D. E. Larsen, DVM
Egor was a large Yellow Labrador mix. He was large enough that he could have had some Saint Bernard in that mix. His massive head sat on a body with a broad flat back that reminded one of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck. He weighed over 110 pounds and was generally treated on the floor of apparent reasons.
Joe first called for me to see Egor in September of 1976. I was doing house calls, then as the clinic was still several months from completion. Egor was 9 years old at that time, and he was beginning to show his age.
“Good morning, this is Joe, I was hoping you could look at my dog, Egor. He has a torn toenail.”
Joe and Kathyrn lived in a small house. The living room was cluttered with knickknacks, mostly old clocks, and antiques. Then, when you put a couch and two chairs in the small room, there was little room to work on a large dog. We moved to the front yard.
“This toenail is broken back into the quick,” I explained. “This is going to be painful for a couple of days, even after I clip it. We are going to have to do a nerve block on this toe, and that might be painful also. Hopefully, Egor is going to let me do this.”
“Egor is a tough dog,” Joe said, breathing hard from the short walk to the front yard. “You can do anything to him, and he won’t move.”
I had Egor sit and picked up his paw. When I inserted the needle in each side of his toe and injected a good dose of Lidocaine for a nerve block, he did not even flench. We waited a few minutes to make sure the nail was numb. Joe’s breathing was improved with the short rest, but you could still hear every breath as he struggled to exhale.
I wiggled the broken portion of the toenail, watching Egor closely. If he felt anything, he was not showing it. I took my nail scissors and snipped off the broken portion of the nail. The blood flow was enough that I was glad we were outside. I held a cotton gauze on the bleeding nail for a moment and then put a silver nitrate stick on the point of bleeding. It took a couple of minutes, but finally, the bleeding stopped.
“What if that starts to bleed after you are gone?” Joe asked.
“All bleeding stops, eventually, one way or the other,” I replied. Joe did not understand the comment, or he didn’t think it answered his question.
“If it starts bleeding, you give me a call, and I will come back, I am not too busy yet, and I live just a little way up Ames Creek,” I replied.
That was the first of many visits with Joe and Egor. It was always a sight to see Egor coming to the clinic door with Joe hanging onto the leash, struggling to keep up. They would come through the door, and Joe would grab a chair, entirely out of breath. Egor would be wagging his tail as he went into the exam room. Joe always waited in the chair.
In April of 1978, Egor developed acute kidney failure. His prognosis was poor.
“He means the world to me, Doc,” Joe said. “I can’t give up on him. If you can do whatever is possible to save him, I will find a way to pay you.”
“He is a huge dog, Joe,” I said. “There is less than a 50% chance he can survive, and treatment is going to be expensive.”
“My wife has all sorts of antique clocks,” Joe said. “You can have your pick of the collection.”
“Okay, Joe, we will do as much as we can. But you must know, there are no promises. Sometimes, all the money in the world cannot buy a cure.”
“I understand that, Doc,” Joe said. “But without Egor, I won’t last a week.”
“We will keep him, at least 3 days, probably more likely a week,” I said. “I will keep you posted on Egor’s progress.”
“I can’t take him home at night?” Joe asked.
“I am going to be running IV fluids around the clock,” I said. “He is going to need to stay if we are going to have any chance of saving him.”
Egor was a great patient. He was very ill, had IV tubes hanging everywhere, and we were coming at him with needles for a blood draw or an injection multiple times a day. His tail always wagged. He hated the bland food he was allowed, but he would lick your hand when the bowl was put in the kennel.
After three days, he greeted me with a bark and a bounce when I came into the kennel room. He was feeling better. His kidney numbers edged back toward normal. When I called Joe, I tried to instill only cautious optimism.
“Good morning, Joe,” I said into the phone when he answered, only allowing a single ring. “Egor is improved this morning. His kidney numbers are close to normal this morning, and his urine has some concentration to it. He is not well, but much to my surprise, he is improved.”
“Does that mean I can take him home?” Joe asked. “I have been worried to death that he is going to die down there, Doc. I know we all have to go some time, I would just like to be with him when it is his time.”
“I would like to keep him one more night,” I said. “I will take him off the IVs, and we will see if his kidneys can maintain him on just water.”
Egor bounced out of the clinic the next day. He almost knocked Joe over, he was so happy to see him. Joe had no understanding about how incredibly lucky we were to be seeing Egor go home. We loaded him down with a case of kidney diet food and oral antibiotics. I was not confident that Joe would have the strength to keep Egor on the special diet for an extended time, but for today, everybody was happy.
“You and your wife come by the house this evening and pick out a clock,” Joe said as he and Egor went out the door.
“Do you think they have a clock that is worth enough to cover this bill?” Judy asked.
“I guess the value of an antique is based on perceived worth,” I said. “Seeing those two go out the door together, is a pretty precious event in its self.”
Sandy and I dropped by Joe’s house that evening. Egor greeted us at the door as if he hadn’t seen us in weeks. Sandy and Kathryn looked over the clocks as I sat and talked with Joe and Egor.
Sandy selected a modest mantle clock. Kathryn had some large clocks that she felt had a higher value and tried to get Sandy to make a better selection. We had discussed our needs before we stopped, and we needed a clock that we could display, not one that took up a lot of space.
Egor did well over the next months. Not perfect, but pretty well. The bland, low protein, diet required in Egor’s long term management did not appeal to either Joe or Egor. My guess was that Joe tried but likely cheated some.
Egor was losing a lot of protein in his urine and losing weight. His kidney numbers continued to hoover close to normal, and he maintained his high spirits. But when he would drag Joe into the clinic, it was evident that neither one of them were their old selves.
Joe died in October of 1979. The family decided that Egor was too ill, and too lonely without Joe, to go on. They brought Egor to the clinic for the last time a couple of days following Joe’s death. We were busy that day, and Egor was left in a kennel for a short time before I could find a few minutes for him. This should have been nothing for Egor. He had been in this very kennel for days at a time in the past.
Egor sat in the kennel and howled a loud, mournful howl, as I have never heard a dog howl before or since.
If ever a dog knew his fate, Egor knew!
Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/@jozef-feher-356581