unconscious. He was gone in a few short minutes. My husband said he went out the like the gentleman he always was and we both knew in our hearts this how he wanted to go.
Ours and Grady’s ordeal lasted 13 days. I guess we can be thankful that it didn’t drag on too long but even those few days seemed like eternity. It’s a week later as I write this and pain is till fresh. I cry everyday and will keep his memory alive as the great and wonderful dog he was.
We try to focus on the 7 years of happiness we hope we gave him and know in turn he gave us much more as evidenced by the empty holes in our hearts. This experience will not stop us from knowing that we did our best with the canine life God entrusted us with and we know that we will have room for more Rotties and hope to share more precious memories.
We will always love you Grady.