The Saga of the Cancerous Butt Wart

If you came here for some Precious Moments-style Lenten devotions this morning, I’m sorry. This is the story of my dog’s cancerous butt wart.

Our household spent most of January preparing for and dealing with the aftermath of the tiny dog’s surgery to remove a mast cell tumor on her rear end, otherwise known as The Cancerous Butt Wart. It was, technically, an uncomplicated surgery that went very smoothly and had the best possible outcome. The tumor was removed with good, clean margins and has a less than 5% chance of recurring. The 11 year old chihuahua is a spry old thing and healed well, all things considered.

But it was a hellacious week, nonetheless. I don’t know how much time you’ve spent contemplating the surface area of a chihuahua’s hindquarters, but suffice it to say: it’s small. Tiny. And there’s a lot going on back there, too. We’re talking essential organs, necessary orifices, etc., etc., etc. Fran’s cancerous butt wart was smack dab in the middle of it all, equidistant from one essential orifice and another. I was…concerned. When we discovered the tumor back in December, the vet had to use a fine-needle aspiration to confirm that it was cancerous, and the aspiration did not go well. They finally took Fran out of my arms and into the recesses of the vet clinic and brought her back to me, still bleeding and sad. “Well,” the vet told Franny, “you tell all the women you see over the holidays where we stuck that needle today and they will *definitely* be giving you extra treats!”

The surgery itself went smoothly, and I picked up a totally drugged out dog at 5pm on a Thursday.

She spent the entire evening whining pitifully as she came out of anesthesia and realized that she was, in fact, alive and that, hey, my butt HURTS. She wouldn’t let me touch her, which hurt me almost as much as I imagined the gargantuan incision on her tush hurt her. I was beside myself with worry: she wasn’t shaking or panting and didn’t seem to be in loads of *pain,* exactly, but she was NOT acting like the dog I knew and she wouldn’t let me do anything to help her. Neither of us slept.

The next morning, my anxiety found a new outlet. I started obsessing over whether or not the tiny creature would be able to poop with that gigantic wound slashing across her butt. And then, if she DID poop, wouldn’t that be kind of…unhygienic? Because the incision was so freaking huge and because it ran the length of her rear end, there was no way to bandage or cover it. And stuff was…happening back there. The dog squats on the GROUND in order to relieve herself. I called the vet to make sure I wasn’t supposed to be rubbing some kind of cream or salve on the dog’s ass. “Nope,” they assured me, “it will heal on its own.”

So, we muddled through. I had to barricade the couch and close off the bedroom – no jumping allowed for 10 days. We slept together on the living room floor. Poor, pitiful Fran tolerated the donut that kept her from licking and biting at her stitches, but once her gigantic butt wound started to heal, it started to ITCH, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to keep her from scooting herself across the carpet. We kept not sleeping.

I was required to “check” the incision twice a day. I don’t know if you have ever tried to get a visual of an angry chihuahua’s backside, but it isn’t exactly a piece of cake. Her tail covers the whole thing, and the lighting in our apartment leaves a lot to be desired. Which meant that I spent far too much time that week out on the neighborhood sidewalk leaning over, peering at my dog’s butt. A couple of times, the vet requested photo documentation, so not only was I the weirdo gaping at a chihuahua’s ass, I was also PHOTOGRAPHING IT, over and over again. Creepy.

On day 6, we went back to the vet to have them trim the stitches. That night, with the vet’s permission, I gave Fran some benadryl to knock her out and get us both some shut-eye. Except, instead of knocking her out, those 10 mg of benadryl made her LOSE HER EVER-LOVING MIND. She bounded off walls, tore out stitches, careened into crate doors. I finally had to scoop the creature up in a headlock and sit in a rocking chair for 90 solid minutes to get her to calm down. The vet took out the remaining stitches the next day because I was DONE.

And, apparently, so was Franny. Once the stitches came out, a full week after they’d gone in, she was…fine. We slept through the night. She ignored the gigantic incision wound still covering her rear end and just…got better. This morning, she leapt out of bed, tail wagging, ready for a morning walk before I was.

I hope that Fran stays healthy the rest of her life, because I’m not sure I can live through another week like that. And I also know that creaturely bodies don’t age in reverse. Franny won’t get younger or healthier; eventually, her body will develop something less benign than a cancerous butt wart and she will die. Yesterday, the dog was with me when I had ashes imposed on my forehead, and Pastor Sharon blessed Fran, too. We’re both beings made from dust and to dust we will both return.

I don’t mind that part, exactly. Returning to dust has a holy beauty to it. It’s the part just before that that scares me. It’s the suffering and pain that require care, the knowledge that I am the only being in the world responsible for this tiny, spry creature who loves so fully, that whenever she is in pain again all the soothing and caring and decision-making will fall to me. That’s the stuff that terrifies me. I will do it, because I love the dog more than I knew I could, but I don’t know how.

One comment

  1. Mike Dowdy · February 23

    Prayers for you and Fran for a quick recovery and more years of fun and discovery!


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