The Other Side of the Table

Welcome to the first of a three part series that puts me in the shoes of a client and served as the inspiration to start this blog.


The Other Side of the Table


The words hit me like a sledgehammer. I was devastated. “Charlie has a tumor,” said my wife on the phone. At first silence, then tears. A sudden wave of emotion swept over me as I digested the news about my best friend, my dog. In a split second, I went from one side of the exam table to the other. Let me explain…

Adoption Day! 12/15/2005

Adoption Day! 12/15/2005

Charlie and I had become best friends in veterinary school where he was part of the blood donor program. He arrived shortly before I started school and I joined a group of students responsible for getting the dogs out to walk and play. Charlie was more than just one of a group of dogs who helped save other dogs lives. When they say that dogs love unconditionally, Charlie epitomizes that. During stressful times in school, exam weeks, getting bad news from home…whatever, Charlie was who I would go and spend time with and have conversations. Though he never spoke back verbally, I knew he was understanding and nurturing; always wagging his tail, giving a sloppy kiss, and even being able to hug. When I graduated, I got to adopt Charlie. Later, a picture of him & I is what Jennifer told me helped break the ice between she & myself.


For 12 years, Charlie has been by my side even as we left Florida and moved to Kingston, Ontario. As we don’t have any kids, I suspect the wave of emotions we were feeling was much like a parent with a child. He had been eating less as of late and with the brutally long Kingston winter, I took his trouble with the stairs to be related to arthritis and a previous incident of slipping on the ice. I had no idea what was brewing inside his abdomen. The night before he just couldn’t get comfortable and he was panting more than usual. The next morning he seemed more lethargic, weak, and would not eat. My wife Jennifer, also a veterinarian, had taken him to her job that morning since he seemed very weak and lethargic. The x-rays showed a large mass on his spleen.

Charlie's pre-op radiographs, enlarged spleen visible on the left side of the image

Charlie’s pre-op radiographs, enlarged spleen visible on the left side of the image

I was devastated by this news and I now know how many of my clients feel in a moment like this. The fear of losing a family member, the uncertainty of whether he would make it, the concern for his quality of life…all the things I had discussed numerous times with pet owners over the years were now swirling through my mind. I left the clinic to go pick up my buddy and bring him back to the Kingston Veterinary Clinic where I work. He was definitely weaker looking than when I left and it crushed me to know he was hurting. How could I have not seen this coming? I was upset with myself but I had to be strong for Charlie. His chest x-rays had been normal and no blood was seen on the ultrasound as is often the case with these tumors. We had thought about getting ourselves a portable ultrasound to use at home to monitor him just in case as well. Jennifer & I talked; we decided to go forward with surgery. We knew of all the outcomes and the risks. I had to try and save my best friend. I couldn’t give up on him. More importantly, though, I wasn’t ready to let go.


To be continued


  1. More, please 🙂 Hope we don’t have to wait too long between updates! I like the addition of the pix.

    • Dear Ryan: though we haven’t met personally, I have watched your grow via your Mom. I am so sorry about Charlie and that you now have to be on the other side of the table. It is devastating when our fur babies are sick and they can’t tell us what’s wrong. Bless you and Jennifer for all you do for other fur babies and I will include you all in my prayers. (My uncle was a vet and they have always held a special place in my heart) As your Mom said, I hope we don’t have to wait too long before “part 2”.

  2. I look forward to this blog. It’s a wonderful idea of yours to trade information back and forth, and I think a great idea to give people an idea of the thoughts that go on in the vet’s point of view; however, you have to promise to give us the whole story of the vet’s thoughts. For me, the vet is the most important person in my life. I really wish you were practicing much closer to where I live.

    • Dr. Ryan Llera

      May 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      Thank you for your comments. I will always try to share all the sides of veterinary medicine in my blog posts.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about what is going on with Charlie. You, Jennifer and Charlie will be in my thoughts and prayers

  4. Great first post. Don’t keep us dangling too long! 🙂

  5. Sigh…I’m glad (from reading the comments above!) that the outcome is good, since both of my dogs were diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma in the past eight months. One is gone, but the spleenless wonder is hanging on.

    The blog is great! I’m going to share it with my friends. 🙂

  6. As a volunteer in cat rescue a blog from a vet is truly a blessing. I am so glad about the good news about Charlie. Please, keep the posts coming.

    Greeting from Slovenia.


  7. I have to say, I am not one to read a lot of blogs…but I really appreciated reading what you have to write about. It is notable to know that our Veterinarians truly do know what their clients are going through. When reading your blog about your own dog you can respect that you can relate what it is like on the other side of the examining table. I can tell you have a lot of compassion for animals not just as a profession, but also as pet owner too… Furthermore, I like how your blogs are providing valuable information beyond the medical field of Veterinary medicines. Like your blog on ‘The Fallacy of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)’ & ‘Friday the 13th & Black Cats’ It is nice to see that you will be reaching out to people in all means, such as medical, behaviour, personal and lastly about being a responsible pet owner. (To Spay or Not to Spay…Spay please!) I was also keen on your blog ‘When Indulge Leads to Bulge’ and looking so forwarded to reading and sharing more. Thank you, for taking time to do this. You’re educating pet owners in the most engaging way. Please keep them blogs coming… 

    • Dr. Ryan Llera

      June 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      Thank you Pamela for your kind words and enthusiasm! It has reassured me that I am doing a good job! I will keep on varying my topics and am always looking for suggestions on what readers would like to know more about. Thanks for sharing them along with visiting my Facebook page 🙂

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