Unfortunately, we can’t save every patient’s life and all stories don’t end in a happy way. We deal with cancer, conditions and diseases that can be fatal. Our job is still to provide the best care we can to improve quality of life for our furry patients. The following words are a tribute to the courage of our patients and their owners' dedication. Warning: some of these comments are very emotional. You have been warned!
* Sad but thankful after a bad surprise is found in surgery
Pookie, a 12 year old Bichon mix, was thought to have a (removable) liver mass based on ultrasound. However, surgery revealed a totally different story. The mass was in fact inside the stomach, in an area where it could not be removed. Pookie’s owner was called in surgery so we could brainstorm about our options (note: our guess was correct, the biopsy came back as leiomyosarcoma, a type of cancer of the mucle). She elected to abort the surgery, wake Pookie up, and send him home to say goodbye. The next day, his owner AS writes:
“Dear Dr. Zeltzman, I wanted to thank you for being Pookie’s surgeon. Although the outcome was not what any pet owner wants to hear, I know he was in good hands and taken care of during the surgery.
I also wanted you to know that Pookie is home, laying in his yard, smelling all the smells Mother Nature has in the Spring. Tomorrow afternoon, our vet will put Pookie to sleep at our home. Pookie is a good dog and he chose us as his forever family because he knew we would love him until his last day. We are better for having him in our lives. Thank you again.”
* Sam’s owner is thankful despite cancer…
Sam, a 12 year old shepherd mix, was suffocating because of laryngeal paralysis (“lar par”). He had surgery (tie back) to allow him to breathe better. About 1 year after surgery, his owner CS writes:
“I’m sorry to say that we had to put Sam down last month last month. He was full of lung cancer.
We were very thankful for the extra we had with him.
He started getting stronger after surgery . Then in the winter, we didn’t walk as much. We started up with the walks again to build him up. And it seemed sudden. 3 days before we put him down, he stopped eating normally, but still loved his treats. (…)
They took a few X-rays, then found his lungs were very full of cancer.”
* Bubbles’ story of belly surgery.
Bubbles, an 11 year old Corgi, was very sick. She had a dangerously low protein count because of kidney disease. She had had belly surgery at another hospital to remove a large hairball in the intestine. Biopsies showed she had IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). Then she never recovered.
We did surgery to explore the belly and place a feeding tube in her intestine. She has an infection in her previous skin incision (a super nasty E coli), pancreatitis, peritonitis and necrotic fat in her belly (falciform ligament). In spite of all our efforts, she died the day after surgery.
Her owner AW writes: “Thank you for everything that you did for Bubbles. I have comfort knowing that she was in great hands. We all did everything we could and I am so grateful for all of your help. Thank you.”
*Wally’s story of a giant skin mass (soft tissue sarcoma)
Wally, an 8 year old Bassett, had a mass the size of a basketball under his skin over his back end. Surgery went well, but he hard cardiac complications after surgery and passed away. His owner MD writes:
“Hi Dr. Zeltzman: I have been thinking of you with gratitude for your willing & quick response to take on Wally’s case. My husband & I will be forever grateful that you gave Wally a chance. We loved him a great deal. He was my shadow - following me constantly from room to room & at the end I tried to stay still so he would not get up & down! So, I suppose you may have received the pathology report. It was not a lipoma but a soft tissue sarcoma, low grade. It was our desire to have Wally at least a little while longer but with that diagnosis it would have been very hard to hang on & he would have tried without complaining. He hid pain well. So, again, I thank you for your skill & your kindness to myself & Wally.”
*Phoebe, a 12-year-old cattle dog, had surgery to remove a nasty and very invasive tumor in her left flank. The biopsy revealed a poorly differentiated (i.e. aggressive) mast cell tumor.
THREE years later, her owner GY writes: “Hi Dr. Zeltzman, I'm Phoebe’s mom. You operated on my Phoebe I think 3 years ago and I want to thank you for giving us 2 extra years to spend with my best friend and companion. She came back from your surgery raring to go, but the tumors caught up with her and it’s time. She would have been 15 years old next week. If there is anything you need to know about the "surfer dudette" as you called her, I'm sure her vet will fill you in. Thank you with all my heart.”
*Daisy, a 10-year-old miniature Schnauzer, had multiple problems, including spleen removal because of cancer, then gallbladder removal (because of a mucocele), then severe eye issues etc. We were all very sad to lose her. She was humanely euthanized. Her owner CG writes: “I wanted to thank everyone that helped to take care of Daisy. I knew she had the best care given to her. She was a very special dog. She loved life and was always happy. I’ll miss her forever. Thanks again for the efforts you put into trying to save her. The “Pawprint” you made means so much to me! I will treasure it always. Thanks so much!”
*Tommy Pickles, an 11-year-old Poodle, had a double surgery to remove his enlarged and hyperactive parathyroid gland and to remove bladder stones. FIVE years later, his owner SC kindly writes:
“Just wanted to let you know that our beloved pet Tommy Pickles is no longer with us. His health began failing approximately a year ago. Started with his sight, his hearing and his balance. I originally thought it was due to the vestibular disease, however, that was ruled out due to other symptoms he was showing. He had a type of seizure approx 5-6 months ago which didn't seem to result in any additional negative health issues. I think it was just the perfect storm scenario. We believe it was a combination of the above coupled with doggie dementia. So sad to watch him try to find his water or his food. Our family made that all too familiar decision to euthanize him. It was a peaceful passing, but extremely difficult which you could imagine after 14 years with us. He was 16.
You operated on his parathyroid gland approximately 5 years ago and he thrived after that and had great quality of life... Thank you.”
