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Hal's Story: Our Experience with Osteosarcoma (page three)

But the most remarkable statement about the chemotherapy treatments was Hal’s own reaction: he loved going to the hospital for the treatments! Apparently, the students spoiled him and made over him so much that after the first treatment, he was actually eager to go in the building. Hal’s attitude was as if we were dropping him off for a treat -- he never pulled or strained to go outside -- to the contrary, when the student came out to get him, he didn’t even look at us, but willingly, gladly, charged ahead into the hospital, usually dragging the student along! That was the most amazing thing -- when we took Hal to be kenneled, for example, he always knew what was up and sort of “drug his heels” going into the building. But when we took him for his chemo treatments, he acted as if it were indeed a “treat”ment. His own reaction to what was obviously a day of petting and special attention did so much to allay my feelings that we were putting him through an ordeal --- to the contrary -- in Hal’s eyes, we’d signed him up for a country club membership! 
We had four wonderful, glorious months with Hal. Since we were newly sensitized to the importance of every minute with him, there wasn’t a day I didn’t hug him, love him, and appreciate him. He was happy and secure and led a life every bit as normal as he had before. In fact, he basked in the extra attention that most people gave him. We began to hope that he would celebrate his 6th birthday on July 31st.

But on Friday, July 4, I noticed that Hal was walking a little stiffly and wasn’t coming up the stairs as often as before. It wasn’t a limp and it didn’t seem to cause him pain, but something was a little odd. By Sunday, he was not coming upstairs at all, even at night, his favorite snuggling time (and believe me, being snuggled by a great dane is a very serious thing indeed!). On Monday, he could not get was as though his back legs were just not working anymore. 

My big buddy


Pop's Best Boy
We took Hal to Doc Horner who thought that probably the cancer had returned, invading the spine, but felt there was an outside chance that he had wrenched his back from compensating for the missing leg. He gave Hal a steroid shot and pills. Hal showed no improvement and as the cancer moved up his spine, in the period of just one week, he became unable to stand, then unable to control his bladder, then he began to have a little trouble breathing, panting just a little. Because the cancer was in the spine, he did not seem to feel pain, but paralysis. But we knew he was growing frustrated with his inability to move and we knew the discomfort would soon become pain. But, even at this time, his eyes were bright, he responded to us with affection, and he continued to have a good appetite. But my husband and I had already decided that while we were willing to give Hal the chance to live through amputation and surgery, we were not willing to prolong his life if he was in pain or if he could no longer enjoy it as he had before. We had hoped that Hal would be one of the lucky ones to beat osteosarcoma and we made every effort to help him do that. But once the cancer reappeared, we did not want to wait until he was miserable to make a decision that was inevitable. We knew it was time to say good-bye. 
On Monday, July 14, Roz and I took Hal to Doc Horner’s. I sat on the floor with Hal and held his big head and petted him and sang his silly “theme song” that I’d sung to him since he was a pup. He was not upset or anxious because he’d been to the vet’s before. And he sat on the floor, content to be petted. Doc Horner gave him a massive overdose of a drug once used for anesthesia. It was so quick and painless -- within about 15 seconds, Hal simply closed his eyes and stopped breathing. Doc Horner listened with his stethoscope and when the heartbeat stopped, he said, “He’s gone, now.” I felt a sense of peace about things. I knew I had done all I could for my friend and that his last days had been filled with good times and the certain knowledge, daily expressed, that he was loved. 

Always in My Heart

Paradise is a better place for his presence,
and we are all poorer for his death.

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