On Friday, we agreed to amputate Katey’s front left leg, as the first step of controlling the osteosarcoma that was diagnosed this week. (She’s been limping for a couple of weeks, and from the very first x-ray, it looked like bad news.) Gathered in the vet’s office to discuss the fate of Katey’s long, powerful limb – an exquisitely engineered component of a racing machine, once capable of propelling her body to speeds upwards of 40 mph in bursts lasting around a minute – my former spouse, his mother (Grandma) and I squeezed together on the banquette seat for humans, uncomfortably intimate in our forced reacquaintance. The veterinary oncologist got right to the point, addressing Katey’s quality of life. “We see tripods all the time in oncology,” she said, “It’s very common. 99% of dogs do very well after amputation.” She said, “Katey is probably already living like a three legged dog; bone cancer is very painful.” I imagined all the three-legged dogs bouncing through the hallways of the university clinic on their way to chemo; imagined how Katey was already losing the full use of her leg, and in pain because of it. Unless we were prepared to put Katey down very soon, she needed this amputation, if only to prevent her from suffering a traumatic fracture as the cancer invades her bone and weakens it.
I had expected myself to say no, expected choosing a peaceful death for Katey over a diminished life without her leg . But I said, “Yes,” without much resistance.
Perched at the dutch-door at Grandma’s house, Katey was waiting for us afterwards. She doesn’t know the risk we are taking, on her behalf, trusting that her life is worth living on 3 legs. Seeing Katey’s huge ears and deep sparkling eyes filled me with pure delight. For a moment, I relished the hope that our time together is not quite over, and that more mornings like this one, languid in a sunny spot on the carpet, close to her humans, is what she would choose for herself.