*Zhen (9 years old) and Zada (10 years old) were two gorgeous but unlucky German shepherds. Zhen died of bone cancer and Zada of spleen cancer. Their owner ST writes: “Words cannot convey how much we appreciate all you have done for our family. From diagnosing Zhen to your awesome and compassionate care of Zada, you emerged as a blessing to us during these “sick times” (…).”
*Chet, a 10-year-old Lab, just passed away almost 3 months after his cancerous spleen was removed (for hemangiosarcoma).
His owner AD wrote this amazing letter (the emphasis is mine):
“Dr. Zeltzman: Chet had passed away last Tuesday morning at the (emergency clinic). (…) He died within minutes after he was brought in (…). I truly believe Chet hung on until we arrived so we could give him an ear rub and a hug before he passed away.
Needless to say, we are devastated about the loss of our beloved Chet. However, the extra months we had with him after his splenectomy really helped us come to terms with his cancer. We know we did all we could to help him, and there are no regrets regarding his treatment.
Thank you for your kindness and understanding during that very difficult time with Chet. I always felt you had Chet’s best interests at heart. While it’s a sad ending, the joy Chet gave me these past 10 years I will hold forever dear. Given the choice, I would do it all again and not change a thing.”
*Emma, a 13-year-old Welsh Terrier, has surgery to remove foreign bodies (which turned out to be a bunch of hay) from her stomach. She has some strange neurological complications the day after surgery and suddenly passed away. CPR was unsuccessful. Despite the sad turn of events, her owner AC writes:
“Dear Dr. Zeltzman, Thank you so much for all of your care and compassion of our beloved Emma during her surgery and her stay. Although Emma passed unexpectedly, we know she had the best care and veterinary professionals including yourself. We take comfort in knowing that she was in very capable hands. Thank you.”
*Genni, a 13-year-old Bichon, was passed away after “crashing” because of internal bleeding in her belly. His owner SM writes: “Doctors and Staff, Thank you for the sympathy card regarding Genni. But a special thank you for the care, dignity and respect of Genni you showed after her passing. Again, thank you.”
*Jojo, a 14-year-old kitty was affected by a double whammy: a mass in the lung and a mass in the intestine. Despite a poor prognosis, his amazingly dedicated owners elected surgery. So Jojo had part of his lung removed, as well as part of his intestine (including the entire cecum or appendix). Both masses came back as cancer (bronchoalveolar carcinoma and ceco-colic adenocarcinoma.
Jojo lived happily for over 1 YEAR, which is an extremely long time based on his diagnosis.
His owner PG writes: “We want to thank you for the care and everything you did for Jojo. Dr. Zeltzman you said Jojo was a miracle cat. He was. The last week he lived he was very weak. But, tried to do everything he normally did. He tried to eat but couldn’t. We had him for 14 months after his surgery.”
In November of 2011, we had an exceptional opportunity to perform surgery on a bear cub that was hit by a car. She had a very severe tear in the muscles in her belly (this is called a hernia), and a dislocated elbow, and a dislocated hip. We managed to repair the hernia with great difficulty, repaired the elbow, but she unfortunately passed away as we were getting ready to fix the hip. She did not resist the anesthesia or he injuries sustained from the accident. A newspaper account of this sad episode:
*Scruffino, a 10-year-old cat, had an extremely invasive neck/throat cancerous tumor (squamous cell carcinoma) removed. His owner, DC, writes:
“Just letting you know that Scruffino passed peacefully yesterday. He did pretty well, considering, for several months with the antibiotics, vitamins, herbs and piroxicam. I think it made a difference. He had some good days where he actually ran through the house, and jumped on our dining table to pick at my fresh flowers (we let him, he could do no wrong these past months…).
I tried so many things to keep him going except the intense chemo/radiation recommended. It had already spread to his lymph nodes when the oncologist examined him, as I mentioned. I will, very much, miss that wonderful animal. He was very special, very strong, and wise.
Thank you, so much, for everything concerning Scruffino. You did a great job saving him back in July, and as the photos show, he healed nicely. It gave him relief for a while.”
*Mandie, a 9-year-old Mastiff, had had 3 surgeries: 2 TPLOs to help her torn ACLs and “cosmetic” surgery to remove a giant redundant vulvar fold that caused her to have multiple bladder infections. Then she was diagnosed by a terrible disease. Her owner JZ writes:
“Dr. Zeltzman, Last Saturday, we put Mandie to sleep. The urine culture came back free of infections; however, the test for bladder cancer was positive. By Saturday, she was bleeding heavily when she went to the bathroom. I just wanted to thank you for helping us help her. We did everything in our power to give her a wonderful life. She is now resting in peace. Thank you.”
*Recchi, a 10-year-old Sheltie, just passed away. Almost 2 years ago, we removed a large, very invasive but benign tumor in his jaw. The mass however came back. Surgery would have been at least as challenging as the first one. But before we even got there, his owner, PS, sadly wrote (I edited the graphic details…):
"Dr Zeltzman, I wanted to let you know that our beloved pet is no longer with us. He seemed to be OK so we took him to the shore and (on the next day) (…) stayed with him for his final breath. I wanted you to know since we know that you genuinely cared about Recchi. Please continue to give pet owners hope with your knowledge. Thank you for everything."
*Zoe, an almost 14 year old… Old English Sheepdog, was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her right shin bone. She was amputated and recovered nicely. She also received chemo – as is suggested for this kind of tumor. She was kinda spoiled rotten by her owners… for well over 2 years, which is statistically a very long time. Unfortunately her cancer recently spread to her shoulder. She did well for a while, and was recently euthanized. Zoe was a cancer survivor for an amazing 2 1/2 years.
