When Vet Becomes a Client

Anyone who knows me knows that there is a special Labrador in my life, Mason. My Mase-boy. Don’t get me wrong, I have two other dogs that I love very much, but there’s something about the one who has been with you through it all. Through thick and thin. College. Breakups. Vet school. The works. That’s Mase. He gets me. He knows when I’m sad and will get up to rest his head on my lap. He doesn’t like to give kisses but if he knows that I’m upset, he throws what he likes out the window and does anything to make mommy better. I’ve been getting a lot of Masey kisses lately.

Let me start by saying that I can be a bit neurotic sometimes when it comes to my boy. You can’t blame me. He’s been through a lot. Starting with Blastomycoses, then it was autoimmune polyarthritis and finally kidney insufficiency. I thought we were done with this, with illness. I had meticulously poked and prodded each lump that arose; done blood work every 6 months like clockwork. He had an abdominal ultrasound 6 months ago. Nothing would go wrong….

Then, I saw the lump.

The minute I saw it I knew. I knew that my Lab wasn’t as healthy as he seemed. I took him to work for more blood work and a fine needle aspirate and then immediately called for back up because when your patient is your dog, you are no longer the vet. You are the client. Objectiveness goes out the window. Tears replace knowledge.

Lucky for me, living in Atlanta means I have specialists right around the corner. They are excellent and I’m so thankful to have them in times like this. The oncologist took one look at my slides that I couldn’t bear to look at and gave me the news I couldn’t bear to tell myself.


It’s a Sarcoma. We need to Amputate.

It’s hard to think of your lively, incredible, tennis ball obsessed dog not as he is right this minute. It took time, support of family and friends, prayers, and Mason himself to make me feel better. He came through surgery with flying colors and came home the next day. Labs are amazing. So the waiting game began. Waiting on pathology results. Waiting to hear our plan. Trying not to think about it.

Trying to focus on the good. Mason is home. He’s walking. He’s happy.


The Support

This is where the It’s a Lab Thing (ITL) family helped me. It was so great to see all the support. SO THANK YOU! Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for the suggestions, the compliments on my handsome boy, and the prayers. I will tell you that your suggestions led me to find another way to pass the waiting time: shopping! 😉 Mason obviously needs a life jacket! Oh and a new HUGE bed so he doesn’t have to adjust as much. (His sister, Joey, likes it too!) The list goes on. All worth it.


The Fight is Not Over    

But now the other shoe has dropped. Mason was diagnosed today with hamangiosarcoma. This aggressive tumor will spread if not curbed by chemotherapy, which we start next week. We have also spoken to the awesome nutritionist/ alternative medicine vet about integrating some alternative medicine as well. We’ll do whatever we can. So for now, I’m focusing on the positive. I’m so thankful for all the support and I’m so thankful for great vets willing to help a colleague in need. I’ll tell you what: they all get it.


So, you probably already knew this but, you should never feel bad about crying in front of your vet or being “crazy” about your Labrador because when the vet becomes the client, if it was her dog, she’d be a wreck too.


Dr. Erin Hernandez Horner, DVM graduated from the University of Georgia in 2004 and then went on to obtain her DVM in 2008. She is currently an associate veterinarian at Brookhaven Animal Hospital

84 Responses

  1. SallyAnn McChesney

    My Yellow Lab,Gracie, had toe cancer several years ago. Luckily, the tumor was removed and the cancer has not re-occurred. With grateful “thanks” to Shawnee Animal Clinic!!

  2. Sarah Fry

    I’m crying like a baby,and my lab Bella massive hugs.Hope he beats this.xxxxxxxxxxxx

  3. Pam C

    I know what you are feeling. I am praying for you and Mason. Please keep us informed.
    Hugs for you both,

  4. Andrea Ray

    So glad to read about the excellent care Mason is receiving and that he was diagnosed so quickly. Woody and I send our hugs and wags to you with hope for a good outcome.

