I’m an animal person. I’m one of those who has to leave a room if there’s something on TV about animals being hurt or abused.

My 10-year-old Tuxedo cat Cecil and my 5-year-old Maltese dog Orson are my constant companions. They’re my kids.

DSC03218A couple of weeks ago I started noticing that Orson was putting on weight. “You’re getting a fat little belly!” I joked with him. So I cut down on his treats. I also noticed he was wanting to take shorter and shorter walks. He was beginning to  waddle. He was still playful, but not quite as much as before.

Last Tuesday night, he was laying on the couch with his fat little belly, I happened to look over at him and noticed him shaking. I thought he was dreaming. But then he looked at me and was still shaking. It wasn’t cold, so I began to be concerned.

That’s when I noticed his belly wasn’t fat. Well, it was, but it wasn’t because of fat. His belly seemed even bigger than it was earlier in the day, and when I felt it, it was tight like a balloon.

And that’s when I freaked out.

Called the vet, took him in the next morning. His belly had been filling with fluid, and they drained 400 cc’s from him. And then he needed to be drained again two days later.

The procedures and the tests the vet’s done so far have been quite expensive, and it’s already taken up all my monthly cushion. And there are more bills on the way.

From the initial tests, the vet has concluded that there are three possibilities: heart disease, liver disease, or cancer. So I’m awaiting further tests, and I know it sounds strange to say it, my fingers are crossed for heart disease – because, if the damage isn’t bad, he can still live a normal painless life with medication.

Liver disease and cancer, not so much. And my philosophy has always been that every animal deserves a happy, pain-free life, and no animal should ever, ever suffer.

So right now I’m swinging between hope and preparing myself to make tough choices.

His belly is filling up with fluid every few days, and because his appetite is almost nonexistent, he’s very weak. He’s due for more tests Tuesday, and hopefully this will give us some answers. His new vet is leaning toward heart disease.

Cecil the cat, usually standoffish and jealous of his space regarding the dog, is trying to take care of him. He sleeps back-to-back with him at night – and that’s something Cecil simply doesn’t do. Cecil tries to nudge food over to Orson to get him to eat. That cat is getting extra treats – he’s shown his true colors: Orson is part of his family and he wants him to get better.

Some very good friends have already stepped up to the plate and helped with some of the bills. And of course I will spend myself to the limit of what I have to give him every chance. But it has been difficult in so many ways. The little guy deserves to get better, deserves to be happy, to be pain-free, to have more years of a happy dog’s life.

But I have already decided that, no matter what, Orson will not ever, ever suffer. I would rather suffer the pain and loss than for him to suffer pain one minute longer than he needs to.