The Dog Has Cancer


Our dog has cancer. He has a form of blood cancer of which there is no cure. The doctors have said cancer will kill him in three to six months. 

Last week he had emergency surgery to remove one of his kidneys that had a large tumor, caused by cancer, which was making him very sick. Tumor free for the moment, you would never know had ever been sick. He is now full of energy and bounce. But as cancer continues to do its work, other tumors will form, and eventually, he will die.

It has been almost two years and five months since I have lived with this dog or my wife. My wife, who always loved the dog, became even closer to him as I left the marriage to live my life openly as a gay man. A year later my son went to college. Now, living in our house alone, the dog she always loved has become her best buddy and part of her emotional support system. These past two weeks my wife has been going through an emotional roller coaster as the dog got very sick, was operated on, got better, and then got the diagnosis of cancer

I have a different feeling about the dog. While I have loved my pets over the years, I always see them as just a pet. My pets have never been my friends or a large part of my emotional support system. The cats I had in college and for many years after that have been a comfort to me, particularly when I first lived alone in college and later.

This particular dog, a miniature Goldendoodle, (a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle), is a sweet, playful, energetic dog. But he has also been sick on and off for the eight years with a variety of stomach and intestinal ailments. Last year he was very sick and need to have his gallbladder removed. 

While trying to support my wife emotionally through the dog’s gallbladder surgery and recovery, I kept thinking how much the surgery was costing me. This time around I had a good idea of what last week’s surgery will cost, based on the gallbladder experience, and though I am not happy about spending the money, for the moment, I see it as the price of still being married and supporting the family financially.

My wife consulted with a veterinary oncologist about our options with the dog and learned that there is no cure for this kind of cancer. There are various chemotherapy options that will prolong the dog’s life but only by a few months. After discussing this with my wife she decided not to do the chemotherapy. She could not bear the emotional cost of supporting the dog as he went through chemo, was sick from the chemo, then died from cancer anyway. I did not see the value of spending roughly $5,000 to give the dog chemo to prolong his life for just a few months. Thankfully my wife came to a similar decision for different reasons.

I left my marriage to live my life as an out gay man. I have built up a wonderful group of friends, found a great boyfriend whom I care deeply about, and have a new exciting life. My wife continues to live in our old house, mostly alone, except for the month or two that my son is home from school. 

I have been given the gift of creating a new life while my wife has not moved on nearly enough. I see our old house as a bit of a jail cell for her. I know that she does not want to sell the house until our son is out of college, but increasingly I think it is time for both of us to move on. The death of this dog will only add to her emotional stress and pressure.

When I made plans a week ago to meet my wife for dinner last night, it was so I could continue our discussions about divorce. But then she learned from the dog’s veterinary surgeon that he has an incurable form of cancer. It seemed too cruel to bring up divorce, an emotionally difficult topic for her, as she was being torn apart emotionally with the dog. So we had a nice dinner and talked about the dog, our son, our families while staying away from the more difficult topics.

While I want to respect the pain my wife is in with the dog, I wonder how long before I can bring up the topic of divorce again. Does the dog have to die and do I have to let her mourn for some period of time before we continue the divorce discussion? I hope not. My fear is that this dog dying could postpone any conversation of divorce for quite a long time. The dog dying is one more sign for me that it is time for both of us to move on with our lives.

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