  5. Jean Geronimo

    So sorry about this fight. Please know that the L4R people are thinking of you also. My Chloe has another lump to be aspirated on Wednesday. The last one was fine. Keeping crossed fingers and prayers going.. <3 Hang in there Doc…….

  6. Kristel Moens

    my poor Blue died of it even though he had the treatment, it’s over 3 years ago and I still miss him every day

  7. Liz Storey

    My last Lab had cancer but it was diagnosed far too late – have to look on bright side of things she was 11 and we had Bess but it was awful to see her wither away – I hope Mason makes a full recovery!!

  8. Crystal Paltza Rodarte

    Big prayers coming out! I just had a big lump removed from my sweet Lab Bonnie, & while test results showed it to be benign it had the active properties of a malignant tumor! The vet had to remove 2/3rds of her left pectoral muscle because it so aggressively infiltrated her muscle!

    Prayers to all those who have lost a beloved friend, & prayers for all those who are fighting it right now!

  9. Michala Peckover

    My orange lab, Pocket had cancer of the spleen. Whilst out walking, it burst. He received a life saving op but within months it had spread to his pancreas. I would have made a pact with the devil and sold him my soul, if I could have halved my lifespan and given those years to Pocket, so that we could always be together. Its the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me. People recognise your loss when its a partner or a parent, but not a dog. I wish you all the luck in the world Mason xxxxx

  10. Emma Burke

    I lost a lab to cancer 15 yrs ago and got a black lab 1 yr later whom I put down last week after 3 seizures in 12 hrs,she was 13 and a half.I keep hoping I made the right decision but when I picture her in the seizure and coming out of them it was awful.Labs are a beautiful dog.

  11. Lorrie Blackmon

    My yellow lab, Brandywine, passed away at the age of 9 from mast cell cancer. It grew so rapidly and took her so quick. One day she was running around the back yard happy as could be and the very next day she could barely wag her tail. Thoughts and Prayers to Mason <3

  12. Wendy Yoder

    My lab has Mass Cell Tumor cancer. have had 3 removed .. all is pretty good . love the time you have.

  13. Danica Skirly

    been there. lost the ♥ of my life. 🙁 It’s the GMO in dog food !!! they’re carnivores, are you feeding your dog fresh food ?

  14. Laura

    I will keep Mason in my prayers. I don’t think I have ever had a dog pull at my strings like my lab “Jasper”. I can relate, best of luck and hope to see you post lots of positive updates soon. Hugs for you & Mason xxxx

  15. Karen Damerell

    Lovely but sad story,hope Mason is on the mend,so difficult when they are ill,our girl is spoilt rotten and now 7yrs old ever since she was a pup she’s been allergic to things,we even had to change to PROTECT flee and tic treatment as she was always ill with others,then she had colitis 🙁 but that’s now under control,a few lumps and bumps removed but nothing like your poor Mason has been through 🙁 please give him a BIG HUG from us and a soppy SLURP KISS from our Roxy,best wishes to you and try to stay strong X

  16. Elizabeth Morgan Pezzano

    One of my Labs died of multi-centric lymphoma about 2 years ago. I found it early but decided to let her enjoy her time with us instead of going with chemo. Loved her til the end.

  17. Anel Cruz-Hernandez

    OMG!!! I have 2 labs. One is my old black angel. He is being with us for more than 10 years. From a couple of weeks he is struggling with walking. And now I’m very scared with this report… My heart is so scare and broken…

  18. Nicole Kelly

    my thoughts go out to you. I lost my gold baby boy at age 7 from an agressive cancer in his mouth which. It was soagrssive that I had less than a month with him aftet disgnosis. It has been 4 years snd I still cry for him and find it hard to look at his pics still.

  19. Donna Davis

    MY black lab, Tyler aka “T-Money” died from hemangiosarcoma last August. The absolute hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. He first became lethargic and weak–after a trip to vet’s office, he had a tumor filled spleen, had immediate surgery, and then 4 chemo treatments………..he lived only 3 months after the surgery. Please love him every minute, but be realistic about his quality of life. I know it’s hard to be objective when it’s your baby.