*Kane, a 12-year-old Akita mix, just left us after dealing with anal sac cancer. Amazingly, he survived two and a half years after his surgery. The surgery involved removing the tumor and placing tiny chemo beads in the area. The average survival is around one year and a half, so Kane was definitely a survivor.
In addition, he participated in two "American Cancer Society Bark for Life" walks, proudly wearing his colors. His owner LW wrote:
"Dear Dr. Zeltzman, Thank you so much for caring about Kane and saving his life two and a half years ago. He touched so many lives and made such a difference in the world without even trying. He was an amazing boy. Thank you for believing in him. I hope by telling his story we will help other dogs to live happy lives too. Thank you again."
*Sandy, a 15-year-old cat, was just euthanized after battling with an aggressive cancer (fibrosarcoma) on his right chest wall. He had 3 surgeries altogether. The second one, which included the placement of “chemo beads,” allowed him to survive happily for well over 2 years after the first surgery.
His owner LB writes: “Hi Dr. Zeltzman,
Many thanks for your condolences.....without the surgery and chemo beads you gave him, he probably would have died sooner. Thank you so much for helping him.
(…) The euthanasia was peaceful and I finally saw my Sandy go into a relaxing sleep with the initial sedative (…). The final injection gave him eternal rest which he so deserved after his long fight (…).
Again, many thanks for your condolences. You helped my Sandy and I will always remember that. You are a wonderful doctor and I wish you continued success in your career. I enjoy your newsletters. Thank you for sending them. Thanks again for everything.”
*Angel, a 7 year old Shih Tzu, thought at one point in her life that eating tampons would be a good idea. She recovered well from her stomach surgery, but later in life developed several conditions in her skin, her pancreas and possibly her adrenal gland. She sadly passed away after a long, brave battle. Her owner LY writes: "Angel became very sick this week. She passed away Friday morning in her sleep at home. Which was a blessing. She was such a love to all she met. I will miss her terribly.
(...) One day I'll get another dog, for right now it's just one day at a time. The silence in the house is deafening. My husband and I prayed Thursday night together with her and put her in God's hands. I slept on the couch with her and I woke up and she was gone. I like to say God wrapped his arms around her and took her to Heaven with him. Thanks for all of your help."
*Ellie, a sweet 10-year-old Greyhound, had presumed bone cancer in her humerus, the bone in the forearm. Her owner elected not to do surgery. We had removed a slipped disc in her neck before, and she had recovered very nicely. Her owner MG writes:
“I wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know we lost Ellie two weeks ago. The cancer in her leg finally became too much to bare and the medicine was no longer keeping her comfortable…so it was time to say goodbye. She was fantastic till the last few days. We never expected to have her as long as we did. We were really lucky to have shared her life. Ellie had a bit more grey hair by the time you met her. Thank you for everything you did for us.
You’ll always have a special place in our hearts.”
*Timber, a black Lab, had surgery (a tie back) for laryngeal paralysis in 2006. She just passed away, 4 years after surgery. Her owner, RB, writes: “Timber has gone to the (rainbow) bridge today. She lived a good long life after her surgery. She fought to the end and went peacefully this morning. Again I want to thank you so much..... These are 4 great years I would not have had without your expertise.”
*Bailey, a 12-year-old Sheltie, had a cancerous tumor in his nose (Nasal carcinoma or nasal adenocarcinoma). His owner JG writes:
“I wanted to thank you for the care you gave Bailey and the concern and patience you extended to me during that time.
Bailey lived a year past his expectancy and it wasn't until the last day or two of his life that he showed us he was ready to go.
Unbelievably, my prayers were answered and my little friend died in his sleep the evening of 2/27/2010. We knew that we would have to make a difficult decision - in his best interest - the next day. I thank St. Francis that we were spared that task. We buried him in the yard by the bird feeders, his favorite place. Thanks again.”
*Zowie, a 9-year-old Rottie, had two TPLO surgeries in 2008 after she tore both her ACLs. She just passed away (3-2010) after being diagnosed with cancer. Her owner AM writes: “She developed masses on her chest and all through her stomach. The vet said the lungs, liver and spleen were involved. She was a great friend and companion and will be sorely missed. Thank you for taking care of her and I wish she would have had longer to enjoy the new knees that you gave her.”
*Bernadette, a 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, had a very invasive tendon sheath tumor on her ankle, -a notoriously difficult area to remove tumors. It was first removed. When it came back, the owner (wisely) elected amputation. Her owner, GCP, writes:
“(…) You performed two surgeries on her rear leg, first to remove a cancerous tumor, then you had to amputate that leg last year. Well anyway I had her put to sleep on Feb 18 due to very severe seizure activity that left Bernadette in a type of comatose state. I believe the cancer went to her brain causing the seizures.
Bernadette had a good year of life and adapted well and she enjoyed giving my 5-month-old grand daughter much attention and love.
So thank you for extending her life for a little while, she was special to me.
(…) I enjoy your weekly newsletters very informative
*Lucy, an 11-year-old Cocker, had a ruptured mucocele, a serious condition where dehydrated bile fills the gallbladder. We performed surgery, but she unfortunately passed out the next morning. Of course I called LG, Lucy’s owner. She writes:
“Thank you for calling today. It meant a lot. When I rescued her 4 yrs ago she never left my side… she was my shadow. She was badly abused living in a dark basement for nearly 7 yrs and almost starved to death when I found her tied to a basement steam pipe with a 2 ft rope. She was so happy for the time I had her.
I know Lucy had the best care and surgeon she could have had last night. She is deeply missed.”
*Leia was a sweet 12-year-old Jack Russell who had been vomiting and losing weight. Belly surgery revealed a mass in the small intestine and enlarged (mesenteric) lymph nodes. Once we received the biopsy results, which revealed cancer (lymphoma) of the small intestine, lymph node and liver, the owners elected euthanasia.
