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Hal's Story: Our Experience
with Canine Osteosarcoma

in Loving Tribute to Hal
and in Grateful Appreciation to Doc Horner,
and to the N.C. State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital

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Hal
Greetings! If youíre reading this, it may be because you have a dog with osteosarcoma and youíre wondering whether to have amputation surgery or chemotherapy. Iíve written this to share my personal experience with you. Only you can make this important decision and the fact that you are even considering it demonstrates how much you care about your pet. Our story is about how we tried the most heroic medical treatment available and about the four months following until the death of our beloved Hal. I hope you will feel free to send me email if you have questions or would like to share your own story with me. 
If you can't run with the big dogs, stay off the truck! We got Hal, our great dane, as a puppy, and even though we have human children, I always said that Hal was my best child: no sassy backtalk, unfailing love, and always so happy to see us! 

Vicky with Hal
Hal broke his leg in 1993 when he was almost 3 years old, but the surgical team at NC State Veterinary Teaching Hospital successfully operated and used an interlocking nail to stabilize the fracture. 


A comparison of x-rays between the 1993 surgery and Hals' condition in 1997


Hal's leg became very swollen very quickly while we waited for surgery

Hal recovered fully, could run full speed even without a limp, and things seemed fine for the next several years. In 1996 Hal developed what appeared to be a small cyst or infection in the shoulder. By that time, weíd moved to another state. We consulted a local veterinarian who tried a round of antibiotics and even some minor surgery to try to determine what was wrong; the vet told us at the time that the problem might be related to the old injury and that possibly the nail needed to come out, but we hoped that was not the case. Hal went through long periods of time without problems, but the infection continued to reoccur. We were very caught up in getting established in a new state and realize, looking back on it, that we did not give this recurring problem the attention it deserved. But it seemed like such a small thing and Hal did not seem to be in pain, although he began slowing down a bit which we attributed to his getting older. Finally, in early 1997, Hal developed a limp. Doc Horner, our local vet, said the infection was actually draining from the site of the fracture and that the nail needed to be removed. We put Hal on the surgical calendar at NC State Veterinary Teaching Hospital to have the nail removed. In the meantime, Halís condition grew worse. Over the course of a very few days, his leg began to swell and the antibiotics didnít seem effective. Our stoic big friend began to show how much pain he was in. Those last few days before the surgery were painful for him, but they also broke our hearts. 

Dr. Simon Roe
When we arrived for surgery, two students were assigned to our case. The clinician, Dr. Roe, was dismayed at the swelling and he mentioned that cancer may be involved. We developed a Plan A and a Plan B depending on what was found when surgery took place. Plan B, the worst scenario if cancer were found, involved amputating the leg (in Halís case, it was his right front leg). We didnít realize at first that amputation of the leg was really just for relief of pain. If we wanted to try to save Halís life, then chemotherapy would be necessary. 
We wondered if having the surgery would be less kind than having Hal put down and we searched our hearts to determine whether our desire to keep our friend was overriding what was best for him. But I remembered seeing many 3-legged dogs who learned to get along fine. We felt if the cancer could be defeated, Hal could adapt to the loss of a leg. Also, we felt that Hal had the heart for the ordeal. I have another dog who is such a big baby that she cries when I bring out the nail clippers! For her, we might have made the decision to say good-bye. But we wanted to give Hal a shot at life and we believed Hal was up to the challenge. 
Some of my acquaintances told me that I was being cruel to subject Hal to this kind of radical treatment; that if I really cared about him, I would put him out of his misery; that I was only thinking about myself and that it was selfish to subject him to the surgery. If you think it is cruel to remove an animalís leg due to cancer, please keep reading. Youíll be surprised, I think 

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This is our big buddy, Hal

This Hal & Friends WebRing site is owned by Roz & Vicky Hallenbeck

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