By Lisa van der Geer
Als chemoterapie 5% effectief is, zou je dan honderd honden ziek maken om er vijf te redden?
The biting smell of disinfectant filled Happy’s nostrils. Everywhere around him dogs were sitting on the cold floor, owners softly whispering into their ears. With his eyes downcast, trying to hide from the painfully white light, he ignored the blood and moans around him and focussed on the quiet voice that was soothingly murmuring to him.
“Just a little bit longer, darling. We’ll be out before you know and walking in the woods again. You just have to hang in there.”
The woods, were everything had started.
“Happy! You wanna go for a walk in the forest?”
A pitiful squeak was the only response the old man got.
“Happy? What seems to be the problem, fella? Not feeling well today?”
He returned to the living room where a pair of large, brown eyes stared back at him through his thick eyelashes.
“It’s your choice, you know? Either you come with me or we have to go to the vet. You know you hate it there.”
Still, the dog didn’t get up. Now he noticed that the front leg was laying in a weird manner, to swollen for his liking.
“I’ll count to three. If you aren’t up by then we shall go to the vet. One, two… three.”
Accusing eyes looked up at him.
“I’m sorry fella, but you didn’t leave me with much of a choice. Now come on, of we go.
Carefully, the dog was carried to the car and laid down on his special blanket. As they drove away the noise of the birds that lived in the woods could be heard in the distance before it faded away and was replaced by the sound of cars on the highway.
The moment of truth. Today they would find out what was the problem with the dog. Again Happy had to be carried inside. Behind the desk sat an intimidating man with white robes, his face hidden from view by a large computer screen.
“Take a seat, sir. And that must be Happy. Pleased to meet you both.”
Hands were shaken.
“I will get straight to the point, as I believe that is the least painful in the long run. Happy has bone-cancer.”
You could see the blood draining from the old man’s face.
“Basically, there are three options” and he stated them as a list of emotionless bullet points.
“One: we amputate his whole right front leg. Two: we give him the usual chemotherapy. Considering the size of the tumour and his age surviving chances are approximately fifty percent. Three: we give him a new treatment that needs further academic research. If it works, his chances are around seventy percent. If it doesn’t work, however, he will most likely die. I will leave the decision to you.”
Trembling, Happy lay on his seat. He could feel the panic radiation from his owner, but didn’t understand what was happening, except that his leg still hurt from last week and that this must have something to do with his operation from then.
Blinding lights, bitter stench, weird people in green dresses circling around him. The stainless steel beneath him was agonisingly cold, the white paper crispy and uncomfortable. Uncanny noises were everywhere around him, seemed to be bouncing of the walls just to confuse him.
“Hang tight, it’s just a small test. it’ll be over before you notice. See you soon, fella.”
A little pet on his head, then the last person he knew disappeared and he was alone in the room full of strangers and flashing, sharp objects. A needle poked into him, causing him to startle. Then, everything went black.
“Are you sure, sir? Perhaps some time to think about it…”
“No. Option three, please.”
“I have to remind you of the fact that that is, frankly, a cure that has not been through all the needed procedures…”
“You said it was a cure. With this he has the most chances of surviving. When can he start? The sooner the better.”
“As you wish, sir. The problem is that we have only two different doses. Seeing you have a rather big dog I will give you the big tablets, lasting exactly for one week. Three times a day one pill, and we will see you next week.”
The next morning, when the old man came down the stairs to give Happy his breakfast, he stopped dead in his tracks. There, were Happy used to be, a tiny little dog lay in an heap of hair, shivering in the cold morning.
“Happy? What happened to you, mate?”
He looked truly miserable. Glassy eyes, ears hanging limp, no wagging tail.
“Does that mean it is working? Come here. You have to take you next pill.”
But Happy didn’t want to.
“Come on, you doggy. If you take your tablet we will be able to walk in the forest again, just how we used to. Just think of all the birds you can chasee, all the different smells… that’s it, just eat it and it’s over.”
Reluctantly, Happy ate his pill. And this routine continued the whole week. The man had to use the beloved forest as a bargain, while Happy became sicker and sicker. Until, they had to go back to the doctor.
“Sir, good to see you again. Is everything going all right?”
“He lost some hair.”
“Ah, that’s perfectly normal. Would it be okay it I examined him?”
The vet walked around his desk and looked down at Happy. His eyes widened slightly.
“Is that Happy? I seem to remember a bigger dog.”
“Yes. He lost all his hair.”
You could see the wheels turning in his head. Tiny dog that had a lot of hair, with the big tablets.
“I’m afraid we gave him the wrong dose. I will see what I can do.”
With turned out not to be much. He had had an overdose, nothing to do that could reverse that.
“I will give you the smaller pills to continue with. However, I’m afraid this complicates things.”
“This substance kills the cancer cells, but at the same time it’s cancer inducing, so…”
“Hold on a minute. You are saying that you treat cancer with something that causes cancer?”
“I am indeed. It’s the only way, sir. We will just have to wait and see.”
The following week Happy went from bad to worse. Even the tales of the forest wouldn’t cheer him up, he wouldn’t eat, didn’t want to drink, nothing. He was just lying there, not doing anything. On his next check-up, it was decided that he would need to go to the hospital, because he was simply to weak. But that did not make it any better for Happy. He didn’t like the needles that were poking into him, didn’t like the smells and the people, wanted to stop being moved around so much. But they didn’t understand him.
“It’s all right mate, you’re doing fine. Just a little bit longer and we will walk in the woods again.”
But he wasn’t doing fine. He was nauseous, tired, sore and unhappy. He had to be operated again. Again in that smelly, scary room with the steel so much colder against his bare skin. But it didn’t help, nothing seemed to help.
“I think it would be better if you took him home, sir. We can keep him alive for only so much longer. I think it would be better for all of us if we stopped with the medication and…”
“No! He has to live! I don’t care what you have to do, as long as he will live!”
“But sir, I... yes sir.”
More medications, painkillers that didn’t seem to work and foul tasting potions. But in the end, defeat was inevitable.
“We’re home, Happy, we’re home.”
Their little house, the forest nearby. Happy began to fade away. On the last day, the old man carried him outside and lay him down on his blanket. The smell of the forest was soothing, and it seemed that the birds were singing for him. White clouds sailed past, the sky was blue. And slowly, Happy closed his eyes, and was buried in the everlasting forest. Finally.