How a Series of Unfortunate Events May Save My Dog’s Life


Do you ever get the feeling that fate is working in your favor? Or not? A recent series of dog-related disasters had me thinking that some of the bad things that were happening around me and to Maybelle happened for a reason. And then I started wondering just how much the universe was going to pile on!

It started back in August when one of my oldest and best friends in the world told me her beloved dog had a life-threatening autoimmune disorder. A few days after her 9-year-old Border Collie started exhibiting lethargy and refusing food, my friend and her husband finally had to make the decision to end his suffering. We had a tearful phone call, during which I declared I was immediately purchasing pet insurance.

Maybelle just wants to curl up with a good blanket. (Photo by Theresa Cramer.)

Meanwhile, Maybelle and I were just beginning our journey toward the onchodystrophy diagnosis I wrote about earlier. That journey was long, but not particularly expensive as far as vet bills go—which was good because it was considered a pre-existing condition by the insurance (a claim I couldn’t really dispute). But just as Maybelle’s toenails were growing back, she decided to pick a fight with one of my cats. She’s no dummy, so she generally picks on the slower cat who isn’t inclined to fight back. But I yelled, and as Maybelle turned away from one cat, she turned right into the other—who was more than happy to come to her kitty friend’s defense by taking a swipe at the dog’s face.

Ruby—the smarter, faster, take-no-guff cat—has great aim. She got Maybelle right in the corner of her eye, nicking her third eyelid. The vet was able to squeeze us in that night, and then schedule us for “surgery” the next morning. Of course, the dog needed to be knocked out while the vets finished clipping the piece of eyelid that was waving back and forth across her cornea, and took the opportunity to also express her anal glands.

I like to think Ruby felt bad about what she did…but she didn’t. (Photo by Theresa Cramer.)

That’s when an alert vet tech noticed a small mass. Maybelle had been in that same office just a few weeks before, sedated enough to let the vets check out her tender feet—and clean her teeth, and express her glands. But no one had noticed a mass then.

So, needless to say, I went from cursing the cat to thanking her. If it hadn’t been for her inflicting that very specific injury—a scratched cornea probably would not have required sedation—we may not have caught the mass early, before it becomes a bigger problem. That doesn’t mean I didn’t go down the Google rabbit hole, and scare the heck out of myself.

Maybelle takes some time to stop and smell the flowers between vet appointments. (Photo by Theresa Cramer.)

As we all know, one test leads to another. Next up for Maybelle was an ultrasound to check her lymphnodes. Those were clear, but while they were looking around they found another mass on her adrenal gland. That led to me trying to catch a urine sample in a tiny cup, some blood pressure tests, and an eight-hour stay at the vet while they checked her cortisol levels.

Again, the tests all came back clean. Nothing suggested that this mass on her adrenal gland was causing her any issues. The ultrasound guy suggested monitoring the mass.

The vets and I were just stunned at all the “incidentalomas” that were popping up.

We scheduled the anal gland surgery—that was a no brainer. But the adrenal gland is trickier. That procedure is more dangerous—some dogs “don’t get off the table.” The surgeon thinks we should remove it because he thinks masses of this size tend to turn cancerous, but of course he does—he spends his days removing tumors that are detected when they’re causing issues. We have no idea how many dogs are roaming around with undetected adrenal masses that never cause a problem. But it’s hard not to want to head off a problem before it starts.

Out for a walk on a beautiful fall day. (Photo credit by Theresa Cramer.)

I spent several days on edge and distracted—unsure of what to do with all of this information. I even bent the mirror on my car door back when I grazed the telephone pole at the end of my driveway, and then instantly burst into tears. In my daze, I tried to be productive. I made a turmeric paste to help shrink Maybelle’s masses. I started supplementing her diet with homemade food and treats. And slowly I came to the decision (I think) to monitor the adrenal mass, and do everything I can to help her fight off the dreaded C-word.

But thank goodness for that pet insurance, right?

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