Her owner JH writes: "Thank you all for the loving care you gave our baby, Princess Leia, while she was hospitalized at the clinic. Knowing she was in good hands meant so much to us."
*Maisey, a 10-year-old kitty, had a rare kidney condition called “peri-renal pseudo-cysts.”
Her owner BT writes: “Dear Dr Zeltzman, It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to let you know that our Miss Maisey left us to embark on her journey on October 29, 2009 at 5 am. She tried to stay as long as she could. Thank you and your surgical team for your expert care, kindness, compassion and understanding for this remarkable kitty. If it wasn't for you, she would have left us many months ago. You gave us the gift of many happy months which translate into many wonderful feline years. We are forever grateful to you and have been richly blessed by your presence in our lives."
*Tate was a 3-year-old male intact Great Dane who had a huge cyst on his prostate (periprostatic cyst). Surgery was uneventful, but he developed some horrible heart complications postop. He eventually passed away. His owner CS writes:
“Dr Zeltzman and staff,
We are completely devastated and hurting over the loss of our very treasured Tate. Over our 33 years of breeding and showing Great Danes, we have experienced many wonderful individual dogs, but only a small few deeply imbed their personalities into our hearts.
Tate was one of those, and in fact was very unique in his true affection for all living things (…).
I know many wonderful animals have passed through your doors and some you have been able to help, some others you have not, like Tate. I’m fairly certain the losses probably weigh heavy on your minds too (…).
I did want to tell you that, surgically speaking, we did feel we had him in the best hands and that the staff there was very caring and genuine.
We’ll never know whether any one of us could have done any of it any differently to allow Tate to still be here with us (…).
Thank you, nonetheless, for your surgical efforts and for providing a very caring and sensitive staff.”
*O'Neil was a 14 year old Lab who had laryngeal paralysis. He was doing great 2 weeks after surgery, at suture removal. But he developed aspiration pneumonia after 3 weeks. His owners elected euthanasia. Still, his owner KM writes:
“Dear Dr. Zeltzman,
I just finished reading your newsletter. I showed it to my husband, Mez, and we both started crying, happy and sad tears seeing O'Neill's name and reading the poem, "It's Just a Dog". People who don't have animals really can't begin to understand the depth of what joy and unconditional love they give everyday of their short lives. We had O'Neill for 14 wonderful years and have so many wonderful memories. The article about pets mourning was so very helpful also. We have Torre, a 8-year-old yellow lab who misses her brother very much. Thank you, I will definitely give her much more attention knowing she really needs it now and not focus so much on missing our O'Neill.
Dr. Zeltzman, thank you for giving me "hope" for a little while longer. He fought so hard to live....we miss him so much.
I have shared your newsletter with some of my animal lover friends via email. I am grateful you are here in PA practicing and loving animals as you do.”
*Honey was a 14.5-year-old Labrador. She was blind and was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis, which caused difficulty breathing.
Her owner JWS writes a sad note 2 years after surgery, a “tie back” procedure.
“Dr. Zeltzman: I am sending you this note to let you and your staff know that our Yellow Lab Honey lived for more than 2 years after her operation for Laryngeal Paralysis. She made it to 14 1/2 years. (…) I was sent to you by QVC when Honey couldn't breathe and they said the tie back would help. Well, it did help, and we were able to enjoy 2 more years with our Lab.
We had to put her to sleep on Thursday July 16th 2009 because she stopped eating and drinking and her rear legs couldn't hold her up any longer. We never had any problems from the tie back surgery, she always ate good, and I monitored her water intake to small amounts. Thank you so much for your expert care and love for animals.
From the bottom of our hearts, thanks again for everything you and your staff did to help Honey, after your care she was a happy puppy again."
Over 1 year ago, we did a double surgery on a 16-year-old kitty who couldn't pee. He was "blocked." Herbie had "P/U" surgery (perineal urethrostomy) to allow him to pee, and bladder surgery to remove some stones.
Now, I haven't met many pet owners who would be willing to do surgery on a 16-year-old kitty. But KS did, without hesitation.
A year later, we received a sad note from KS:
"Hello Dr Zeltzman,
A year ago this past April, you saved my baby's life by performing PU and Bladder Surgery on him. He had been doing fabulously since then...I cannot thank you enough for giving me more time with him.
I'm devastated to tell you that my Herbie suffered a stroke on Saturday (June 20th) and I made the most difficult decision of my life.
I had my best friend and the love of my life put to sleep. I just could not justify putting my 17-year-old boy through any more trauma in his life. I only wanted to make his life better."
Well, KS, you obviously did. You gave Herbie another year of happiness (I know for a fact that he was spoiled the whole time!). And I think that your decision, however difficult it was, was the humane thing to do.
*Sasha was a 13-year-old female kitty with salivary gland cancer (carcinoma) on both sides of her face. Despite several surgeries and the use of “cisplatin-impregnated beads”, the cancer came back and Sasha was eventually put to sleep.
Her owner, NDA, writes in several emails:
“Dear Dr Zeltzman: Sasha’s cancer troubles started over a year ago, and without your expert intervention, I doubt that she would have survived for more than a few months.
After a tremendous amount of painful deliberation, I had to accept the fact that she was not going to get any better. I kept fooling myself because she was still eating, using the litter box and walking around, although very slowly. More lumps were forming on her neck, almost daily, and they were really bothering her. Her left eye was also affected by the cancer.
(…) You have enabled me to enjoy her company for many more months than I thought possible.
Thank you SO much for the extra time you gave me with my little girl. To me, it was invaluable.
(...) Thank you again.”
