Our prince has fallen. Brodie, the beautiful golden retriever with the deep red, flowing coat finally succumbed to his cancer on January, 25th 2016. Let’s remember him.
Sammy, Brodie, & Butters on June 25th, 2015 shortly after Brodie arrived to live with Dr. Miller for lymphoma treatment.
My son came to me requesting I find him and his wife a dog, preferably a Golden Retriever. Coincidentally, a breeder that comes to our New Richmond hospital had just announced a new litter. Brooks and Jen lived in Atlanta, so I had the decision of which puppy. Thus Brodie came to live with me at the office for a few weeks. He’d spend his days with me and my staff and a strong bond developed that I really wasn’t totally aware of until later. Eventually, he was happily united with his new family and we waved goodbye as he headed to Atlanta. During his first years he was an “only child,” being typically spoiled by the over-indulging parents. He also had cats as roommates that he tormented as a puppy and coexisted with them his entire adult life.
I learned of his enduring bond on our first visit to Atlanta several months later. I walked in the door and was immediately met with a bounding teenage dog, moaning, head-butting, jumping and licking me as if to say “Hey, where you been? Check out my new digs!” He slept in our bedroom, hung with us, and when we left he was sad, but knew he’d see us soon again. This ritual went on his entire life whenever we visited him or he visited us.
I was always amazed by his intelligence. From day one, when he needed to go out they just opened the door for him and out he went. I cringed the first time they did this, but was amazed when 10 minutes later he was at the door. He knew the neighborhood and his boundaries without any training. I do not recommend this for other dogs.
Brodie, a natural baby-sitter.
Eventually, his world changed with the arrival of my granddaughters within a couple years of each other. No problem for him. He just got busy helping to raise them. The family outgrew the house and they moved into a larger house with a larger yard and woods, creek, etc. Life was good, but got even better.
Growing with the family.
The new neighbors were an elderly couple from Canada that had rescued two Goldens. When we visited, these two dogs would bark incessantly (just saying hello) while running their fence line. Brodie would always stop and say hello and move on. Eventually the owners noticed this and invited him in. Of course, Brodie knew a good thing when he saw it and settled in. The next time we visited we saw a new routine. Yes, I still got that Brodie “Where Have You Been” greeting and he still slept in our bedroom. But in the morning he ate his breakfast, went to the door, and was gone for the day. He’d go next door where he would have morning play, a snack for lunch followed by an afternoon nap and then more play. The ancient canine “pack” instinct had kicked in. He’d return when the girls came home from school.
Once when we went down at Thanksgiving with our own dogs he decided to spend the day at home. The Canadian couple called frantically looking for him, wondering where Brodie could be. When Brooks, Jen, and the granddaughters would visit us in Cincinnati, Jen was given a schedule of Brodie’s treats and nap times from the neighbors. What a life, friends to play with all day, snacks as needed, and return home to the girls at night.
This was his life. The average family pet with extraordinary neighbor friends and a great neighborhood with plenty of room to roam. He never was a problem.
About 8 months ago I got the call from Brooks that Brodie had a growth on his foot and the veterinarian wanted to amputate a toe. They emailed a picture of the foot and I immediately advised them to follow their Doc’s advice. It was ugly. The pathology report came back as a cancer but could not define the type. The prognosis was decent with no tumor cells at the wound edges. Then a lymph node higher up on the leg became enlarged. An aspirate gave a diagnosis of Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma). They were devastated when they called me wanting advice on what to do. This is a cancer of the lymph nodes that is almost always incurable. Over my 40 years of practice, the treatments have not changed very much. Even more frustrating is the dog acts perfectly normal until the late stages. After a tormenting week of indecision, they called me and wanted me to handle his care.
So up they came with the Brodes in back of the car with the girls. They had bathed and brushed him and were so proud of how he looked. He responded by jumping out of the car and making a run to the creek (which is really a storm sewer runoff) and plunged in. He followed this up with a good roll in the mud and came trotting back smiling as if to say “I wanted to get dressed up for you guys and put on a nice cologne.” At weekends end the human part of the family loaded up and headed home. I kept Brodie in as they left but that really wasn’t necessary as he readily accepted staying with us and my dogs (his new pack). Brodie being Brodie had no problem settling in and as always found his spot next to our bed at night. Within a week he would go to the bedroom door as bedtime approached and stare at us announcing “bedtime!” He made many new friends while with us, greeting all the people and the dogs that walk on the walking trail in front of our house.
