At the end of August, our old Bernese Mountain Dog, Monty (we call him Grampa Monty) had been showing signs of something pretty serious. Monty is over ten years old, pretty old for a very large dog (Bernese Mountain dogs have a life expectancy of seven to nine years, and are prone to certain cancers). He was getting thinner and thinner and, though tests weren’t conclusive, we thought he might be losing a battle with some sort of cancer.
The only bright spot was that he was making frequent visits to the love of his life, Dr. Berkowicz at the Pepperell Veterinary Hospital (you can read about Monty and his adoration of Dr. Berkowicz here: … on an old dog (and the things he’s done for love)). After many tests, Dr. Berkowicz prescribed an appetite stimulant to try to get his weight up while we noodled over what to do next.
And then a miracle happened (not one that would result in his canonization or anything, but it was pretty cool). Monty’s appetite did indeed improve, and he was dining on steak and rice (as any discerning canine connoisseur would). But within days it was clear that he had probably eaten something that might have caused an obstruction (we are not new to this with Monty, and you can read about all his exploits in exotic and comedic eating in the column I linked to above).
Sure enough, the x-rays confirmed there was something stuck in there. And believe me, we went back and forth weighing everything from the impact of major surgery on Monty, to the cost, to our sanity (if we were going to lose him to some sort of cancer in a few months, should we put him through major abdominal surgery?). But we – Dr. Berkowicz, my nearly perfect husband, and I – had the feeling that we should go ahead with the operation.
And we are so glad we did.
Monty was transferred to an amazing place in Woburn called the Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital, and became the patient of Dr. Blake (who happened to be a classmate of Dr. Berkowicz’s at Tufts (very cool)).
Something – we still don’t know what as not one person has been able to identify it (but it was BIG) – had been in Monty’s belly, most likely since January (when his appetite markedly decreased). It hadn’t shown up on x-rays and was not causing an obstruction in all that time. Our theory is that the appetite stimulant had him eating more, which pushed the ‘whatever it is’ further along and to the point that it caused an obstruction.
Monty had to stay in the hospital for a few days, but when he was ‘sprung’ he happily clawed his way across the linoleumed waiting room floor to my nearly perfect husband and huffed and slobbered and snuggled.
And came home.
He’s been on suicide watch ever since – not that he’s in a doggie straightjacket or anything (we save that for Marshal Dillon Dingle), but we don’t want him stealing and eating the dirty stinky socks he is so fond of (and that almost guarantee him a trip to the vet’s office, and into the caring arms of his one true love).
Today was the first time he had seen his beloved Dr. Berkowicz since his surgery (although Dr. B. is an amazing vet and has had countless phone conversations with us, keeping track of her patient).
I was originally focusing on Monty when I was taking pictures this morning, but the one above captures the feeling of the visit best. Dr. Berkowicz is carefully and gently looking at his leg (he has an area on his elbow that needs a bit of attention), and Monty is lying on his side, panting his “vet’s office pant” but otherwise nice and relaxed. Today, unlike the visits since January, he took every cookie and gave lots of sloppy kisses.
At the time of his surgery, Monty was down to 76 pounds – which was lighter than Fred, who is a lab in the shape of a harbor seal (thanks to a certain Old Yankee Man who lives with me). But if you’ve ever seen an adult Bernese Mountain Dog next to a Yellow Labrador Retriever, you know how not okay it would be for the Berner to weigh less than the Lab.
Even if the Lab is Fred.
Today, Monty weighed in at 95 pounds, and is dealing only with typical old man issues like arthritis, hearing loss, and the beginnings of cloudy cataracts.
Which, Dr. Berkowicz says, is just about where Grampa Monty is supposed to be.
Thanks for readin’