2014-11-19 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

How do you say good-bye to the most wonderful dog you’ve ever known? In September my 11-year-old athletic Afghan Hound “Halle” was diagnosed suddenly with an aggressive cancer called cardiac hemangiosarcoma. This “H” word makes dog people shudder.

Hemangiosarcomas remain hidden until complications arise. Often these dogs collapse and die without any warning, leaving their grief-stricken caretakers in shock. Therefore, I felt blessed to know our days together were numbered. I learned that even if we had found out sooner, surgery to remove the tumor would not have been a viable option.

Simply put, there was a malignant tumor on her right atrium. As it bled, the build-up compressed her heart and kept it from beating properly. Halle’s prognosis was grim. A month; three at best.

Surgery and/or chemo were not in the cards. The fluid was drained at the specialty hospital but back a week later. Next she had a rarely performed, laparoscopic procedure where her surgeon made a small hole in her pericardial sac so the fluid would drain into her chest.

My “Halle” (2003-2014) My “Halle” (2003-2014) These interventions plus constant guidance from my wonderful veterinarian and hand-feeding Halle dog delicacies along with a daily dozen of Dr. Wen’s herb capsules and appetite stimulant pills (used sparingly) gave us a little longer than a month of quality time together. I didn’t want to do anything different and break the streak. Halle was the real Halle- beautiful, comical, exuberant and demanding in her silly way. She even frolicked and ran. We enjoyed walks, including several Southards Pond sojourns.

Then one evening after bouncing into the house and wolfing down chicken at 1 a.m., she crashed at 6 a.m. the next morning. Medical magic ceased; the streak was over. Two days later we tearfully released Halle from her pain so she could race like the wind and show off at the Rainbow Bridge. Below is the tribute I sent to people who had known Halle:

We lost our beautiful and beloved Afghan Hound “Halle” on Oct. 29, the anniversary of the storm. “Mahadi’s Hallelujah” was her pedigree name-the sweetest, funniest, fastest Afghan ever. She was the greatest rescue gift. I will always be indebted to Anna Stromberg for knowing that Halle was destined to be ours.

Halle enjoyed life to the fullest, showed off her speed every chance she got and was a friend to allman and beast. She loved us as much as we adored her. Dear sister of Edgar, Charlotte and Veto. She brought Edgar Afghan Poe out of his hoarder house trauma by teaching him the joys of being an Afghan. She let tiny Toy Spaniel Charlotte boss her around and tolerated Veto, our ornery three-legged cat, waking her up each morning at dawn.

Halle was wonderful at nursing homes, knowing precisely which residents to charm, but bored with agility (which was so in keeping with her independent spirit). She was fashionably fabulous as the Maid of Afghan at her sister Charlotte’s wedding, and dressed as Spider Woman, Cleopatra or a senorita. Her every move- whether running loops around the yard or jumping into the Jeep- finished with the flourish of a gymnast.

An insidious cardiac hemangiosarcoma ravaged her heart and broke ours. I will continue to hear silly Halle snap her teeth like castanets beckoning me to do her bidding, and will continue to miss her terribly each and every day of my life. Thank you so much for your prayers, support and love during Halle’s illness. I will forever cherish the 34 precious days we shared together after her diagnosis.

A friend who lost her five-year-old beloved Afghan to a sudden cancer last year sent me the following poem. It goes by two titles- “The Last Battle” or “If It Should Be.” The poet is unknown:

If it should be that I grow weak,
And pain should keep me from my
Then you must do what must be
For this last battle cannot be won.
You will be sad, I understand;
Don’t let your grief then
stay your hand.
For this day more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the
We’ve had so many happy years -
What is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer so;
The time has come, so let me go.
Take me where my needs they’ll tend
And please stay with me until the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.
Please do not grieve - it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We’ve been so close, we two, these years -
Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.

For Adoption: “Wynona” 14-410, a young, playful Shepherd/Pit mix at Babylon Animal Shelter, Lamar St. W. Babylon (631-643-9270), has been waiting to be noticed for months. “Flanagan” came in more recently as a small Shepherd mix stray with injuries most likely from being hit by a car. Babylon Shelter arranged for hip surgery at a specialist and he is now recovering at Last Hope, 3300 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh. Last Hope is looking for a foster home where Flanagan can slowly exercise his leg and start putting more weight on it as he begins to heal. Call 631-671-2588.

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