*Helen was a 9-year-old Lab. She had liver cancer (hemangiosarcoma) that had spread to her spleen & belly. She fought bravely, as well as her incredibly dedicated owners. Unfortunately, they humanely elected euthanasia shortly after surgery.
Helen’s owner, MR, writes:
“(…) Helen’s ashes are now back home and each day gets a little easier. We laugh about her quirks and the great times/memories of hiking at the State Park near our home. Her sister Lucy is a little lost and I now get to play a little bit more.
I owe both you and your staff a debt of gratitude for providing both great care and compassion during a very difficult time. Thank you.”
*Gator, a 7-year-old Lab, had bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in the front leg. He was amputated and recovered so well, that he was able to swim (with and without a life jacket!). And then the cancer spread to his lungs. In spite of it, his owner DS writes: "We had almost 6 glorious months we wouldn't have had (without the amputation)."
*Kasper was a 10-year-old Lab who had TPLO surgery to repair an ACL tear. Just as we got done with the rehab, a very invasive cancerous mass was found in his belly... LK writes:
"Thank you for taking care of my beloved Kasper these last several weeks. He was a beautiful and loving pet. The TPLO was a success and I was looking forward to playing ball with Kasper. He loved playing ball.
The unfortunate discovery of the large internal mass was devastating.
(...) The enclosed collage of Kasper was done to show the love he brought into my life."
*Duke was a very special patient with a very special owner.
This 16-year-old Lab had a cancerous tumor on a rib, which was removed. Then he had chemo. Then things got worse, as the cancer spread...
LS writes: "I let Duke go just before Thanksgiving. It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my entire life and I agonized for days over it. It hurts so bad and I miss him more than I can say in words. I'll never be the same after all this.
I want to thank you for everything you did to help us. I don't know where we would have been without you and Dr. Ron. The extra time I had with Duke is priceless. I'm glad there are talented, caring people like you who do the magic that you do to help our pets. I really can't tell you how much it means to me - words don't do it - but I hope you can hear it from my heart. Just like I'll never forget Duke, I'll never forget you and Dr. Ron."
*Muddy, an 8-year-old male Lab, had laryngeal paralysis surgery. He did great initially, and had some strange spinal issues 1 week later. He was unfortunately euthanized. In spite of this tragedy, DB, his owner writes:
We would like to thank you and your staff for the excellent surgical and emergency care you provided to Muddy. It was unfortunate that his successful operation and several days of encouraging recovery were to be followed by a complication that could not have been foreseen.
He was a gentleman of a dog and a wonderful addition to our family. Great dogs never live long enough. Thank you again. Sincerely, DB & BB”
*Sadie Lee was an 11-year-old female Australian Shepherd, who had bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma or TCC). She had surgery to remove a big part of her bladder, but the disease progressed…
After she passed away, over 2 months after surgery, her owner, MS writes:
“Dear Dr. Zeltzman,
We wanted to thank you for all that you have done for Sadie. She did well for the first few weeks after being discharged from the hospital. We were excited because she was urinating more like she had been before the cancer and she was able to go longer periods of time between bathroom runs.
(…) On September 2, 2008, we received a phone call while we were away that Sadie Lee had passed away in her sleep. I’m glad that she was able to pass away peacefully, but saddened because we weren’t able to say our last goodbyes to her.
(…) So, G and I wanted to thank you for all of your efforts in trying to give us a little more time together.
Sadie is now in a far better place and no longer suffering, which is the most important thing.
Again, we appreciate all that you did for Sadie, and we do understand this was a no-win situation with the type of cancer she had.”
*Jake was a 4-year-old Labrador with a very nasty femur (thigh bone) fracture, as well as a pneumothorax (free air in the chest). Surgery went well, but he had a very sad ending. He became aggressive with his owners and had to be euthanized. Still, S and KS write:
My family wanted to thank you again for all that you did to help Jake. As you can imagine, this was a pretty traumatic experience for all of us. It was very comforting to have such a skilled team of doctors and nurses doing the best job possible to not only save him but to try to get him back to his old self.
While the end result for Jake was not what any of us wanted, we get a good amount of comfort knowing that everyone involved did all they could for him. He couldn’t have asked for a better chance than he was given.
Thank you again for your generosity and for all the help you provided Jake.
Please pass this along to all of the nurses who worked with Jake, you truly have a wonderful group of assistants. Thank them for being so kind not only to Jake, but also my family while we visited him.”
*Patches, an 11-year-old male kitty, had a bad disease called chylothorax. He did pretty well after surgery, and mysteriously died shortly thereafter. That was a heart-breaking story. However, his owner CA writes:
“I received your card (…). Many thanks for you and your staff for taking the time to sign a card and remember us this way (…).
You thanked me for giving Patches every chance to pull through his illness, but it was you who gave him a second chance and every moment he lived was a blessing.”
*Cookie, a 1 year old female Boston terrier, had abdominal surgery that revealed a terrible condition called intestinal (or mesenteric) volvulus: 90% of her small intestine had twisted onto itself, which is a deadly finding. The owners, VL and ML, where called during the surgery, and reluctantly elected the only reasonable choice: euthanasia. Later, they write:
“Dear Dr. Zeltzman and staff: Thank you so much for the lovely card expressing your heartfelt sympathy over the loss of our sweet, little cookie. It is sincerely appreciated.
We can only say that your care of cookie was phenomenal, - from the young women at the reception to your phone call about her diagnosis. We know that if anyone could have saved her, it would have been you and your staff.
Cookies’ ashes now sit on our mantle in the beautiful box with her name on it. (…) Cookie has come home in style. Thanks for everything.”