I took him to Dr.Cheryl Harris, a Veterinary Oncologist, to consult with and develop his treatment plan. She felt that since the cancer had an unusual initial presentation that it was probably T-cell Lymphoma. Unfortunately, this carries a poorer prognosis and a shorter remission period. But Brodie just looked at us after his first treatment as if to say “No problem. Now let’s get home, dinner time is approaching.” He readily accepted the challenge.
He was in remission within a week and spent his days going to work with me and Sammy, my 85 lb. Golden Doodle. It took him one day to learn the routine: go through waiting room, into my office, and on to morning nap time. Mid afternoon, he’s thinking about going home and dinner, so he’d stand at the office gate and tell us with a gruff deep “woof.” He’d get his weekly treatments and an occasional blood draw without any objections. Of course he knew a cookie was waiting when done.
Five months later, the week his treatments were supposed to end and he was scheduled to go home, he relapsed. We were all upset but Brodie took it in stride. Another consult with Dr. Harris and a new plan of attack again put him into remission. Unfortunately, the second remission usually does not last as long as the first and this was the case with Brodes. Another treatment regime was developed but we all knew his time was growing short. But Brodie adapted to any setbacks and continued to hang with my dogs inside and out.
As I tell all my clients dealing with similar situations, you know your pet and they will tell you when the time has come to let go. This was the case with Brodie. His disease was progressing but every day I knew by his actions that he was still enjoying life, interacting with us at home and the staff at work. He was having a difficult time getting around but still had a perk in his ears and a glimmer in his eyes. Finally, one early morning he spiked a fever and looked at me and told me “old friend, it’s time.” I had brought everything I needed home for this moment and early that morning myself and my wife helped Brodie free himself from his cancer. He passed peacefully as we told him how much everyone loved him and would miss him. I could feel his smile inside and felt as if he were saying “thanks old friend for everything and tell everyone I love them, too.” Then something very touching happened. My Golden Doodle, Sammy, who is a hyperactive constant attention seeker, quietly laid down next him and didn’t move for 10 minutes. Dogs are so intelligent. After all these years of practice I continue to learn from them.
I informed my staff and later in the day I called his family and informed them. We were all so very sad, but are healing as our grief is being replaced by the treasure of memories he’s left for us.
Some might ask, “was it worth it,” and my answer is a resounding absolutely! My son’s family needed my expertise and I was grateful to help. As I knew, Brodie lived longer than expected because of his vigor for life. I would never give up the 7 months I had with him, watching him interact with my dogs and finding a multitude of new friends in the neighborhood and at the hospital. My staff loved him and they rejoiced in knowing and caring for him. His family came up to stay with him twice and those reunions were times of pure love and joy.
And there was the time we took him home for the weekend after Thanksgiving. By the time we arrived it was dark and Brodie jumped out and started to reacquaint himself with his front yard. Then the front door opened with my son standing in the doorway. Brodie looked up and bounded across the yard like a puppy jumping through the door to reunite with the family. I was astounded. I did not think I would ever see his old legs and hips move that fast again. At that moment I knew that all our work and efforts were rewarded with the pure joy of that moment.
He spent the next two days lying on the kitchen floor so he would always be in the middle of the action and occasionally went out to re-explore his home territory. At the end of the weekend he knew it was time to go as he watched us pack. After goodbye’s he jumped in the car and looked at me as if to say “thanks, let’s get home because Christmas is right around the corner and we have to get ready!”
And Christmas arrived and he was united with his family for the last time. Once again he camped in the kitchen and family room so as not to miss anything. We shared the holiday together and were all grateful for the gracious holiday reunion.
Those months will always be a major part of my life. But the next we visit with Brooks’ family I will start hounding him about a new dog. For Brodie told me through his eyes, “make sure these girls have another dog to carry on what I have accomplished so far. And make sure they know they are not replacing me, for that is impossible. The role will be reversed. The girls will have to raise that puppy and it will grow into the dog that takes them through their teenage years into adulthood.”
Big paws to fill, indeed.
And finally, for Brodie, all of us will always, always remember you and never, never stop loving you.
Dr. Jerry Miller
Feb. 11th, 2016