  20. Anne-marie Newman

    My golden lab, “Millsmith Bailey Beauty” or Poppy, died last year from an aggressive cancer. I miss her gentle and sunny nature. My other lab, Ella, a choccy misses her too every day.

  21. Natasha

    Dear Erin, I was upset to read Mason’s story but also inspired by the way he has adapted to losing his leg. I have a 15 month old black lab called Ollie. He is such a character!! I worry about him getting cancer, i lost my last lab to lung cancer at the age of 12, it broke my heart. Every time Ollie coughs I start stressing and dreading the worst 🙁 I wish Mason well with his chemo and I wish you strength and courage to be by his side. Much love, Natasha & Ollie xx

  22. Terri Abrams Huntley

    Lost our 11 yr old yellow lab Isaac to pancreatic cancer in September 2012. Miss him very much, especially his smiley face and wagging tail. Told everyone “Watch out, he cannot hold his licker!” He loved everyone. We are there with you. It is so hard to wrestle with the decisions you have to make when facing this. Prayers & thoughts are with you.

  23. Krista Kennedy

    Prayers and good vibes going to you Mason and your Human. No matter what life throws your way, we are all here to cheer you on!!!

  24. John Beattie

    I guess I’ll need to read all of Mason’s story in small bites as its just too heartbreaking to read in one go. So so sad! 🙁

  25. Pam Osborne-Wilson

    I just put my lab of 13 years down this past March. She had bone cancer and the mass was on the top of her skull. She was diagnosed last July and given 3 months to live. By the grace of God, she lived an extra 5 months. She was lucky that she had no “symptoms” until the very end. She ate, she played and she loved til the very last day…..she is greatly missed. Hang tough Mason!! Thoughts and prayers are sent your way!!

  26. Dieter Gallegos

    My lab, Hershey, passed in 2010 after losing his battle with Hemangiosarcoma. Fight the good fight, Mason!

  27. Linda

    My Lab is the love of my life. I have been through so much with her in the past 7 years. A fracture of her back leg (femur), a TTPL surgery and she also now has severe allergies to food and environment. I would do anything for my dog. I am saying prayers that your Mason comes through this and makes a full and speedy recovery.

  28. Alexandra Jenksy Jenks

    My darling yellow boy had cancer and has come through it. The vets literally saved his life by removing the tumours on his chest and legs. I will keep everything crossed for you and hope he recovers.

  29. Linda DeLong

    Cried like crazy when I read the article. I have two Labs; the one that is linked to me as Mason is to you went through life-saving major surgery and it is gut-wrenching. Nothing else is as important as getting the baby well again. My thoughts and best wishes go to both of you.

  30. Paal Burnett

    I lost my darling lab Bard to jaw cancer two years ago. My heart goes out to both Erin and Mason. I will keep my fingers crossed for you both.

  31. Anne Hotz

    Our Zelda had her leg amputated this morning – osteosarcoma. Giant bed is place and the support harness is ready for a workout. Thanks for sharing your story and pictures. We all send you and Mason the best.

  32. Anne Barr Hotz

    Best to you, Mason. Zelda had her leg amputated this morning – thank you for sharing this story as inspiration and hope.

  33. Shell

    Bless this beautiful boy xxxx my girls missy and beauty are my world and I would never be without them xxxxx love to all xxx

  34. Sue Facciolli

    Please do what’s best to make Mason’s life high quality not just dragging out a difficult and painful treatment.

  35. Laurie

    You and Mason are in my heart and prayers. Had a wonderful lab, Lennon, who went through so many tough times with me. He then was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, but survived 5 more years with all the care and love we gave him. I know how it tears you apart to have your BEST FRIEND hurting! Have had two more wonderful labs since and I treasured them both and all the love, companionship and FUN they gave to me! Be strong and BELIEVE in Mason!! Hug him, play with him, cry with him and love him like crazy! He deserves it!! And you do too!!