*Abby, was a 7-year-old Doberman, who had her spleen removed because of cancer (as we found out later, a disease similar to lymphoma). Unfortunately, she died suddenly at home, seemingly because of a “clot” that moved to her lungs. Her owners, DL and CL, write:
“Dear Dr. Zeltzman: First, let me express our thanks and gratitude for all you did for my (…) Doberman Abby. Both you and your staff were courteous, helpful and very loving toward Abby from the time we brought her there for the first consultation, until we picked her up after her surgery.
I want to thank you for getting back to me on Tuesday. You definitely gave me some peace of mind as to what might have happened to Abby. It certainly made me feel that it was not something we did or did not do for her.
Finally, your sympathy card meant so much to both of us. It truly showed how dedicated you are to your patients.”
*Jackie was a 7-year-old kitty with a large tumor in her belly, believed to be a fibrosarcoma. The tumor turned out to be so large, that is was unfortunately inoperable. We called her owner in the middle of the surgery…
PG writes: “Dr. Zeltzman, It has been one week since your call to me from the OR saying that Jackie’s tumor was larger than we originally thought. (…) Unable to reach my husband with this terrible news, you helped me reach the decision to put her to sleep, while still under anesthesia. Without your kind words and understanding, I don't know that it could have made the right decision.
I miss her so much! She was such an important part of my life. (…) Jackie was and always will be close to me, and in my heart.
Thank you for helping me to do the compassionate thing for my kitty. Also thank you for your card, it meant a lot. Sincerely, PG.”
A few weeks later, PG wrote this touching text about Jackie:
The Painful But Right Decision, by PG.
On March 26th 2008, I was faced with a very difficult decision.
My kitty Jackie was on the operating room table when I received a call from Dr. Zeltzman, telling me that the tumor she had was so extensive that he did not feel he could remove it all. Compassionately, he gave me my options:
#1 - He could wake her up from surgery and let her live out what would be the rest of her life. The tumor however would eventually cause her significant pain.
#2 - Put her to sleep now while she was still under anesthesia. He told me I could think about it for a bit and call him back with my decision.
I tried my husband at work, but was unable to reach him. I kept thinking about Jackie and that she was so young, only 7 years old. I thought about how she came to be my kitty. She had been a stray/feral cat. She was one of the numerous stray cats in the area where I lived. I was in the process of performing a technique called TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release), to help with the cat overpopulation. When I met Jackie though, I could not do the Release part- she was so special, I kept her as my own. She taught me that every animal, if given the chance and shown love, could make a beloved friend. Finally, I also thought about that wherever I was, she wanted to be. She was my side-kick.
With Jackie still on the table, I called Dr. Zeltzman back. He talked me through my options, not making the decision for me, but helping me make the right decision. After my conversation with him, I decided to have Jackie put to sleep then, while still under anesthesia. My deciding thought: I did not want Jackie to suffer!
It has been two months since that day. I miss her so very much! The hardest part for me was that I did not get to say goodbye to her. But in my heart, I know I made the painful but right decision for Jackie. I take great comfort in that.
I hope as you read this you are never faced with this decision. However, if you are I hope my story will help you. After all, if you love your animals as I do it is not about what is best for us- is it?
*Taffy was a 10-year-old female Cocker with spleen cancer which had spread to her liver. She was humanely euthanized on the surgery table at the AEC.
PK writes: “Dear Dr. Zeltzman and staff, My husband and I thank you for all you did for Taffy, our beloved puppy. She surely lived up to the saying “Man’s best friend.” I admire you all for doing something I know I could not do. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Love, PK.”
*Mindy was a 10-year-old female Bichon with lung cancer, which had spread to all of her lungs. We did surgery to get a lung biopsy, but she took a turn for the worst the day after surgery and was humanely euthanized.
CR writes: “Dear Dr. Zeltzman, Thank you for the beautiful card, and for sharing your feelings with me. (…) I did not know she was so ill for so long. Whenever I would be sad and cry, Mindy would lick away my tears and always made me feel better. This time, she was not here. This time, my heart was crying for her. She gave me so much love and happiness she’ll always be in my heart.
I want to thank you and your staff for doing everything to make Mindy comfortable. I couldn’t be there to say goodbye. My heart hurts so very bad. (…)
I admire you for helping our furry friends. You are quite a special person.”
*Zeke, a 5-year-old Rottie, had an MRI that showed 2 tumors in his spine. His owner wisely elected euthanasia. KT writes:
“Dr. Zeltzman, I tried “phoning in” a thank you, but couldn’t relay the message. Your sympathy card meant so very much to me. I wish you would have met Zeke earlier.
(…) We’ll have to get two more to match the love that Zeke gave.
I know in my heart we did the best we could for Zeke, but I still regret not finding out sooner. He just never showed any pain until the end. Thank you again.”
*Princess was a 7-year-old Cocker with a slipped disc in her neck. We did surgery to remove he disc, and she recovered well initially. She unfortunately developed some bizarre complications that we attributed to the "fulminant" form of myasthenia gravis, a disease of the muscles, including megaesophagus and extreme muscle weakness. She sadly passed away at the emergency clinic.
SR writes: "Thanks to everyone at Valley Central. Princess was never alone. I appreciate everything you did for her. She was one in a million. I had a very hard time accepting that she was gone. Every day gets better. Thanks to Phil Zeltzman her surgery was a success. I believe that for some reason she developed myasthenia gravis after the surgery. Thanks again for everything you did for Princess. She will be missed. Love. SR & KR"
*Marley was a very patient and sweet 12-year-old female Rottie mix. She had a large tumor on her belly, called a mast cell tumor. We were able to "get it all" (according to the lab who read the biopsy), but the cancer quickly spread. She fought as much as she could, then her owners elected (wisely in my opinion) to have her euthanized. AE writes this incredible letter:
"Dear Dr. Zeltzman,
My heartfelt gratitude for all you and your staff gave of your healing powers to our Marley. She was loved by many, and your kindness and compassion towards her means so much to us, at this unique time of losing a loved one. May your generous and loving gestures be returned to you three fold. With most sincere appreciation and respect, AE."
