Splenic Mass Hemangiosarcoma (HSA)

I was happily ignorant of this term a week and a half ago. I hope you never have reason to look it up.

A couple of weeks ago bird dog Rio was running at the dog park with her usual tail-wagging enthusiasm. I remember thinking how lean and athletic she looked, at the top of her game and ready for the next hunt of the season. Over the next few days her weight continued to drop and at some terrible point of sad demarcation she lost that ounce that took her from healthy-lean to skinny-sick. It took the vet about 10 seconds to find the mass around her spleen. The odds he gave us were not good – 2/3 chance of this being HSA which would take her life, 1/3 chance it being benign in which case removing her spleen and the mass would save her.

The 4 days until the surgery were a tough mix of  fear, anxiety and love. I wouldn’t trade those days but don’t want to relive them either. Rio was extraordinarily affectionate, wanting to be in your lap, to be petted, to be near. I don’t think she was in pain but you could tell she was uncomfortable and had some trouble breathing. All this time she had that sweet spark in her eyes, her tail wagging as she chased our Chihuahua Jack and at times not appearing sick at all. We were optimistic for a positive outcome the morning I took her in, working hard to suppress thoughts of this ending badly.  But the call was quick and clinical. The mass had spread to the lymph nodes and intestines. It was HSA, the odds had not been beat and Rio was “euthanized on the table”, as they put it.

I have never in my life felt such deep, exhausting grief and sadness (sorry Grandma & Grandpa). Common words like “gone”, “never again”, and “I’ll miss her” take on a terrible weight for a while. This is the time that the grace of God sees you though and I want to look forward to another puppy, to other hunts and happy days afield . . . but not yet. In due time.

Good bye, Sweet Rio. 6 years, 8 months and 9 days was just not enough time with you.


Filed under Bird Dogs

26 responses to “Splenic Mass Hemangiosarcoma (HSA)

  1. tedders

    So so sorry to hear of you and your honey’s loss. I was lucky enough to meet Rio once and know that your description fits her perfectly. We’re ‘dog people’ and I know how much a part of the close-knit family members they become. Be comforted in the fact that you gave her all the love and companionship she could have asked for, she was a very loved and happy individual. Y’all are in our prayers.

  2. Thanks, Jay. I appreciate it very much.

  3. I’ll admit I’d never heard that term til now either. The worst part about having dogs is that you outlive so many of them. We’re thinking about you…

  4. I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. Your blog posts and imagery are a great tribute to the life you provided her. I hope you find peace in knowing the joy and security you gave her. You were both very lucky to have each other.

  5. Weeks Wyatt

    The best thing about dogs is that we get the opportunity own more than one through the years. The worst thing about dogs is that we get the opportunity to own more than one through the years.

    Never is this more true than when we’ve been blessed with the one dog we know will be the benchmark for all the others.

    I had the great pleasure of shooting many birds over Rio. And my dog Dixie, a lab, had the great pleasure of ‘backing’ Rio over the years (read: reading Rio’s rock-steady points and hauling-ass onto the scene for the flush). We’ll both miss her.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you Ben.

  6. Thank You Wyatt! A benchmark she will be and I look forward to trying to hit that mark again with you and Dixie in the years to come.

  7. Charley

    Very sorry to hear about your loss. Wish I could have spent some time up there with you & Rio. Hang in there. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  8. oh dear; my sweet Chilli is going in tomorrow to have a splenectomy; I hope it’s not cancer but am trying to prepare myself for the worst. At least i have been with her for nearly 13 years although it’s still not enough. Right now she is sleeping in front of the fire. I am dreading tomorrow …….. I do know how you feel…Paula

  9. Losing a dog is never easy… losing one who’s in her prime is even more difficult. So sorry to hear.

  10. Diane Calvert

    Great article about your beloved Rio.
    Can barely type as tears are streaming
    down my cheeks. Love you dearly, brother!
    Can’t wait for the next precious Rio.

  11. I’m sorry to read about the loss of your dog.


  12. Mia

    Thank you for sharing, Pointers live’s are much to short.

  13. I lost one of my setters, Benny, to cancer of the spleen last year. Broke my heart. The hell of it that you never ‘get used’ to it — it just becomes harder each time you lose one.

    Bury her in your heart and find a new pup to love in her honor.

  14. Richard Peters

    You have my deepest condolences for the loss of Rio. She was a beautiful and graceful dog, always joyful, attentive and playful.
    Great dogs like Rio are not pets there teachers. They have a remarkable yet subtle capacity to influence our life, soften our edges, slow our pace and turn our thoughts inward. Rio was lucky- she got to do what her instincts commanded her to do and that was to hunt- What a great life she had.


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