  36. Sue

    I understand completely how you feel. I have had 4 labs in my life and have lost 3 now. It is absolutely devastating! My yellow, Toby, who is with me now is the love of my life. There is just something very special about him and the bond we share. He is my reason for getting up in the mornings! My kids just don’t understand this. I had my son call me 2 weeks ago and tell me what a bad person I am because I don’t want to sell my house and move closer to him because I refuse to give up Toby to move into an apartment!! This has been my home for 16 yrs and Toby has been with me since he was a puppy. He just turned 9. Who is it thats there at the door waiting for me when I come home…who’s the one licking the tears off my face when I am hurting…and most of all who is the one who gives me unconditional love and couldn’t care less if I have faults!!! Toby and I will be together until his time comes no matter what. He is my love. I cried reading your story, my heart hurt because I know what it is to have that love of a very special dog. My prayers are with you and I will be thinking of the 2 of you often now. Please keep posting so all of us out here praying for you and Masey know how your doing! My heart goes out to the 2 of you!

  37. Dawn

    Prayers for Mason…we had to say goodbye to or beloved yellow lab Rusty this past thanksgiving and I am still crying. He had a tumor on his spleen that burst and it was cancer. They are such a huge part of our lives. He is a beautiful dog with a loving human…good luck.

  38. Donna

    Best of luck to Mason and Mom, hope all goes well.

  39. Ian

    I read your post about Mason and his battle with tears rolling down my cheeks. I know precisely what you’re going through. ‘Jet’ our lovely old Black Labrador quite out of the blue was, diagnosed with sarcoma of the spleen. Our Vet (and close friend) had known him from a puppy and, we gave him one of Jets’ daughters some years ago as a wedding present. Having sought specialist advice we took Jet to him,so that he could operate to remove Jets’ spleen. I had a really bad feeling and tried to prepare my partner for the news NO ONE wants to hear. We waited very close by waiting for the phone call. When it came, we ran straight back to the surgery. Andy (our Vet) met us at the door. He was so chocked that he couldn’t speak. He didn’t need to. The cancer was far more advanced than anyone had realised. We went into the operating theatre and said our good byes. Andy put him to sleep whilst he was still under anaesthetic.
    I can honestly say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the surgery. Vet, nurses and, ourselves were in pieces.
    Thankfully like yourself, we have two other dogs (both Black Lab’s) and, we love them to bits. They’ve been a huge comfort to us. Our youngest bitch (Toyt) has 7 three day old pups. Two Black and 5 Chocolate so, our love affair with Lab’s goes on.
    I REALLY hope that you and Mason win the battle. You are obviously doing everything that you can for him. We’d had ten and a half very happy years with Jet so, we feel very lucky to have been able to share his life for so long and, that we were able to prevent him from any suffering and, we’ve been spared any regrets.
    I wish you and Mason well. Keep strong and, be brave.

  40. Tirah

    I stumbled upon this page, trying to calm my heart, as my Black Lab “Hemi” almost 12 is dying of cancer! His right side of his neck developed tumors the size of golf balls over the 2013/2014 winter that is seeping blood all the time, I have to keep it covered, he has a tumor on his groin area that won’t stop bleeding, his whole left side of his mouth is engulfed with tumors, bleeds so easily! He can’t eat anything other than watered down vet canned food if that, it’s going on 6 days he hasn’t drank water, other than what’s in his food, he’s vomiting with signs of blood, and now the watered diarrhea! We all are so very heart broken, it’s taken his life just within weeks. We will be putting him down this Saturday, but I may call them for tomorrow, I’ve been up all night tonight to let him out he can’t control his bowels! So mad at Cancer for taking my “Puppy” as I still call him to this day! Heart Broken and Just Hope Mason had a better chance!

    • Tirah

      The hardest part is he’s trying to act happy for us, trying to be normal and giving us all his love, but you see it in his eyes, it’s time….Just Hurts

      Prayers to all the Labs who have to fight this horrible disease!