*Vinny was an 11 year-old kitty with tumors throughout her belly (intestine, liver, pancreas). Her owner elected euthanasia. After she received a condolence card from us, LK writes: "I want to thank you for sending the card and note. I have had cats for 27 years. This is the first time a vet clinic ever does anything like that. I want to command you for calling me (...).
I am enclosing a picture of Vinny from a healthy time. She was an unusual feline as she had a sense of humor. (...) I know you tried very hard to return our Vinny to us. I appreciate the efforts of the staff very much."
*CC was a very sweet 14-year-old Lab mix. We removed a cancerous tumor, called a nerve sheath tumor, from her back leg. It was about the size of her head. Unfortunately, we later found more evidence of cancer in her belly (probably of a different nature). Her owners came all the way from Arkansas!
DL writes: "We would like to thank Dr. Zeltzman and Dr. Carter for their care of CC. She made the trip home, but this past Saturday we had to let her go. It was a very sad day for us. Your staff and employees were excellent, thank you again."
*Brinks was an amazing 7-year-old Greyhound, with the personality of a loving Golden. After a long struggle to heal an infected fracture, he eventually was put to sleep (it’s a long story...). This is a very short excerpt of what JH writes: "(...) Your staff is wonderful (...). You all seemed to really care for him - not just another dog. Dr. Zeltzman and your associates were wonderful. I know you went beyond what you had to, to care for Brinks. Dr. Zeltzman, one thing I hope you keep for the rest of your years in practice is your compassion, not just for the animal, but also their owner.
Your care for Brinks was exceptional and I appreciate all the time and research calls you made for him. What made me glad through this whole process was the time you took to talk to me, the personal phone calls to check on Brinks, all the times you came to the waiting room to talk to us personally (...). I do not think all vets would do that. Please continue to give all your pets and their owners that personal attention (...).
Thanks again to all of you, you will all be remembered for a long time. Stay compassionate."
*Max, a 13-year-old white German Shepherd, had a severe condition of the stomach called "bloat" or gastric dilatation volvulus. Despite a long fight, he unfortunately died. Still, DM writes: "I wanted to thank you for your efforts in trying to save Max. I know you did everything you could and for that I am truly grateful. Words cannot express how much your phone calls meant to me after his passing. It shows how much you really care."
*Bailey, an 8-year-old Blue Tick Hound, had rectal cancer (carcinoma). Ms. C writes: "Thank you for your compassion and caring attitude. It is rare in this world".
*Bristol, a male Collie-Aussie mix, had a rare condition called chylothorax (a milky fluid accumulated in his chest). We addressed this condition in 2 ways: We placed a "shunt" to lead the fluid from the chest into the belly, and performed an "omentalization".
Three years later, TB writes a very emotional email: "I wanted to let you know that after weighing the options, we decided to have Bristol put to sleep. (...) The last 3 years had been simply wonderful. We learned to treasure each trip to the park, each noisy greeting we received when returning home, and each adventure he had chasing cats out of the yard. (...) He had a great impact on many of those that he met, and he has melted many peoples hearts along his journey. Friends, neighbors and relatives are grieving along with us as we begin to move forward as they know just how important and special he was to us as well as them. We cannot begin to thank you enough for the added years we have had with him. We had no idea what amount of time we would have with him and the 3 years were much more than we actually expected. Even though I had not kept in contact with you, there were very few days that passed that I didn't find myself saying a little thank you to all those involved in helping him, but especially to you. Bristol was not just a dog, but a true member of our family that will never be forgotten. Thank you so much for all you have done."
*Brenda, a 14-year-old cat, had cancer at the junction of her small and large intestine. She had surgery, but did not recover well. Her owners, PM & LM, write: "We would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for your assistance with Brenda. We are grateful for your candid assessment as well as for working her into your surgical schedule on such short notice. We were encouraged by the genuine concern that you showed. Two weeks after the surgery, Brenda was improving and eating. Unfortunately, her food intake eventually dropped off (...) She lost weight despite our efforts. Her weight was just under 3.5 lbs. (...) We knew it was time to let her go (...) We appreciate your efforts to save her. We thank you for your kindness."
*Rags, an 11-year-old Airedale, had liver cancer (fibrosarcoma). He lived 10 months after surgery. His owner SC writes: "It is with a truly sad and broken heart that I tell you that we lost Rags. He had been doing so well. The follow up X-rays and ultrasound showed that he was cancer free (...). During the past week, he became really weak (...). We put him to sleep the following Wednesday. He fought a good battle though. We loved him so much, and he gave us so much love. Thanks for the care and concern you had for him."
*Pirate, a 10-year-old Golden Retriever, had a tumor on a rib. He was eventually euthanized. LD writes: "I can’t believe it has been 6 months since I lost Pirate (...). You were so very kind and compassionate. The extra time you allowed with him was so very needed. Thank you for noting that he will be waiting for me at the end of the rainbow bridge."
*Sidney, a 15-year-old cat had a benign thyroid tumor but severe heart disease. He died the day after surgery. JF writes: "Thank you for your efforts to correct Sidney’s condition and your understanding of our grief (...). Your sensitivity will always be remembered."
*Allie, a 1-year-old Ferret, died after a mysterious illness affecting her eye. The H’s wrote: "The card you all signed meant a lot. Allie wasn’t around with us as long as I had hoped, but she really warmed our hearts. Thank you for your care and support."
