The information on the referral form from the home health agency was brief and bleak. I had been a hospice social worker long enough to interpret the hopelessness and frustration behind it. "Sixty-eight year old female. Pancreatic cancer with metastases to bone and liver. Poor pain control. Supportive family. Beware of dog."
I blinked and re-read that last sentence. Beware of dog? That was a new one.
Later that day, when I called the patient's daughter, Nancy, to set up an initial visit, I asked her about the allegedly dangerous dog. She burst into tears. "Please don't make Mama get rid of King. It would kill her. It would kill all of us. He's part of the family."
"Of course I won't make you get rid of your dog," I said. "I just have to make sure our staff is safe when we come to the home to make visits. What kind of dog is it?"
"A pit bull."
Great. "About how big, would you say?"
"Oh, King's a big boy. Probably close to a hundred pounds."
Double great. Why couldn't they have had a nasty tempered Shih Tzu? "Isn't that pretty big for a pit bull?" I said, hoping she was exaggerating.
A long pause greeted my optimistic question. "Well, um...the vet thinks King might be part Rottweiler, too. We're not sure."