Brick in his younger days, enjoying the great outdoors

I apologize for an extended absence from this space. Family obligations, a house purchase, and career changes are mainly to blame. In addition, on June 6, our dog Brick lost his battle with osteosarcoma. With chemotherapy, we were able to buy some extra time with him – most of it quality time.

In the end, Brick did us the honor of making it clear that it was his time to go. After all, no owner wants to waffle for long periods over the decision to euthanize. Trust me, no waffling was necessary that morning. We had been so focused on controlling his lung metastases that we were surprised when a spinal tumor (at T7) began to cause increased pain and, rapidly, the inability for Brick to stand or walk without assistance. Since he weighed nearly 100 pounds, assistance was not easy to provide, and his pain quickly became quite severe.

Brick was euthanized by his oncologist at the teaching hospital, where it is the custom for euthanized pets to be necropsied (autopsied) by veterinary students during in their pathology rotations. Having been through that service as a student – and knowing how difficult but important necropsies are for the learning process – I had no qualms about providing consent. The final pathology report was posted and I have mustered the courage to read it. By the time of his death, the osteosarcoma had reached his lungs, T7 vertebral body, thyroid glands, liver, kidney, spleen, and adrenal glands. The cancer had ravaged his body.

We are recovering, slowly, from our loss. My husband lost a best friend. I lost a wonderful companion that made me and our children rest better on those nights my husband travels. We still expect to see him at every turn, even after moving houses three weeks after he died. The kids are learning how to process such a life-altering event, while we adults realize that our grieving will take time.

On a much happier note, I soon begin a new professional chapter: next Monday (8/1), I become the newest behavior resident at UC Davis. It is a three-year program in which I will be trading flea treatments and radiographs for in-depth, probing appointments designed to help people with their unruly pets. Cases most typically involve some form of aggression, anxiety, or elimination issue. I will be treating mainly dogs and cats. While I would love to see other species, I think I may be limited to the occasional feather-picking cockatoo or cribbing horse.

I’m quite excited about this new opportunity and hope that some cool behavior cases work their way onto this blog.