Betti’s Lumpectomy: Surgery to Remove Growth on 11-Year-Old Rottweiler

Betti enjoying a summer day on the grass, 2014.
Betti enjoying a summer day on the grass, 2014.

This morning I dropped my dog off at the veterinarian to have a melanoma-type lump removed from her side. Right now I’m waiting to call and see how she’s doing (in the next half hour). These things are always stressful. The lump will be tested for cancer as she has another internal lump on her chest below her neck. If only our pets could live longer.

My little Betti Boo is 11 years old as of July 2014. When I found her she was 14 months old. I can’t say I recall exactly how I found her, but I was looking for a young rescue rottweiler at the time. Someone had referred me to a breeder of German rottweilers who had a couple of dogs that were unwanted. The story went that Betti had been purchased for $1300 and then the people who bought her kept her outside, unsocialized and didn’t care for her health well. This was obvious. My late boyfriend Au and I drove across Washington State, starting out early morning and taking a route from east to west traveling north and then through a high mountain pass near the Canada border called Highway 20. Our destination was a tiny town in the west foothills of the North Cascades mountains called Sedro Woolley.

How could we resist Betti's adorable face? This photo was taken in 2004 when Betti was 14 months old and we'd just brought her home.
How could we resist Betti’s adorable face? This photo was taken in 2004 when Betti was 14 months old and we’d just brought her home.

When we arrived and first saw Betti, she was so pitiful: ribcage showing, timid as a wild animal and she had a terrible smell coming from her body somewhere. The smell so raunchy it made me want to gag. But, I knew she couldn’t stay like this no matter what her true story was. We put her in the car where she hunkered in the corner, so rigid her body stood erect as if she were a person sitting in the back seat, leaning against the armrest in the door. She stayed like that all the way home, though we stopped in Seattle to get her a collar and leash seeing as how she was so skittish we were afraid she would bolt if we opened the door.

We went right home that evening. Just one round trip around Washington. At first Betti was afraid of everything and she leaked urine a lot. We introduced her to our two older dogs, Greta and Lou, and she tried to play with them, though Greta was quite grumpy. I quickly enrolled Betti in socialization classes, because she was special needs. I remember the dog trainer telling me that as timid as Betti was, she could see a prima donna in there waiting to come out. I didn’t see that yet.

Each time I left the house, my boyfriend had to pick Betti up and carry her to the car. When I came home, he had to carry her from the car into the house. If we went to the veterinarian, she had to be carried from the car to the inside and vice versa. Otherwise she would hunker in a corner and tremble. Many veterinary visits were necessary to treat her and her illnesses took around two years to diagnose and cure. A lot of her trouble was due to malnutrition. She also suffered from crystals in her urine and urinary incontinence, which finally cleared up. At first I thought she was difficult to house train. Her ears were infected with yeast. Poor little girl.

My old girl, Greta who passed away at 9 years old of osteosarcoma.
My old girl, Greta, who passed away at 9 years old of osteosarcoma.

One time I took her for a walk along the paved Centennial Trail. We were not three hundred feet from the car down the trail when Betti decided to lie down on the pavement and refuse to move. I remember thinking, O crap! What on earth am I going to do now? Even though she was still only about sixty-five pounds (she was probably fifty-something when we got her) and not completely well yet, I couldn’t lift her. I imagined we’d be standing there for hours. I had to think of something.

The idea came to me that perhaps she didn’t feel safe on the concrete as the path was raised up and I could see how an animal would find that exposure intimidating, so I beckoned her down into a grassy ditch along the trail and voila!, we were on our way back to the car.

Everywhere we went those first few months many people would comment or stop us to ask what was wrong with her and I’d repeat the story of how she was rescued malnourished and ill. She was so skinny and timid. But both the dog trainers and I came to the conclusion that she hadn’t been abused, only neglected.

Not long after we welcomed her that fall of 2004, Miss Betti’s prima donna emerged, indeed. By that spring of 2005, she was a sneaky butt pincher and wanted to play. When we took her swimming she dog paddled, her front feet chopping too high above the water and a desperate look in her eye. Betti, you’re not doing it right. 

Lou, our rottweiler/lab, who passed away at 9 years old, one month before Greta, of unknown causes. It was a case where he was lying dead in the hallway when I woke up one morning in September, 2005.
Lou, our rottweiler/lab, who passed away at 9 years old, one month before Greta, of unknown causes. It was a case where he was lying dead in the hallway when I woke up one morning in September, 2005.

In the wee hours of the morning when we were camping at Noisy Creek, I awoke to find Betti–her first camping trip–sitting up and listening silently at the wilderness sounds. A bird I hadn’t noticed before called out, “Sheeeeeeeeeeee-did-it!” Each time the bird sang, Betti’s head jerked toward me and she looked right at me as if to say, “What’s that, mom?” The bird would call out again and she would repeat that same stare. So we sat there in the tent for quite a while, listening and looking at each other in silence. A bonding moment.

Several years ago I was sleeping in the basement where there was a big coffee table. Betti was halfway under it, snoring. In the middle of the night she must have kicked an easel that was against the wall causing it to fall and startle her so that she jumped up, but the coffee table stopped her. She cried out. That morning she couldn’t make the stairs. That day her hind end gave out. I was terrified. She’d injured her spine.

For several weeks I used a towel wrapped around her flanks to help her walk up and down the stairs and outside to potty. This gave her back time to heal. A lot of rest and help with mobility did the trick. While she has been stiff ever since, she’s never relapsed and I help her in and out of the car.

Rottweilers live to be 9 years old on average. Both of my old rottweilers I had in 2004, Greta and Lou, died when they were 9–one from osteosarcoma and the other from an unknown cause. I tell myself Betti has had a good life and that she’s lucky to be 11 and to not have suffered that many ailments during her lifetime. She’s a good girl and we’ve laughed and traveled a lot together, though in recent years I haven’t done a fraction of the activities I’d envisioned sharing with my dogs. Sometimes this eats at me, but I try to stay positive.

In ten minutes I will make that phone call to see how surgery went.



Ah, having a lumpectomy is hard for a 77-year-old lass.
Ah, having a lumpectomy is hard for a 77-year-old lass.
"Yes, I am still a bit stoned from the anaesthesia."
“Yes, I am still a bit stoned from the anaesthesia.”

Betti’s back. Surgery went well. Vet said he took part of her mammary gland and that the lump was next to a vein. She has a small suture site from the incision, which the vet said has three suture layers, on her tummy and a red bandage wrapped around her foreleg where her IV came out. Her urine came back clear (she had a lot of blood in her urine a few weeks ago and received antibiotics for that). For an 11-year-old dog, let’s see–that’s 77 in dog years–she did fabulous. Now we wait for the biopsy of her tumor to come back.

Good job, Betti Boo.

Do your pets have nicknames? If so, what are they? Please share in comments below.

Betti’s nicknames are Betti Boo, Boober, Boob-A-Bub, The Little Thing, Snuffleupagus, Little Betti, Betti Grable and The Triple (or Quadruple) Nipple.