*Homer, a 13-year-old Beagle, had spleen cancer (fibrohistiocytic nodules). His spleen was removed. He unfortunately died later. MP writes: "Thank you for your kind care of Homer. Although I miss him very much, it is comforting for me to know that he received the best medical care possible. Thanks for everything that you did for Homer and for me."
*Lambchop, a 2-month-old kitten, didn’t have a very good start in life. He was very sick, weak and unable to poop. His colon became distended (megacolon). He never really ate well after surgery, and despite intensive care at the hospital and at home, he unfortunately died 2 weeks after surgery. Despite this, ML writes: "Thank you so much for trying to save my baby, Lambchop. I am very impressed by not only your abilities as a surgeon but for the compassion and concern that your showed toward both me and Lambchop (...)."
*Millie, a 12-year-old Gordon Setter, had a cancerous lung tumor removed. She did great. 18 months later, poor Millie had a cancerous mass on her lip and difficulty breathing (laryngeal paralysis). The owners elected chemo after surgery. Five weeks later, GL writes: "(...) We put Millie down (...). She seemed to have mostly good days (...) We did not want to let her go, but knew in our hearts that it was the right decision. We thank you for all your kindness and concern during her illness and surgeries."
*Sula, an old kitty with skin cancer (cutaneous lymphoma), was eventually put to sleep. AR writes: "Dear Dr Zeltzman, Thank you so much for your thoughtful note, and more importantly, for your attentiveness and concern while Sula was in your care. As you know, it was very rough for her at the end, and your compassion made it possible for me to continue to care for her."
*Casey, a 12-year-old paralyzed Springer Spaniel with a mysterious spinal disease (his myelogram was normal), was eventually put to sleep. KS writes: "Dear Dr Zeltzman, Thank you for all your help with Casey. You were unlike any doctor that I ever met, and I know you did everything you could. This is a hard time, but I will always be thankful for your sincerity and help."
*BD writes: "Dear Dr Zeltzman, E and I wanted to thank you for your call, your concern and caring for our Lab, Jake, after he was diagnosed with cancer at UGA in December 1996. Jake died naturally on Jan. 25th here at home, and he had a great, long farewell from family and friends during the last weeks of his life. Your phone call expressing concern in December was so thoughtful. I hope you will always maintain such concern throughout your career. It means so much."
*ML writes: "Dr Zeltzman, my husband and I wanted to express our appreciation for your very caring attitude and assistance. Sydney the cat was part of our family, and her death hurts. Still, you and the folks at UGA were absolutely super. Knowing what we know now, the result was probably for the best - at least she wasn’t in pain".
*Last but not least, BD (not the same BD as above!) sent this letter to the Dean of the UGA Vet School!
"Dear Dean Anderson:
My husband and I wanted to take time to commend your staff on their care and support during the illness of our family pet, Bailey. We had to bring her there on an emergency basis over the Christmas holidays, and after finding out that she had a mast cell cancer, we had to put her to sleep.
Bailey had been my companion for over 10 years and it was one of the hardest things I had ever had to go through, but knowing the dedication and compassion of your staff made it much easier.
Our case was handled in the beginning by Dr Phil Zeltzman and RP (a student). They were very professional and caring. I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast between their helpful attitudes and those of ER doctors (...). I truly felt that even though it was hard to leave her there, that we had given her the best care possible and the best chance (...).
After we made the decision to put her to sleep, we got a call from Dr Zeltzman (...).
I can only say that if I am ever ill, I hope that someone will refer me to Dr Zeltzman and the UGA Vet School. Words cannot express how much we appreciated your staff, their dedication and compassion during this time of loss".
This is the nicest compliment I could ever receive from a client.
*LeRoy, a 6 year old Lab, had 2 consecutive TPLOs to address tears in his ACLs. Later, his “sister” Jorja also needed a TPLO. His owner BL writes:
“Hi Dr. Zeltzman, It saddens me to tell you that LeRoy has been diagnosed with osteoscaroma. You did 2 TPLOs on him 4 years and 3 years ago. You gave him a good active 4 years. He has cancer in his right upper humerus. So sad to see him limping more each day. We have him on pain medication to keep him comfortable. He is happy and still getting around, just a little slower. Thank you for the wonderful surgery you did on him and later on Jorja.”
Roxie, a 10 year old Jack Russell Terrier, had surgery to remove a liver mass and biopsy masses in the small intestine. Biopsies revealed that Roxie had generalized lymphoma (an aggressive cancer). Unfortunately, several days after being discharged from the hospital, Roxie passed away.
Her owner AG writes:
“Thank you so much for the excellent care of our precious, little girl, Roxie. We appreciate all that you did to try and make her better. We will miss her so much. We will never forget you all for all that you did!”
* Kuka’s TPLO success story
Kuka, a 9 year old Puggle, had a TPLO to address a tear of the ACL in her knee. Her owner JB wrote this amazing note after surgery:
“I have to say every time I see her walk/run normally and able to engage and be absorbed by the world around her…I THANK YOU…SOOO MUCH… for giving her back this freedom to live as optimally as she could/should. My heart is grateful…joyful. I appreciate the formidability and skillfulness in your accomplishing this in what the literature suggests was an age and weight borderline case. My gratitude and respect…and best wishes for you personally and professionally.”
* Hazel’s TPLO success story
Hazel, a 5 year old St Bernard, had a torn ACL which was treated with a TPLO. Three years later, her owner KB writes: “You performed a TPLO on our Saint Bernard, Hazel, nearly 3 years ago. We have been very happy with the outcome, since at age 8, she is still running around!”