Major decisions for Minor

It seems like I’ve been making choices all my life.

I have to say, however, that very few (if any) of my decisions have been a matter of life or death. But now I’m facing a big one. Life or death indeed — though I have no more knowledge of the “when” than anyone else. Still, it’s up to me — and nobody but me — to elect the next direction one life may take.

The lLife in this instance is that of my beloved golden retriever whom, for these pages, I continue to call Minor. Minor needs major surgery on a back leg. Let him have the operation, I’m told, and he’ll be as good as new. I’ve also been warned that, because most of his weight must now go to his back right leg, he risks damaging that as well.

“As is” Minor can jump up on things and climb stairs. He continues to walk down with me every morning for the papers. And, when he spotted three huge rabbits in the yard, he tore through the house and across the grass as fast as any dog could.

But I suspect that last activity hurt him the next day. I’ve seen him limp (though one might not be aware of it were not one particularly observant). Let him have the operation and that pain will go away.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So what’s the problem?

The cost. No, not the expenses that the veterinarian excursion will entail. Hardly a lesser consideration but it honestly will not affect my decision.

So what will? Let’s start with age. Minor turns nine next month. A healthy golden can expect to live 10 to 12 years. So, the chances are that I could, by agreeing, give him three more years of quality life. Maybe more. (That was only the average.) But maybe less.

It’s not even that simple for I am well aware of the gloomy statistics: 66 percent of male goldens will die of cancer. (The odds are a bit better for the bitch. But not much.) Minor’s father died of the disease as did his brother. There may be more in his family, but those are the only ones I’ve kept track of. Add that Minor has already had one surgery for cancer — though, blessedly, appears cancer-free at the moment.

Minor, in fact, has had so many medical issues (an infected leg that we feared he might lose) that, were I to put the “lampshade” (Elizabethan collar) on him later today, he’d adjust in minutes to maneuvering the door, eating and drinking. That certainly doesn’t mean I want to do it.

In fact, the dreaded thing sat in the front seat the last time (not really long ago) I took him for what was scheduled as a second cancer surgery. Sitting with him in the waiting room, my stroking hit lumps and appendages all over his body (warts and skin flaps, I’m assured) but, not knowing that as we sat, I had pretty much decided we weren’t going to go through with it. Enough’s enough. Let him live in peace. (God must have known for the suspicious lump turned out to be just another wart and we were allowed to go home.)

I lack many of the details I need (but will be given in days) to make a final decision. I only know — so far — what I’ve been told by others. Still those are others whose expertise I value.

Recovery would take 12 to 14 weeks, Weeks. That many days with the lampshade seemed an eternity at the time. His activity will be severely restricted. Walking on leash will be a must. Minor lives freely in the country and doesn’t cotton to leashes except when he absolutely has to. He has free rein of the property, explores as he wishes (avoiding the large doe who established her primacy without question) and stays close by. How does one sentence a dog like that to a leash?

Even worse — and I hope only a misdirected opinion — I have heard he would have to be confined to his crate for at least several days. He does have one and it sits in my bedroom. He used to sleep in it occasionally until he got the orthopedic dog pad. He’ll still eagerly duck in for a treat. But it’s been a safe refuge, not something to confine him.

The last two times (yes, two and both recent) he’s had to be caged were at the vet’s as he awoke from anesthetic. They knew by the second time to call me quickly (it’s a half-hour drive) for Minor panics on waking and, if not released, will scratch himself bloody trying to escape. (They’ve been wonderful about catering to him!) Unless he were heavily sedated (for months?) I see no way that would work. And I hope I’m wrong to even envision such a thing.

Quality or quantity? Foolish question.

Let me be blessed with quality. Counting years, if I lack that, is meaningless . . . at best.

And Minor? He deserves nothing less than the best my God-given wisdom can provide.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at